Six Feet Apart and Closer than Ever

One of the ironies widely observed about this period of enforced separation is how much closer it has brought us to friends, colleagues, strangers. For once the whole world is thinking about the same thing, puzzling out the same problem. Crime is down, pollution is down, wars are on hold—the pandemic has required us to rehearse what working together might look like. Yes, politics and policies continue to be contentious, but goals are not in dispute. We all want to get through this safely and as quickly as possible.

With that in mind O+A has formed its own post-COVID task force to study what workplace design is going to be when we’re all back at the office. That team is at work right now formulating new strategies and protocols for a pre-vaccine workplace. We’re assembling all the good thinking we can on the subject and making it available here. Watch this space for frequent updates from the worlds of workplace design and epidemiology—two fields we hoped would never need to meet. But here we are…

Fast Company: From ‘officles’ to giant sneeze guards: How COVID-19 will change your open office (April 2020)

According to Orpilla, the prototypical open office should be designed to allow people to meander through the space and find their own nook or cranny to settle down in, without bumping elbows with a coworker.

“Anytime you look at a well-designed open plan, there’s only about 30% of people sitting at the desk. The rest are using other parts of the office space, thereby exercising social distancing on demand in their own way,” says Orpilla. “That being said, the target has been painted. Over the last five years, there’s been a push for the open plan model to densify. That’s where you’re seeing the problems. Some places were designed without the additional open areas, meeting spaces, or the right ratio of meeting spaces to headcount. They were not well thought-out.”


Read full article here.

Metropolis Magazine: Industry Leaders Discuss the Future of the Workplace and Wellness, Post-Pandemic (April 2020)

“As social distancing continues in cities around the world in response to the coronavirus outbreak offices are closed, but work continues to get done; people are adjusting. Meetings and social functions have migrated to videoconferencing services like Zoom, collaboration takes place on Slack, and the kitchen table serves as a workstation. As social distancing approaches its fifth week in the United State, one has to wonder: Is this the new normal?

That question served as a jumping off point for a panel discussion on DesignTV, a new initiative from Metropolis’s parent company, SANDOW, that brings design experts together to discuss how our current global reality impacts the world of design. Primo Orpilla, the cofounder and principal of Studio O+A, and Randy Fiser, the CEO of ASID joined Metropolis’s editor in chief, Avinash Rajagopal over video chat to discuss what the workplace might look like in a post-COVID world.”


Read full article here.

Interior Design Magazine: U.S. Designers Share Ways They’re Thinking Big During the Pandemic (March 2020)

“I was at a job site walk-through with a client, and somebody knew somebody who might have had the virus—this was in a building of 2,000 people. That was how it started. And then [Gavin] Newsom imposed ‘shelter in place’ in California and it just took hold, so projects came to a grinding halt… We told people to start ordering up samples and taking things they needed, and now if they need anything they just call and it gets mailed to wherever they are. They’ve done the workaround by having a little stockpile ready. Only our IT consultants are going into our offices now.”


Read full article here.

Business Insider: Experts say the office as we knew it is gone
(May 2020)

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a large focus of companies in the San Francisco Bay Area was establishing a place of work that reflected the company culture.

Open floor plans, cereal containers full of free snacks — anything to make the office stand out to recruit the best and brightest talent.

But the modern workplace will see some growing pains as the infectious coronavirus disease prompts many to rethink how we use the office.


Read full article here.

Bloomberg Quint: The Silicon Valley Workplace Will Never Be the Same (May 2020)

“On the day tech workers finally do go back, the first change many will notice is on their morning commute. The shuttle buses provided by larger companies may not operate at full capacity, and some employers might encourage people to drive to avoid public transportation. Upon arrival, they’ll find redesigned lobbies. To funnel thousands of workers safely, companies are looking to use design tricks like stickers on the floor or carefully placed furniture to create barriers, said Primo Orpilla, co-founder of the San Francisco-based interior design company Studio O+A, whose clients include Microsoft Corp., Slack Technologies Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc.

Tech companies are particularly concerned with changes that could compromise their carefully curated aesthetic. Nobody wants rope barriers that make people feel like they’re at an airport, Orpilla said. They’re looking for an artistic version of crowd control. ‘If Shepard Fairey were in charge of making sure social distancing was part of your space, how would he do it?’ Orpilla said, referring to the creator of the ‘Hope’ Obama campaign posters. In a change that would please George Costanza, some clients are considering rebuilding bathroom stalls so the walls extend from the floor to the ceiling, he said.”


Read the full article here.

Architectural Digest: The film Workplace asks a vital question: Should offices be designed for work-life balance? (April 2020)

During this COVID-19 pandemic, filmmaker Gary Hustwit makes his movies free for viewing. Watch this documentary that asks questions on what modern workspaces should encourage and enable.

The film also briefly dwells into the historic evolution of modern office spaces in North America from the post-industrialisation era to offices of the dotcom age. It has snippets from architecture firms Gensler and Studio O+A showcasing their design strategies for the offices of Etsy and Yelp respectively.


Read the full article here.

Work Mill with Forbes Japan: Future is Now (June 2020)

O+A cofounder, Primo Orpilla discusses the workplace of the future in a post-COVID environment. Recognizing that things are changing almost daily, he offers insight into how we can best prepare to return to work and what measures we can put in place to make the workplace a safe, healthy environment.


Read the full article here.