The [arch] Office Part 3: FOCUS

21 May

Turn on Pandora, throw on a movie, get a cup of coffee, take a walk outside, go stretch in the file room…there are varieties of methods people use to get focused. I know for me, the occasional stretch or change of music is a great way to refocus. Even more so, for me, is the occasional conversation or “Friday Tang Break” (yes, Tang is a great drink!) with an office coworker. Getting up an away from my desk and computer screen is a positive refresher. For some people, though, staying hyper-focused in front of their computer with headphones blaring is the only way to work on most days…

Architectural practice is becoming increasingly more collaborative. For people like me, that kind of environment is exciting and energizing. For others, it can be suffocating and distracting for work. Achieving a balance is important. As designers, we have told our clients about the great benefits of good office design in terms of productivity and innovation. That said…it’s time for us to apply those principles for ourselves!

In this, Part 3 of “The [arch] Offce” series, we will find out what ARCHITECT magazine is saying about the architecture office and how design will impact our focus. With people that dig interaction and others liking seclusion, it will certainly be a challenge. Simply stated:

“Welcome to the World of ‘Incubator Spaces’ “

The [arch] Office: FOCUS …copyright ARCHITECT Magazine”

As many firms are seeing, the need for collaborative work spaces is growing. Spaces for trading creative ideas, learning new skills/technologies, and interacting professionally and socially will be and are imperative for a successful firm. Architects and designers also need those private, quieter spaces to pursue solo endeavors, research, and hold private discussions. What, then, are the directions we can take?

Much of the traditional office design model accomplished the needs of the private user very well – offices around the perimeter of the building allowed for someone to privately work on drawings, brainstorm an idea, or have a quiet conversation with a client. In today’s office, however, we also need more spaces for several colleagues to get together and discuss a project, perfect a drawing set, or have a brainstorming session on the next big idea. In my office, for example, our small “team room”, once used for brainstorming sessions and group discussions, has been a staging area for temporary interns. The office staff has certain felt the negative impacts, as there have been limited areas for collaboration.

As Lisa Bottom, principle at Gensler in San Fransisco, states, “The biggest challenge now is understanding how to support the individual while still allowing the team to have access to each other for collaboration. We’re starting to look at the office ina more holistic way, and…

…looking at ways to create lively zones and quiet zones and spaces in between.”

The success of this variety of spaces on productivity is hard to pinpoint, as post-occupancy surveys are anything but scientific since every person has a different opinion. But one thing we do know is how architects work, and collaboration is of great importance. Firms have been utilizing an open-environment workplace with benches, low barriers, and “pods” of workers to encourage interaction. Furthermore, community space is becoming more prevalent as firm design lounges and cafes into their offices, giving staff the option of setting up laptops in a comfortable environment or holding impromptu meetings.  The main point, as Elisa Garcia of Garcia Architects & Advisors points out, is “to create traffic routes or spaces where people are forced to come together to learn or share information.”

Wait, what about those focus spaces?!

So far, the conversation is heavily focused on collaborative spaces, and you are probably asking yourself, “Ryan, when are you going to talk about focus spaces?” With so much collaboration, focus spaces are even more important. Concentration spaces are becoming more prevalent in offices as well, with rooms located close-by the work areas. Staff can review drawings without distraction, have a private conversation, or even have meetings with product developers that can help fuel innovation. Hence, the INCUBATOR SPACE!


R1 Reactor Creative Room - Youth Republic Office, Istanbul, Turkey

One of my favorite “incubator spaces” I’ve seen recently was one I saw on Contemporist‘s website. It is at the Youth Republic Office in Istanbul, Turkey, and the images don’t disappoint! They’ve taken and landed a semi-private room smack in the middle of their open office space. They even gave it a cool name…the R1 Reactor Creative Room. I can not help but get excited by this space! Many aspects of the office give you energy, collide you with colleagues, and give you inspiration…while the “reactor room” and other private rooms give you the opportunity to focus and have intimate discussions. Click on the link above to see additional photos!

We want to go to work not because our computers are there, but because it is a compelling space and part of something worthwhile…and that, my friends, is the real goal in creating an effective work environment. With increased mobility becoming paramount and telecommunications occurring on a regular basis, the “office will become a central hub and gathering place that helps shape a firm’s identity. As Elisa Garcia puts it,

“the office needs to make people feel like they’re a part of something bigger.”

…and I couldn’t agree more!

I would love to hear your comments! Please leave your ideas/thoughts in the comment field below, or email Ryan at

Stay tuned for Part 4: Nurture next Monday, May 28th!


Based on “Your Office, Your Future” from ARCHITECT magazine. For more information and case studies, visit

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