Integrating Wood Within the Office Environment

Cool Wood

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  • Unilever Agile Offices (2012) Architect: Evolution Design Location: Zurich, Switzerland Photo Credit: Peter Wurmli
  • Wieden + Kennedy (2016) Architect: Dariel Studio Location: JingAn Shanghai, China Photo Credit: Dariel Studio
  • Bloomberg Tech Hub (2015) Architect: IwamotoScott Architecture Location: San Francisco, CA Photo Credit: Bruce Damonte
  • Pinterest NY (2016) Architect: Spector Group Location: New York, NY Photo Credit: Jerry Mislewlcz

By Alexander McCleave

Offices are notoriously dull, bleak work environments. Often, employees wake up and travel to work only to arrive at a boring office space devoid of any sense of wonder or inspiration. This can have the unintended effect of stifling employees’ creativity and creating discontent. Fortunately wood is making an entrance into the work environment. By creating a feeling of warmth and familiarity in an office space, employees are happier, more inspired, and enjoy coming to work. Wood connects us to the outdoors, is healthier than alternative materials, and creates a more beautiful and serene work environment. And if an office can’t have a fully exposed wood structure, creating “moments” of architectural relief can be just as effective.

Global ad agency Wieden + Kennedy chose a tree theme for its Shanghai office and created a workspace inspired by branches growing out from a tree trunk. Vertical split joint boards connect, cross and naturally extend to different floors. They have a glossy oak veneer which adds a warmth and elegance to the office’s otherwise industrial feel.

In Zurich, Switzerland, Unilever Agile Offices have created an inviting space inspired by a garden. In the Garden Room, employees can work in a peaceful, quiet and natural environment. The company says its employees feel positive about the wood and love the natural, relaxing and comfortable feel.

A main design element at Bloomberg Tech Hub is a porous wood liner that wraps the pantry space and splays in plan across the ceiling, wrapping down as paneling along one side and as the face of a series of window seat banquets on the other. The liner splits into a series of individually sculpted boards at the ceiling that recall the facade’s chevron shapes and allow glimpses through to the raw concrete structure above.

At Pinterest NY, a central communication staircase crafted out of different wood panels immediately grabs your attention and links the two levels of the company. The scissor stair was positioned at the central bay of the workspace, forming a visual focal point and porous, inhabitable screen as employees enter the reception area from the elevator lobby at both levels.

These office spaces show how wood is able to create a natural, calming environment for employees while simultaneously creating intriguing works of art for all.

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