Project Director at CDA International
BACKGROUND Bingah Suseno is a respected Indonesian interior designer who has personally designed over 200,000 sqm of commercial projects. Educated at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, US, she worked in the US and Singapore before coming home to Indonesia. She has over 20 years of experience in designing major commercial, hospitality and residential projects and has been with Citra Duta Artistry International (CDA International) for more than 13 years. The company itself has been in the interior design industry for 25 years and has completed 1,000,000 sqm of commercial spaces.
What kind of office design concept do you think people like nowadays?
For the past two years, interior design in general has been saturated with the industrial-look by using exposed raw architecture materials such as exposed brick walls, concrete flooring, exposed ceilings and reclaimed (or made to look like reclaimed) wooden furniture. Most clients think that by using these sorts of raw materials it will reduce fit-out costs but, in fact, the opposite is true. I think this design trend will taper off soon.
The “Google-office-look” has been referred too many times because the eclectic use of materials, colours and textures that are different from the usual corporate look, creates spaces that are a combination of a home, a social place and a workplace with lots of discussion and collaboration spaces and a more residential/café/hospitality look.
Nowadays, workplaces have fewer walls and fewer barriers. Open working areas are a popular concept with their minimal separations or panels—even for the managers. Therefore, open communication is being promoted. Open areas can lead to a noisy environment, thus having materials with acoustic properties is considered essential. Privacy for confidentiality also requires special consideration.
Biophilic design, or bringing nature (in form, colour and pattern) into the interior, is a good way to make the office alive, fresher, green so that the occupants will feel more energetic and happier and that, in turn, leads to a healthier life. This can be achieved by having natural patterns on the flooring and walls, some planters or even a vertical green wall.
The wellbeing of employees is another big topic these days: how to retain your existing employees, how to satisfy the demands of your millennial employees and how to attract the best talent in the industry by providing a well-designed, comfortable and convenient working space. With those things in mind, employers expect, in return, that employees will be more productive, more creative, healthier and happier.
Please share your thoughts about the current trend for ‘flex offices’.
Working in one of the most chaotic cities in the world in terms of traffic, this has consumed so much of our time being on the road, even if it’s just getting to and from the workplace. Therefore, making oneself a flexible employee who is responsible for their getting their work done is something that comes naturally. A workplace is no longer just a place where you work—you must be able to work anywhere and anytime and in many different conditions and situations when the job demands it.
Co-working spaces are mushrooming in the city, but only a few of them are really good, equipped with top brand ergonomic office chairs, for example. In reality, most of them are basically a café where people go to sip free coffee, to take advantage of good internet/wi-fi connections and to find a place to sit and work for a couple of hours.
I think the workplace concept is moving towards this notion of a flexible office – maybe less so for occupations such as finance and engineering which are still going to be desk bound.
How does technology influence the workspace design?
Technology and the workplace go hand-in-hand. Making the best use of technology definitely enhances the productivity of your workplace and therefore leads to a much better outcome for your business. An example would be Webex/sharing your screen online. When you’re discussing design and space—if you can’t easily point to the exact location on the drawing, it could take a lot longer to explain and there is still the risk that the other person is not on the same page as you. This technology has helped us save time and avoid errors from misunderstandings.
Another example would be the video conference facility, which has been around for quite some time now. This allows people to connect without wasting travel time and cost. Compared with a simple voice call, a video conference will let you see and read the other person’s facial expressions and body language as if they were in the same room with you. This is especially useful for HR interviews.
What criteria do you use when choosing a building – other than the location and price?
Mass transportation is an important factor to consider when our client is deciding on their office location and, besides that, there should also be a back access if the main access is on the odd-even streets. This is why Sudirman Central Business District remains the most preferred area for an office location in Jakarta.
And are there any building amenities that are especially useful or even essential?
Excellent high-speed internet access is a non-negotiable amenity for any office, as well as having a good, co-operative landlord.