Will offices still exist in 50 years’ time? UNStudio’s Futures team, together with Swiss furniture brand USM, has designed a theatrical installation to reflect shifting boundaries between work and domesticity, now and in the future.
UNStudio’s Futures team was commissioned to explore changes taking place within the world of work, understand how these affect USM and identify opportunities for the future. Way back in 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by the early 21st century, advances in technology would lead to an “age of leisure and abundance” in which people might work 15 hour weeks.
Well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. Work rules our lives today more than ever, and technology allows work to invade our leisure time. As digital nomads we are increasingly mobile, ready to set up office wherever we are. Cafés resemble living rooms, restaurants feel like home kitchens, and co-working spaces have replaced the home office.
USM’s booth marks the beginning of a long-term exploration for the company. UNStudio’s design explodes the spaces in which we live, using the USM modular system as a platform to support an absurd hybrid of domestic and office environments hidden within four floating chambers: the Dining Room, the Bedroom, the Bathroom and the Home Office. Being highly sustainable, the single parts of the booth can be reused for the next project after Milan.
Over the past few years, it has become conventional wisdom that automation, along with advances in artificial intelligence, have put us on the path to a jobless future. But all may not be doom and gloom. With the eradication of ‘bad jobs’ we can focus on finding meaning in our working lives. How can we learn more at work? How can we play?
A question posed in each room prompts us to reflect on the human qualities which differentiate us from machines and invites visitors to enter a dialogue with USM. Will the future workplace be designed around qualities rather than professions? Will work in the future take place in an office at all? Feedback from visitors will inspire a WorkHouse this summer in Berlin, where we’ll dive deeper into the idea of post-work and the need for lifelong learning to future-proof our careers.
USM Fair Stand, Salone del Mobile
UNStudio Ben van Berkel with Ren Yee, Machteld Kors and Lieneke van Hoek, Alice Haugh, Hagop Terzian
Advisors USM: Client and stand constructed from elements of USM modular furniture Expo Mobilia: Stand construction Judith Rasenberg: Stage design