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DesignHive: Office Spaces of the Future Unveiled in Downtown Houston

The DesignHive floor at Brookfield’s 1600 Smith includes this workplace designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects.

HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith) – Fresh ideas about workplaces buzz around the 37tth floor of one of Houston’s tallest skyscrapers. The floor has been transformed into the DesignHive Houston – a laboratory, of sorts, where the workplaces of the future have been unveiled.

In the DesignHive, you won’t find the isolated corner office with the heavy mahogany desk. You will find new colors, trends and concepts that will appeal to Millennials and future generations of office workers.

Brookfield Properties selected four award-winning architecture firms to create progressive work environments on the 37th floor of Brookfield’s1600 Smith in downtown. Rottet Studio, Gensler, Inventure Design and Ziegler Cooper Architects all were tasked with this special assignment, patterned after the first DesignHive in Los Angeles, completed in 2015.

In a recent tour, the four workspaces led to a rethinking of office environments and the allocation of a company’s space for new uses and new users.

A niche in the Rottet Group space offers view of Houston skyline.

Rottet Studio introduced a contemplative corner with a view to the clouds. A single ebony chair faces two converging sheets of 14-foot glass, inviting a reflective respite.

“We think people need a mental break during the day and this is a quiet place where they can plan their day, or have a moment to recharge,” says Senior Associate Chris Evans. “This is my favorite place in our design.”

Choosing an absolute preferred component within the 5,305 SF Rottet space challenges the visitor – there are so many playful, creative nuances. Some windows are partially screened with lunar landscapes in the conference room. There’s a vintage Galaxa PacMan video game against a far wall. Rottet’s Maksim Koloskov designed the table, inserting graphics from an old Space Invaders game. There’s a piece by Troy Standley of Barbara Davis Gallery.

Rottet’s strong track record in the hospitality industry reveals itself in the inviting, comfort features. “With telecommuting and the mobility factor, in some ways, they are guests in their own office,” says Evans. They’ve done seven hotels for Valencia Group, including design for the new Hotel Alessandra at Midway Companies’ GreenStreet complex in downtown.

“While traditional corporate lay-outs have a single lobby per floor, we have two separate lobbies, bringing equality into the workplace,” Evans says. “We wanted each space to bring natural light in. Light changes people’s perception of the value of space.”

Each of the four office spaces incorporated a “hearth as home” feature, with a coffee bar or kitchen either up front, as is the case at Rottet Studio, as well as in Gensler’s soft chartreuse and neutral entry. At Ziegler Cooper’s entry, there’s a receptionist concept, encouraging collegiality. The front door bears a dichroic screen, a nod to Houston’s devotion and some would say dependence on fuel-based technologies.

“The needs of the modern workforce are evolving every day, so we addressed these ever-changing desires through a highly flexible, adaptive space. We applied the concept of ‘Assemblage,” a gathering of unrelated objects, to address the mix of people, cultures, ages and the differing work modes utilizing the space,” says Manuel Navarro, Design Director at Ziegler Cooper. “Technology is also allowing people to be more nomadic, so we created different destinations and work stations to get people away from their standard desk and chair.”

Inventure Design created this social area in its DessignHive space.

At Inventure Design’s Office of the Future, the kitchen is at the far end, with walls and cabinets one may write on. “It’s time to step out of the cramped, boring office lifestyle and into vibrant, technologically advance spaces,” says Principal Jim O’Neill. “Most offices can currently be staffed by a minimal number of people, and those people tend to spend a large amount of time watching screens and pressing buttons. As the workforce dynamic evolves, companies need to adapt to create offices that promote an advanced culture.”

Navarro adhered to a basic budget, favoring flexible cabled hanging electrical plugs that move to fit the need in the 3,730 SF space. “Our concept, Assemblage, drove the staging,” says project designer Laura Nagala. A fawn colored horned elk head with blonde braids and a fluorescent orange chain greets the visitor, over a sofa and a rug dyed to look like zebra from Navarro’s home. Other fun accents include a Fisher Price turntable, a pink pineapple and strip lighting from Home Depot.

There are several shades of red and a prevalent color that Nagala terms “millennial pink” throughout. “Pink was a big part of our childhoods and we’re still holding on to it,” says Nagala. “We found it in our Easy Bake ovens and our Barbie houses. It’s cool to see it transition into the workplace and in more refined settings.”

Think the soft pinks of the lipstick of Supermodel Linda Evangelista or Houston’s Dianne DeWitt, when Eileen Ford sent her to Paris at the request of Valentino on the Concorde.

Nagala wore a Millenial Pink floral blouse to the Reveal party Thursday night, with sleek black jeans.

Bottles of Topo Chico Twist of Grapefruit and mineral water line another wall, completing the nod to red, pink and white pillars of famed architect Luis Barragan’s Casa Giraldi in Mexico City, built in 1947.

“This (1600 Smith) is an older building,” says Nagala. “Typically we see floor to ceiling glass and columns. The columns in this building remind us of Louis Barragan’s home.”

At Inventure Design, planters of rosemary brace each window along the outside wall of the central workspace. Sinewy waved side desks illustrate a proclivity for curves instead of hard edges throughout the 3,576 SF office. O’Neill believes that work should be fun. Therefore, he provides an arsenal of nerf guns for the daily 3 p.m. battle. “It releases tension and everyone takes a deep breath in mid-afternoon,” says the Harvard-educated architect. Among Inventure’s other projects are Freeport LNG’s top floor of Three Allen Center, and the law offices of Gibbs & Brun at 1100 Louisiana on two of the top floors.

Gensler design this eating space in its DesignHive space at the 1600 Smith building.

Gensler’s design is based on a growing body of work in activity-based settings, personal attributes and the fundamental premise of most companies today: to have an adaptive space that can quickly be modified as business models and customer needs change.

“With technology that allows people to work anywhere, people will be more and more mobile,” says Gensler principal Dean Strombom. “Our research shows people are actually in their seats only 50 percent of the time, so the space could work for 70 people.”

There is no assigned seating in the 4,105 SF Gensler space. The design has defined entries, a gathering space, a place to eat, an area to collaborate and socialize, a quiet space and places to keep things. Unique lighting, emerging wall systems, and furniture that accommodates different postures and work styles, provide a variety of choices as to where, when and how people work. “In lieu of constructing walls, the suite “dissolves barriers” to open the space while heightening flexibility in support of different work modes,” says Gensler Senior Associate and Design Director Yishio Kuo. “Moveable design elements, such as curtain drapery, allow users to curate their experience based on need.”

O’Donnell Snider Construction was Brookfield’s partner for the DesignHive, which was completely funded by Brookfield. Following last Thursday night’s Reveal party, each of the four spaces will be available for lease through the JLL real estate firm.

May 16, 2017 Realty News Report Copyright 2017

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