Healthcare furniture - taceo lounge

The Unlikely, Inspiring and Curative Power of Design

The status of Australia’s healthcare sector is reaching crisis point. As the rate of critical illnesses in this country is higher than ever, what can A+D do to create a healthier tomorrow?

Collectively throughout Australia, close to 20 billion dollars will be dedicated to redevelopments and infrastructure programs for our healthcare industry in the next four years. While that number may surprise most of us, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that it will only continue to increase.

Last year, the total revenue generated by our healthcare industry surpassed $120 billion AUD – and with a projected annual growth of 3.4%, our population is increasingly becoming more and more reliant on healthcare facilities across the nation.

While many have questioned the need to allocate such an enormous amount of funding to redevelopment of facilities over, say cancer research or remote community healthcare, others are beginning to notice the inordinate amount of strain set upon both our healthcare spaces and practitioners.

Thanks to the National Census last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics confidently estimate that over 9.6 million people in Australia will be above the age of 65-years in 2064, equating to above 23% of Australia’s total projected population. Meanwhile, 1.9million will exceed the age of 85-years, constituting 5% of the total projected population. That we’re clearly a rapidly ageing country is not under dispute – that we’re prepared for it, however, very much is.

Increased chronic illnesses, increased numbers of the infirm, decreased numbers of healthcare practitioners, and increased demand placed on our healthcare facilities is beginning to yield damning results for our country’s health if we don’t act quickly.

This is where you – as part of Australia’s A+D community – can demonstrate pointed progressiveness. While the supply and demand for healthcare in any country depends on a combination of health/illness patterns and social, economic, environmental and technological variables, it very largely also depends on the material elements of such spaces in accurately responding to an enormous array of stakeholder needs – from the nurse just settling in to a 19-hour shift, all the way to a grieving loved-one or a critically ill patient.

That providing health isn’t a game for the feint of heart is an understatement. More and more, our A+D community is illustrating that providing health isn’t a game for the feint of imagination. While demand on health will inevitably increase in the coming years, A+D is uniquely positioned to facilitate the very material support that such a transition requires.

At the Australian Healthcare Week this month, one of Australia’s premium commercial design powerhouses – Zenith Interiors – will be presenting their latest portfolio, expertly curated for the needs of this growing industry: ZENITH CARE. Working with healthcare practitioners and patients at the intersection of advanced treatment facilities and designing for better health, ZENITH CARE meets the needs of the always-innovating healthcare sector with this collection of wellness-based designs to reimagine healing environments and equal the sophistication of advanced health equipment, techniques and healthcare strategies.

With a stellar line-up of European, Asian and Australian brands, ZENITH CARE represents one of the leading concerted efforts for the A+D community to help combat the problem of health today. From ensuring that all pieces in the ZENITH CARE range are Standards Approved under Class 9a of the Building Code of Australia, to assessing limitations and safety features, Team Zenith have provided solutions for patient and practitioner, alike.

Alleviating those situations which, even at the best of times are stressful and demanding, ZENITH CARE is immaculately curated to ensure that each design element is carefully considered from the perspective of promoting safety, comfort, wellbeing and ease – a much-needed offering to the entirety of ‘health’ and ‘healthcare’, today.

Join Zenith Interiors and all the latest influencers in the sectors of health and aged care at the Australian Healthcare Week, this March 8th-10th.

 

by David Congram

Boomerang Healthcare furniture

Zenith CARE: Bringing Innovation to Healthcare

Zenith extends their reach to the health sector with a carefully curated range of products.

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In branching into healthcare, there were a number of important factors for Zenith to address. As a company, they wanted to be able to provide solution-based furniture that would not only increase comfort and enhance patient recovery but also reduce the stress and physical fatigue of caregivers.

The Zenith CARE Col­lection is a carefully curated range of prod­ucts designed to cater to the specific needs of those within the healthcare sector. The aim is to offer products that effortlessly enhance the lives of patients and caregivers. The entire collection has an em­phasis on safety and support without comprising on style and design.

