The Living installation

What Does the Future Hold for Contract Interiors?

The September/October issue of Metropolis explores ideas for a healthier, digital-infused, climate-positive future.

During the past year and a half that humanity has spent fighting a resilient and mutating virus, architect David Benjamin and his firm The Living have been thinking about a biological concept. “A holobiont is a collection of different species living together, each contributing to the well-being of the whole,” he explains to reporter Adrian Madlener (“ Probiotic or Antibiotic? ” ). “If we think of buildings in this way, we might design for more than just human comfort. This gives us a new perspective on life and health.”

The global pandemic has all of us negotiating new relationships with work, travel, health, learning, and leisure. We are eager to sharpen our priorities, slough off excesses, and open our minds to different ways of living with each other and within our world’s ecosystems. 

It is a perfect time for architects and designers to leap beyond business-as-usual and show us what the future could hold.

Work is no longer simply a chore that puts food on the table; it is also a way of finding pleasure and purpose in life. And in a post-pandemic world, an office that does not support that idea is not an office anyone wants to commute to. In The New(est) Dream Office, Metropolis’s editors have gathered concepts and components of the ideal workplace. It would have common areas as luxurious and life-affirming as the ones in Barbarito Bancel’s Moët Hennessy Paris headquarters, yes, but also include carbon-sequestering salvaged wood finishes from Brooklyn start-up Tri-Lox. On days when we don’t want to go into the dream office—every pandemic-time survey has shown that hybrid or flexible work arrangements are now the number one priority for office workers—we need a soul-satisfying home office where we can connect to a virtual environment in which all workers have an equitable experience

And if we must travel, let us atone for the harm we cause the earth in doing so. In New Haven, Connecticut, the firm Becker + Becker has converted the Marcel Breuer–designed Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters (a.k.a. the Pirelli Building) into the LEED Platinum–certified, net-zero-energy Hotel Marcel. Blending history, travel, and sustainability, this project represents a pinnacle of achievement in hospitality design. And it is just one of a set of similar buildings all over the country—midcentury structures that are finding an afterlife as hotels while avoiding a whole bunch of carbon emissions (“Midcentury Makeover.”).

If the idea of having to understand biology, chemistry, and technology to design healthier, digital-infused, climate-positive spaces sounds a bit overwhelming, take a deep breath and start where you can. Remember, this is the time to dream big.

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