By Ken Shuttleworth, BCO Vice President
London is hosting the British Council for Offices (BCO) conference for the first time in seven years, and as part of my Vice Presidency Make has taken on a central role in organising it. It’s a tough call hosting an event like this in a city everyone thinks they know, so the real challenge has been putting together a calendar of tours and plenary sessions that show a new side to one of the most famous cities in the world.
So we’ve taken a different approach. As one of the global centres of commerce, London has some of the best new office stock in the world; with buildings at the forefront of design and technology, and attracts and retains some of the world’s leading companies. We have secured unprecedented access to over 50 new commercial buildings, many available exclusively to BCO delegates. The idea is to give a behind-the-scenes view of how London is catering for a wide range of occupiers who combine to make this city an unrivalled mixing pot of creativity, entrepreneurialism, trade and finance.
We’ve divided London into 14 bite-size clusters, each of which has a selection of incredible buildings that offer something interesting to learn, see or experience. From the regeneration hotspots of Battersea and King’s Cross to the Square Mile, the finance capital of the world, each tour will hopefully provoke, inspire and influence us to think about the future of office design, pushing the agenda beyond occupation densities and air con and into the real challenges of creating commercial stock that caters for the future as much as for today (keeping in mind that many of the buildings being planned, designed and built now will house a generation of workers who haven’t even been born yet).
We want to explore what an excellent commercial office will look like two decades on. What will occupiers want? What legislation is likely to be in place to protect the environment, the health of employees and the safety of contractors? How can we design now for the needs of future generations and predict what may or may not be top of their workplace requirements?
Someone who has been at the top of this game for decades is Norman Foster, Founder and Chairman of Foster + Partners, who is opening this year’s conference. Lord Foster has done more for office development than any other architect and is perfectly placed to bring the debate about the future of office space into a design sphere. He will offer his own unique perspective on London and share lessons he has learned while working on some of the most important buildings of our time.
Our other keynote speaker is Ole Scheeren, Principal of Buro Ole Scheeren. He brings to the panel a completely new way of thinking about buildings, having earned his stripes working with Rem Koolhaas in Asia. He has built some of the most thought-provoking buildings of our age and now has his sights set on London. Delegates will have the chance to hear both his and Lord Foster’s perspectives on the role of office design in London’s future.
Other speakers include Despina Katsikakis, who will be exploring the role of the workplace, how we will work in the future and how workplaces can reflect the direction of a business; and Sir Stuart Lipton, who will bring together a group of speakers to debate the changing rules over traditional locations and the impact this is having on the map of London. We’ll also be exploring the role workplaces play in the wellness agenda, and how buildings can contribute to our physical and mental health.
We’ve called it London Refocused, because we want people to look at London with fresh eyes and have the chance to see it like never before. We also want people to refocus their understanding of the role of offices and their impact on their surroundings, their wider cities and their occupants. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to break away from the day job and look at the bigger picture, including how we can influence the direction of our ‘unique corner of the working world’.
The BCO Conference runs 9-11 May in London, UK. Waiting list places available.