Is this the end of the Era of Open Space offices?

Is this the end of the Era of Open Space offices?

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Open-space offices are supposed to improve communication, facilitate team or project work and save space: open spaces offices have got a considerable success in the USA and started being more widespread in Europe since 1980.

Anyway according to several researches, open-space offices rarely cater the variety of tasks required of modern workers. A recent study aimed to monitor the effects of open space on human collaboration proved that, the volume of human interaction among a group of co-workers shifting from a corporate environment to more open office spaced decreased by 70% with an associated increase in electronics interactions.

Instead of improving communications among co-workers, open-space office often lead some of them to seek refugee in their headphones. A survey conducted in 2010 by the Haute Ecole de Lucerne proved that noise is indeed one of the main annoyance factors in open spaces. Noise is proved to have a disrupting effect on cognitive performance, such as mental arithmetic, learning of associated words or a text, counting points displayed visually, correction tasks and understanding text and recall.


The era of the full open-space office has ended, new trends sees the rise of activity-based workplaces: these modern layouts support both communication and concentration needs thanks to the alternation between open spaces and enclosed rooms and the implementation of appropriate acoustic solutions.
© Slalom – Open Space acoustic solution


We interviewed Electra de Pellegrin, architect at Slalom, a company born in 2011 whore mission is to enrich workspaces starting from psychophysic sensations and producing pleasing to the eyes and to the touch acoustic solutions. We asked her what trends she is witnessing in open-space offices design and what are the principles at the basis of an effective modern workplace design. 

Do you think that open spaces will still remain the preferred choice in the future?

© Slalom – Open Space acoustic solution

In the last years we had the chance to work with some of the most important architecture and fit out studios in the world and to assist to the changes and trends in the office spaces.

Until some years ago the absolute abolition of any kind of barriers and the transparency in the office space was imperative; this conception is now being mediated by the past experience.

Benefits tied to the collaboration and to information and ideas exchange in open space areas are still fundamental but we are assisting to a trend that sees the design and the addition of spaces with different volumes.

The full open space still survive due to scale economies but it’s being coupled with enclave spaces, touch down and phone booths: these kind of spaces allow employees to do private call, to have moment of concentration or a meeting.

Temporality is another important driver of these kind of projects: a deep comprehensions and guidance of the space occupation are also needed to promote an intelligence use of office spaces. 

The permeation between spaces and different functions leave room for research on how to improve the comfort in open space office.

What are the most frequent needs clients manifest when projecting a new workspace?

To plan an office effectively mapping is necessarily. Different working areas, meeting areas, relax zones…every function has its own acoustic needs! In partnership with universities we’ve also done some researches on how to reestablish standards for certain volumes and functions.

It’s also interesting to speak about the education process connected to places: phone booths can be an effective solution only if users are stimulated to use them and do it in the correct way.


© Slalom – Acoustic Solution

How acoustic solutions integrate with the office environments? How their effectiveness is measured?

Every project and every space is different. Acoustic corrections can work only if analysed thoroughly. The analysis and study of materials and of existing spaces are  fundamental. Only a precise photography of space problematic issues allows to find appropriate solutions!

It frequently happens that even though clients are different, they have the same spatial and projectual needs.

Every project needs to achieve precise and objective indexes. To make an example, 22° is a good temperature for almost everybody: some people achieve it with a pullover, some other thanks to the heating and some other dressing down the scarf. Also colours and textiles are studied according to the destination and space nationality.


© Slalom – Phone Booth

What needs phone booths fulfil? Are there a complimentary of an alternative solution to acoustic panels in open space offices?

Phone booths are both acoustic and and privacy spaces, either flexible or structural solutions.

We started by offering mere “objects” but then after reasoning on the panels integration and on the architectural box, we developed more integrated solutions.

Assembling modular panels, choosing surfaces and adding some pillows we get a perfect space with a reduced budget! This solution made us unique in our proposal and we’re happy to see it applied to many projects around the world.



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