The future of the office is already here.

We talk about it to Alessandro Adamo, Partner of  Lombardini22 - Director of  DEGW

An all-round interview on the evolution of the office space in the era of social distancing.

How has Lombardini22, the number one company in the Top 50 architecture and design companies in Italy, with a staff of three hundred employees, coped with the emergency and the lockdown?

From the very beginning, we put together a task force led by Franco Guidi, Gabriele Monaco and Roberto Cereda, the Lombardini22 innovation team, and in the space of a week, we had transformed all the work into remote operations. Out of three hundred people, about seventy were already set up to work remotely and only some areas, such as BIM design, three-dimensional modelling, accountants and designers were tied to the office workspace. We prepared in time, not so much because we realised the lockdown was coming, but because we thought that if unfortunately some of us got sick, we would have had to close the office anyway and find alternative ways of working. The information technology department is the only unit that physically stayed in the office to provide remote support for anyone who required it.
This unexpected turn of events allowed us to take stock of the fact that, even in the world of design, it is possible to work remotely, without difficulty. The only negative aspect in a job like ours, that is closely linked to physical presence and the senses, is not being able to see and touch the materials first-hand.

“The only disadvantage in our work, which is linked to physical presence too,
is not being able to touch and see materials and textures,
but the workplace carries on regardless”

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Times of crisis can also be seen as an opportunity to grow and renew. Do you agree?

As always, a whole host of opportunities open up in times of crisis. It depends on where you view the scene from. If you remain at a standstill, you probably only see the crisis, but if you move and look for different viewpoints, I think that there is a possibility of doing things differently in all sectors. Take production in terms of hygiene, anti-bacterial paints, sanitisation systems and, above all, certain types of technology which perhaps were already being considered, but we hadn’t yet had the courage to get off the ground. For example, sensors which could now be applied to mark out distances or to develop hands-free technology.

How should the office be redesigned in the era of social distancing?

The office was already undergoing a change that had been taking place for years. Here in DEGW, we have been assisting corporate organisations for a long time, helping them to find smarter ways of working, so physical presence is not required in the workplace. Technology, laptops and connections have started to change the man-space relationship. So, we were already part of a process of change and what happened simply speeded up the process; we have woken up to the fact that we can work remotely and be just as efficient. It is important to understand how this situation will evolve over time; I don’t think the office will disappear altogether, but rather it will be transformed into something different, influenced by a situation that is already under way.

Did you have to modify any of the projects on which you were working?

We started monitoring the situation immediately and we are now working on two levels.
Firstly, by managing the recovery phase after the lockdown, by studying distancing, checking footfall and routes, sanitisation. The second level, however, is one of vision, so trying to understand how the situation will change. On the one hand, we are carrying on the projects just as they were conceived and on the other hand, we are checking how much space we will need in the future.
Some projects have slowed down, but we have also taken on several new jobs in this period. This means that the workplace sector has not ground to a halt.

Co-working and hot desking: the market had accustomed us to these new work environments. Will it be possible to continue working like this or should we consider this approach to be over and done with?

Generally speaking, we should get accustomed to living with the unknown and take precautions that we wouldn’t have done beforehand. Today, we are a little bit apprehensive, but we will get used to it just as we got used to all those checks to which we were subjected when we went to airports or tourist sites. We will have to get used to social distancing and different ways of behaving which are difficult to imagine not only in the workplace, but also in all those scenarios where we have to share spaces, like car sharing, for example. I don’t think that we will change these models, but we will have to apply criteria for their use that didn’t exist before.

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Keep calm.

This is an unusual,
unexpected and surreal time.
Keeping calm is what we
suggest our customers do.

What does the market expect from a company like yours?

