Delordinaire has designed a restaurant-cum-lounge-cum-workspace for Altarea that addresses the need for increased flexibility and intimate interaction at work.

At the end of 2018, leading French property development company Altarea issued a statement reading: ‘The office building is no longer a place where output from individuals is compiled, where each person works in isolation in their designated open space or behind an office door. It’s a place of encounter and exchange, the joining of know-how and expertise. An office building must be capable of adapting to its different uses. Companies will come and go. Human structures and professions, too. An office building must now contain salient features that provide reversibility of space.’

The team’s vision – particularly their emphasis on adaptable spaces that open up to the city – is reflective of many of the major themes that were surrounding the conversation on the future of work up until the pandemic struck. And while we are living in vastly different times than two years ago, the projections made by Altarea and leaders in the design industry remain current. Employees continue to seek the encounters and exchanges that forge connection (albeit with a stricter attention to health and safety) and those physical workspaces still in use must be increasingly adaptable due to the new needs and requirements brought about by the current circumstances. Flexibility is king.

That, at least, was the same idea behind a multipurpose addition to Altarea’s Paris headquarters, located a stone’s throw from the Opera Comique theatre in the second arrondissement. Designed by architectural practice Delordinaire, the restaurant-cum-lounge-cum-workspace proposes a collective, informal atmosphere to answer to some of the workplace evolutions which Altarea outlined in 2018. The 500-sq-m open floor plan can accommodate 300 people, an arrangement of intimate nooks and alcoves that outside of restaurant hours can be used for co-working and meeting.

The designers utilized varying ceiling heights and materials to play with a user’s sense of scale, constructing 12-m-long slatted oak-wood screens which can easily privatize areas for work and events. Natural light, bespoke tables in oak and brass and a sculpted walnut-stained centerpiece and coffee table fill the space, in addition to concrete banquettes and generous greenery. These modern touches are paired with iconic design pieces by Pierre Paulin, Marset, ceramics by Pretziada and Bobby Specker.

Architect Ole Scheeren – who Frame recently interviewed regarding the development of forthcoming mega-office the Shenzhen Wave – believes that rather than being individually esponsible for transforming work, COVID-19 has rather ‘brought pre-existing discussions about the future of work to greater public awareness’. These topics – from ‘flexibility of space to access to nature and the idea of the office as a place that is as much a social catalyst as it is a place of pure productivity’ – echo the purpose of Altarea’s new space, indicating the benefit of such additions for the shifting workplace.