More than a Place to Work


Coast-to-coast, designers are figuring out how to get the workforce back into their offices by implementing innovative concepts that are still conducive to productivity. In this episode, learn about two projects that took creativity and thoughtfulness to the next level.

In New York City, landscape architect Hank White of HMWhite has put a timber forest on top of the iconic Radio City Music Hall, realizing a dream that was in the development’s original blueprints, bringing the wild to the urban dweller. Over in California, the HQ for plant-based beverage company Califia Farms saw its vegan ethos brought to life; led by SLAM Collaborative principal Alexis Dennis whose life-long passion for creating any and all aspects of built environments took her to firehouses for inspiration, a kitchen is now the central congregating space of the office without the fluorescent lights and leather chairs.

Season 2 of Once Upon A Project is presented by Shaw Contract.

This transcript was generated in part by an automated service. In some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

AJ: Hi everyone. Welcome back to season two of Once Upon a Project. I’m your host, AJ Paron, design futurist for Sandow Design Group. Once Upon a Project doesn’t just celebrate the pretty pictures of a finished design. Instead, we dig into the nitty gritty to understand the story behind the project.

Today, , we’re going to tackle the hot topic of the future of the office. There have been many predictions, speculations, and theories on how people will need to redesign the office post pandemic.

We’re going to hear about two completely different projects that are engaging the workforce with space in a different way.

When you think of Rockefeller Center in New York City, what comes to your mind? Radio City Music Hall? Saturday Night Live? How about ice skating? Or maybe the famous tree lighting ceremony? What you probably are not imagining is all the office workers that occupy 30 Rock, that include corporate offices for NBC shows like The Today Show, house other corporations as well.

 You may recall some images of the offices from the 2006 hit TV sitcom, 30 Rock. Remember Tina Fey playing the character Liz Lemon? Liz running around from her office to the boardrooms with all of her antics.

But time moves on, and work has changed dramatically since then. The owner Tishman Speyer recognized that post COVID their tenants need to offer more for their employees. Yes, enticing people back to work with better spaces has been a strong movement that we hear alot about.

But how do you get Liz Leomn back in her work groove and wanting to leave the comfort of her sofa at home? How about building a forest in the heart of Rockefeller Center and making it conducive for people to engage in for work? That’s different. And let’s build it on Radio City Hall. And here begins the journey for Radio Park.

Let’s turn to our first guest, Hank White, who leads his firm HM White, and hear about how this landscape architect had to reimagine a park as the new office.

hank : Hi, I’m Hank White, Landscape Architect, Founding Principal of H. M. White in New York City.

AJ: Hank looked to the past of Rockefeller Center’s revered architectural history, which included its then groundbreaking 1930s roof gardens. Hank conceived of turning Radio City Music Hall’s utilitarian roof into a landscape garden destination for the Rockefeller Center employees known as Radio Park. I started our conversation by asking Hank, Why is landscape architecture important and how is it evolving to our needs today?​

hank : What I’d like to think is that landscape architecture is, and landscape architects because we are a generalist profession, we know a fair amount about a lot of things because we are the glue that pulls all of these other, complex issues together as a holistic solution.

our planet needs landscape. We have rainforest deforestation, the planet needs landscape. It needs wilderness. It needs the wilds. So as an urban landscape architect, how do we reintroduce those biological conditions that bring back, the basis of our, needs from a wellness as well as an ecological standpoint.

So years ago, when I said I was going to be practicing in New York city. Many, many people who are like, oh, well, that’s going to be a great business plan. You are in one of the most densely populated and built environments, certainly in North America. Where are there opportunities for a landscape architect?

Again, thinking that all that we did was essentially tell people, what plants to plant and where to put their trees, et cetera. And people’s notion of what an urban environment, is not too many places to introduce that sort of improvement. So we now are seeing, shifts in that sensibility where, creating, productive social spaces, public spaces, open space expansions, opening up our waterfronts, creating, equitable access to open space are all relatively new initiatives now that are really becoming part of our, I think collective mandate and certainly, with working with, private developers, in most cases are seeing that by integrating open space improvements, ones that, provide improvements.