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However, there is nothing ‘in­stitutional’ about the designs. The furniture conveys to users and patients a sense comfort and relaxation. The range places the focus back on people without losing sight of stringent functional requirements thus meeting all ergonomic and hygienic demands of the healthcare environment.

by David Congram

Zenith Care Healthcare furniture

Tapping into Zenith’s Expertise

Specialists in corporate and commercial furniture,Zenith has a lot to offer the health sector.

For those unfamiliar with Zenith, let us introduce you. Zenith provides innovative solutions for all corporate and commercial environments. Building on their heritage as one of Australia’s largest workstation manufacturers, Zenith expanded their capability into manufacturing task and soft seating.

Zenith is passionate about designing, manufacturing, distributing and supplying the very best in corporate and commercial furniture products. They are dedicated in creating sustainable solutions that are aligned with contemporary trends.

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Through a deep understanding of their client’s needs, Zenith helps create environments that bring people together to share, collaborate, socialise and learn. From Zenith, clients receive ideas, experience, expertise, local manufacturing and best-in-class products.

Zenith has a network of local and international brands and designers. From their core Australia base, they have expanded their reach to New Zealand and Asia, with new facilities in Auckland and Shanghai, which are supported by showrooms throughout the regions. Zenith showrooms offer expert sales, project management and a diverse range of furniture products. Zenith understands that creating interiors today is about cutting edge technology, collaboration and community. Zenith offers organisations new and innovative ways to engage people by creating spaces with products that are functional, appealing, and forward thinking.

In March 2017 Zenith will launch their range of healthcare furniture solutions under the new Zenith Care banner.

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by David Congram

Asia Workplace design

The Remarkable History of Asia Pacific Design

The saga of our region’s A+D community is hopeful, sometimes tragic, but entirely remarkable and unique. What will you choose to recognise?

Let’s look at the big picture here.

In the 2000 February issue of the Harvard Business Review, Global Financial Correspondent Hermann Simon began publicising the increasingly dwindling command of the United States and European economies. Save the momentous tragedy that would befall the United States in September of that year, his recognition that the Pacific Basin would come to define the new century with ‘extensive economic and cultural leadership’ was an argument that many down Wall-Street-way would scarcely accept.

Seventeen years later and his assertion has turned out to bear considerable fruit. When, at the time of his writing in 2000, the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation contributed to less than 20% of global trade, today it boasts a staggering 45% lion’s share in world finances. And, as a consequence, Asia Pacific has become the world’s primary recipient of foreign direct investment – a sure-fire vote of confidence on behalf of our competitors that WE represent a turning point in world history.

So now almost two decades into the Pacific Century, I want to ask you –

…how do you feel?

Hopeful? Safe? Poised? And so you should. After all, last year our collective population was held up by the United Nations as the exemplar of the economic and political benefits for cross-cultural industries. UN Officials lauded our nations in recent years for embracing one another in an effort for mutual growth and peace. The porosity of our borders – or, more exactly, the cross-border flows of communication, ideas and identity – has allowed us to begin speaking a language that knows no linguistic difference. And that language, as many of our creative practitioners have asserted, is Design.

But what’s so unique about our design world?

Well, consider this. Up to thirty years ago the myriad nations across our region displayed a pointed crisis on the World Liveability Index. Comparative statistics between nations like New Zealand and Indonesia, as an example, illustrated a chronic divide between a person’s access to education and opportunity. Internet penetration across our region ranked among the lowest worldwide, and our collective population that lived below the poverty line was outstripping that same population which lived above it (little to no grey area in between).

This is where Asia Pacific’s current A+D world started –

…nations fraying at the edges, internecine political strife, and shaky economic frontiers.

So, what happened? And how did our ‘design’ emerge from this?

