The Creative Office Revolution

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Chair of the Month

Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie Grasso Cockrell
Natalie is a Workplace Consultant at Herman Miller and the former Editor of Work Design Magazine. She’s currently based in Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy of Natalie Grasso.

“There’s a change happening and it’s so much more than bright colors and a communal table,” said Miguel McKelvey, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of WeWork, the national network of shared, urban workspaces.

Mitchell Schear, President of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, calls it a “permanent paradigm shift.”

These statements were made last week in a conversation among industry leaders at Bisnow’s “Creative Office Revolution.” Hosted by Vornado, the event took place in Crystal City, Va., in a building that is also home to Vornado’s DesignLab (worth checking out, if you’re local).

The goal of the discussion was to tap into the issues, trends, and brands that are influencing commercial real estate locally, nationally, and internationally.

Of WeWork, McKelvey said: “We’re pioneering [the idea of] space as service, capitalizing on fundamental shifts in urbanization, sharing, community, and entrepreneurship.” He said that these are “intuitive” ideas that have turned into “ideological change.”

When Mark Gilbreath took the stage, the founder and CEO of LiquidSpace — the platform that allows users to find work and meeting space as easily as they book an Uber ride — pointed out that, incidentally, LiquidSpace is headquarted inside of a WeWork location in San Francisco.

“The workplace no longer looks like an anonymous sea of cubes,” said Gilbreath. He said that the average office is used for only 30% of the time on any given workday — “increasingly, people are actually leaving work to get things done.”

These changes are come at a time of a major generational shift in the workforce — what, asked the moderator, does this “revolution” mean for the older generation?

James Young, VP of Corporate Facilities and Real Estate for Marriott said that we must approach this shift delicately: “Baby boomers and beyond have institutional knowledge and wisdom, but time marches on and millennials are growing in number and ability.”

Bob Fox, Founder of FOX Architects and publisher of this magazine, indicated that architects and designers recognize the need for all workers to have focused places to work, but to also be able to interact with people both inside and outside of the office. On this new frontier, it seems that the shift to space and services ideated and built by companies like WeWork and LiquidSpace will help to bridge the transfer of knowledge between generations.

“The workplace is no longer defined by the office. It’s on the go, driven by mobility and choice,” said Gilbreath. “Workplace today is where your people are.”

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