The Shard Living Lab – An Experimental Biophilic Workspace
Designed by DaeWha Kang Design for UK facilities management company Mitie, The Shard Living Lab is an experimental work environment on the 12th floor of The Shard in London with the express purpose of measuring the impact of biophilic design on worker wellness and productivity.
Biophilia refers to human beings’ innate need for connection with nature. This project comprises two spaces designed according to biophilic principles: a Living Lab that functions as an immersive work environment, and two Regeneration Pods that provide a place for short-term rest and meditation.
The Living Lab is fully immersive, with rich and intricate patternisation, natural materials and interactive and dynamic lighting. Bamboo screens that wrap onto the ceiling provide privacy, while the floor, desks and task lights are also formed from different shades and textures of bamboo, providing a holistic organic language for the entire space.
The lighting is circadian and linked to an astronomical clock – cool blue in the morning, brilliant white in the afternoon, and firelike orange as the day winds down.
Following biophilic principles, the desks are beautifully crafted from natural bamboo and have living plants incorporated into their design as well as sensors to detect air quality, light levels, temperature and humidity.
The Regeneration Pods provide space for a tech-free meditative moment within the work day. Like the Living Lab, the pods provide a sense of shelter and refuge while also maintaining beautiful views to the outside. They also give a visual reminder of the importance of mental health and mindfulness, one of the key requirements of the design.
Following the structural logic that we see in nature, continuous ribs provide the overall stability, while individual vanes create the overall enclosure of the space. All of the complex forms were fabricated by master craftworkers at Aldworth James & Bond, who combined high-tech digital fabrication with traditional hand-finishing techniques to achieve a silky and sensuous final result.
Employees use their access card to activate a pod and play a sound and lightscape designed for mindfulness and reflection. A bell chimes three times to indicate the beginning of a fifteen minute period, and again at the end to indicate it’s time to return to the day-to-day routine of work. A cactus garden surrounds the pods and again gives a direct connection with living nature.
Says designer DaeWha Kang, “The future of workplace design will include more sensors, more measurable metrics and the ambition to improve the experience for all. But ultimately design should be at the service of the human being, and finding ways to integrate the technology and data with beautiful and human-oriented design is the greater task.”
Mitie employees will work in the space for four weeks at a time, answering daily surveys about their comfort, satisfaction and emotional response. They will then spend four weeks working in a control area on the same floor with similar environmental conditions but without biophilic design, and their responses compared between the two spaces.
Photos: Tom Donald for Aldworth James & Bond, 2018