The Asian Development Bank notes that above oil, above agriculture, and especially above global trade, Asia Pacific became today’s fastest developing region through a wholehearted embrace in local manufacture: including both the preservation of traditional craft and the mass-investment in advanced machinery.

While the allure of European and American design still held sway, a market began emerging within our own periphery that cherished the unique craftsmanship, aesthetic and manufacture of our region. We watched as less and less each nation across the region moved a step back from Europe or the USA, and year upon year the region as a whole observed higher consumption, stronger income, continued remittance inflows, and then boosted trade within the region. Today, this has all culminated for us in the most remarkable expansion of education in world history – a sure sign that will continue to support the 1.7billion+ Asia Pacific middle class (now representing almost 37% of the global middle class population).

A smarter, better and confident world.

Don’t forget, this is a world that we had to design. It’s a world which required innovators, thought leaders, risk takers – people who brought design thinking into humanitarian strategy and thereby elevated a powerful tool to the most important need of our region: design to grow.

But today’s Asia Pacific is a world which also required those businesses who believed in our collective potential. Part of the ongoing story of A+D in our growing region is a sub-story of those businesses growing alongside us. Last year I reported on Zenith Interiors’ further growth across the Pacific – it is one of many stories that testify to the ongoing support of such brands for our emerging design talent. What Zenith’s story uniquely inspires, in particular, is a coming of age for A+D: design beyond borders.

Having recently launched a full-scale operation in Singapore, and Shanghai soon to follow, Zenith Interiors represents a co-ordinated design effort for the exclusive benefit of a united Asia Pacific. From Hong Kong to Wellington, Christchurch to Auckland to Perth, and all along Australia’s East Coast, Zenith’s model recognises that design is (and always should be) diverse. Their pan-regional presence declares that design is as personal as it is cultural. But, more importantly, it declares that ours is a culture that matters – that matters outside our borders – and will continue to do so.

In 2017, Zenith Interiors is embarking on the latest chapter of this story of design that cares. At the 2017 INDE.Awards, Zenith Interiors is joining the INDE jury to recognise the innovation, bravery and intelligence of Asia Pacific’s A+D world.

Zenith Interiors’ 60-year history illustrates the power of confidence our local brands hold for the creative potential of our region; confidence in the power of inspiration and mentorship; and confidence, primarily, in the ongoing visionary possibilities of design.

All of us at Indesign Media are proud to welcome Zenith Interiors as the Official Platinum Sponsor of the INDE.Awards.

2017 is the year of INDE, and we wish to thank them for their support.

By David Congram

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Asia Pacific and The Office: How to Crack the Market

The Asia Pacific region continues to develop at an alarmingly fast rate. What might this new chapter in economic history mean for the A+D community?

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It is often easy to forget that ‘the modern office’ – as both a workspace and a historical artefact – is only a little under 300 years old. But, forget that the office only officially begins to take shape in 1726 in London’s Old Admiralty, because there’s a bigger picture here.

Only 300 years old, The Office has seen the introduction of multi-storey purpose-built buildings, the development of commercial districts and the skyscraper. The Office has experienced the introduction of electricity and multi-national corporations; it’s experienced international stock markets (growing and folding and growing again) and the dot-com explosion; wheels on chairs; telephones with and then without cords; and finally, it’s experienced unbelievable ethnic and gender revolutions (the majority of which many in offices today still recall).

Never – and I mean never – has synchronicity been more integral to this ever-changing world of The Office. Where for us, the A+D community, the challenge lies in designing the workspace solutions today that won’t be obsolete tomorrow, it seems that the trick to success lies in mastering the skill of anticipation.

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And, for those workspace solutions, the entire world is turning to the Asia Pacific region for indication of the future of commercial design. The most recent Asia Pacific Economic Update: October 2016 from the World Bank expects Asia Pacific to enjoy consistent and resilient growth beyond 2020, with the region’s commercial sector shouldering the lion’s share of this projection more than ever before.