So much of the landscape architectural industry and practice has evolved in particularly within the last three or four years. And during our challenges during the pandemic, is radio park and radio park is a concept that probably very much was inspired by the challenges of getting tenants back to work in their traditional office spaces.

The owner of a Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Tishman Speyer, feeling some public competition with other more recent, urban developments, like Hudson Yards. They were like, what can we do to reinvigorate interest into really one of the most recognizable urban developments, certainly within the 20th century.

So we started in early part of 2020, the declaration by Tishman Speyer was that opening day of Radio Park would be Labor Day 2021. So we had a little bit more than a year and a half to go through design, technical documentation, public approvals. Plus many internal design and technical approvals, budgetary, analysis approvals, and build the project.

Normally, work of these rooftop landscape developments of this type of complexity, which we have worked on before, would take easily 18 months to construct themselves. So here we had a complete project schedule of 18 months. So not only did we need to design, complete the technical documentation, go through the construction, bidding process, bidding award, and, accumulation and approval of all of the specified materials, within this incredibly constrained timeframe So we essentially had less than three months to complete, this part of, of the project. And again, normally that would be a nine to 12 month, construction process. So within those three, four months of doing the finished work of the park, there was just an army of workers, for again, three months.

AJ: Not only was the timeline aggressive, there was a whole paradigm shift on how the park was to complement the tenant spaces.

hank : This idea was, conceived even before. We were imposed with all the pandemic, concerns and stresses of social distancing, being outside versus working inside. The idea of having access to any form of open space associated with office space, commercial space, the idea that at any point during the day you could conduct a meeting with your colleagues.

Invite your clients to an outdoor space and conduct a business as usual, but within a landscape setting this was a concept that was becoming more and more popular within the commercial office space market, more amenities that building owners could offer, again, would be adding value and retaining existing clients, but obviously also, attracting new. So the timing of this notion of creating a exterior office working environment, prior to pandemic setting in, something that has been a growing trend for quite some time.

Identity of Rockefeller center, it’s public spaces, it’s seasonal programming, the rock center, Christmas tree, skating rink, all of the associated, retail support activities were all components of the success of the original open space design for Rockefeller center. Again, a very familiar value added, concept within a large commercial development just from Speyer thought, all right, how do we create a parwhich would have the same notoriety memory and, attraction that these other public spaces within a Rockefeller would share. Or it was a tall order, but, obviously such tall orders is where inspiration is bred with a list of all these different types of outdoor activities, different sizes of groups that we were to accommodate, different events that could be supported. Within the spatial constraints of Radio Park, we developed a strong landscape concept that would immediately emerge as part of an immersive experience and then as a outgrowth of really being engulfed in what we really call and consider a cultural landscape.

That then, oh, by the way, there happened to be these places where, , you can sit, have lunch. Have a small meeting, whether you want to work in an area where, it’s somewhat private, or, there were a variety of areas where we had places for multiple, purpose, you know, meetings with, many, different size groups.

 And then walking through the leafy canopy of this forest, through which these small bulkhead buildings emerge, but it’s that forest that you’re really experiencing, and then once you come from without the canopy of the forest, boom, the open field, the open lawn, the garden reveals itself, and then sky.

There was this very deliberate procession that we had, envisioned that was very much, dictated by, how the rooftop was, set up and basically the original condition. And note that while Rockefeller Center is known for its historic rooftop gardens, Radio City Music Hall, did have a garden, illustrated on some of the early development renderings, but it really wasn’t at the end of the day, designed to support this rather robust landscape.

So who would imagine that a forest of birch trees would find its way on top of Radio City Music Hall, which we envisioned as being such a significant landscape gesture that the scale of that forest, the density of it would measure up and be proportional to cut the scale of this rather opening within the urban framework of the Rockefeller Center buildings.

