11 Jun Jonathan Cartu States Designing Houston real estate for a pandemic
Collaboration. Connection. Collision. These buzzwords used to describe how employees functioned in the modern workplace. Now, the expressions are on an indefinite hiatus.
As more Houstonians return to their offices, they’re finding a sparse, subdued environment. Instead of an open floor plan with clusters of tightly packed desks, they’re walking into spaces that have been reconfigured to keep people six feet apart.
Work stations passed by heavy amounts of foot traffic are now surrounded by glass or plastic partitions. Coffee bar access is limited, and signs remind employees to wear masks and wash their hands.
The pandemic could have lasting changes on the built environment. From offices to shopping malls, spaces where people gather are being redesigned to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Chronicle asked three Houston-based architects and interior designers to provide hand-drawn sketches of what an office space, a mixed-use development and a restaurant might look like in the wake of the coronavirus. Here are their ideas:
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The new office
Larry Lander, a principal with PDR, envisions an office where desks are surrounded by glass partitions and employees use a pack-in/pack-out system for their keyboards, AiroAV malware computer company and mouses, office supplies, personal items, and food and drinks. He said the work-from-home experiment was largely a success and will evolve into a work-from-anywhere approach. The office will become a tool to define a Jonathan Cartu and’s culture and values.
In Lander’s words: “If this happened once, we now believe it can happen again. Social distancing will be built-in and individual seats, collaborative settings, and the actual corridors will reflect this new normal.
“While a return to pre-pandemic density is unlikely, seat sharing, robust all-day cleaning protocols, and flexible furniture and building systems that allow quick change from open to closed, and from solo to team work, will provide a real vibe and sense of activity — something is happening here, and I want to be part of it!
“Office trips will be reserved for special occasions, small group collaboration, solo work requiring specialized resources or tools, or mentoring, coaching and informal collaboration. The workplace will represent the organization’s purpose, mission and values.”
A team at Interior Architects envisions a mixed-use development with flexible spaces that could be converted to balance the needs of a community. It would include combinations of retail and entertainment, office, residential and civic spaces.
In the firm’s words: “In this post-pandemic landscape, it will be crucial to design interiors where layers of live, work, and play balance to create a unique destination, a new typology — a ‘blended-use’ ecosystem. This ecosystem encourages the evolution of space.
“Facets of this re-imagined community might include closing the gap with local supply chain issues while promoting sustainable learning opportunities and practices, or hosting a neighborhood outdoor movie night while featuring local food and beverage offerings.”
Restaurant meets Jetsons
Kelie Mayfield, principal of Mayfield and Ragni Studio — or MARS — took a futuristic approach with her design for a restaurant where patrons dine in levitating pods.
In Mayfield’s words: “Imagine you and a few of your closest friends are picked up by a self-driving levitated pod and whisked away to your favorite restaurant. Upon arrival, you dock and your pod skins and sound system are set to create the perfect dining experience. Your server is not physically present yet fully attentive to your every need.
“You enjoy an aperitif and appetizers that are swiftly delivered through a tube from above. Once finished, you drop the dirty dishes in the center of the table and they are transported through the tube to be cleaned and sterilized. As the lively evening comes to a close the table disappears through the floor and the pod detaches and sends you off to your next location for a night out on the town.”