Neo-nOMAdic – MPavilion

Work It

Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne
Event / Co-working
Penny Lane

Earlier this year we (together with Relative) occupied OMA’s brilliant flexible amphitheatrical design for the 2017/18 MPavilion. The principles behind it – line-blurring of inside and out; dynamic potential for interaction; creation of “something that injects intensity into a city and contributes to an ever-evolving culture” – ring as true for contemporary architecture as they are reflective of the current energetic shift away from traditional work environments.

Responding to these principles, the event we held there, neo-nOMAdic: Experimenting with the Future of Work, was in part intended as a challenge to those traditional work environments. Instead, it played out as a joyful investigation. We revelled in the uptake that our fellow co-workers for the day showed. It didn’t matter so much what people were working on, but where and how they were doing it. From their feet up in the air at morning yoga, to furious typing and keenly pricked ears at our speaker series, we really understood and felt what the ‘co–’ in some of our favourite words means: “with others”.

It seems that at the core of changing work practices, which might range from flexible hours, and incorporating a more fluid balance of recreation and non-work activity into those hours, to location and technology-based innovations, is something truly human. Perhaps the success of a co-working space, or the achievement of satisfaction in one’s livelihood, simply comes down to the unique social energy that’s generated by the community in which it takes place.

In 2015 the Harvard Business Review reported research findings that people in co-working collectives have significantly higher levels of “thriving” than employees in regular offices. Tell us something we don’t know, says the freelance laptopping assemblage. Many of us remain sequestered in spaces dedicated only to our business and our industries. But co-workers see their work as more meaningful: they connect with each other to socialise, trade skills and cross-pollinate. They have more job control, by balancing flexible work hours with the right amount of structure and discipline that’s created by the natural order of a community.

Aside from co-working spaces, there’s a strong argument for taking work into other environments. Another thing that freelancers (and café owners!) know a thing or two about, and it’s the reason why office workers might seek out a park bench or the shade of a tree at lunchtime. In practical celebration of work-on-the-move, wherever one sees fit, we developed a prototype for a portable knee-top desk. It’s a work in progress, but thanks to our sponsors on the day – Muji, CAPI and Interstudio – and enthusiastic participants, we’re inspired to keep the idea in our back pocket, so that we might one day be working in fresh air and wearing them on our lap.

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