Both the 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue interior amenity space. The radio park is sort of this, idea of a unexpected oasis, something that, certainly tenants or visitors would not expect because there is mentioned one enters from rather small interior.

Spaces that one never experiences this big open view or expanse to the park, from inside these buildings. The only way one would understand the breadth and the scale of the park is certainly from above. So being somewhat of a surprise, there’s a mystery behind the mysterious element of discovery, is something that we were very conscious of creating.

Mentioned earlier, this idea of entering through a leafy forest, with dappled shade and sunlight coming through and then all of a sudden, boom, sky, openness is experienced once you pass through that entry threshold and get beyond those buildings. The idea is surprise. Wow. Now I know where I am, but how is this possible?

Where I’m elevated above the street, and yet everything I’m looking at registers a familiar landscape that someone may have experienced, in the rural parts of New York Hudson River Valley, or a cultural garden, which is how we visualized this organization and a composition of these. Distinct landscape treatments, forest, cherry grove, lawn, parterre, hornbeam, hedge associated with the elevated Belvedere Terrace.

So there are these different landscape spaces, landscape experiences, which become, evident as you begin to, move through the various paths and the various, what we call nodes, places of gathering, places of pause. Where people then can rest and really then experience and take in the, sort of the power of the visual simplicity of this landscape construct, but also then the detail of, and the diversity of, the finer, smaller qualities of the landscape.

Underplantings, the flowering shrubs, the flowering ground covers, flowering perennials, which I might add, were all designed as white flowering plants. From the cherry trees, all the way down to the woodland ground covers. and the spring flowering bulbs, everything is white. So that again, while the landscape is designed with this seasonal event, if you will, or seasonal, continual seasonal interest, there is always something occurring through blossoms, through different foliage textures, foliage colors, embracing the four seasons, all of these qualities, both from a seasonal basis, but also from a spatial, point of view, really then become, part of the experience.

So the takeaway is intended for people to really be celebrated as being in a special place, a cultural garden that is providing visual, sensual, experiential enhancements that calms the soul, brings you closer to nature, brings you closer to your own sense of self by being in this, surprise of a place within one of the most densely developed, parts of New York city.

So it’s, the idea of surprise. And wow, is the first kind of experience that, we designed to create. But then once you get over that, then you’re able to take in all the details and all the sensual qualities that then, The, level of detail and diversity of the woodland and cherry grove gardens, provide, the full experience.

After it was all said and done with, as you mentioned, the fury of this crazy construction schedule, which you might have, we did succeed in, which was remarkable. After all of that, we have time to sort of catch our breath. what really has grown, I think for all of us involved is, that we, contributed to Rockefeller Center’s distinct roof garden.

Landscape history and that we fulfilled the primary goal of creating a memorable, distinctive cultural garden and landscape that will reinforce Rockefeller Center as really one of, the most successful, urban developments in certainly New York City’s history. So being part of that, both architectural legacy, roof garden legacy, is beyond special.

It makes me proud. And because of the, it’s visibility. It’s demonstration of just really how, design intelligence. Landscape, urban landscape, urban rooftops, developments, improves the quality of urban life, people’s well being, health, spirit, and economic productivity.

Didn’t mention that as another component of one of the purposes, but certainly daily access to open space has been proven by biologists, science to improve one’s well being. Productivity, sense of self well being, and with that greater creativity, greater productivity. So, providing that enhancement to any urban dweller, any urban office worker…

that’s what makes me proud and, and that’s really one of the primary reasons why, this was the profession that I chose over becoming a building architect, bringing nature to the urban dweller, the urban office worker. That’s what’s important and what we need.

AJ: Just as important as creating outdoor spaces for worker enjoyment, awe, and productivity, let’s now move to another project that has a similar goal to get people to come into the office But using a different design strategy.

alexis : Hello. My name is Alexis Dennis. I am an associate principal with the SLAM Collaborative and I oversee our workplace design studio in the Los Angeles office,


Alexis had a similar challenge as Hank. They were awarded a project for a growing food corporation, and their goal was to get people to come into the office and be productive. Instead of building a forest in the city, the lure for employees was much different. It was through their stomachs.

