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

 

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.

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