4 St Georges Place. There is no place like home.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever taken much notice of St George’s Day, but as lockdown has left my wall calendar almost entirely empty this month, it stood out to me. And even more so, as it caused a slight pang.
I miss our office, 4 St George’s Place, Brighton. It’s not just our office, it’s our home. And in spite of all the tech, our strong connections (often over bad connections) involving rowdy virtual meetings (Friday afternoon is definitely different to the Monday morning meeting, as it should be), I sorely miss the beating heart of our agency, a five storey townhouse in the vibey and sometimes slightly edgy border between the North Laines and the Wild West, otherwise known as London Road.
I’ve recently celebrated 15 years at Designate. Naturally after all this time, our building carries amazing memories of friends we have loved and some that we have sadly lost, success, commiserations, celebrations, creativity, passion, office romances, dogs, a million different floor moves, 3am water fights, Pride raves and huge parties in our car park. Our building is such a big part of Designate that it feels very very odd not to be sharing creative work in the basement, running up and down the stairs and exploring thinking with our clients and each other in our big sunny boardroom.
A lot has been written about how working practices are changing and many roles and business may well continue to operate from at least a partial working from home model. Architects of the future have discussed how incorporating work space into new homes will be common place, zoning and possibly even having a separate entrance to your workspace .
The more I looked into this, I have become fascinated to read more about how architecture is influenced by pandemics. Cholera influenced the modern grid system to allow sewerage and zoning of areas where there were outbreaks and the wipe clean aesthetic of minimalism is attributed to the outbreak of TB, with white and bright light flooded spaces.
So what does the post COVID-19 workplace look like? The Design Research Agency is already beginning to look at this. It’s likely for town planning moving forward that we will have wider pavements and there is already discussion around the future of overcrowded city living. In a socially distanced world, regardless of how long we may have to adhere to these rules, will individuals and companies want to continue to use shared work space? Is the idea of hot desking dead?
Every initiative over the past decade has been to create free flowing work between teams, but in a post pandemic world, the appeal of this is limited, not least travelling on over crowded public transport and through crowded cities to get there. Smart lifts and voice tech will no doubt be part of our future too, but one thing will be certain. We will be asking, do we really need that meeting? And is in person necessary?
I’m a huge advocate of face-to-face communication whenever possible. We are in the business of ideas, relationships and creativity and whilst we have already created entire campaigns, including recording radio, filming content and creating TV ads whilst under lockdown and presented new brand work on international Zoom calls, I desperately miss discussing, developing and presenting the thinking in person. And that belief and desire won’t change once lockdown is lifted, even perhaps partially.
So what will 4 St George’s Place look like in a post Covid creative world? In actual fact, our building is already zoning itself very well, with five floors and offices within them. When open plan became the norm, we were limited to the walls we could take out. We have a car park, with an electric car zap point, so public transport isn’t always necessary and outside our office is a very post pandemic appropriate development called Valley Gardens, with traffic rerouted around it, wide boulevards and green space. It was almost finished too. And of course we are in Brighton, just about a city.
So whilst we could make our entrances smart and reactivate the lift (although the stairs are good cardio!), St George’s Place, a Regency bow fronted building suddenly fits the aesthetic of our workplace future too. And I for one can not wait to get back to it, throw the bay windows open, turn the bass up on our impressive sound system and get our obligatory Friday afternoon cocktails on the go once more. And we can not wait to welcome our friends, clients and new faces back too for a social distanced but high energy meetings with human not WiFi connections. There is no place like home.