Interview with Giulio Castegini, Drees & Sommer

Future Office: Flexibility II

Thomas Geuder
29. October 2018
Aareal Bank, Wiesbaden, completion 2017 (Photo: Aareal Bank AG / Eibe Sönnecken)

Interview partner: Giulio Castegini, Drees & Sommer (Frankfurt / Main, DE)

Click here to read the interview with Raphael Gielgen from Vitra GmbH about the “Future Office”: Future Office: Flexibility I

Thomas Geuder: Mr. Castegini, in the corporate philosophy of Drees & Sommer it says: "Innovation and 'thinking differently' have shaped Drees & Sommer to this day". What was the world of office design like in the 1970s, when the company was founded, and what visions did people rave about then?
Giulio Castegini: In 1970, Gerhard Drees founded a small engineering office in Stuttgart, which then consisted of a team of three. Gerhard Drees and his co-founder Hans Sommer would probably not have thought at the time that their firm would evolve into an internationally operating company with more than 2,840 employees. Innovation and "thinking differently" continue to shape Drees & Sommer to this day. Drees & Sommer's visions then, as now, were shaped by passion and attitude - the so-called "Dreso spirit". Due to our size and activities, we have gone through all office forms in the past decades - from cellular offices to combi-offices to today's multispace – comparable to a learning curve. For us, it has always been and always will be at the forefront of projects that we always find user-oriented solutions for our clients, and this naturally also applies to our company and our own employees. Sustainability, innovation, and origin shape our attitude and spirit, which play an important role in creating any vision. Our vision for the "workplace" has evolved in such a way that, since the company was founded, we have been increasingly concerned with the needs of users and the "way of working".

Aareal Bank, Wiesbaden, completion 2017 (Photo: Aareal Bank AG / Eibe Sönnecken)

Thomas Geuder: A lot has been happening in the design of offices for years, driven not least by ever-increasing digitalisation. Please tell us about your day-to-day work: In what direction is office planning heading at the moment and what developments do you personally consider to be meaningful?
Giulio Castegini: Our planning activities are concerned with a good mixture of analogue design solutions and digitalisation in the working environment. At the centre of all this is the user - or more precisely, user behaviour. Many building projects initially focus only on architecture and technical feasibility. The concerns of users, on the other hand, are often addressed too late and sometimes not at all. In addition, megatrends such as globalisation, digitalisation, individualisation, mobility, and urbanity entail a fundamental change in the world of work. Modern forms of working therefore require flexible structures and the further development of existing workplace typologies. Lively communication gives users more security, creates identity and belonging, and supports the evolution of companies.

Thomas Geuder: The cellular office has long been obsolete, as is the open-plan office with democratically equivalent workplaces. As often, the truth lies somewhere in between. What basic measures do you recommend to a company that wants to do as much as possible for its employees?
Giulio Castegini: Strictly speaking, there is no "in" or "out" when dealing with office forms and typologies. The main focus is that these are developed on a user-related basis and examined planning-wise in relation to the property. Both exercises are fundamental for a change respectively the transformation of a company. Nowadays, we are concerned with multispace solutions because they also allow us a certain flexibility of implementation in the planning phase. The variety of available spatial uses also makes it possible to find suitable and customised design solutions for our clients.

Drees & Sommer, Frankfurt / Main, completion 2017 (Photo: Rick Geenjaar / Drees & Sommer)

Thomas Geuder: The current digitalisation process might also entail a kind of conflict between generations: while the "old generation" likes to have their own permanent workplace, their own territory, so to speak, the "young generation" is used to dealing flexibly and individually with work equipment and, as a result, rooms. What advantages and disadvantages do you see?
Giulio Castegini: I wouldn't want to call it a generation conflict. Since we employ people from different generations in our company, conflicts resolve when all employees are always open to change. Older employees need to be more courageous about new possibilities, tools, and workspaces. It is also important to give every employee a hand and to draw up so-called guidelines that serve as orientation for all employees. In recent years, the trend towards more open-plan working environment has prevailed. Many of our clients are therefore thinking about a corresponding restructuring of their offices. It is particularly important that employees are actively involved in the design of a new workplace concept. In the long term, a new working environment will thus lead to well-being at work, even for long-serving employees.

Thomas Geuder: As a planner, you often have to deal with facility managers on the client side. In your opinion, how has their field of work changed? Have the interfaces of cooperation between the two shifted?
Giulio Castegini: Properties - regardless of their type or use - are designed, planned, built, and operated for a specific purpose over a long period of time with changing requirements. Regardless of the type of use for which the property is designed, facility management refers to the "three P's": people, processes, and places. Maximum flexibility, sustainability, and efficiency must be ensured through practice-oriented consulting. Here is the interface to our service activities.

Thomas Geuder: The "young generation" which grew up digitally, the "digital natives" have a different concept of the world than those who still got to know the purely analogue world. How will this affect future work, you think? What challenges will office planning have to face in the future?
Giulio Castegini: Projects and responsibilities are becoming more and more complex. The second decade of the new millennium is dominated by sustainability issues, mobility and - above all - digitalisation. The behaviour of the "digital natives" causes acceleration in one’s occupation and in the working environment. This acceleration must be staged and also decelerated in the right place. In addition, the USP for "working differently" must be implemented through new design solutions.

Thomas Geuder: Thank you very much for the interesting interview, Mr. Castegini.

Drees & Sommer, Frankfurt / Main, completion 2017 (Photo: Rick Geenjaar / Drees & Sommer)

Giulio Castegini
After studying architecture at the Università di Roma La Sapienza in Rome and at RWTH Aachen, Giulio Castegini continued his professional career from being an architect at Mario Bellini Architects to becoming the office manager in Milan. Giulio Castegini is currently a member of the Drees & Sommer management team and responsible for the Design Consulting department. With a focus on innovative interior design and workplace concepts, Giulio Castegini deals with topics relating to the repositioning of existing properties and strategic new developments.

Multispace | A common ground for user flexibility & community
Giulio Castegini will give a lecture on Monday 28 January, 10:30 - 11:15 at "Future Office" in Frankfurt with the above mentioned title.

Paperworld and the Future Office
The Paperworld trade fair is the world's most important information and communication platform for modern office design. Every year, the trade fair in Frankfurt / Main presents the latest products and trends in the national and international paper, office supplies and stationery industry. The special show "Future Office" addresses architects, facility managers, planners, and retailers of office supplies and equipment. After celebrating its successful premiere in 2017, the third edition of the show now focuses on the subject of "flexibility". It presents the diverse opportunities that the current change in the world of work entails in a stimulating and inspiring setting. The design concept of the special show has once again been the responsibility of the architectural office Matter and its principal, the internationally renowned architect André Schmidt from Berlin, together with World-Architects. The special area "Future Office" is located in Hall 3.0 Stand C51 and will provide lectures and new ideas on tomorrow's working world all-day during Paperworld from 26 to 29 January 2019.

Registration for the lectures on January 28 and 29 in Frankfurt / Main with Giulio Castegini (Drees & Sommer), Martin Henn (HENN), Anika Hülser (HPP Architekten), Oliver Kupfner (INNOCAD), Kilian Kada (kadawittfeldarchitektur), Sabine Krumrey (brandherm + krumrey interior architecture), Mark Jenewein (love architecture), and Samir Ayoub (designfunktion):
​Paperworld 2019 – Future Office – Registration

World-Architects is a content partner of Messe Frankfurt.

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