An Open-Plan Office With A “Monastery” For Quiet Reflection

The upside of open office plans: They make it easier for coworkers to talk to one another (i.e., collaborate). The downside: They make it easier for workers to talk to one another (i.e., generate distracting chatter). A well-designed office, to my mind, provides opportunities to both engage with and escape from your colleagues, and this Oslo office for Netlife Research, a user-based consultancy firm, strikes the right balance–a largely open workplace containing plenty of built-in privacy nooks.

For the main quiet space, Arild Eriksen and Joakim Skajaa, of Oslo-based Eriksen Skajaa Architects, drew inspiration from a monastery garden, constructing a large wooden structure with carved out windows, shelving for plants, and even a bench for sitting. Reading boxes line a long, narrow hallway, and meeting rooms are accessed via discrete, recessed doors. The garden theme carries through to the kitchen, where grow lights from a disused nursery hang over potted herbs in the lunchroom, and into the lounge, where bright-green furniture meets lighting fixtures fashioned from timber.

To contrast the serenity of the so-called monastery room, the designers added a black hallway leading to the kitchen. “The premises are very deep with low ceilings,” Eriksen tells Co.Design. “We used white nature rubber on the floors, light birch veneer, and white ceilings to maximize the sense of space, but we felt we needed more moods in the project.” Despite the visual disconnect, Eriksen, says the spaces are united by their sparse color palette and simple, natural materials.

They also embody a crucial insight into 21st-century work habits: While we all recognize the benefits of hashing out ideas as a team, employees sometimes need a little quiet time without having to don noise-canceling headphones.

[Photos by Ivan Brodey]