Why? Consider the following evidence. The population of the middle class in the Asia Pacific region is projected to reach beyond 1.7 billion (just under 37% of the worldwide middle class population) by 2020. And with China, India and Indonesia heading up this mammoth growth rate, the commercial sector across the region is enjoying mass development. Heavyweight global brands – Apple, Chanel, McDonalds, Deloitte, among others – have recently demonstrated concerted interest in sharing in this growing sector’s profits.

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In part, this is symptomatic of a much smaller revolution that has spread rapidly throughout Asia Pacific. With technology naturally being a major factor in changing economic patterns, Internet penetration within this burgeoning middle class has played a significant role in this sector’s growth. While 3 years ago Asia Pacific nations demonstrated the lowest penetration of the Internet across all social strata, since 2014 the region’s digital infrastructure has disseminated at an alarming rate.

But why should you care? Alongside the increase of the middle class, disposable income and the commercial sector in this region, the important thing for A+D to recognise is that consumers, working professionals, companies and brands alike are showing marked interest in personal preference. The increase in the number of options that the commercial specification market can offer is an enormous boon to our industry.

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This is where our local brands are demonstrating pointed ingenuity. Take, for instance, Zenith Interiors who last month celebrated launching a full-scale operation in Singapore, with Shanghai on the cards in the months ahead. Currently with 12 showrooms across the Asia Pacific region (in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hong Kong) coupled with 4 manufacturing facilities in co-ordination, Team Zenith have demonstrated incredible design and market foresight.

Here’s what is staggering. They’ve turned ‘exceeding expectations’ on its head – going one step beyond merely appreciating the individual requirements of their clients to nurturing the value and distinction of their regional diversity as well. Here is a model that recognises that our working habits – and the workplace design solutions intended to serve them – are just as personal as they are cultural.

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At the vanguard of workplace evolution, Zenith has embraced the evolution of The Office as not only historical but also international phenomena. They’ve zeroed-in on each national commercial sector of their 5-country operation, creating a wholly complete network of service centres. Each showroom celebrates their suite of products and portfolio of brands, backed by a sharp team of specialists, steering managers, service delivery and R+D specialists who all collaborate with local design talent and Zenith’s local manufacturing facilities to tailor design solutions for the commercial sector in a culturally-aware holistic brand service.

300 years. That’s all it’s taken to get here. The workplace is certainly not the thing it was 300 or 50 or 20 or 2 years ago. It’s certainly not the thing it was yesterday. Tomorrow, again, it’ll be different – and that’s fine. In fact, that’s wonderful! And that is the secret ace up Zenith’s sleeve allowing them to truly stay one step ahead of that pesky game of change. It’s not about solely distributing the product, but truly being alive to the concepts that drive them – and drive them all over the world.

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by David Congram, IndesignLive

 

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Top 5 Lessons Learned: Zenith+ UTS Collaborate

Zenith Interiors and Gardner Wetherill Associates show us how to hit the books – the Agile way. Here’s the top five lessons we learned from their collaboration with the University of Technology Sydney.

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The past ten years for Australian education has been an unprecedented era of controversial experimenting. Landmark federal legislation, the rolling out of blanket curriculum standards and streamlined testing have all dramatically reimagined the Australian educational process and its institutions. From the day you memorise the alphabet to the day you doff a mortarboard, educational experts and designers are concerned with creating a culture of learning that is supported by intelligent design solutions. The continuing problem all stakeholders encounter is that we don’t have a reliable way of creating this culture. The University of Technology Sydney and pioneering supplier Zenith Interiors have finally delivered us a potential answer: Agile Education.