 Before we get into the project, let’s hear how Alexis began her career in design

I come from a family of people who make things. My grandfather had his own millwork business. One of my aunts was a potter and had a pottery studio. And I just, I grew up in a home where everything was. Custom made for us. every dining table, cabinets, chairs, things were all made. I’m one of five kids and we would each be able, I don’t know anybody else that could just.

Tell their aunt like, oh, I like my mug this size and I want a handle like this and I, you know, and we would just always have things that were made for us and I loved that and I loved that scale of work and being able to move that over maybe a little bit bigger scale at looking at the whole picture was interesting to me and sculpting interior space.

I originally thought. I wanted to be a set designer. I really was interested in the theater. I’m from New York. I loved that. And I realized that was really, really hard to do. I didn’t like the temporariness of it and I didn’t like the idea that it wasn’t always high design.

So it was just the setting of whatever, the play or the, the film was about. And so I started doing some of that work and I realized I really liked design and I wanted to drive what, what was being created. and for me, interior started to let me have that path and that voice. and then I was fortunate enough to work for a few firms starting out that.

I worked in multiple market sectors and I got to try a lot of different things, but for workplace, there was this idea of taking somebody’s business goals and business plan and then transforming that. into a physical manifestation of their mission and their goals that I always found interesting. And every time I meet with a company, it’s a new story, and it’s a new, new set of goals and plans that I get to learn about.

AJ: The project that Alexis is going to share is around a food company that was very concerned about getting their people back into their L. A. office post pandemic. How did they create a space individuals wanted to come back to, to collaborate, test, and commune in a different way , that was in alignment to their brand values

alexis : One of my most recent projects was for a company called Calafia Farms. They are a plant based food company based out of Los Angeles. And their mission is to transform our food system for the betterment of the planet. And they do that mainly through plant based drinks, but they also have food products

that you’d see in your grocery store. They have the iconic, curved shaped bottle that people tend to recognize. And, they were in the process of looking for a new home in Los Angeles. They had been using a subleased space for a number of years. They do all their Own in house content for social media.

So they were renting space in studios outside of the office. And they also had some of their R and D being done in Bakersfield, California. So what they were struggling with, also Coming out of the pandemic was finding a space where they could bring all these functions together, finding a space that would allow them to live still within the bounds of the Los Angeles Art District, where they were founded and creating a culture that would allow them to hire top talent and the top talent that they already had, knowing that they were struggling with, This idea of remote and hybrid work and trying to figure out what processes they were going to put in place to show people that the office was still relevant.

So a little bit of context around what we were dealing with at the initiation of this project was. The vaccine was just being rolled out, but not, I think not to everybody at that point. So even meeting as a group, we were being, we were doing that remotely and then, periodically looking at office spaces together.

We started the project without a building. So. We were brought in to help the client select a space that, that would work for them and we spent a lot of time looking at many, many buildings. We had a very patient project manager and a very patient broker who let us see as many buildings as we wanted to see until they felt like they had something that was going to be authentic to them and their, the spirit of their company.

That happened to be a space that was located on the, ground floor where they could really connect to the surrounding community.

One of the unique goals for this project was designing a space where the cafe would be the heart of the space. And we had plenty of meeting rooms and focus rooms and individual desks. But what we really wanted to drive this space was this idea of a cafe. And. Partly that was based on the client’s product and wanting to offer the product within the space to staff and guests and the other piece of that was, I just, I happen to be reading an article around the importance.

Of trust building for organizations and how they build their teams and how that reflects with innovation. as I read this article, it talked quite a bit about the idea of eating meals together as a way of building trust. And then the more research I started to do, I found there was a lot of articles around this subject in different business periodicals.

And this idea where. Team building is often done as something that happens once a year, maybe the whole organization isn’t involved. It could involve something that requires physical strength that can be intimidating or not inclusive to all. But this idea around eating a meal together was something that everybody could be part of.