DEGW is a unit with an Anglo-Saxon approach and a dual template: one for consulting and the other for design which is what captured my heart and still fascinates me today. We don’t approach projects from just one point of view, we are a company that supports other companies by providing our scientific method. Our projects stem from an analytical approach and the definition of a brief. Customers expect a high level of professionalism from us, as well as a benchmark and vision of the evolution of the working method. We do a lot of research and apply neuroscience across the board, not just in office design, but also in retail and the hotel industry. Davide Ruzzon, who has worked with us for many years, is in charge of the TUNED unit which applies the principles of neuroscience to the projects.
We are, in fact, studying projects aimed at drawing out primary emotions, by working on various sensory levels, from visual to tactile and olfactory, experimenting with different fragrances depending on the emotions we want to stimulate. There are also psychologists, who are specialised in this sector, in the Lombardini22 team and we have a business unit, ATMOS, led by Emanuele Siciliano. This unit is dedicated to studying the research and design of wellness, acoustic comfort and lighting design, at all levels.

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Talking of technology, it will be fundamental for designing spaces and increasingly at the service of man. How much is automation in demand in office design?

There is a lot of attention and desire to create automation now which is being increasingly incorporated in projects. Just think about sensors which measure the quantity of carbon dioxide in a room to program the automatic air exchange. Unlike the automobile sector, however, in which technology is truly avant-garde, with cars which recognise you and modify themselves to adapt to your requirements, office automation has not yet expressed its full potential. This is undoubtedly the challenge to take up. An excellent goal to achieve would be to have the ability to control hands-free entrance to an office space, using a barcode on a device that makes us recognisable at turnstiles or by the lift which takes us to the right floor and lets us into meeting rooms that we have booked beforehand.
We have an innovation area in Lombardini22 that deals specifically with bringing innovation and technology to projects; friendly, human-centric technology that makes life easier.

“Totally hands-free technology is now a great goal to achieve.”

Alessandro Adamo

Lombardini22 Partner, Consultant and Director of DEGW, Alessandro Adamo shapes new ways of experiencing the office, by designing environments that aspire to the values of mobility, informal elegance and the need to share, which characterise the new spirit of the contemporary workplace. In 1999, Alessandro became manager of the DEGW Consultancy Area for Italy. After working in AEDES for two years, he became director of DEGW Italia in January 2009. In 2015, at the end of the process to integrate DEGW into the Lombardini22 Group, which had been transformed into a joint stock company, he became a partner of the Group, taking over the helm of the Business Unit dedicated to the workplace. Alessandro has accordingly dedicated his career to managing change in various companies throughout Italy, actively experiencing all the different changes of scenery which have occurred in the last, crucial, three decades of evolution in the world of employment. Today Alessandro is one of the top experts in the field of international consultancy specialised in the integrated design of working environments.

OTOMO is a system designed to improve the comfort and
energy saving of the offices, a smart
wireless web that is configured through App,
available for IOS and Android

telefono OTOMO

CREDITS

1. Amundi

Client: Amundi SGR

Place: Milan DEGW: space planning, interior design, change management

Photographs: Dario Tettamanzi

The Amundi Wave project was born from the need to bring together all Amundi SGR employees and collaborators under one roof following the acquisition of Pioneer Investments from the Unicredit group, and therefore to find spaces suitable for the changed dimensions of the asset management company.

2. Oliver Wyman

Client: Oliver Wyman

Place: Milan DEGW: space planning, concept design, preliminary project, executive project, construction supervision, furniture policy coordination, Change Management L22

Engineering & Sustainability: Electrical and mechanical systems design, works management, VVF authorization practices, Health & Safety Plan, Management and Supervisor

Atmos Services: Preliminary, executive design and construction supervision for the acoustic part FUD services: Naming, logo, concept design teaser stickers

Photographs: Dario Tettamanzi

A new project for DEGW made of design sensitivity and technical expertise has accompanied Oliver Wyman, a global consulting company with 60 offices in 29 countries, in new workspaces, always in the center of Milan, from Piazza San Babila to via Broletto.

3. Electrolux

Client: Electrolux

Location: Porcia (PN) DEGW: space planning, interior design

The Electrolux Innovation Factory is a place to experiment with new ideas, a flexible environment where Electrolux partners and other possible realities related to the world of R&D can collaborate, compare and activate effective and innovative synergies.