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With Marc Oberhauser of Gardner Wetherill Associates at the helm, extensive stakeholder consultations and workshops resulted in a new facility at UTS’ Building 10 that reflects the ‘Sticky Campus’ approach: allowing students and staff to linger on campus and engage in group work and agile learning.
Agility in the design world is, at its most fundamental core, just about recognising and responding to change. It celebrates variety, diversity and adaptability. Sounds quite a bit like education to me. So when we saw the result of the collaboration between Zenith Interiors and UTS, we knew that meaningful design is one and the same as meaningful learning. As part of the University’s master plan to collocate faculties and improve functionality and convenience, Building 10 now combines the disciplines of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health. Here are the top five lessons we learned from Zenith and Gardner Wetherill Associates’ Agile Education model.
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  1. Agile Education means giving spaces back to students and teaching staff for a continuous delivery of meaningful learning – individual and communal. With its mixing of open access space and smaller hubs for quiet reflection and focus, Zenith’s Haven Pods and open lounges by Allermuir encourage students and staff to collaborate. This is spatial attuning that facilitates education alongside social engagement. According to Gardner Wetherill Associates’ Marc Oberhauser, this is an “active process” throughout the design consultation; one which is alive to “learner-involvement differ[ing] from conventional instruction models. […A]ctive learning is not only a new experience for some instructors, but also a new experience for many learners. This perhaps gives rise to the importance of the briefing process and stakeholder consultation as one of the key challenges for the project”.
  2. Embrace the change! Variety and flexibility stimulates the body as well as the mind. Collaborative group spaces such as the Fitzroy Meeting Tables offset those spaces that also cater to individual concentration. This dynamic interplay between open, communal spaces maintaining emphases on easy collaboration and free association, and quieter, more introspective spaces such as the open access workstations, allow for holistic big-picture reflection that is also detail-aware. That is, in short, respectful of the ever-changing nature of our teaching and learning pedagogies.
  3. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances adaptability. Cutting-edge acoustics engineering in Zenith’s Schamaburg + Alvisse 3000 collection minimises the sound dispersion between communal amenities spaces and private study rooms. The inclusion of Private Quiet Rooms in a greyscale tonal palette and glass leitmotifs promote airiness and light to keep the mind clear and uncluttered. According to Oberhauser, “the formal learning spaces are kept deliberately simple in form and high on technology to adapt and morph to different modes of learning”. With a design strategy obviously geared towards maximising opportunities to support a multitude of learning and working behaviours, the project at UTS’ Building 10 provides both incidental and flexible architecture to support and encourage a culture of intensive research and knowledge transfer.
  4. Agile education is all about motivational spatial design. To put it bluntly, university is a stressful time. Most of us allayed an insane amount of hours in the library with an equally insane amount of hours at the university bar – admittedly, neither a healthy or industrious decision. Marc Oberhauser and Team Zenith have come up with a far more holistic solution and their kitchen installation at UTS is a perfect example. Continuing the soothing greyscale colour scheme accented with bright citrus features, the kitchen successfully integrates socialising with studious productivity. The UTS student is creative, community-minded and up-to-the-minute. Oberhauser was alert to this profile in his design response: “[t]he aim was to create a stimulating environment which could energise and inspire learners and teachers that was readily adaptable to the differing needs and modes of the stakeholders”. Softened geometric forms, warm natural light, open spaces for sprawling study lunches, ‘free range’ working environments encapsulating variety, semi-closed spaces for quick breaks to recollect a train of thought are all combined for user-performance and convenience foremost.
  5. Remember, our space shapes us. Remember, too, our students of today shape our world of tomorrow. An important part of Zenith’s philosophy is seeking to understand their clients’ processes, technologies, people and needs. But they also go one step further: seeking to understand their clients’ future. Modification, adaptability and customisation is just as important to the Zenith Design Studio as it is to UTS’ fledgling professionals about to enter the world and change it for the better. So, naturally, students that are happy and comfortable are the most productive. For students to enjoy their vocational training and enjoy their learning space means that teachers and university administrators are getting the results their student-body wants too.

