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One chance to make a good first impression: Office lobbies see a revamp

September 10, 2018

How office lobby design is taking a page from hospitality to cater to the future of work

Do you remember the last office lobby you visited? Chances are you don’t. Once intended as an area you simply pass through to reach your destination, office lobby design traditionally centered on creating a non-descript polished, professional space focused on purpose and function.

Fast forward to today, where mobile and wireless technology allows us to work from virtually anywhere. Where impromptu and, even, planned meetings can be just as productive in a coffee shop as in a conference room.

Rich textures and tones help office lobbies take a design cue from design-driven boutique hotels.

Our flexible workstyles have inspired a new approach to office lobby design. Office lobbies are no longer just a place to pass through; savvy building owners are focused on using them to create a sense of place. Taking a page from the hospitality sector, office lobbies are now being designed as a setting to linger, connect, and recharge. With a goal of establishing a unique sense of identity, my team has been focused on designing workplace lobby spaces that are memorable and encourage a welcoming sense of hospitality.

Office lobbies are no longer just a place to pass through; savvy building owners are focused on using them to create a sense of place.

Remember the first time you stepped into the lobby of your boutique hotel while on vacation? That sense of welcome, individuality, and attention to detail can now also be found in workplace lobbies. By utilizing all of an occupant’s senses, through interesting visual cues, textures, and even smells, a lobby can become a destination all on its own.

Particularly in my hometown of Boston, where rising new office construction has created a renewed focus from owners of existing office properties on maintaining a unique sense of identity and modernity, the office lobby can play an powerful role in the value of a property and its respective neighborhood. Especially as tenants view their “office” as extending beyond the walls of their leased space, occupier lease decisions can be impacted by the quality of such shared areas as the lobby, fitness area, and adjacent outdoor areas.

A striking entry, like that at the newly repositioned 125 Summer Street, establishes a neighborhood connection point and maximizes natural light.

My team has repositioned several office lobbies to meet these new demands. Some key design elements to consider when creating the lobby of the future include:

  • Variation for tailored use: For the repositioning of the lobby at 125 Summer Street, a 22-story commercial building in downtown Boston, our goal was to create a space that can accommodate a variety of uses. Different types of seating (arm chairs in different heights, sofas, and a perch table with stools) configured in diverse arrangements allow for both formal and informal interactions, as well as personal catch-up time or group interactions.
  • Customized visual cues: Color plays an essential role in making an impactful impression. For all our lobby design projects, we look to incorporate rich colors and textures into elements like art, furniture, and fixtures to establish a highly curated, personal space. In many instances, we’ve designed customized sculptural elements to further draw an occupant’s interest. At Lafayette City Center, a mixed-use property in downtown Boston, we used dynamic light as a central design element. Ribbon-like lights extend along the ceiling to reinforce the path through the lobby to the elevator bank, while creating a bold visual cue from the street. Patterned terrazzo floors also reflect the light and mirror the lighting pattern.
  • Optimal natural light: Daylighting creates an environment that feels open, inviting, and inspiring. Natural light also supports user wellness and creates opportunities to incorporate other natural features like plants throughout a space. At 117 Kendrick Street in Needham, Massachusetts (a suburb just outside of Boston), natural light played a starring role in the redesign of the corporate center’s lobbies, interconnecting corridor, and café. In this space we put a focus on the skylights and removed dividing walls to open sightlines and optimize light throughout the space.
  • A welcoming anchor: An extra element that helps visitors feel at home in a lobby is the addition of hospitality features such as streaming video or refreshments. I’ve seen a growing number of building owners incorporate coffee bars or beverage stations where occupants can enjoy a drink or pastry while catching up on e-mails. Similarly, a tastefully incorporated television can provide a central area for information on breaking news or weather updates.

Custom lighting, like that in Lafayette City Center, creates striking visual cues in a lobby space.

While lobby redesign is often focused on the interior, it’s also important to build an authentic connection with the neighborhood immediately outside a building’s door. With work occurring beyond the four walls of an office (or building for that matter), there’s a great opportunity to bring that level of hospitality outdoors as an extension of the lobby through seating, planters, and a welcoming façade. Not to mention the fact that these elements also serve to better connect a property to a community and help enhance a local streetscape.

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