April 10, 2017

Q&A with Thomas Juncher Jensen of JIDK on Reinventing the Modern Work Space

'What we do best is create approachable, modern offices,' says Thomas Juncher Jensen of JIDK.

by New York Spaces

The Commons by JIDK; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.
JIDK The Commons
The Commons by JIDK; ; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

NYS: What is your firm, JIDK known for?

Thomas Juncher Jensen: What we do best is create approachable, modern offices. Although we have worked with a lot of tech firms and understand their specific needs and approach to office hierarchy and organization, we are able to take that and apply it to many other types of clients and projects. Our designs are bright, happy and healthy, making them ready for the changes and complexity of today's modern businesses.

NYS: How do you implement your core principle of providing clean, simple solutions to design challenges in all your projects? Can you give us a couple of examples?

TJ: The starting point should always be 'what's special about this client and how can we highlight that' and never

Intent Media by JIDK.
Intent Media by JIDK; ; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

'how can we make this look a certain way.' The key to efficient design is to dial up the important features and dial down the background noise. We'd rather spend money on an awesome canteen that's used every hour of every day than splurge on a statment reception sofa that's used once a week. Office design is an investment in employee happiness, so putting the funds and efforts where they serve the most purpose is the goal. Superfluous touches can wait.

NYS: We love that you work on maximizing worker happiness and efficiency when working with various companies. What elements do you take into account and implement into the designs?

TJ: Access to natural light is hugely important for office wellbeing and productivity and should be a top priority when designing or redesigning a space. When looking at the layout of an office, we typically start by placing as many employees as possible near or next to windows. Next, we explore where we should place small meeting spaces, privacy rooms, and wellness areas so staff can quickly have a brainstorm with a colleague or take a private phone call. Our team's approach is to place these areas both near and around the desks, creating a flow where jumping from one space to another is as simple as walking from one room to another in your home. Private offices, casual meeting spaces and a fun canteen or cafe space are ideally placed where walking paths cross. This promotes casual in-passing meetings and can help break down barriers between teams and tiers in the workplace.

Intent Media by JIDK.
Intent Media by JIDK; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

NYS: What offices have you created projects for?

TJ: We have worked with many innovators and leading companies in the NYC tech community, such as BuzzFeed, Grovo, Intent Media, Outbrain, Paperless Post, Persado, and Reonomy.

In addition to tech, we've had the opportunity to work in other markets including fashion, production, and venture capital. Our client roster includes The Ellison Medical Foundation, Great Oaks VC, Loeffler Randall, PEN American Center, RSA films, and William Vitacco Associates.

NYS: What do you see as necessary when working on office designs?

TJ: You need a clear program to start. Without projected seating numbers and a rough tally of meeting spaces, it's all just speculation. We can help with the breakdown, but we cannot look further into the future than the client's management team can. Once a strategy is in place, we need to talk creature comforts. The best clients are those who know what their staff needs—beginning with employee workstations and meeting requirements and then let us take it from there.

Choosing products and other items for the workplace is a balancing act. Do we give everyone height adjustable

Intent Media by JIDK.
Intent Media by JIDK; ; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

desks and swivel chairs with all the bells and whistles? Are we doing expansive glass walls and hard floors? LED lighting everywhere? It's important to prioritize what's going into the design concept—what is necessary and what is not. We start by looking at which configurations will offer the most quality daylight, which layout will give the most comfortable individual workstations, where will nearby quiet spaces be placed, and how to thoughtfully place communal lunch / activity / wellness spaces throughout.

NYS: We love your work on Reonomy. The amount of greenery incorporated into the office relaxes us just by looking at it. What was your approach to this project?

TJ: For the Reonomy project, and for many other clients, greenery is something we incorporate from the start, identifying key places where plants will be beneficial. Plants are great for creating soft partitions within an office and defining permanent or temporary zones. The added benefit of the plants is the improved indoor air and the biophilic quality they bring. NASA has a great list of plants that can actually purify your indoor environment, and we usually also recommend working with one of the great NYC-based plant care companies for maximum plant enjoyment and minimum upkeep.

Buzzfeed LA
BuzzFeed LA by JIDK; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

NYS: The BuzzFeed LA office is quite fab. What was the directive here and what inspired this design in particular?

TJ: Thanks! Having all that open space provided a wonderful opportunity for us to do something we can rarely do here in NYC—space the desks out! Housed in a former cosmetics plant, the office gave us a very generous and open floor plan to work with, and putting the video editors on movable workstations allowed the employees to reconfigure the setup quickly and on demand. Los Angeles has a rich and wonderfully warm midcentury modern history, and we wanted the space to reflect this. Employing mostly wood tones and the signature BuzzFeed red, the space feels inviting and comfortable despite its massive size. We placed relaxation zones and meeting rooms on the mezzanine, but kept it very minimal to allow staff to shoot features on-site as well. Overall, we aimed to create a comfortable yet extremely flexible space and I think the finished design satisfies what BuzzFeed needed for its staff to be productive.

NYS: We understand you also design residences and hospitality spaces. What have been some of your

BuzzFeed LA by JIDK.
BuzzFeed LA by JIDK; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

favorite projects to date and why?

TJ: I have been privileged to work on some amazing hotels throughout my career, and I am especially proud of the touches I got to put on the Harmony Hotel in Costa Rica. The Harmony and the entire community surrounding it is composed of some of the nicest people you could hope to work with. It's something you can feel when you are in that community.

On the residential side, we recently completed a loft in Williamsburg that I think hits a very delicate balance between maintaining the "honest loft" vibe and creating a comfortable home. Too many lofts are simply displays of vast emptiness, and, as alluring as that can be, we wanted to create a home for a wonderful family. Lots of behind-the-scenes work made this possible, and understated design choices bring the people living there into the main focus rather than the space—which I think is an achievement with 15-foot ceilings!

NYS: What are you working on now?

TJ: We are currently working on some very exciting projects with The Commons co-working spaces, William Vitacco Associates, and Avalon Flooring.

Intent Media by JIDK
Intent Media by JIDK; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

The Commons is the first co-working space on the Upper East Side, with a location on 86th Street right between the Lexington Avenue and Second Avenue subway lines. We have been in tight collaboration with the very committed and creative team behind the project, and the vaulted ceiling with skylights and incredible plant-filled mezzanine make the space a great fit for a wellness-oriented design.

For William Vitacco Associates, we are renovating the firm's multi-floor office. As New York's premier expediting firm for nearly 50 years, they have a large amount of physical documents that they need to manage as well as an on-going transition to digital files in progress. By defining different types of storage requirements and determining their needed proximity to the users we can help maximize the usable storage while minimizing the footprint. This should ultimately free up space for the employees and allow for dedicated areas to review drawings and have video conferencing sessions. It's a challenging project, but a very exciting opportunity for JIDK.

The Commons by JIDK.
The Commons by JIDK; ; Photograph by Peter Kubilus.

Also currently in the works is our project for Avalon Flooring. They are one of the top ten flooring retailers in the US, and we are converting a 13,000-square-foot warehouse space in Cherry Hill, New Jersey into a fresh and functional office. Our team is giving Avalon new seating configurations from Knoll and continuing their flat hierarchy and hands-on office structure. They are an incredible client and we are thrilled with how this project is coming together.

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