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Zenith Interior’s AGILE campaign is currently being adopted across Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific with increasingly astounding results in the corporate and commercial sectors, and now the education sector too. Launched first in Melbourne in November 2015, it incorporates a catalogue of customised furniture ranges that combine working individually and collaboratively in a wholly unique way. Agile working is revolutionising the world over, and as the spaces of the working world become more and more collaborative, so too should our vocational training spaces. With interstitial compartments, little areas for conviviality, focus and retreat, and broad open areas for collaboration, these spaces have shaped the brain-trust that is shaping our tomorrow.

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This article is presented by Zenith Interiors.

Written by David Congram, IndesignLive.

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Zenith Interiors: Now in Singapore!

Singapore specifiers now have access to a greater selection of innovative and high-quality products for agile working environments with the opening of Zenith Interiors’ Singapore showroom at Level 40, One Raffles Place on 24 November.

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This is showroom number 11 for Zenith, and it strengthens the company’s regional network even further following the opening of the Hong Kong showroom last year. Zenith’s vision of being a leading commercial furniture supplier and manufacturer in the Asia Pacific region is rapidly materialising with Singapore joining its network of cities throughout Australia and New Zealand and bolstering the company’s existing Asian presence in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The Zenith Interiors Singapore launch party was undoubtedly a night to remember!

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The Singapore launch party was as dazzling as the view from the showroom. The views of Marina Bay were the perfect backdrop to the product showcase, and to glittering entertainment. Themed ‘Singapore Bling’, the party saw the Zenith Singapore team, led by charismatic SE Asia Regional Head Karen Miagao, introduce themselves by way of song. A fun rendition of ‘Furniture’s a Girl’s Best Friend’ paid homage to Zenith and its unique brands.

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Over 200 guests enjoyed Havn Gin cocktails and a selection of delicious culinary delights. Great prizes were given out for the ‘Best Dressed’, and door prizes included a day aboard a luxury yacht for 16 people, an Apple Nike Watch and a bottle of Havn Gin created by the founder of Belgian furniture brand BuzziSpace. A DJ had guests partying late into the night. All in all it was a memorable event.

View more photos from the event

By Narelle Yabuka, Indesign

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Wolfgang C.R. Mezger

For more than 20 years now, the designer Wolfgang C. R. Mezger has been one of the most inspiring progressive thinkers behind the modern office.

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Finasoft Conference Chair and Fina Conference Table

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Finasoft Cantilever Conference Chair

 

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Finasoft Conference Chair – closed arms

The qualified typographer, graduate industrial designer and specialist for executive offices is in demand all over the world. He also has considerable experience in lecturing in London, Berlin and Schwbisch Gmnd.

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Due Stacking Chair
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Fina Lounge – closed arms

Harmonious concepts and intelligent details are the hallmark of Mezgers aesthetic philosophy. He finds the answers to complex questions with simple solutions. His feeling for the spirit of the times speaks to the customer as can be seen in projects for Brunner from Germany, Artifort from the Netherlands, Davis from the USA and Allermuir in the UK.

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Finasoft Conference Chair

 

Click here for more information on these products.

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A Secret History of Workplace Design: The Death of the Cubicle + The Rise of Acoustics

How does A+D respond to the most invisible yet most pervasive problem in workspaces today? Let’s turn the volume down a touch.

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Have you ever considered the political economy of workplace aesthetics? Take the cubicle, for instance. Embraced with unbridled zeal in offices since the early 1960s, the grey-acrylic-carpet-clad cubicle has only recently been tossed aside – and with equal zeal. It’s a radical change that has happened seemingly overnight. In what represents only a fraction of a workforce generation, the past twenty years has observed an unbelievable revolution in workplace design and aesthetics.

So, the cubicle. Losing favour to open plan spatial design, the demise of the cubicle farm office begins on October 19th, 1987. Known in financial circles as ‘Black Monday’, that long stretch of identical cubicles as far as the eye can see began to swiftly disappear from workspace design thinking. What cannot be overestimated is that this aesthetic transformation occurred against a politico-economic background of international stock markets folding, defunct program trading, overvaluation, illiquidity: all shedding a huge value in an unbelievably short amount of time.

