Conversation with Regine Leibinger and Martina Bauer, Barkow Leibinger, Berlin

Future Office II

Thomas Geuder
18. January 2018
Aufbau Haus 84, Berlin (Photo: Stefan Josef Mueller)

The building task "office" is currently undergoing enormous changes, driven not least by the ongoing digitization of the working world. On this occasion, we spoke to two architects and a facility manager and took a closer look at the "Office of the Future". In this issue: Regine Leibinger and Martina Bauer, Barkow Leibinger. 

Interview partners: Regine Leibinger and Martina Bauer, Barkow Leibinger (Berlin, DE)

In an interview with Jochen Wiener from PricewaterhouseCoopers Deutschland, you can find out what interfaces facility management sees with architecture and how the office property will develop in the future from the user's point of view: Future Office I

Editorial content was developed in cooperation with Messe Frankfurt.

Thomas Geuder: Mrs. Leibinger, Mrs. Bauer, at Barkow Leibinger you have already constructed numerous office buildings and implemented many office and workplace concepts. What office trends (if one may call them that) are currently circulating on the market and how can they be classified in the context of office planning of the last few years?
Regine Leibinger: To be honest: we have seen a lot of things coming and going from beanbags to the fractal office. We have been repeatedly planning working and office environments for almost 25 years, and hardly any "trend" was really lasting during all these years. At the moment we are observing that everything may be somewhat rougher, higher ceilings, exposed technical installations, less "finishing" are possible. But actually, it's primarily the way we work, the way buildings are used that is changing - and we have to react to this.

Thomas Geuder: The planning of offices may once again be on the threshold, driven by the digitization of communication, but also by the increasing digitization of buildings towards complex smart buildings. What influence does this have on your design and planning work?
Martina Bauer: No one has yet commissioned us to build an expressly smart office building - as opposed to a "smart factory" we have just built for Trumpf in Chicago. But, of course, we are noticing that, in addition to maximizing floor space, increasing flexibility and the associated provision of conversion options and technical installation is becoming ever more important. On the one hand, it is an exciting task to include as many scenarios as possible in a design. On the other hand, this also means that everything becomes more and more interchangeable the more it is subject to pre-defined extension grids and consensus-oriented equipment and furnishings. An office world with character, an environment that is really tailored for a company, its employees and their work processes is becoming increasingly rare.

Trumpf Smart Factory, Chicago (Photo: Steve Hall)

Thomas Geuder: At the end of the day, the employee in the office is still a person whose demands on a workplace may not change so much and will in the future still be simply based on very human parameters such as individuality, territory or the possibility of focused work. What criteria are the actually important ones for the architect when designing an office?
Regine Leibinger: Exactly! This may sound old-fashioned, but for us, the quality of the future office is just as much about good working conditions for people as it is today. What good is the greatest open space if everyone wears headphones to concentrate? Acoustics must be right. How far do we want to push the depth of rooms for efficiency's sake? To be healthy and motivated at work, you need light and air. And atmosphere. We certainly do not find the right solution at the lower limit of the workplace directive. I'm sure whoever invests a little more in the design of a break room or a nice canteen will inspire communication, exchange and creativity much more than with many high tables in dark office areas.

Thomas Geuder: In the past, workplaces were used for working, but nowadays, an office has to meet countless parameters so that employees can find optimal working conditions. At times this was interpreted very broadly in architectural terms, whole playgrounds were created, which might even be more distracting than motivate to work. What do you think is a healthy, creative medium?
Martina Bauer: There are, of course, some industries where such lounging areas or a ball pool really do fit. In our experience, however, everyday life - which is much rarer to see in magazines - looks different. Even today, we are still explicitly asked for floor plan layouts with office cubicles. I see a good medium where forward-looking planning is done and at the same time the needs of the users are taken into account, instead of imposing a solution from the outside. It is good to break up structures that are too solid. But with a sofa corner alone you certainly don't change the user behavior. You need more sophisticated solutions for that.

Trumpf Nederland Headquarters, Hengelo (Photo: Ina Reinecke)

Thomas Geuder: The networking of the working world increasingly requires integral planning, which should also involve the future user, who, particularly in the case of office buildings, is not necessarily the client but a tenant. What interfaces with facility managers do you consider useful when planning and building office space?
Regine Leibinger: Unfortunately, the facility management is not yet certain for many office buildings in the early planning stages, nor is the tenant. In that case, there is often no interface at all, but at best we only pass the torch to one another.

