by Jincy IypeJul 16, 2021
Terms like the ‘new normal’ have been part of our lexicon since the beginning of the pandemic. While work-from-home has been part of this new normal, many countries have begun to slowly regain a sense of normalcy. While the debate remains whether things should go back to what was the norm before the global lockdowns, the impact of the work-from-home model is bound to transform the way spaces are designed. It has transformed how we think about our residential design, public design, infrastructure, and even our office spaces. The new normal is perhaps a term that should continue to be a part of design vocabulary, as we continue to evolve our definition of normalcy especially in relation to spatial design.
At the end of 2020, Japanese publisher Kadokawa opened a new office in Higashi Tokorozawa, a city 45km from central Tokyo. Dubbed the Kadokawa Tokorozawa Campus, the location offered a novel plan which allowed Japanese studio Flooat Inc. to present conditions to highlight the drastic change we have all undergone in recent times. With the design brief in mind, the studio created a space that accurately captures the transformation of our work environment. The difference between a design element and a design solution is its application. Flooat Inc.'s spatial design for the Kadokawa campus is an interesting confluence of the aesthetics of the office design, pre-pandemic and contemporary functionalities and requirements. While the office campus aesthetically reflects the office spaces that were with details such as colour and tonality, the materiality, and planning take into consideration the design solutions that evolved over the past year.
Based on the brief, Flooat Inc conceptualised the central theme of the office as a ‘fluctuated landscape’. They envision the entire 9000 square meters floor space as one continuum, a single area without walls or divisions and is a metaphor for Kadokawa’s business model. The publishing house is a well-established reputation in a multitude of different products, from literary works to comics, with recent additions of film, animation and video games. All of these different departments co-exist across singular floorspace. Flooat Inc designed it as a way of helping employees balance their individual sensibilities within a collective of creativity. The central idea was to aid different departments to experience fresh encounters and realisations.
The term ‘fluctuated landscape’ refers to the seemingly random spatial alterations which take place within the continuum. Different sections are not demarcated by traditional elements such as walls, instead, the studio chooses to introduce varied ceiling heights with occasionally exposed structural elements. These sections, for the most part, are random and generate a vertically-oriented variety. We often forget the impact of experiencing volumetric variation, it is an effect the Flooat’s design capitalises on. Some of the lower ceilinged areas are defined as ‘intensification zones’, for concentrated and individual work, while others with higher ceilings are named ‘relaxation zones’, where creative inter-communication is encouraged. The variations differentiate but do not separate spaces, it brings the campus together in harmonious synergy.
Flooat Inc carefully selected materials and furnishings and opted for uneven colour intensities. This allows the interior to change tone with the movement of light as the day progresses. While being in an office, employees sense the passage of time via real-time light effects, enhancing their sense of wellbeing. A central ‘light court’ connects to a courtyard and roof terrace, with a mini amphitheatre with a projector along one of its edges. The light court brings natural light inside the enormous structure and functions as a place for employees to refresh. The space will also double as an event space where guests and local residents would also be invited to participate.
Across the massive floor, the different areas have been defined using glass screens and furniture. The utilities are stacked in each of the four corners and allow for a seamless visual connection across the entire floor. The overall effect is the complete removal of unsociable feelings associated with the modern office. It is also important to note the use of the term ‘fluctuated landscape’, it is one that accurately describes the project and is perhaps a more appropriate account of this new system of office design.