This whole staying-indoors-all-day-working thing is a relatively recent phenomenon, in terms of human evolution. Were we really designed to be shut up in buildings for nine hours a day, cut off from the natural environment? Architect Richard Black thinks not — and his design for an office that transcends the divide between the built and the natural environment brings a whole new meaning to the term “green building.”
Black’s Symbiotic Building concept, developed over the course of his diploma in architecture at Oxford Brookes University, takes aim at London’s Canary Wharf office culture. In what The Atlantic term’s Black’s “chlorophyll-rich vision” for the modern office, the Symbiotic Building makes use of orchid gardens (which you might have to pass through on your way to the loo), and open floors that merge into green, parklike vistas.
In the Symbiotic Building, a central pillar doubles as a sculpture, offering a trellis for climbing plants. As you make your way to the building’s cafeteria for lunch, you might pass through puffs of mist arising from unseen sprayers — not unlike those in the produce aisle of your local grocery.
The Symbiotic Office was designed to change the way that people use office spaces, creating relaxation zones where individuals can pause for thought, host meetings, eat their lunch or drink orchid tea (yes). In fact, in Black’s vision seems to center in large part around that ultimate hothouse flower, the orchid, which prefers a warm, moist indoor environment, but — as a plant quite comfortable setting up shop in the forest canopy — has little actual need for soil. Think of it as the ideal symbiotic companion for those giant glass tree houses, so to speak, that define the skylines of our urban centers.
Oh, and should you feel any of the ill effects of modern work during the course of your day in the Symbiotic Building, you can simply visit the office’s resident pharmacy, which will provide you with medicinal orchid extracts offering relief from symptoms such as headaches, poor eyesight and stress.
On his blog, Black says, “In the vastness of these office spaces, the needs of the individual are largely overlooked and the repetitive, generic offices with their catalogue furniture offer little more than a place to work. The proposal is an attempt to open up these closed office cultures in which the basic needs of the individual have been forgotten.”
He goes on to note that in the digital age where the traditional place of work is a fluid concept, the Symbiotic Office “strives to highlight the importance of face-to-face interactions and to create an office space which not only boosts productivity, but one which the workers can enjoy.”
Black is currently continuing his research into London’s office culture with a Masters thesis at Oxford Brookes that delves into the excessive overpopulation and misuses of commercial space in modern urban environments.