And there was all this research around, workplaces and correlating it with, Military and around firehouses, fun, oddly enough. And this idea where the idea of eating together created a certain amount of trust, the idea of eating the same food correlated to a higher level of trust and team building and preparing a meal together had an even higher level than that of team building and trust and the team’s ability to, come up with solutions together.

Was significantly faster at that point. And so we thought that was really, really interesting.

AJ: So if we scroll back a few years ago, I want you to imagine you are walking into an employee break room. It’s next to the copier room. There’s a dingy fridge and a sink with a few cabinets and a microwave and a few round tables and chairs. This is where office workers go to die. If it’s not the smell of burnt popcorn or the really spicy meal that just got heated up in the microwave, it’s the barrage of homemade lunches full of last night’s leftovers in a dispiriting space with no windows and fluorescent lighting that makes your skin look green.

Does food sound appetizing in a space like this? Probably not. Nor would you really want to spend any time in that room, and you would probably… And you would probably rather work during your lunch, eating at your desk. But that’s exactly the opposite Alexis and her team were trying to do with Calafia Farms.

Building a cafe to inspire you throughout the day.

alexis : And as we started to talk about the reasons why people would come to the office, without mandating that they be there, was about one, giving them something better than they had at home, giving them an access to outdoor space, living in a dense urban area, not everybody has a backyard or even a balcony.

so that access. To outdoor space, the access to the quality of light that we could provide, and then the access to their peers and community for socializing and meeting and interacting with one another became the big driver of the design.

The research that we found with firehouses was this idea of the kitchen being the heart of their space and that they often when they come back from, An alarm, they come back to the kitchen and they spend time with each other before they go somewhere else within the firehouse or leave. so. They’re not necessarily always something very fancy, but it’s a place where they come together, they work together to make the meal, and they decide on the meals together, and then they sit down and they eat together, which is not new, right? ()

But historically, within workplaces, we’ve tended to segregate the kitchen area because of noise and smell. And so this idea of opening it up and making it. Part of the workplace and having this flow between meeting and desk space and the cafe space became something that was new for us to start to investigate

the reason. We thought it would be a bit of a challenge to use the cafe as, as the central area of the office was one, the idea of smell, to the idea of noise and the ability to focus and, and get work done and hold meetings , and then, , the third part was really around how much space we would be dedicating, how much square footage we would be dedicating, To this and when we think about costs of rent, especially within Los Angeles, that is a choice that has to be made to, dedicate that much space to a cafe.

 , so. Some of the solutions around that were to make this space as active as possible. we knew that. Staff would be coming in some 2 days a week, some 3 days a week, and the office could start to feel a little empty. When you’re not having the, full staff in every day of the week, but if we started to overlap the uses of the space, so things had more than one function, the idea is that it would start to feel a little busier when something has more than one function, we could reduce our footprint a little bit.

 reduce that square footage. Take a space that is a little bit higher quality space that might cost a little bit more per square foot, but we would be getting more out of our space. We’d be, we would be doing more with less. So we built, meeting rooms, even the boardroom around the cafe. we made a boardroom that felt like an extension of the cafe, almost like a tasting room.

We did a, we made a custom, Table that was a butcher block top. So it felt like it was part of the design of the cafe. we built all the meeting rooms that surrounded the cafe with double pane glass so that we could have. An acoustic barrier, even though visually you could still see what was going on beyond, you could hold a proper meeting and have a team’s call and not feel like you were also listening to the bustling sound of the cafe.

We had big curtains that made the space feel soft and have a hospitality feel to it that could be closed if there was a private meeting happening, but could open up and, let guests see the activity that was what the desire was,

once we had established that the cafe would be the heart of the space. the journey unfolded pretty naturally. We did not have much resistance that the client team really bought in to this idea and was excited about it. And the next step was more about looking. Looking at how we could make this very exciting space and what we might have to give up in order to have it.

