New Office Buildings Enter the Comfort Zone

The lobby of Uptown's sleek new McKinney & Olive tower is lavished with polished marble and stained wood paneling. Thirty-five-foot-high windows are pushed right up to the sidewalk on McKinney Avenue where the trolley clangs along. Most days, you'll see office workers or visitors relaxing in comfortable seats along the glass. When the weather is nice, chairs and tables in the plaza along Olive Street are filled. Welcome to the new office environment, where avant-garde architecture comes complete with nice places for folks to just hang out. When did workplaces also become spaces to lounge? I could be cynical and say that employers are cramming so many people into tighter and tighter office spaces that workers have to have someplace to chill out. But it's probably more than that. With wireless communication, you can answer email and proofread proposals while sitting in the office garden getting some sun. Grand lobbies and atrium entries that once got little use by office building tenants are now refashioned to something closer to a hotel lobby. "With the advent of work anytime, anywhere, anyplace, these community-type spaces provide an opportunity for interaction, or conversations, last-minute preparation for a meeting, that could not happen in a reception room," said Dallas designer Andre Staffelbach, whose firm is curating some of the newest office interiors in town. "They also offer an oasis, if someone just needs to get away from their home base to do some focus work on their iPad or laptop. "We visit our projects often to review and experience the use, and yes, these type of spaces are in demand today." Staffelbach says he tries to pick lounge furniture that's comfy but not so much that people fall asleep. Business owners don't like the sound of snoring in the lobby. Staffelbach's firm was one of the designers at McKinney & Olive, where tenants have a private concierge area to loaf around in the rooftop garden, exercise in the gym or hold company meetings in a corner conference room. "This is an exclusive amenity for our office customers," said Crescent's Joseph Pitchford. "We wanted to take some of the best space in the building and create a community area."   Continue reading...

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