Open Project is a Bologna-based studio, founded in 1984, with a multidisciplinary approach to architecture and engineering projects. Their work focuses mainly on workspaces, offices and production centres: very different projects from one another but, at the same time, with common elements such as the importance of the centrality of the human being, welfare and beauty. We interviewed them to find out more about their innovative design method and to reflect together on a post-pandemic future.
Your studio is known for creating workplaces that always focus on the human element. How do the projects come about? What is the relationship with the client? The relationship with the client is very close and defined in the earliest stages of design. The workspace must represent those who occupy it and adapt to current and future needs. Space planning design is tailor-made for each of our clients.
A successful example of an early dialogue with the client is the Bonfiglioli project, a factory and new office building. Here we were able to interpret the value of the client’s brand in the space by creating flexible and innovative workspaces. The facility, inaugurated in October 2021 while Italy continued to face work occupancy limitations due to Covid, was able to adapt quickly to the new restrictions and safety regulations that the pandemic has generated.
Another significant example is the design of the TeaPak production plant, a multinational company that mixes, produces and packages herbal tea for the entire European herbal tea market. In this case, the early connection with the client and comprehension of the company’s identity can be read from the facade of the building. The colors of the factory and its graphics reflect the typical flowers and scents used in their products.
How do you reconcile great attention to people’s needs with aesthetic, logistical and technical requirements? Attention to users’ needs is strongly linked to aesthetic, logistical and technical requirements of a space. A well-designed space where the user is the catalyst of the design concept, significantly affects the well-being of the those who occupy it.
All these aspects are strongly linked in our space planning designs, where the workspace becomes hybrid and fluid, colorful and welcoming furnishings recall a home environment. We prefer sustainable and sanitizable materials. We are always aware of an important technological characteristic: products are connected and thus flexible to various functions, a key point that is also similarly reflected in our architectural design plans.
Technology will play an important role in supporting the use and environmental quality of interior spaces. Products connected thanks to the use of IoT will be able to implement active collaboration between users even when not physically in the same place and will contribute to monitoring the quality and comfort of different areas within the office space: such as air quality, lighting use and energy consumption. For this reason, Open Project has created Open Twin, a brand whose mission is to accompany the digitalization process of real estate and integrate sensor equipment within the architectural, HVAC and interior design layouts.
Social distancing has definitely changed the way we experience space. How has it affected your way of designing? And what will remain of this possible new practice? The advent of the pandemic has placed an important focus on the workspace. Physical workspaces were in fact immediately questioned when remote working was clearly the only option to keep businesses and workers safe and thriving. What we understand is that we still need offices for connections and for the social strata. This revised function that we attribute to the workspace definitely needs a design overhaul. We will strive to design spaces that foster sociality and human relationships, informal spaces in which to work but also different workstations based on the daily work requirements: silent places for concentration, places for remote interaction with distant colleagues, etc. An important aspect which we will have to take into account is the dislocation of the workspace within the urban space. We can imagine workstations in museums, train stations, libraries, etc. Fostering an increasingly flexible vision of the workspace and increasingly linked to the specific needs of the user and overall needs of the company.
How do you see the future of the office in relation to the increasing prevalence of smart working? The pandemic has generated a series of reflections regarding the workspace: on one hand, it imposed a cultural adaptation to remote working even for those who were not prepared for it, on the other hand it made people understand the importance that sociality generates and the importance of the quality of the spaces in which we work. The mix between remote working and being at a fixed office work station, as well as the combination between formal and informal spaces will find a new balance tailored to each user.
The fundamental objective of the offices we design today for tomorrow is to put the employee experience at the center by focusing on the quality of the space and creating a fluid and hybrid space that adapts quickly to changes.