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The jury is still out on a precise cause for the late Eighties market crash. What is surprising, though, is the manner by which this financial phenomenon redefined the spatial attuning and design philosophies that shape our workspaces. In a financial world riven with intensely stratified corporate hierarchies and backdoor and inside communications, is it really any surprise that companies began to yearn for open plan spaces that support a business philosophy encouraging transparency, information and accountability diffusion, communication and collaboration? That is, the dream of a workspace we are still realising today.

So, what happens when we begin ditching all those cubicles and start moving forward into open plan spatial design? Aside from a sudden economy of space, a more holistic approach to collective morale, a neater investment of overheads, the general thinking seems to be something akin to: fit more in less – have more with less. Sounds like a stroke of genius … in theory.

In a recent Asia Pacific-wide seminar series – Demystifying Acoustics – the design brains behind BuzziSpace and Zenith Interiors demonstrated how this is not just simply a matter of ditching the internal cubicle walls and pushing the desks together. The failure to respond considerately to the design, installation and maintenance of every specified component inevitably ends being counterproductive to the desire for increased productivity. Reflected in the latest study conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers (Yankelovich Partners), a staggering 70% of office workers surveyed stated that while the transition from the cubicle farm to the open plan environment has been positive, there’s an overwhelming downside to waning productivity. Taking out the top position in detrimental indices affecting workplace productivity was, simply, distractions caused by noise.

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According to Daniel Verlooven – the keynote speaker at Demystifying Acoustics, and BuzziSpace’s Global Acoustics Ambassador – workspace design thinking must incorporate responses to noise management “because, acoustics shape (for better or worse) the brain-chains that run our intellectual productivity”. When, in his words, “the open office is naked” the important task facing workspace designers today is “optimising sound balance, intelligibility and sound clarity”.

Demystifying Acoustics represents an extremely impressive step forward in the philosophies underpinning the A+D community of today. Indicative of the human-centric turn in design ideology, the seminars conducted across Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Auckland and Adelaide, challenged A+D to think critically about the human body in design – those behavioural and psychological elements to which A+D is uniquely positioned to assist, refine and solve, especially in the workplace.

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Now joining the impressive portfolio of workplace design solutions at Zenith Interiors, the team at BuzziSpace ask us to reassess what materiality really means. As Verlooven says, “[t]he build-up of a product defines its acoustical absorptive qualities. […] It sits at the very core of our emotional lives, informs happiness, productivity. It’s design-thinking that builds communities”.

By David Congram, IndesignLive

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BuzziSpace + Zenith Interiors: The Science of Sound

For Belgian company BuzziSpace, silence and style go hand-in-hand. Along with Zenith Interiors, BuzziSpace is committed to rethinking the management of noise in our workspaces – leading the charge of acoustic engineering in product design.

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If our workspaces are environments for focus and concentration why, then, are they noisier than ever before? When you consider just how much ‘work’ and our workspaces have changed over the past generation, this really isn’t too flippant a question. With higher workstation densities, the influence of the dot.com explosion, the globalisation of operations, the rise of collaboration, videoconference calling, we’re working faster, harder and much, much louder than ever.

And while this may very well be the case, some are concerned that in our wholehearted embrace of connectivity, the resulting din is actually proving to be counterproductive. Recently, international research conducted by Jungsoo Kim and Richard Dear of the University of Sydney on the behavioural psychology of workspace design found that a staggering majority of workers are dissatisfied with their working environment. In what is quite a startling indictment from those surveyed, the research indicates that in addition to waning motivation, general wellbeing, productivity and collective morale, more than 60% of workers claim to lose close to an hour out of an 8 hour work day due to “noise distractions […that are] doubled in open-plan offices”. Aggregately, that equates to billions and billions of dollars worth of lost revenue for corporations worldwide, every day. With workspace noise pollution taking out the top billing in detrimental indices affecting worker productivity and health, the A+D community is now becoming increasingly devoted to investigating ways in which spatial attuning can work alongside acoustic engineering.

