What is a networking lounge? This was a question that required deeper thinking. Despite our experience in lounge design, a networking lounge is at present more of a concept than a reality. It is a transient ‘occupier’ of space rather than a permanent typology, a nomad of the hospitality sector. It meanders beyond carefully curated lounge design, balancing sociological and anthropological aspects of networking.
Our brief for this year’s Sleep & Eat event was to design a networking lounge within the overarching concept of Hospitality Design 2035, with a focus on how Generation Z will network in the future. With the advent of Covid-19, our proposal showcases its adaptability as a real-life networking lounge or a virtual one 15 years from now.
We stripped back this lounge concept and rooted it in the etymology of the term ‘network’. It’s distant origins stem from the words ‘net’ and ‘work’, at its time meaning ‘the weave of various craft and skills’. Our proposal endeavours to tell the story of its origin through the lounge design itself, creating networking opportunities and gathering people of different generations and culture. It will weave craft and trade for those knots to be tied, a ‘handshake’ that allows new stories to unfold.
A generational survey was undertaken to inform design features within the lounge and integrate into our underlying concept. Our approach was focused on encompassing everything Generation Z, Generation C and millennials would expect a networking lounge to be in 2035. The lounge will not only reflect our story, but is intentionally experiential, immersive and meaningful as it can be for either a real-life setting or virtual platform, allowing connections, active or passive, to be made.
We did not want this space to be just a conceptual playground of materiality and form, but indeed a real and tangible one, allowing your inner child the freedom to move and be still, to interact and be comfortable amidst new experiences and opportunity. Comfort zones were created to promote groupings of established ‘family’ networks, allowing them to extend, whilst addressing the emphasis on community ethos sought after by the brief.
Our networking lounge typology aims to provide opportunity for guests to take away an Instagram-able moment or memory of the lounge. Amidst these talking points or ‘icebreakers’, our concept embraces a biophilic and sustainable approach with intent to create a disassemble-able lounge.
Networking is not just about connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities. Of significance, is also how different generations and technological advancements influence spaces related to human interaction. We focussed on the experiential journey as a key driver to the success of this space typology. Weaving a delicate yet exciting networking experience for future generations, be it for business or pleasure, should create a balanced and interactive environment.