Thursday, 26 May 2016

Remote workstations: creating a fluid working environment with Heatherwick Studio

Remote workstations: creating a fluid working environment with Heatherwick Studio

With advances in hardware technology, artists now have awesome power – and data – literally at their feet. There are good and bad things about that.

When architecture and design practice Heatherwick Studio moved into new buildings, they were keen to get the tin out from under their desks. As Head of Studio Environments Robert Wilson explains: “we operate in a very fluid environment, where high quality aesthetic requirements mix with designers’ needs for high end 3D workstations.”

That fluidity reflects not just the scope of the practice’s work, but the regular reconfiguration of teams to take on different projects.

But workstations of that calibre are big, and they’re not pretty. They take up space under designers’ desks, dominate the look of the space and they’re not easy to move around.

Heatherwick’s wanted a solution that would make it easy for designers to move and share information, not just around one studio but between the satellite studios too. And that would make the working environment attractive and pleasant to be in.

The answer we found was to move the workstations into the server room. And let the designers connect to them from their desks.

But how does this work without suffering lag from metres of cable?

Teradici have developed a new technology that lets the workstation do the heavy lifting, and just shifts the screen image out onto the monitor on the shop floor. It effectively stretches the distance between the computer and the screen, without loss of speed or quality.

A small piece of hardware is attached to the racked workstation that captures the data from the graphics card, and sends it down the network wires to the artist’s desk. A little box at that end then translates it for the monitor. In turn, the box sends information from the mouse and keyboard back to the workstation in the server room.

Using this technology, you can work with up to QHD resolution images, as though your computer were under your desk.

And there are particular benefits to keeping the workstations in the server room as well. Heatherwick’s now use 1Us by Supermicro, which take up less space and further increase efficiency. Robert says: “By investing in the 1Us we have detached the user from their desk and centralised them into an environment which enables them to operate at their optimum”.

Now, Heatherwick Studio has achieved the working environment to optimise their design work. “We have improved the aesthetic of the studio,” says Robert, “and made reconfiguring our teams a breeze by simply allocating the user a workstation through a browser.”

Escape Technology works with studios of all sizes to consult on and provide the best hardware and software for their needs. If you’re interested in discussing the best use of your space and resources, talk to Nick Mathews.