We did have some resistance along the way certain material choices, so the company is not a vegan company, but they did recognize that they had a large percentage of their staff that were. So, one of the first, palettes that we showed happened to have a significant amount of leather in the seating choices and, for the boardroom chairs and right away it was, it was kind of funny.

Oh no, oh no, we can’t have leather in the space. Um, I was like, oh, okay, alright. , So they were open to vegan leather, so faux leathers they were open to in terms of that idea of that tactileness, but they wanted to make sure it was really clear to the staff. So we, we reduced the amount, as much as possible.

And we did happen to use, fabric coverings on the boardroom chairs, which is something I normally don’t do, but, , that was really important. To this group that they didn’t have leather in the boardroom. I thought that was kind of funny. And then, because they have a lot of sustainability practices in place for their manufacturing, as we started to look at furniture and finish selections, it was important for them to understand the recycled content to those.

Products and wherever possible, we would choose the product that had the most recycled content or had the most , information around EPDs and carbon footprint so that we could look at it and select the product that would have, the least carbon footprint impact.

AJ: To give some perspective on inclusivity and food, according to Gallup, 4 percent of the U. S. population are vegetarians, but only 1 percent say that they are vegan. In comparison, about 16 million people in the United States, which is approximately 6. 2%, are dealing with food allergies.

Some research estimates almost 10%. of the U. S. population is dealing with special diets due to food allergy, intolerances, and lifestyle choices. And that’s not taking into consideration those who are just trying to eat healthier or are dieting. So having food at work can be a polarizing issue, and for lots of different reasons based on the individual.

My family is mainly gluten free and dairy free. Basically, we can eat air. And in many instances, it is the factor that alienates us from other people, making it harder to be social and commune. When there are more inclusive food choices, it is a rainbow of food options that bring immense happiness for people.

That are just trying to participate in a normal way.

alexis : I think the values for this company were around togetherness and inclusivity and.

Making sure that everybody had a voice. So we had a building that met the plumbing count. We didn’t need to add any extra bathrooms. It was important for them to add bathrooms that would be all gender bathrooms. that was a piece that we added, , to the project. It was important to them that we celebrated the areas where people came together.

It was important to them that. There was not a hierarchy to How offices were set up or where they were placed in the office. So offices, for the most part, were pulled away from the window walls. letting the daylight and views be shared for everybody there’s a R and D space within the, the cafe where they could test product, but then they also opened that space up rather than keeping it closed off only for R and D use. They, Okay. Let people go in there and cook their lunches or meals and host meetings in the space. So I think what it allows everybody to do is have that idea of going in and trying their product and testing and cooking and being together and sharing ideas.

So the cafe is set up so that it’s surrounded on two sides by meeting space. There is a pocket of. free address, work stations there so that people that are coming to the space that don’t have an assigned desk sit in the most active part of the space where they would have the most chance to interact with people that they don’t see on a daily basis.

And then the cafe, what I would consider the cafe wall consists of. The cafe bar itself with, , it’s cold brew stations. It’s cappuccino stations. It’s soft serve ice cream stations and then directly adjacent to that is the R and D station. So they can go in and be working on. Testing what a product looks like when it’s under heat or over ice, and we sit around a tasting counter, and then we have a screen that connects us back to the r and d facility, that does all , the major manufacturing of the product so that the marketing team, the r and d team, and then the manufacturing team can all come together and understand.

How they’re experiencing the product and the different things that they can do with the product and how it works in baked goods versus in a shake versus over ice or heated. And so it’s a study of just how the product starts to perform and then from there. We also have a employee, pantry section, which is enclosed with that’s how we kind of mitigate beyond the smells of the product itself that are within the cafe space.

We have the, , area for anybody that brings their own food. We have big sliding barn doors that could be opened or closed where we have all of our microwaves and employee refrigerators and it’s treated with the same finishes as the rest of the space, but it’s. It has the ability to be completely closed off visually from the rest of the space.

I think what it’s done for them is as they’ve moved to this next level, they have had a big surge in hiring and it’s allowed them to incorporate their new staff into a culture that is in line with their mission so people can come in and right away they feel. What it’s like to be part of that Calafia brand.

