Hybrid Spaces, a Solution on the Rise

February 2021 | News

2021 has inherited ways of living, working and socialising from 2020 that differ greatly from those that were the norm until quite recently, where spaces and uses were once separated. For example, homes that used to be associated more with private life and rest, or offices and coworking spaces designed as places for working and developing synergies, or the tertiary sector for leisure and socialising, all of which have been forced to reinvent themselves to adapt to these blurred boundaries. An unknown and uncertain situation which, like in most crises, has led us to call into question certain work and life models, moving towards other more sustainable models that revolve around people´s well-being.

The event organised by Wires, moderated by its partner and architect Susana García, and held in Actiu´s showroom in Madrid, looked at the present and the future of this new trend that's moving towards hybrid uses. A chance to analyse a constantly-transforming industry in which, as Soledat Berbegal, Actiu´s Brand Reputation Director and Consultant and Wires patner points out, “aspects such as work and space flexibility, remote working and agile organisations play a fundamental role, as part of a process of building, designing and creating innovative architecture and products that respond to the needs of an increasingly digital and collaborative society. A more sustainable and people-centred future that fosters well-being and safety.”

Whether in cities and public spaces or in private environments, the pandemic has accelerated changes that society itself and a lifestyle based on an ever-increasing digital transformation have been proclaiming for quite some time. In contrast to temporary aspects, such as those stemming directly from health issues, social distancing, and disinfection or ventilation standards, there are other more profound aspects tied to flexibility and adaptability, which will perdure. One such example is Bleisure that, as the Head of the Asset Management Department at Melia Hotels International, Lorena Sánchez, has stated “is a combination of business and leisure concepts within the same space, by including leisure facilities in an urban hotel or coworking and networking areas in a holiday resort.”

A few years ago, coworking shook up the labour market by incorporating the so-called ´amenities´ into the working environment; however, today offices are opting for ever greater spatial and managerial flexibility. “Traditional, inflexible, long-term contracts are becoming a thing of the past, while buildings are assigning less space to private office areas in favour of communal areas where relationships can be forged”, explains Oscar Fernández, Head of Business Development PDS at Cushman & Wakefield Spain. Although, in theory, this philosophy may seem like it will lead to a slump in profits, in actual fact it boosts them by creating added value through the user experience, which motivates workers to show up at the office and where design plays a fundamental role.

According to the Senior Managing Director and Country Head of Hines, Vanesa Gelado, “we have gone from a time when the hardware alone was seen as being the most important thing, when buildings were deemed to be mere containers, to a time when the software and what goes on inside the building is of the utmost importance.” From looking at offices as simply being offices, residential spaces as simply being residential spaces, and retail spaces as simply being retail spaces; whereas now a mixture of all these uses is all the rage, at a time of great uncertainty. The ´hybrid´ format that hotels began incorporating years ago goes beyond the hospitality industry and is committed to creating flexible, people-centred spaces in a range of different environments.

Until recently, office design was driven by pragmatism and how many people could be squeezed in per square metre, based solely on analysing costs and productivity. Nevertheless, since the emergence of coworking spaces and subsequently the COVID-19 pandemic, the approach has become much more experience-based. People want to be able to choose whether to work from home or the office, depending on the task to be performed or where they are in life, which is where the ´agile´ philosophy comes into play. A change of business culture in which projects and results come first, resulting in autonomy, freedom and flexibility that has a direct impact on how spaces are designed.

“We are now dealing with a fast-paced society that people are at the heart of, which is giving rise to new types of real estate, new ways of how these properties are being used, as well as innovative urban planning methods”, says Lola Ripollés, Construction Project Manager in the United Kingdom for IKEA Group. Although as Cristina Ontoso, Sales, Marketing & Communication and Customer Service Manager at Vía Célere adds, “the pandemic-induced lockdown has inspired an exodus to more rural areas and changes in the most sought-after homes.” Studies suggest that by 2050, 70% of the world population will be living in urban areas. This trend has led to cities becoming increasingly committed to sustainable development, with neighbourhoods that incorporate hybrid products with the aim of helping to attract and retain talent.

Flexibility and a cross-cutting approach, whether at the city level or in social or private spaces, are two key terms used in a hybrid and ever-changing reality. The workplace will no longer be a single location, but an ecosystem with a variety of locations that allow people to work where and when they need to. More people-centred and bespoke environments, where technology and sustainability together with multipurpose, reconfigurable and versatile designs and facilities will make the available space as profitable as possible.

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