The Vitra Design Museum office combines different areas of responsibility – from collection administration and the conservation workshop in the Vitra Schaudepot, to travelling exhibitions, publications, curatorial tasks and visitor tours and events. As the employees in these different areas need to interact on a daily basis, multiple departments with different workflows are accommodated in an area of 730 sqm. During the lockdown phase in Germany, the majority of employees worked from home. The close communication between the teams was facilitated with digital tools.We are all facing the challenge of transforming our offices into safe workspaces. Not only are we looking for fast, effective solutions that keep offices virus-free for employees, but we also need to rethink all areas where interactions – especially with the public – take place.The Vitra Campus and the Vitra Design Museum have been reopened to the public since 11 May 2020. To ensure the safe return of museum visitors, some Vitra Design Museum employees returned to their offices on that date as well. Here, changes to the floor plan had to be implemented quickly to facilitate physical distancing and ensure safe encounters between staff in meeting and communication zones, while also providing distance-regulated workstations for concentrated work.
The Vitra Design Museum office encompasses different areas of responsibility – from collection administration and the conservation workshop in the Vitra Schaudepot to travelling exhibitions, publications, curatorial tasks and visitor tours and events. As the employees in these different areas need to interact on a daily basis, multiple departments with different workflows are accommodated in an area of 730 sqm. During the lockdown phase in Germany, the majority of employees worked from home. Digital tools enabled the teams to remain in close contact with each other.
The curators at the Vitra Design Museum spend a large part of their work day circulating between the museum buildings and offices on the campus. They need spaces that allow them to easily navigate between their different tasks. To that end, their workspaces have been designed to allow free and safe movement and interaction with neighbouring departments. The museum’s project managers and specialists, on the other hand, spend most of their day in the office and maintain connections with colleagues by sitting at Joyn workstations – subject to physical distancing measures.
With the reopening of the Vitra Campus, the physical presence of a number of staff members is required in the offices and museums. The team wears face masks in the offices and in public areas and follows the guidelines given by health authorities. When implementing preventative measures in the office, the aim was to enact solutions to ensure the health and safety of employees and visitors.
The transit zones in the office have been clearly defined. In the meeting and communication areas, the seating was reduced to ensure a distance of two metres between each person. The seating in the work areas was changed to a diagonal configuration and chairs were moved farther apart. Floor markings were used to assign task chairs to fixed positions, thereby ensuring safe distances at all times. The Vitra Design Museum office was designed as a ‘transparent’ workplace. Visitors to the Vitra Campus can see into the offices from the neighbouring Depot Deli restaurant and, likewise, the workshop and all meeting rooms have glass walls that dissolve the boundary between inside and outside. The office is also accessible to visitors on public tours.
The coronavirus is first and foremost a human tragedy that has affected the lives of millions. The pandemic has not only changed the patterns of personal interaction – with increased sanitary measures, social distancing and the rise of digital communication – but has also fundamentally altered the way we work. With the progressive loosening of protective government regulations, institutions and companies are preparing to return to their normal ‘modus laborandi’. Every company is responsible for taking precautionary measures in the workplace to stop the further spread of COVID-19, and physical distancing remains the most effective tool in this regard.Applying Vitra’s long-standing knowledge of the environments in which we work and live or where we travel, we have drafted a set of hypotheses that can help companies, institutions and employees return to the office with ready-to-use spatial solutions and carefully conceived planning approaches.