Office Space

Here we discuss veal pen type office space, not the OfficeSpaceMovie, although the two are somewhat related.

In a paper discussing Alexanderian ideas on office space http://www.math.utsa.edu/sphere/salingar/Chris.furniture.html , the sentence that strikes with the most force is:

Architecture schools and the professional media deliberately mislead the public by insisting that emotional well-being is not a requirement of interior design. As a result, few people imagine that a pleasant work environment is even possible today.

Sheesh! Where did this open cubicle no privacy commons bad air phone ringing fluorescent light buzzing blandwalled extraneous noise lock the office supplies up crap originate from ?

People view the normal corporate work environment as acceptable only because it is the most prevalent though it may be inferior and even harmful, much as poor project development is acceptable on Wall street because that is what is done the most.

It wasn't always like this. Architecture students read about all these 'schools' of architecture that emerged in the 60s and 70s. That all had manifestos and they were very committed to the notion that you could change people by altering their surroundings. If you agree with the notion you must also realize that it can be tough to convince people to pay for it.

Choose your manifesto carefully, though, lest the school change you into something you don't like. And where does some third party get off changing me anyway?


From where did this open cubicle no privacy commons bad air phone ringing fluorescent light buzzing blandwalled extraneous noise lock the office supplies up crap originate?

So-called ScientificManagement, wasn't it? Strip lighting and air conditioning were the enabling technologies, at which point TimeAndMotion? gurus together with architects and business leaders saw "efficiency" within their grasp. Now, all they had to do was arrange the environment so that people would be changed into automata, components in a machine, and untold riches could be theirs.

Sidenote: In TheSoulOfaNewMachine by TraceyKidder? someone at DataGeneral brags to an onlooker that all of the cubicles on a floor can be ripped out and replaced with a production line practically overnight. -- MichaelFeathers

Hence the desk with no storage space (there's one, circa 1930, display in London's DesignMuseum?), so that the clerical worker always had all their work before them all the time. No document could get put away and "overlooked", and there's a strong inducement to reduce the latency of any document on your desk. Of course, some people do have no use for storage in their desk, or prefer one without. They are lucky to have the choice.

This tradition continues with the "secretarial" chair, which has no arm-rests to tempt you into not typing at any time, and which is often made from poorer materials than "managerial" chairs.

Some, perhaps those who do not fit the (outdated) ergonomic models upon which the furniture is based, prefer a chair with no arms. So as not to end up typing with their elbow resting on an arm and mess up their wrists, for example. Bear in mind that office furniture manufacturers don't make arm-rests optional for that reason. The distinction is drawn such that having arm-rests (and head-rests, too) is a symbol of power and authority, not a functional feature.

Armless chairs are also better for sitting cross-legged, etc. What I usually do at each new site is unscrew the arms from a standard office chair. -- SteveFreeman

And never point them out or put them back on when you split. -- PhlIp


There was a piece in the paper here (London) a little while ago from someone who claimed that the standard 90-degree chair is bad news for postures, and that what we should be doing is perching on stools, like office clerks used to. -- SteveFreeman

My current boss recently put his back out lifting a tree (don't ask me) and obtained an actual ergonomic chair on the recommendation of his chiropractor. It needed a man from the company that made it to come set it up, cost a fortune and required special purchase authority from head office.

We all had a go in it when he was off-site one day, and it is a revelation. It looks like an instrument of torture, but forces you to adopt the correct "perched" position while giving full support where it's needed. Probably much as your high-up architect's stool does, Ron. Interesting that they have those things themselves, whereas building users get something very different.

-- KeithBraithwaite

My home "office" is a 48" two-level black Anthro desk-cart, set high enough so that I can use an architect-height armless chair. I like being high up and it improves the view out the glass walk-out doors to the deck. I can see all the way down to the lake at the other end of the acre. I generally work with all the lights off except the little ones in the cabinet that holds all my curiosa.

The only problem is that I need a second chair for when someone comes over to pair program with me. -- RonJeffries

Because of a shortage of real-estate, the company I worked with in Germany had leased two floors of an apartment building. My office was in a room originally intended as a living-room. It was on the ground floor and had large windows and two glass sliding doors that opened into a small garden. While I worked during the summer I could hear the wind blowing through the trees, the birds chirping and smell the plants and flowers in the garden. The sun would shine through the windows and the room was quite warm and full of fresh air.

I really loved working in that space and was more productive than I have ever been since. -- RodneyRyan?

Good argument for the HomeOffice! -- DonaldNoyes
It should be noted that one of the biggest driving factors towards the office style we use most commonly today is cost reduction. While it would be really nice to have an office for everybody that is ergonomic, lit properly, and efficient, such a policy would cost a company huge amounts of money as compared to the block room separated by cubicles.

I'm no advocate for this latter form of work, in fact, if you can swing it, working at home is by far the best option for most people with sufficient motivation. I see this as less of a ConspiracyTheory and more of just plain old fashioned cost cutting. -- IoaPetraka

Others look curiously on as their work vista is transformed from an Alexandrian marvel (with multiple point sources of natural light) into a virtual CubiclePrison.


Obviously productivity would go down if we permitted WorkplacePets.


See AreCubiclesAmerican? WarRoom AllEngineersInOneRoom BigRoom (is RoomsAndDoors relevant ?) (is there a Category for various types of office space arrangements ?)


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