Working and living

Work undisturbed in the seclusion of your study while the little ones are playing in the west wing? Not everyone’s home allows for this scenario.  The majority of us are likely to have a lot less floor space at our disposal. That’s not exactly ideal when you’re working from home – which will probably remain with us even after the crisis.

The coronavirus has fundamentally changed our room to maneuver: at home we are forced into even closer intimacy, while distancing remains the order of the day elsewhere. As people at Dutch architecture firm MVRDV are asking: “Our personal space has grown by 1.5 meters … will our buildings have to grow as well to accommodate that?”  That will hardly be possible: cities are already bursting at the seams and affordable residential space is thin on the ground. Bigger buildings? Not enough space or too expensive. More creative solutions will be needed in the future if we are going to work and live under the same roof. 

Floor plan of the „elastic apartment”. Back garden office.

Floor plan of the „elastic apartment”. Back garden office. (PPAG architects. Richard John Andrews, Chris Snook) © PPAG architects. Richard John Andrews, Chris Snook

The bedroom becomes the home office during the day

One idea put forward by architecture journalist Anh-Linh Ngo is to “assign rooms different functions” at different times of day. For example, bedrooms with fold-away beds could be transformed into living rooms or studies during the daytime. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Viennese architects Popelka and Poduschka designed a completely “elastic apartment”: one main room is adjoined by seven square rooms that can be configured flexibly according to how they are used, with dividers used to expand or shrink them.

It is difficult to set boundaries within your own four walls

But, in your average German apartment, elasticity probably remains an illusion. Munich-based architect Lukas Völker doesn’t think it’s very feasible in everyday life to divide off rooms using elements like sliding walls or drapes. “These flexibility models just don’t match our current reality. If you’re making a phone call or taking part in a video conference, you don’t want to hear a washing machine in the background.” Based on his own recent experience as the father of a toddler, Völker says it is fundamentally difficult to maintain personal privacy when working at home. That’s why he advocates maintaining a strict separation between work and private life. One model is for residential buildings with separate rooms that can be flexibly adapted to different purposes. “The concept involves buying an apartment and a corresponding share in an office.” Cooperative housing projects based on this principle have already been completed in large cities like Munich, Berlin and Zurich. These housing projects contain not only private apartments, but communal rooms that can be used as co-working spaces or childcare centers. 

Garden retreats

Homeowners in affluent suburban areas, on the other hand, are advised to take a look at Dezeen, an architecture and design journal. It showcased 12 “back-garden offices” for when there’s not enough space to work in your home. These residents are the lucky ones: they certainly won’t be bothered by noise from any washing machines in their idyllic garden settings.

New Work

New Work

How will New Work be implemented at DT? What can we learn from others? Find the answers in our special about New Work.