The impact of Coronavirus on office design

As we adapt to living and working while the pandemic continues, the question becomes about legacy. Will Covid-19 leave a significant lasting legacy on the design of our working environment, or will it simply be a case of reigniting temporary measures whenever needed?


Denis Kuvshinnikov of ABD Architects

Denis is director of the interior department at ABD Architects, a leading Russian practice that operates in both interior design and architecture. With offices in Moscow and St Petersburg and an international client base including blue chip companies, the practice has been established for more than three decades. We caught up with Denis to find out his opinion on the legacy that Covid-19 might leave behind.

For 30 years, we’ve been designing a whole range of projects in both architecture and interior design and ABD Architects now employs over 80 architects, interior designers and project managers with international experience. Our project roster includes headquarters for Adidas, Siemens and Societe Generale, as well as creative offices for IT companies like Kaspersky Lab, Huawei and Cisco. We’ve also delivered for Johnson&Johnson, Nestle and Credit Suisse.

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Are you seeing clients approach you with worries about the long-term feasibility of their space because of the pandemic and what are these worries?

We’ve certainly seen customers with those concerns. Primarily, they’re worried about the function of their space as opposed to decoration. We’re now discussing with them about hybrid formats so that employees can work flexibly and adapting surface planning to accommodate this. This includes the transition to hot desks, the availability of lockers, reservation systems and such like.

Do you think our response to Covid-19 is a temporary one, or that it has lasting implications for the design of workspaces, reshaping our attitude to what makes a good work environment?

The current popularity of antibacterial surfaces and materials is temporary, but the pandemic will have a lasting impact on functional design. In my opinion, hybrid office spaces will be the lasting impact of Covid-19. The correlation between the number of desks and headcount will be an important one.

Will we see a more segregated and individualised approach to space design? For example, a return to smaller team-based offices or even individual work areas and more physical partitioning within the same space?

From our perspective, physical partitioning will not be that important in terms of safety. Like I said before, it’s more about furniture dedicated to collaborative work and non-personal working spaces, accommodating less people within the office at one time.

How important will the selection of materials be? Do you expect to embrace a new wave of anti-bacterial finishes, or is it simply about making sure sanitisation is easily accessible?

We definitely don’t foresee any boom for antibacterial materials and surfaces. However, choice will be focused on technical features, including but not limited to, ease of cleaning. That said, decorative properties are of all-time importance. 

What is the biggest single thing the pandemic has taught you about the design of workspaces?

I’m sure priority will remain in achieving capacity while delivering a hybrid approach that fuels remote working. The pandemic has contributed to a new direction in office design. We’ll help to develop this direction, exploring and creating new technological solutions for our customers.

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