A few weeks back I was honored to be asked to speak at WorkTech Madrid, presenting Studio TILT and our unique approach to designing with people. A workplace focused event, Worktech is global, presenting some of the best case studies and stories from the world of work.
My stand out presentation from among my peers was from José Carlos Arnal, the Managing Director of the Zaragoza City of Knowledge Foundation. He gave a very impassioned, level headed and insightful description of the Etopia project in Zaragoza. Derailed by the crash of 2008, the original intention was a kind of mega tech park to be dropped onto an unsuspecting Zaragoza. Following the rethink and the lack of money, a much more ingenious, cheaper and effective building and approach was established.
I don’t want to discuss the building per se but more the outline elements of one particular slide, one that I found summed up so many of the current challenges of workspace and the culture that accompanies it’s success. What we are seeing, and something that will only gather pace, is quicker, low risk experimentation outside of the larger urban centres. There are many reasons for this but obviously real estate is a primary driver. There hasn’t, I would wager, been an artistic movement or burst of creativity that has happened in the more expensive areas of a city. Let alone a country. Technology in some respects takes care of the geographical disadvantage, a break from the past, and Etopia is a good example.
In the slide one reads, amongst other things, a long tail market for R&D space, disposable research parks and neutral spaces to host corporation projects. Similar ideas propelled us to create The Hanging Room at London Design Festival in 2013 and it was fantastic to see these ideas discussed at Worktech.
The model of ‘googlish’ workspaces that are fun and frivolous, akin to retail environments is coming to end and the new model will be lean, high adaptable, programmable spaces within spaces. Spaces that directly impact and enable creativity and innovation by being able to respond in real time to need, to fleeting briefs and high pressure working. And interestingly they don’t necessarily need to be within a corporate HQ. If we believe the last point, more powerful and centralized company HQ’s these spaces, like The Hanging Room, can be ready at anytime anywhere they are needed.