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The future of work: The food court

Have you ever thought of working in a food court?

John White at WZMH Architects thinks you should, and suggests if you haven't, you may already be behind the curve.

“One of the interesting things that we found in designing Waterpark Place is that the food courts are taking on a new identity,” he says, referring to the 30-storey RBC-branded building just south of Queens Quay that officially opened in December. It's the southernmost point in the underground PATH system, and also features a 627-seat food court, designed by WZMH.

White says that RBC, along with other large firms such as Deloitte, have started operating their offices using something called hotelling. The idea is that instead of having your own office, cubicle or desk, you reserve one, per your needs, each morning, whatever you need to keep at the office relegated to an assigned drawer.

“It is no longer a fixed-seat concept,” White says. “The food court is becoming the fixed seat.”

But even without hotelling, and the office downsizing that's prompted it -- seeing per-worker office space reduced from an average of 150 square feet, according to White, down to 100 – you might already have noticed the shift. That is, serious people interviewing other serious people for serious jobs in public, and professionals meeting in surroundings that afford a good deal less formality – and possibly even more security – than is possible in an office.

To cater to this, WZMH has designed its Waterpark food court with three themes.

“Lounge seating has a living room feel,” he says, “like the high-end waiting area of an office. Business casual has tables scattered around that can be collected into boardroom-sized surface. Urban is more communal table seating.”

They've also incorporated two skylights to provide the sort of atmosphere conducive to long-term sitting.

According to White, the food court vendors are onside with the new dynamic, figuring what they lose in turnover, they gain in larger groups.

White sees this conscious food court design as the beginning of an inevitable trend that will involve the entire PATH system realizing that it's no longer catering to an office-bound, or even 9-5 world.

“More than transitory spaces you move through,” he says, “these are spaces you will inhabit.”

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: John White
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