Jaelle Ang says the idea for The Great Room came about because between a third to half of all workers today are flexible and mobile. 'Increasingly, workers and companies are realising they need to use a wide range and typology of work spaces to accommodate this increasingly diverse workforce and the different expectations of what work is, and where and when that work should happen. The best performers are measured by the value they bring into the business, and this value is no longer created by sitting for 40 hours in a traditional fixed office in front of the desktop.'
Together with two other partners, Ang’s recent launch of The Great Room, Singapore’s newest generation of flexible hot-desks, offices and meeting rooms, is a response to this new work paradigm.
Eschewing the traditional model of regimental cubicles and generic corporate furnishings, designers Matt Shang and Paul Semple of Hassell Studio interpreted the brief as a sequence of rooms that would not look out of place in the loft apartment of a techie, well-heeled Young Turk. ‘We [Hassell] traditionally work in the world of hospitality, so engaging with the mechanics of the workplace challenged how we effectively used the floor plate,’ says Semple.
This translates into a studio that multi-tasks as a meeting room for 12, workshop space for 20, and presentation room for 30, and which, on Tuesday evenings, becomes a yoga studio; dedicated offices kitted-out in Okume timber desks, leather chairs and storage shelves finished in brass; a boardroom with reception area; unobtrusive rows of lockers; bathrooms with shower facilities; private phone booths; and kitchen.
Anchoring the facilities is a generously proportioned lounge room that serves as reception, breakfast room stocked with Papa Palheta coffee, informal networking zone, and a convenient spot for Monday afternoon shoulder massages.
Where The Great Room departs from the flatness of the ubiquitous serviced office comes courtesy of the designers’ bent for warm, handsome furnishings that have a very human quality. Full advantage is taken of the floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the space and bring in both light and views of Singapore’s CBD skyscrapers. Against this, the designers have layered handsome coffee table books on art and architecture, customised wall art, leather sofas, bell-jars of objets trouvés, plush velvets and fabric, stained timber floors and Tappeti rugs.
For the three owners behind The Great Room – a former Silicon Valley consultant, a green energy consultant, and Ang, a trained architect, banker and hotel developer – traditional offices have seen their day. ‘They no longer fulfill today's evolving needs and co-working spaces,’ she says. ‘We decided to focus our workspace offering on the very ancient and primal act – which is about taking care of people and about communal consumption. Or as Semple puts it, ‘This is fundamentally a work environment with a hospitality overlay.’ We can get on board with that.