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Private offices and cubicles are set apart from a central atrium littered at random
with couches, reading chairs, computer terminals, and roll-away
white boards. There are "white courtesey phones" for inviting
others into the space from their personal workspace, but no phones
ring. The atrium is
intended to replace meeting rooms and
conference rooms. Meetings are structured so that interested
parties can overhear and join in. Groups can work together on
portions of their project, then retreat to their quiet space to concentrate
on individual sub-projects. Employees are encouraged to use the
common space as little or as much as suits their
personality, and are not judged on how much time they
spend in the social workspace.
Newton Institute home page [mab, Jan 13 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]
The woes of the virtual office
Focuses on Frank Gehry's office building for Chiat/Day, which everyone thought was great until they actually had to work in it. [hippo, Jan 13 2000, last modified Oct 17 2004]
||The place where I work was designed
by an architect with similar ideas --- we
have lots of really small offices around
big central social workspaces. I'm a bit
skeptical about how well it works. It
needs a lot of space (since you can't
make the individual offices too small),
I find that I need to be in my office with
the door closed to really get anything
done (but I'm easily distracted), and we
do tend to get "judged on how much time
we spend in the social workspace". I
think that last is unavoidable, since
bosses will have to be very excited about
the social workspace idea to go to the
time, trouble and expense to implement it,
and won't be happy if that seems to have
been for nothing.
||An article in the NY Times on Jan 20 about social
workspaces listed prices as $60 and $45 a square
foot. What do normal offices cost?
||I like voluntary social space, but hate the enforced
kind, too; too often they turn into a publicity stunt
from people who wouldn't know focused creative
work if it bit them, and simply force their serfs
into constant headphones and/or odd hours.
Go design my door if you must...
||The Newton Institute at the
University of Cambridge, a
mathematics research center
that hosts groups of visiting
scholars for about 6 months
at a time, is designed along a
similar architectural scheme.
There are private offices, but
they all look on to a common
atrium built as a split-level
between the floors. It's
deliberately impossible to get
from one place to another without
bumping in to other people, and
there are chalkboards in places
like the restrooms and the lift.
||The vast infamous corp. I last worked at had similar spaces, but they flubbed it, I thought, by having not-very-comfortable chairs - suitable neitherfor naps and goofiness nor for sitting upright being excited. They were okay for moving hallway conversations out of the actual hallways, where they would have bothered people in their offices. They weren't as good as the benches on the stairwell landings (quite lovely - the elevators got pushed into dark interior space, and the stairwells got a big glassy proportion of the exteriors. Good views. But no whiteboards!)
||On the other hand, we were absolutely allowed to keep our office doors shut, if we wanted.
||The problem with the pointy-headed boss is that he/she can take a great idea and make it into something completely unrecognizable as such by "encouraging" (read 'forcing') people to use it.