Discover the story behind the creation of Neomobile’s Roman HQ, one of the most innovative office spaces in Italy, in the words of its architect Antonio Borghi from Unispace, a leading global strategic design practice
Could you briefly describe when and why you decided to dedicate your career to work environment & office space design? What makes it unique and different from all other types of design?
I have worked in the commercial architecture sector across different European countries in the last 20 years. When Unispace approached me to help develop their business in Italy, I found they had a brilliant approach to design and delivery of corporate workplaces. I soon decided to join and was more than happy to focus on workplaces.
To design offices, you need the architectural skills to respond quickly and effectively to the client’s needs. We spend most of the time in our life working. At work we constantly experience many changes and challenges. When designing a workspace, there are plenty of concrete requirements, but also immaterial needs to be considered, defined and accommodated. It relates to the economic, social and political aspects of architecture, in its original and most authentic sense.
From an architectural point of view, in what way does a well-designed work space increase productivity and reinforces brand identity?
First and foremost, it’s done by supporting the staff, the most important asset of any company. At Unispace we don’t think the architect has to put its stamp on each project, but partner with the company to provide a tailor made workspace, like we did for Neomobile.
Secondly, you have to consider the evolution of work styles very carefully. Some years ago workplace strategists forecasted a future of working from home that never happened. Nevertheless mobility has radically increased, supported by mobile technologies that allow us to work anytime and everywhere. This has a tremendous impact on today’s office layouts.
Supporting brand identity is not about putting the company’s logo everywhere. It’s about helping the company perform better, providing better services to their clients and evolving towards efficiency and added value.
What was your main inspiration while working on Neomobile’s new HQ in Rome?
It was the spirit of open collaboration between the founding members, the head of departments and staff. From the first meeting, you could feel everyone’s effort to support this project in an enthusiastic way. We were not just receiving a brief, we were asked to join the team of project sponsors and shape their workflows and visions.
Another source of inspiration was the architecture of the former monastery and its close relationship to the surrounding garden. We immediately understood our project as the capacity to establish a lively dialogue between Neomobile and the existing building and we are very happy about the result.
Our company fosters the agile methodology, where the office space functions as a platform for the exchange of ideas and collaboration. What was your methodology in the process of interpreting this concept and transforming it into modern functional office space?
Unispace has met the decision to focus only on workplaces for multinational companies. Our mission is to meet the spatial needs of our clients, matching them with the specific features of the building and built environment at large.
Our design approach is based on listening and interpreting the client’s needs, following a 4 phase methodology: “Vision & Strategy”, “Design Concept & Layout”, “Design Documentation & Approvals” and “Construction.” Each of these phases has a beginning and an end, is ruled by a contract and provides the client maximum flexibility and control over the process.
Unispace’s ambition is to partner with the client in all these phases, realize their vision with our local expertise, provide added value thanks to our global network and experience. The focus on commercial workspaces and multidisciplinary approach allows Unispace to provide an end to end service, from strategic briefing to snagging.
One of the main things that immediately stands out in Neomobile’s HQ is the transparency and the visual continuity of space. What architectural elements did you choose and why in order to represent the corporate identity of our company?
I am happy this is the impression you get working in those spaces, nevertheless the new Neomobile HQ is not just an open plan office. If you analyze the four floors you will see 4 different space layouts and architectural solutions.
Starting from above, on the second floor you will find some 10 teams of engineers working in dedicated spaces which are separated from each other, open to the large circulation space and dedicated meeting facilities.
On the first floor you find the top management and board room, along with the departments which have a closer collaboration with them.
The ground floor is the most spectacular open space, hosting the most collaborative functions, with large windows on the garden, few meeting spaces and phone booths.
The basement, another spectacular space with large windows and direct access to the garden, is the so called “comfort zone,” a place to meet up, enjoy and exchange ideas.
The elements of our architecture are these functional typologies transformed into spaces. Unispace creative designer Salvatore Marinaro, received all these inputs and gave them shapes, materials and colors, working side by side with Neomobile’s Sr Graphic Designer, Annalisa Giangregorio.
If you could sum up the Neomobile HQ project in just 3 key words, what would they be?
Efficient, no space is left un-used and no function exceeds its space requirements.
Dynamic, spaces flow one into the other.
Smart, supporting working activities with an unconventional architectural language, thinking out of the box.
Could you tell us a bit more about the latest trends in the office space design, and where is Italy positioned in the global landscape?
Global trends are giving the office back the central role it used to have in global companies. Home-working is fine, one or two days a week, but people need to work together, face to face, to meet today’s productivity challenges. Team work is essential and needs, as you say, “spaces as platform for exchange of ideas and collaboration.”
Italy holds a special place in the global landscape, in the sense that it is a place for very advanced and collaborative workspace typologies. At the same time there is still a taste for hierarchy which holds many companies’ from embracing smart solutions. Olivetti was a front runner back in the sixties as they invented the personal computer, many small and medium companies in Italy have implemented agile work-settings out of any trend, just as a matter of common sense. Italy has a pragmatic approach to workspace which is often the best one. Instead of following trends or fashionable technologies, Italian managers listen to their peers and build on their experience.
For more information about Unispace visit www.unispace.com