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This human-centric turn in design ideology has been at the forefront of Belgian company BuzziSpace since their beginning back in 2007. Understanding the performative, behavioural and aesthetic nuances surrounding noise in the workplace, BuzziSpace became an international success story seemingly overnight.

The BuzziSpace secret is three-fold: firstly, by upholding rigorous R+D processes, their products respond playfully to the eye while soothingly to the ear. Secondly, collaborating with only the very best international designers such as Alain Gilles has seen their suite of noise-conscious furnishings adopted in top-end offices all over the world including Facebook, Microsoft and Google.

But thirdly (and possibly, most importantly) BuzziSpace made a promise on day one which – at the time – was decidedly revolutionary. Thanks to their signature patented Eco Felt, BuzziSpace’s 100% ecological commitment has seen them bring the conversations of sustainable design and production together with the conversations surrounding wellness, optimum performance and user-oriented workplace design. According to Daniel Verloovan – BuzziSpace’s Global Acoustic Ambassador – “at its core, acoustics are a social driver […] because it’s all about how we hear and understand each other. It’s very simple and very integral to the emotional aspects of community and happiness”.

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Because sound strikes at the heart of our communality, Verlooven makes it very clear that out of this enormous reinvestment in the relationship between acoustics and design across the entire A+D community, the question of acoustic engineering is far more complicated than just simply making things quieter. Naturally, the values of quiet for those engaged in rigorous tasks or concentration are numerous and heavy. Because, as Verlooven says, “open offices need spaces for solo work, togetherness, focus, retreat and disconnection”, consideration for acoustics requires a distinct attention to flexibility in design practice that covers:

  1. Noise absorption (the process by which a material/structure/product impedes sound energy as opposed to reflecting it);
  2. Noise diffusion (the process by which sound energy at different frequencies is dispersed evenly throughout spaces);
  3. Noise attenuation (the process by which the energy loss of sound propagation reduces the sound transfer in spaces).

What appears to be the issue is not creating a cocoon of silence that is segregating, but instead providing acoustical design systems that are malleable for our agile working habits. That is, providing acoustic shelters here for focus and concentration, or acoustic areas there for breakout and dynamic collaboration. While this is the case, there is a decidedly important flipside to noisiness (and not just ‘noise’) in the office too. As the spatial trend of open plan work environments continues to remain popular, the championing of collaboration, social interaction and zones for touchdown and breakout proves to be a strong influence in (on the one hand) the qualities of innovation and creativity. On the other hand, the noise inherent in open plan spatial arrangements is largely recognised to be a big contributor to forging workplace culture – the social aspects of work, team building and integrating all individuals within common goals that are, inevitably, also shared by the corporation at large. In short, too silent a space equates to too isolating a space; and, in terms of wellbeing and health (mental and physical) for workers and corporations, isolation represents the ultimate defect.

Instead, constantly celebrating the needs for flexibility and modularity in our lives – as our environment becomes more and more compact we seem to crave more and more openness with our spaces and each other – Buzzi products unite an aesthetic language of joy, ease and levity. Coupled with the cutting-edge science of acoustical engineering, their collection stands for furnishing that fits the working tools to the body (not the body to the tools).

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Now in partnership with the premier workplace furniture supplier Zenith Interiors, Team BuzziSpace and Team Zenith are committed to delivering organisations across the world the latest innovative ways to engage their employees by creating spaces that are functional, beautiful, and always ready for what tomorrow might throw at them.

In our contemporary world of hyper-connectivity and bustle, it is no surprise that we increasingly seek solace. In their upcoming seminar series Demystifying Acoustics, Zenith and BuzziSpace’s Daniel Verlooven tackle noise-management systems, the philosophy behind cocoons and sound-absorbing materiality: the core themes that currently fuel the desire in the workspace for quiet, serenity and escape.

By David Congram, Indesignlive