by Brenna Luczyszyn

On January 29, our friends on the AIANY Technology Committee and the AIANY Science and Research Facilities Committee presented a program on the ways demand for innovation is necessitating flexible and highly-technical environments in several different industries, Scaling Customization: New Frontiers of Flexibility for Innovative Environments. Then evening began with presentations by Melissa Marsh of PLASTARC, Andrea Lamberti of Rafael Vinoly Architecture, Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny of SITU and Federico Negro of Canoa Supply, which were followed by a panel discussion. The panel was moderated by Nicholas Desbiens, Head of Digital Practice at KPF and Co-chair of the AIANY Technology Committee.

Marsh kicked off the event with her presentation, “The Future of Data-Led Workplace Design.” She discussed measurement, highlighting the need for both big data (collected by systems) and little data (individual experiences) to find out what people want in a workplace. Big data includes records that a company may already have about building utilization, space-specific mobile device usage patterns, and data gathered from IoT, and surveys. Combined with little data from interviews, observations, and other qualitative methods generates much more valuable insight. Marsh shared that data is also showing that employees value using an environment that is sensorially great more than they value owning their own workspace. As a result of this focus on experience, people are increasingly connecting with individuals who share their interests and tastes.

Lamberti then presented about trends in the design of science environments. She revealed how even a laboratory with standard elements can be designed with occupant satisfaction in mind, when she showed options for the floor plan at The Rockefeller University River Campus laboratory. The lab was being designed with a modern, open layout, but there are rules in a science lab for keeping food separate from experiments. The solution was a clear divider at the end of each write up desk, to create the concept of separation while still allowing the space to maintain the open aesthetic the scientists desired. Social spaces were included, where people could interact during breaks and meetings. 

Lukyanov-Cherny, partner at SITU, then took the podium. Continuing with the theme of flexible and shared spaces, he spoke about the challenges of designing workspaces for clients like Google. He also discussed designing a multi-purpose space in the Brooklyn Public Library that could support dozens of uses and be changed over in under 10 minutes by one librarian. 

Negro spoke about his company’s commitment to decarbonizing the built environment by providing a rental furniture option for small and medium businesses, so that they could design office spaces without waste. CANOA has found that the typical tenant spends only 3 years in a workspace, and furniture winds up in a landfill. Negro noted that his company is using data from the materials (wear and tear of furniture), to gauge and improve the customers’ experience.

After the individual presentations, all four panelists came together under the moderation of Desbiens for questions from the audience, ranging from what architects can learn from social sciences, to the actual collection of data. Marsh pointed out that more incremental changes are happening more often, and we can measure anything by designing studies, and collecting data in a rigorous manner. Massive data collection is now the norm, but how that data is used to create better environments for people is a conversation that is just beginning to unfold. 

Andrea Lamberti AIA LEED AP BD+C, Partner, Vinoly Architects
Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny, Partner, SITU
Melissa Marsh, Founder & Executive Director, PLASTARC
Federico Negro, Founder, Canoa Supply Co.

Nicholas Desbiens AIA LEED AP, Head of Digital Practice at KPF, Co-chair of the AIANY Technology Committee