Christian Coop, senior designer at NBBJ, talks to onoffice about creating the moving ‘cloud’ installation that will hang over the practice’s workplace hub at 100% Design
What was your brief for the workplace hub?
We have a reputation for using ‘design by data’, an advanced analytical tool we’ve been using quite successfully in workplace scenarios. 100% Design was interested in how that might translate into a workplace hub, so they came to us with a brief to create a place where people could meet and that would lead to serendipitous encounters – something that’d be different from the rest of the event space.
What were your initial ideas?
The work hub will sit in the middle [of the workplace section at 100% Design], so we had to think how we could make it noticeable. One thing we realised was that most of the stands will be three or four metres high and above that there’ll just be open space.
We pinned lots of images on the wall and one of the things we had was artist Berndnaut Smilde’s indoor clouds which floats above your head, and moves and evolves. There’s something about it that’s very other – very different.
Then we looked at the kinetic sculptures from the 1950s, these objects that are almost like a baby’s mobile and [resonate with your] inner child.
How did you develop these concepts?
We use this complicated program that allows us to we input data and test outcomes. For example, we can design an office layout then run the software and it will map the movements of everyone in the office and show areas where people would meet serendipitously – it’s not always places you’d expect.
What we did [for the 100% Design work hub] was model [our design] on the computer to make sure it balanced, worked with gravity and all the cogs and systems push and pull in the right directions. In the 1950s, people would have had to use trial and error.
It allowed us to see how the thing would move and develop something quite complex.
What materials is it made from?
Because we’d used so much technology to make it work, we thought it’d be nice to use the cheapest materials we could to actually realise it. We used cardboard, string and scaffolding poles. In a way it’s very low tech, but the ideas behind it are very high tech.
How does it relate to the workplace?
What we’re seeing in the workplace today is that you need to build flexibility throughout. 100% Design was keen on having almost a hotel lobby feel, and it reflects the fact people nowadays think your home can be your workplace, your coffee shop can be your workplace – it reflects that sort of flexibility.
The bar underneath the cloud will serve drinks, but there’s also a place where people can pitch up and plug their laptops in. It is a bar, not a workplace, but we’re trying to create opportunities for people to meet.
The cloud will open up in one direction pointing at the bar to draw people into it, and then it’ll raise up in the middle and the outer edges will fall down to create almost an enclosure that acts almost like a willow tree to hold people in.
We want to create an environment that reflects change as that’s what’s happening in the workplace these days. The cloud will be attractive and simple, but it’ll [also] make people think.