Elements of design

With the new year beginning and our full team in place we are looking back again at the space types that came to define modern workplace design. Before O+A got into the mix a typical office was a series of cubicles, a conference room or two and private corner suites for the executives. It was the tech revolution that changed those conventions and O+A was there on the barricades early. Our designers understood that if you’re going to pull down walls and open windows, you have to curate spaces specific to their functions—and you have to give people what they want.

Our designers developed ten initial Typologies as the building blocks of contemporary workplace. Over the years they have morphed and multiplied, but the ten we’ll be reviewing through the course of this year are the ten that started it all. We opened the series with a look at “The Living Room.” Today we pick up with “The Think Tank.”

Typologies 2. The Think Tank

Small enclosed spaces perfect for one, comfortable for two and workable for three. The materials and construction of the enclosure may vary, but the space it creates is intimate and conducive to private conversations and contemplative work.

Think Tanks may be labeled as Phone Rooms or Meeting Rooms or named according to conventions meaningful to the client—at Slack they are named for wild rivers, animals, constellations and plants—but whatever their designation these spaces are versatile and adaptable to any activity that requires a closed door. A salient feature of the Think Tank, however, is that its closed door is not forbidding.

At most companies these are spaces accessible to anyone on staff—and are designed to send that message.



What It Does:

If every great idea flowers from a seed, the Think Tank is that space where a seed can be germinated and take root. In that regard, it functions as a conceptual greenhouse in which the first sprouts of a project are nurtured until they are healthy enough to transplant to a larger meeting or a fixed work schedule. While the term “think tank” has acquired a certain negative connotation thanks to the prevalence in politics of self-serving ideological elites, the concept as applied to workplace design is the opposite of elitist thinking. These are spaces that allow every view to be considered, every crazy theory tested, safe from the withering opinion of the crowd.

The modesty of the Think Tank in architectural terms belies the importance of the work that is done there. For that reason these spaces are designed for comfort, are usually built in pairs or groups and are situated prominently throughout the office.

Think Tanks are spaces that allow every view to be considered, every crazy theory tested, safe from the withering opinion of the crowd.