I wrote this post as a follow-up on my  future cities post. I figured if I’m designing the outside, I might as well design the inside as well. Moreover, I’m quite active in the field of healthy offices that make people feel comfortable and engaged in what they do. Searching for spaces where people want to come and to “flourish”. Designing spaces like this also gives me a direction, a goal to work towards. Hope for the future.

Future of work

To design a future office, we first need to think about the future of work. At  Measuremen, where I’m a part-time researcher, we’ve identified and worked on several trends when it comes to workplaces. We see biophilia, activity-based working, zone-working, healthy workplaces, and remote working. We also witnessed shifts when it comes to employee roles and organizational styles over the pandemic and in blockchain initiatives(  DAO). We see a higher focus on employee wellbeing, work-life balance, employee autonomy, flexibility, job crafting, self-organization, and decentralized organizing. In the sustainability and systems thinking branch, we see trends and needs that fit with this. More network organizations, local food production, and circular business models. I hope future organizations will much more work like that they are a part of an integrated network of actors, instead of little islands acting on their own. I hope we’ll see it as an ecosystem. I, myself, also designed a radically  new form of organization that combines these principles.

Altogether, in this article, I tried to design workspaces that combine these trends and most of all, make it a place where I would like to work and be.

Future office atrium nature trees inside

A future office atrium with a large forest and community gardens in the centre, and workspaces on the side.

Places to be

Most workplaces, pre-pandemic, have always been considered places of focus and hard work. When you come home in the evening, you would have time to relax. In the pictures, you can see that this atmosphere has clearly changed. People relax, and just be. They don’t just take breaks from work. They just are; relax, play, and have fun. But they also work. Both have a place. This might require a different mindset in how we think about work and how about life, but we’ll get back to that.

In this building, you have a large open atrium with a forest right in the middle of it, community gardens around it, and lounge areas on the sides (we will come back to the crazy proposition of a forest in a building). Then across the multiple levels, you have social (collaboration) spaces with rooms and open areas, followed by a level of individual workspaces with (focus) pods and different types of desks. And then the upper level holds spaces that facilitate more fun activities. You could just spend a day there. Maybe even sleep if you want to.

Office ecosystem

As you can see in the picture above, there are real rivers flowing down from the levels while there are lakes where people bathe in. The water in the lakes serves as a resource for the gardens and the forest in the atrium. The water that evaporates will be caught on the ceiling and drips down back into the lakes through the stalactites hanging on the ceiling. Open windows (and optional vans) will produce a breeze through the building and avoid rain falling down on undesired places. The large open glass ceiling will let the sun heat up the space which might be assisted with the energy captured from the river dams at the “mountain” lakes.

The water at the mountain lakes will be drinkable and could be pumped through the building (maybe with some additional filtering). The community gardens will produce food that will be shared among the inhabitants, while some people will harvest it and cook it.

And yes! There are animals living in the building. There are (at least) chickens and wild birds. They are there to support the ecosystem and to sing us nice songs during the day. Afraid that they poop on your head? No worries, you’ll get a cash prize of 200 euros if this happens and you’ll get a picture of the accident in our hall of fame.

Smart interactive building

The office ecosystem will be constantly monitored by measuring important parameters such as temperature, humidity, occupancy, and water quality through various (bio-)sensors. The dynamics of these parameters need to be sustained within their boundaries to sustain the balance in the ecosystem, as well as the (perceived) well-being of its inhabitants. The well-being of the inhabitants will also be monitored periodically. The building is responsive and adaptive as it can grow plants and change shape and has vents to sustain and regulate itself. However, sustaining the parameters within these boundaries, especially in the beginning, needs human modelling and intervention.

A nature surrounded open office collaboration space
A nature-surrounded open office collaboration space

Collaboration spaces

In this picture, you see a collaboration area. Still, there are multiple types of meeting spaces with different degrees of privacy and interaction degrees. You also notice it’s completely surrounded by nature. The nature functions as a mean to comfort people, as a producer of oxygen and food, but also for isolation. The waterfall produces the sound of falling water and the amount of water falling could be regulated by the inhabitants (and yes, we will come back on how we could sustain this amount of nature within the building).

Here you can see an individual area/level within a future office

Individual area

In the picture above you see a level that is focused on being (on) yourself. It’s not just a “focus” area, this area is just meant to be on your own and do things for yourself. Whether it’s high focus work, meditation, playing on the computer, or painting, on this level you can do it. Some spaces are really isolated and enclosed to give privacy and an ability to be truly on your own, while others are relatively more open but still individual.

Growing and interactive furniture

Another thing you could notice across the pictures is the lack of straight lines. I discussed this a bit deeper in  my future cities post, but the idea is that the future furniture and walls are interactive and growing. The furniture and walls have various bio-sensors and can adaptively change shape when you interact with them. You could expand and change the form of your desk while working on it, change the position of your chair, or move walls. You will be able to mould them like clay using some technologies that are yet to be developed.

What we’ll do

One important left to discuss is what we’ll actually work on. In some ways, we might be working on realizing this: sustaining the ecosystem. We will be working on realizing the growth of the community gardens. We will be working on making us able to have an enormous forest inside a building. We will be working on producing grass that is able to grow here and doesn’t turn into mud. We will be working on effective ways to reuse water and our waste. There will be people who take the role of a farmer, a cook, a scientist, and everything we need to sustain our ecosystem and ourselves. It is more of a need-based self-sustaining economy. There is much to do in order to produce harvests that are sustainable, cook with season food, and develop biotechnologies that will make our ecosystem feasible and sustainable. I think we should start with this today.

Relevant questions

Who can work here?
As discussed, there are various different jobs to be fulfilled in this ecosystem. But we also should be able to sustain it. We work more on a needs-based and we’ll have mathematical models and many sensory inputs to understand the balance of the system. We have to work on regulating the resources and the climate. And through our models, we can calculate if we need more people in our ecosystem. You could see it as sustaining  a biotope with the right conditions for its inhabitants.

What’s outside?
You might have noticed that this view, was in a sense, quite ego-centric. It is just this isolated space in an enormous dome. In my  future cities blog, I describe what a complete city might look like, and this office could be one of the buildings. Furthermore, those few community gardens displayed in the picture are probably not efficient enough to sustain the whole community, so this means there is an outside garden, crop fields, and/or greenhouses attached to the dome. We also want/need to play a bigger role in the worldly ecosystem. In this office, we work to develop technologies to better understand and work with nature. The knowledge we acquire here will be implemented in the outside world and the bigger climate. We will grow forests and harvest crops outside our dome if this is beneficial for the world and for us, sustaining the large biotope.

Furthermore, other offices might manifest different types of ecosystems. There might be tropical, marine, or tundra ecosystems that flourish within different buildings.

When can I start?
Well, today! No, just kidding. But if you’re seriously interested,  shoot me a message and or  add me on Linkedin! If there are many people and parties interested, we might get things going!

Want to make the future with me?

Want to draw or build your own future together with me? Want to design your clothes, houses, cities, or society through natural shapes and principles? Together we can make that work. I need people too. We can think, sketch, experiment, and build a future we would like to live in. I am in for making this happen. Shoot me a message!

Read more future articles

Future cities

Future transportation