In the midst of a workplace transformation project, there is a lot of energy that goes into parsing just what the right environment to work in contains. There is the usual anxiety in the still-unfolding bundle of lagging projects where people claim a need for closed space in order to concentrate and do their work. “I do a lot of writing,” (or other role justifying enclosure) they say, “I need a space apart from the rest.”
In most of these projects, there is a struggle around the usual spatial lexicon that is used to define the workspace – “office,” “conference room,” and “cubicle,” and that one especially around panel height. We’ve found our success only in finding a way to develop and apply a new lexicon of form, so that people begin to imagine the workspace in other terms. Only then do we get down to what the work really is, how it is performed, and what the best spaces to support that work can be.
“The best place I ever worked was Heathrow Terminal 5, where I had a desk right in the middle of the departures hall. I was invited to the airport to be a Writer in Residence (and later wrote a book about the experience, A Week at the Airport). The terminal turned out to be an ideal spot in which to do some work, for it rendered the idea of writing so unlikely as to make it possible again. Objectively good places to work rarely end up being so; in their faultlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming. Original thoughts are like shy animals. We sometimes have to look the other way – towards a busy street or terminal – before they run out of their burrows.”