Design in the age of crisis: call for radical thinking

In our weekly WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing, we look at a new initiative from the London Design Biennale and Chatham House to encourage architects and designers to generate new ideas that will reshape our working world

In the latest of our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, created to reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, we share perspectives on the latest developments in work and workplace. This edition is posted 28 July 2020.

Making work more meaningful

Everyone agrees that we need radical design thinking on the future of work. Now the London Design Biennale has teamed up with Chatham House, the prestigious Royal Institute of International Affairs in the UK, to give designers in the WORKTECH network a platform for change. A joint initiative, an open competition call entitled Design in an Age of Crisis, asks a simple question: how can work be designed to be more meaningful?

The competition brief asks: ‘What do we want from work in the 21st century? How do we create a wider purpose to work? Covid-19 has put existing, long-standing systems in flux and presented a time-bound opportunity to recast work as a social activity, as well as an economic activity.

‘Work is now required to be more networked, more human-scale and people-centred and more flexible. From this, new systems will emerge, organisations and business models may change, and new ways of organising work and life could come to the fore. Your radical design thinking could focus on whole policy frameworks, architecture and buildings, to the desk and home space, the body or communications tools, and how work fits into the life of our communities.’

‘Work is now required to be more networked, more human-scale, people-centred and flexible…’

Winning entries will feature in an online exhibition in autumn 2020 and be exhibited at the London Design Biennale at Somerset House, London, in June 2021, as well as considered for further development and implementation by Chatham House. The Design in an Age of Crisis programme also includes design briefs on environment, health and social empowerment and equality.

Architects, designers and developers in the WORKTECH community are invited to enter the work brief, which was shaped through a series of workshops and can be found here.

Further reading and background notes on the work brief can be found here.

The office as social destination

Are city-centre office buildings set to become more event-based social destinations, with highly choreographed activities devoted to training, mentoring and innovation, while routine desk work is done elsewhere? That was the question posed in a programme from China Global Network Television featuring Sadie Morgan, founding director of the London-based architecture firm dRMM, and Jeremy Myerson of the Royal College of Art and WORKTECH Academy. ‘We are talking a lot about university-style ateliers,’ says Morgan, ‘where you do a lot of desk-based work at home but then you come in to the office for the more creative work where you do need to be together and feed off people.’ You can catch up with the film here.

Smart from the start?

Finally, don’t miss this week’s live WORKTECH webinar on smart building technology which features Cormac Crossan of Schneider Electric and Spencer Levy of CBRE in conversation with Jeremy Myerson, Director of WORKTECH Academy. It coincides with the launch of a new report, Smart Working, which examines the role of the smart building in relation to the future of work in the post-pandemic era and is based on a collaboration between global energy management and automation specialist Schneider Electric and consulting firm UnWork. The webinar, The Smart Advantage, takes place on Thursday 30 July. More details here.

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