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How does Architecture Shape Employment?

Every year, the INDE.Awards Work Space category shines a light on the changing standard of work space and commercial design. We catch up with past shortlisters and category partner Herman Miller to find out more.

How does Architecture Shape Employment?


BY Brydie Shephard

13 April, 2022


By now, we are all aware of the changes in working environments. Flexible, hybrid work spaces and the facilitation of remote working have become normative in companies the world over, with these top-level changes kickstarting flow-on effects to everything from residential to civic architecture.

And yet, we must question whether the pandemic has merely intensified a shift that was already happening? A reckoning that was already bubbling away, where the notion of productivity was seeing a shift away from the traditional corporate workplace and into something more personal, considered and adaptable.

Since the inception of the INDE.Awards some six years ago, the annual Work Place shortlist has acted as a barometer for this change, where the top 12 workplaces in the Indo Pacific have demonstrated an approach by employers and architects alike which put the working experience front and centre. We’ve seen workplaces in homes and in gardens, expansive, moody offices and smaller ones flooded with natural light. Perhaps what we see most of all is a reflection on styles and systems of working, where there is a rising consideration of comfort and amenities, places where architecture, materiality and furnishings are innately correlated to new ideas of productivity, health and wellbeing.

Mantab Group KL, by S/LAB10. Image by Heartpatrick

For 2022 category partner Herman Miller, the changing nature of workplaces is one that they are highly familiar with, as their leading collection of workplace furniture solutions are featured in many of the world’s leading workplace designs.

“The situation of Workplace is changing over these 5-10 years,” says Kenneth Cheng – Commercial Director of Herman Miller. “Especially during and after the pandemic since 2019, I think flexible spaces, durable materials, incorporation of technology  is what we are having currently and expect more of this in the future workplace. Those things are going to be critical to the future of the work. We are going to be like a hybrid working environment from now.”

“Also, good design is good business. we create the kind of spaces that are good for the business work of the future. We are showing material quality in our designs are high quality; We are showing different types of spaces that we provides to our client; We are making to have spaces where we think about the air flow and circulation; Most importantly, we are providing ergonomic solutions for those who are sitting in front of computer for long time per day. And the furniture and work environments will have to be amended to accommodate those things in the future,” says Cheng.

As we look back on the past shortlists from the Work Space category, we see designs that are less based in “trends” but are instead bespoke pieces that reflect the working style of the companies they are designed for. This is elevated in spaces where the challenge is not in creating something of scale, but in working within existing buildings and the restrictions they bring.

Anti Chamber, by Chain10 Architecture & Interior Design Institute. Image by KyleYu Photo Studio

In 2020, Chain10 Architecture & Interior Design Institute in Taiwan created Anti Chamber, a futuristic, moody workspace housed across the second floor of an existing building in Kaohsiung City. The building offered restrictions in natural light flow, creating a space that was dark and oppressive. In approaching the project, the firm reoriented the office set-up, creating space divides that allowed light to flow through, ensuring the little sunlight on offer was able to hit different areas of the office. Adding to this was a creative approach to artificial lighting, where unique fixtures played into the contrasting and unusual materiality choices to create a workspace that feels expansive, flexible and personalised. Keng-Fu Lo, architect and managing director of Chain10 reflects:

“The purpose of interior design is to guide people’s perception of light and shadow in the space.  [At Anti Chamber we] retained natural light as much as possible to solve the problem of architectural space. Using the places without natural light as meeting rooms, supplemented by artificial light sources on the floor. Trying to use the permeable and semi-permeable spaces to blur the boundaries between natural light and artificial light sources.”

Mantab Group KL, by S/LAB10. Image by Heartpatrick

In Malaysia, S/LAB10 worked to create Mantab Group KL in an existing bungalow in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. This project, designed for a local property development company, wasn’t just about working within the constrains of an existing site, but also threw challenges in the form of a brief – where the designers needed to provide for work and client hospitality in one fluid and connected footprint. While the existing building provided a ready-made solution to a sloping site, the project required a full internal-overhaul, where cantilevering volumes, contrasting surfaces, materials and textures created a dynamic spatial experience.

This integration of business and leisure has set a standard for the increasing flexibility of the workspace, where form and function have shifted to a place where design verticals are becoming increasingly mixed. In regions of south-east Asia, climate and topography provide additional challenges to the creation of space, and yet the INDE.Awards shortlist provides an annual reminder of how these facilitate outstanding design and creativity, where the ingenuity of Indo-Pacific architects and designers are redefining the vernaculars of workspace design.

For this year’s program, the 2022 INDE.Awards jury will consider a range of elements such as originality and quality of design, the performance of the concept, sustainability principles and initiatives as well as innovation. Consideration is given to form and space materiality and technology but also to meeting a client brief and providing a design that is sympathetic to site and locality.

Anti Chamber, by Chain10 Architecture & Interior Design Institute. Image by KyleYu Photo Studio

For Kenneth Cheng of category partner Herman Miller, this year its all about hitting the brief of flexibility and a rise in hybrid spaces: ““I’m willing to see more hybrid workspace design in some of the project which meets different localized culture aspects.”

As we all know the work space is as much a social and cultural place as a setting for function and facility. Now more than ever, a project in The Work Space category is judged as much for the ability to connect people as the interior and architectural creative design, as we navigate a shifting global response to how we work.

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The 2022 INDE.Awards shortlist will be announced on 9/06/2022. Winners will be announced at a live Gala evening, to be held on 04/08/2022 in Melbourne Australia and broadcast live.

The Work Space category is proudly partnered by Herman Miller.


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