Martina Bauer: We make every effort to obtain feedback from clients who we have worked with for many years, in particular, to find out what is practicable when in operation, how much energy is consumed and which materials prove their worth even under heavy load. We then incorporate such findings into our future planning, and encourage other clients to not always choose the cheapest option, which in the end is usually more expensive to maintain. At best, BIM opens up completely new possibilities for the exchange of information between planners and facility managers.

Office and commercial building "Bertha Berlin", Berlin (Photo: Stefan Josef Mueller)

Thomas Geuder: Smart city, smart building, digitization - let's take a look into the future: what are the adjusting screws architects and planners need to use to further develop the office of the future, what are the challenges of future office planning and what do you think the office of the future will look like?
Regine Leibinger: We should prepare for the fact that there will be fewer offices altogether, the more mobile work becomes. The office will also become even more of a place where people meet, perhaps only for two or three hours, where they receive or share information, exchange opinions and develop ideas with others. Whether you then work at exactly that place, for example on a presentation, a text, an offer or a concept, is a completely different story. We must offer the best conditions for such scenarios. Much more than in technical gadgets, we believe that people in the rooms must feel comfortable, that they must stay healthy and motivated and not suffer from the conditions they usually cannot easily change.
The biggest challenge will probably be not to subordinate all spatial quality to profitability and marketability. There are fewer and fewer clients who use the offices we build for themselves and are thus automatically interested in aspects such as identity.

Martina Bauer: Perhaps the office of the future will not be so different from the office of today - who knows? We will certainly benefit from ever new technologies, there will be more and more flexible and less rigid structures for the occupancy of rooms. But tables, chairs, windows, a coffee machine - I can imagine all this in the "Future Office". We strongly believe in the future of the office as a physical place of encounter and interaction, and not so much in science fiction.

Thomas Geuder: Thank you very much for the pleasant conversation, Mrs. Leibinger and Mrs. Bauer.

Trumpf Logistics Center, Ditzingen (Photo: Ina Reinecke)

Prof. Regine Leibinger
Studied at TU Berlin and Harvard University; since 1993 joint American-German office with Frank Barkow in Berlin. Implementation of numerous projects in Germany and abroad, including Laser Factory and Company Restaurant Ditzingen (1998 / 2008), Trutec Building Seoul/Korea (2006), Tour Total Berlin (2012), Trumpf Smart Factory Chicago (2017). Guest professorships at the Architectural Association in London, Harvard and Princeton, since 2006 professor for building construction and design at TU Berlin (currently on leave of absence) and since 2016 member of the Academy of Arts, Berlin, section for architecture.

Martina Bauer
Studied at TU Berlin and at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia. With Barkow Leibinger since 1999, Senior Associate since 2005. Project management for the Sales and Service Center in Ditzingen, the TRUTEC Building in Seoul (Korea), the Site Master Plan for Bayer Schering Pharma in Berlin, and the company headquarters for Trumpf Netherlands in Hengelo. She has also been responsible for numerous award-winning competitions, including Tour Total Berlin, Daimler AG Headquarters in Stuttgart, the "Urban Living" ideas competition in Berlin, residential tower on Alexanderplatz and the extension of the Estrel Hotel in Berlin.

Paperworld and the Future Office – Office of the Future
Paperworld is the world's most important information and communication platform for modern office design. Every year, the trade fair in Frankfurt on the Main presents the latest products and trends in the national and international paper, office supplies and stationery industry. The special show "Future Office - Büro der Zukunft" addresses architects, facility managers and planners as well as retailers of office supplies and furnishings. After celebrating its successful premiere in 2017, the second edition now highlights the topic of health. It deals with issues such as health promotion and occupational health management and the manifold possibilities of achieving a "healthy" workplace design. The architectural office Matter, with the internationally renowned architect André Schmidt from Berlin, and World-Architects will once again be responsible for the design concept of the special show. “The design is based on the idea that one first becomes aware of the bad factors in everyday office life," explains architect André Schmidt. Therefore, the central point is the "bad office" where it is noisy, crowded, hectic and uncomfortable. From here, the visitors start to a course through the "Healthy Office", which provides positive counter-impulses. As usual, the special area "Future Office - Büro der Zukunft" will be located in the center of Hall 3.0.

Registration for the lectures on 29 and 30 January in Frankfurt /Main with Stefan Behnisch (Behnisch Architekten), Prof. Dr. Christine Kohlert (BBSGROUP), Werner Frosch (Henning Larsen), Michael Reiß (ingenhoven architects), Jórunn Ragnarsdóttir (LRO Lederer Ragnarsdóttir Oei), Malte Just (Just╱Burgeff Architekten), Martin Haller (Caramel architekten zt), and Martina Bauer (Barkow Leibinger): Paperworld 2018 - Future Office 

World-Architects is content partner of Paperworld.

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