They can taste the product. They can, see the rest of the staff. They’re moving around the space in the meeting rooms, the chance interactions, I think, become more exponential when you’re in this hub versus when you’re moving into smaller department type locations,

what I think is different about. The energy at Calafia and having a cafe and as a central part of the office space is that it keeps the space active throughout the whole day. We had been hearing a lot for a while about third space and this idea that people like a place to go away from their desk or a place that’s not their home and they like to just go sit in a.

A Starbucks or any type of cafe space where they can sit on their laptop and work and it’s this idea of being together but separate and integrating that into the office space itself, I think, changes the dynamic of the office space. So you can, come into the cafe and you can sit in a big comfy chair and you can work individually, or you can sit.

Together and have breakfast or lunch together and be able to discuss something that’s going on in a meeting. That’s going to happen later that day or a challenge that you’re facing in the office. And then the whole space has the ability to be reconfigured for. a party or a town hall event where they can flip the tables up and roll them off to the side and they have beautiful overhead lighting and a big skylight and in the evening the light starts to become very almost golden and they can have these evening events where they feel like they’re someplace special without engaging in going to a restaurant or a hotel or someplace to hold that type of event.

 This idea about using food as a way to bring people together, to bind them, to be the catalyst for team building and even innovation was something that I think was different for our industry in terms of the way that we looked at cafe space and how we integrated it, but it was not something foreign to people when we look at food As something that we put into our body, something that suggests that we’re, when you’re eating the same food as somebody else, , when a company offers that, when the company offers food and, people can eat the same food instead of going out or bringing something from home, that, , that suggestion of the willingness to put that same thing into your body, there’s a psychological, feeling there about closeness, that I don’t know exactly how that gets correlated or defined, but we see it over and over again, , by sitting down, breaking bread, eating together, you have a more, um, Authentic conversation, you have a closeness with somebody afterwards , that you would not have had, , otherwise and that.

Was the biggest piece that this change in work process, created that I think organizations are struggling with is, yes, we can work hybrid and be maybe even more efficient and yes, it promotes greater work life balance, which is really important for employees and their ability to, balance their personal and their work life and their work life balance.

Maybe that causes them to want to stay longer with a company once they have that balance. But how does that company, as an organization, continue to grow and innovate? That’s the piece that I think everybody’s trying to figure out right now. Is how do you grow beyond, , when you’re not together as much?

 How do we create those processes now to, get to know each other and to not only know each other, but trust each other and this idea of exploring it around the idea of food and a gathering place has become very, very interesting to me and been very rewarding over the process of this project to see how well it was received, not only by the client and the staff and how much they just really love their new space, but also the storytelling that has happened, post occupancy where, the more we tell the story, the more people want to hear the story. And we’ve just been getting such great feedback in the industry.

AJ: Two completely different projects looking to inspire and attract knowledge workers back into their spaces in two completely different ways. I think some of the lessons we learned in both of the projects is that, number one, everyone needs choices. Whether that’s where they want to work, or congregate, or choices they have in food.

Supporting individuals means one size does not fit all. And letting the worker make those choices empowers them greatly. And number two, we must create spaces that are improvements from what workers can have at home. Unless you have small children running around, most people find comfort in working at home as it gives them ultimate flexibility and choice. It takes a lot for me to leave the comfort of my home office and commute a short or long distance for work, but I would to go to work in a forest with some delicious dairy-free oat milk in my tea.

Thank you for listening to Once Upon a Project. You can learn more about both of these projects in our show notes on our website, surroundpodcast. com. Once Upon a Project was produced by Surround, a podcast network by Sandow. A special thanks to our amazing production crew, Hannah Viti, Rob Schulte, and Rachel Senatore.

Thanks for listening, and I can’t wait for you to hear our next story.

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AJ Paron

AJ Paron is EVP and Design Futurist at SANDOW Design Group and host of the podcast Once Upon a Project

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