As part of our ongoing exploration to the future of the office we recently chatted with Duan Tran, a partner at KAA Design Group, a well-regarded southern California architecture firm. His design approach seeks to infuse Southern California’s vibrant lifestyle and culture into residences and office spaces, creating an inherent optimism through fun, warm, and contextually relevant design. Duan’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest and several other national design magazines.
Kieran Dahl: What’s the biggest impact that technological advancements have had on the workplace?
Duan Tran: Remote access to information through our mobile devices, be it to emails, project files, drawings, and people. Our ability to connect and access most anything, most anywhere, and with most anyone has allowed for our work to extend beyond the traditional office space.
KD: What does the workplace of the future look like?
DT: Anything and anywhere that you want it to be! Information and our ability to remotely access it with few limitations, allows for us to be extremely fluid with our work and our ability to engage and bring the design experience to the client.
KD: What software or apps keep your workplace running smoothly and efficiently?
DT: Internally, we’ve had success with Basecamp, which is a great central database hub that allows us to manage and filter all levels of communication and information. As far as software goes, our design platform is ArchiCad, a three dimensional building information modeling program by Graphisoft that allows us to remotely access the project model through an app called BIMX with team members as well as clients remotely. It’s been a game changer for us.
KD: What are the most important physical products—gadgets, furniture, etc.—in your workplace?
DT: Aside from our mobile devices on a practical level, we’ve evolved our office space to encourage the highest levels of collaboration with comfortable community workspaces for group design charettes. Often these charettes revolve around the flexibility of having oversized pinup boards on wheels and access to high quality TV monitors or projectors to create the scale and format of the meeting that we intend. On an individual level, we’ve begun to adopt the standing workstation for ergonomic and productivity purposes. We view our design process as dynamic and so we’ve designed our office space to be flexible and scalable to accommodate all manners of creativity and collaboration.
KD: How has the rise of the Internet of Things affected the way you approach office design?
DT: It’s allowed us to be less definitive and structured in how we continue to evolve our office. Aside from the doors on the restrooms, our office is without doors, accommodating an open and dynamic work environment that adapts and scales to the immediate needs of situation. This freedom further encourages and accommodates personal ownership of individual environments to support their maximum productivity.
KD: What are your thoughts on the trend of activity based work?
DT: We define activity based work as team collaboration. It’s the fundamental concept that drives how our teams engage internally and beyond that, with our external collaborators.
KD: What technology trend will define the workplace this year? In five years?
DT: Both virtual and augmented reality will without a doubt, have the biggest impact on how we evolve our workplace, perhaps on a revolutionary level. It’s ability to allow anyone access to information, and in our case, design environments on a very intuitive level will likely revolutionize the field of design further by how well all present and consume design.
KD: What element of the current workplace do you think will become obsolete in the near future?
DT: Anything that is rigid in its use and layout, and lacks the flexibility to encourage and accommodate multi-use needs.
KD: How would you recommend other companies stay up to date on workplace trends and technology?
DT: Encourage and embrace the passion and enthusiasm that younger staff often bring in regards to new ideas. The best things can happen when we say “yes” rather than “no” to different ideas.
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