Reassessing the residential model in the age of at-home work, Studio Belem conceptualizes a highly flexible, bookable space for distributed workers.

In the lead-up to each issue, we challenge emerging designers to respond to the Frame Lab theme with a forward-looking concept. The past year has shed new light on the role of the office, prompting those who use one to reconsider its relevance. There are lessons to be found in not just the pandemic period, but the time before that. In our current issue Frame 138, we ask: What were workplaces missing? What has working from home taught us? What would make us want to go back to the physical office? We asked four creative practices to share their ideas.

Founded by Edouard Bettencourt and Malik Lemseffer in 2017 and based in Paris and Casablanca, Studio Belem is specialized in architecture, design and research. The practice's future-focused works are deeply rooted in their local context and history. They've conceptualized an extension to their Aula Modula and Module O idea with Module C, imagining a more hybrid space for workers to convene.

You’ve investigated the impact of the global pandemic on our societies – and more specifically our (working) lives.

EDUOARD BETTENCOURT: Yes, the virus has infiltrated our cities and our private lives, imposing news ways of living and working on us. Within the four walls of the home, families, couples and roommates are reorganizing themselves, temporarily improvising ‘subspaces’ within their existing living spaces. Despite the fact that these temporary interventions are provisional and respond to the urgency of the current situation, they’re inspiring new models of work. And the fresh ways of thinking that have arisen in these times of confinement and working from home are now reflected in the desire to travel less for professional reasons.

Where have these observations inspired your thinking as designers?

MALIK LEMSEFFER: We started thinking about how to redefine housing and came up with a proposal that combines different functions within a collective housing building. Many of the architectural projects of today respond to outdated modes of living together, following rigid regulations that result in spaces with static programmes, weak permeability and little interaction opportunities for residents. With our concept Aula Modula, we propose a much more flexible form of collective architecture in which boundaries between public and private, professional and personal life are fluid. Boundaries become more temporal. We believe that to adapt to as well as support ongoing societal changes, future living spaces must be free of appropriation and pre-established functions.

In what way does Aula Modula support the new reality of at-home working?

EB: Each apartment at Aula Modula will have the option of an add-on workplace module – Module O. These are easy to set – and wrap – up to allow residents to programme their space according to their personal needs. Thanks to integrated furniture and the option to isolate the module from the rest of the apartment for privacy, individual workers can adapt the space to different modes of working. While the building organizes domestic life in a way that it faces the city, professional life is purposely directed towards a central, shared courtyard and collective terraces to encourage interaction.

Besides fostering connections between residents, how can the building encourage connections between the now distributed workforce of companies?

ML: With work primarily being done from home, it’s important to start rethinking the locations that bring teams together. We need to imagine a more hybrid space that lives somewhere between the co-working space and the classic central office. Which is why we dreamed up Module C for this Challenge. Moving away from the traditional image of the workspace, this module is designed as a collective, playful and entertaining teambuilding space for colleagues to gather for the purpose of briefing, debriefing, socializing, discussing and establishing connections.

EB: These spaces should be scattered throughout the city and be present in each Aula Modula. They will be bookable by companies for the time and frequency that suits them.

Get your copy of Frame 138 here.