Where Are They Now: KKT Architects Archipelago Coworking Space

The KKT Architects team submission will be featured in a book coming out soon! Find out what the team is up to today.

KKT Architects were winners in the coworking space category of the 2020 Next Work Environment. Their innovative submission ‘The Archipelago’ consisted of a series of private islands for outdoor working housed under a large cabana. The space was laid out in three island rings of workspaces that were sized based on the idea of a 6′ social distance bubble. The islands could be used either as an open office space or personal space with controls that allowed the spaces to be subdivided using water curtains. The design of this space met both the immediate challenge for a safe coworking space, while also remaining functional and attractive. Since their submission in 2020, the team was approached to have the project featured in a book that will be released soon! You can check out the full submission here.

We checked back in with the KKT Architects team to see what they are up to today and how their submission has evolved in the last few years.

Sarah Gould, Owner

Francis Wilmore, Director of Design 

Shannon Darnell, Interior Design Lead 

Kate Cofer, Business Engagement Lead 

Jim Boulware, Principal


What has happened with the Archipelago project since the competition? Has the idea evolved? What were the changes and why?

Since completing our Next Work Environment entry in 2020, our team has taken the Archipelago’s ideas to heart and embraced the “work from anywhere” mentality. Even as we’ve been able to re-enter our office, we have anywhere from 30-50% of our staff that choose to work remotely any given day. We reduced the number of workstations in our office while increasing the overall number of employees at our firm. In lieu of our traditional desks within an open office, we’ve focused on creating a variety of new experiences within the space that provide people choice with how they work. Much of the focus was on creating spaces for smaller groups to meet along with equipping the spaces to allow individuals access to the technology for virtual meetings.

In terms of our practice, the Archipelago predicted some of the shifting mentality toward outdoor spaces. We’ve seen an uptick in exterior oriented projects that take spaces that would have traditionally been an interior space and rethink them. Perhaps one of the best examples is a high school cafeteria project that had initially been planned as a renovation or addition, but has shifted to occupying an underused exterior courtyard where we will add a large canopy element, heaters, and low-velocity fans to make the space into a year-round outdoor dining area.

One of the biggest lessons we learned that the Archipelago unintentionally predicted in some ways was that once people doffed their business attire, they really didn’t want to put it back on. It became difficult to attract people back to the office and keep that sense of culture and community that made us successful in the past. To counter this mentality, we’ve developed a number of new programs in the office that foster conversations between staff that may otherwise not work with one another. Each month, each of our leadership team members meets with a small group of employees to discuss topics relevant to our firm’s history and culture in an informal setting. Each season lasts 6 months, and then the teams are shuffled and a new topic is explored with a new team leader. This has helped get staff back together in and outside of the office while also helping instill the pre-covid culture of our firm into newer staff as we evolve into the new reality.

What are you working on now?

We had a chance to share the Archipelago and the design process we went through as part of a conference presentation we gave on creating office culture and reinforcing core values. One of the conference attendees was Blaine Brownell, Director of the School of Architecture at the UNC Charlotte and author of the Transmaterial series. He approached us about including our project in a book he is currently working on, “The Pandemic Effect – Ninety Experts on Immunizing the Built Environment” that will release soon. We are currently busy developing a submission for this year’s Next Work Environment competition!

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