Consider, for a moment, this past year and the “new normal” of this corona winter. Planning and construction are often being rescheduled or reprogrammed ad hoc. Video conferencing (from the office or home) has become the modus operandi for communicating with colleagues and partners – be they in the room next door, or different cities or countries. To combat the growing discomfort of lost social contact and direct exchange, we have invented community activities that take place in virtual spaces. But what happens next? Some aspects of our new routines will continue in one way or another, which will lead us to rethink how we do them. There are advantages to working remotely from within our own four walls – so why not continue to do so to varying degrees? But does our current living situation offer an adequate home office on a permanent basis? What do we really need to be prepared for this situation? The same applies to offices: Do we really need expansive (and often expensive) spaces, if employees are no longer on site at the same time, but are taking turns working from home? Along with this, the massive digitization of everyday life is also sparking new approaches in architecture. The anticipated uses of rooms and their layout need to be adapted to reflect our changing needs. This raises some fundamental questions: What will the workplace of the future look like? Which parameters will change? How will planning adapt to the challenges of flexible, shifting needs – both at home and in the office? The new Axel Springer headquarters, a glass palace designed by OMA, recently opened in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. The large building celebrates the company’s global media power with a grand gesture that includes 43,500 m2 of office space with 3,500 work stations. Its architecture symbolizes the transition from the print to the digital media world, says OMA.
The impressive structure was planned long before the pandemic, yet it is expected to provide answers to urgent questions concerning both our current everyday reality and future scenarios. Does it offer a vision for our ideal office world of the future? The focus on concrete in the current issue brings this year’s thematic series to a close. Our project selection shows the potential of this material, both in terms of construction and its qualities in urban and interior contexts. We document new buildings and renovations featuring plastered facades or exposed concrete, coloured white or anthracite, and offering exciting contrasts through their material combinations. Bernardo Bader complemented the dark concrete surfaces of his combined studio and residential building in Bregenz with light coloured, rough-cut wood panelling and brass stair railings. Peruvian architects Barclay & Crousse added levity to the concrete facade of their apartment building in Lima with a vertical brise soleil made of locally sourced marble. And BDR bureau used a combination of smooth and coarse-grained plaster structures to underscore the skeletal structure of a school in Turin, which they renovated and made more energy efficient. Frank Kaltenbach introduces the new extension of the state library in Stuttgart by LRO, a white monolith in a busy urban location. And Matthias Beckh takes a look at the tradition of concrete shells and their potential for the future. Don’t miss our Detail Interiors supplement – we hope you enjoy it, and wish you a good start to the new year!