An interesting project posted to the Remodelista blog today, the Stable Cafe. This is a renovation of an old stable building by architect Malcom Davis. They have placed their own office on the upper level, and opened a small cafe on the ground floor level which includes a meeting/dining room that can be rented/reserved for events or meetings. First of all the place looks very cool - check out the large conference table made out of maple staves from a bowling alley floor. But second they have created a mix of office and social cafe/coffee shop space that invites other workers into the daily mix of activity. I like this idea of private offices creating the opportunity for community functions, similar to the part time Gallery function of Primer previously posted.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Tech and gadget blog boingboing.net featured a great review of two task chairs today in its Gadgets blog. The two chairs were the Herman Miller Embody and the Steelcase Leap. Afraid of a dry review of features and options - something like I would do. Nope, its a hoot.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
We got an email today from Knoll's public relations team. They are apparently readying an new task chair for introduction at this June's Neocon contract office furniture trade show in Chicago. He describes it:
The chair’s design draws from unique insights on the modern workplace, specifically on the new relationship between people and technology as well as their coworkers and is first work chair that allows you to sit and work the way you want.
The chair promotes the innovative use of materials to not only offer up an eco-friendly design, but also offer continuous support and flexibility for all of the body’s natural postures. This new chair builds on the iconic Knoll aesthetic and heralds a new era of office solutions that address ergonomics, and the intersection of design and the workplace, from a holistic point of view.
We have not shown too much here in the way of Knoll seating. They have always had oustanding design, but have not been the bleeding edge in seating recently. I'm excited to see what they have up their sleeve. I've requested a sample chair for review. We'll see if they are forthcoming with that.
Monday, April 27, 2009
The Stitz work stool by Wilkhahn does not fit easily into any category. Its a work stool, yes, but it has a pneumatic lift like a task chair - not a fixed height. And the base is unique, as it is not a static base. Its not a base with wheels, but a large sand bag like base that allows the stool to tilt, yet remain standing. What does that gain you? Its a stool that you can sit upon, or lean against. And by adjusting the height you can find a wide range of positions where you will find equilibrium.
So you can use it at a stand up work station, or at a bar, or in a lab setting. They are outstanding in area's to congregate for brainstorming, and can be an appropriate rest place behind a podium for a presenter or the front of a training room for an instructor.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
This month in Scientific American there is an article by Emily Anthes called How Room Designs Affect Your Work and Mood. In the article she recounts how researchers are begining to make connections between the design of spaces, and how they may affect your performance at work, and your mood in other settings. Sure, we all knew that, but could we prove it? Experiments applying scientific methods are beginning to actually map these behavioral responses to places. The article kicks off:
In the 1950s prizewinning biologist and doctor Jonas Salk was working on a cure for polio in a dark basement laboratory in Pittsburgh. Progress was slow, so to clear his head, Salk traveled to Assisi, Italy, where he spent time in a 13th-century monastery, ambling amid its columns and cloistered courtyards. Suddenly, Salk found himself awash in new insights, including the one that would lead to his successful polio vaccine. Salk was convinced he had drawn his inspiration from the contemplative setting. He came to believe so strongly in architecture’s ability to influence the mind that he teamed up with renowned architect Louis Kahn to build the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., as a scientific facility that would stimulate breakthroughs and encourage creativity.
If you have ever seen the Salk Institute you will immediately recognize how the courtyard there was formed by Salk's travels. Visiting scientists have use of private studies that overlook the courtyard in an attempt to evoke the response that Salk experienced.
The article goes on to describe the affects of different situations - ceiling height, views, daylight. There is no right and wrong here as different conditions can evoke different behaviors, each valuable for getting the most effective work, or setting the right mood. This focus on experience is in my mind a key to creating the most effective workplace for yourself. Think about your own workplace in terms of the factors described in the article. Does it support and reinforce the kind of work you do? What might you change to improve its performance? More fun than that: can you imagine your ideal workplace? Windows? View? Daylight? High ceilings and low? Lets hear your dream in the comments.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Sorry that I had no new info to post today. Its mainly because I spent my allotment of workalicious time talking to Andy, who is Justin's web developer. We spoke all about the impending redesign of workalicious. If you are a reader over at our mother blog, materialicious you know that it was just completely redesigned. This was Andy's work, and now that Justin is up an running he is turning his skills to workalicious. We are looking forward to a fresh look on a new platform. Don't know the schedule yet but I'll keep you updated.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Here is a link to an article in Time magazine from 2006 describing the coming revolution in office cubicles. It starts with the description of the gritty but familiar office cube:
Consider the cubicle. It's easy: just swivel 360° in your imitation Aeron chair. Ponder the various surfaces decorated with stacks of memos and coffee rings. Meditate on the file cabinets underfoot, the shelves overhead, the glow of the fluorescent reading light. Reflect upon the three walls papered with Post-it notes and your kid's macaroni art. It's hideous, but it's home.
They briefly touch on manufacturers making more open workstation furniture, as well as the implications of working in a more open setting. They mention that research by manufacturer Knoll shows that people are more productive with some privacy which parallels the finding in the Michael Brill booklet we are slowly reviewing. How to deal with the loss of privacy?Headphones? Defined social work spaces which leaves the open workstations more quiet? They even mention hoteling as a way to separate workers from a fixed location in the workplace.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Here is an interesting webcast on Alternative Workspaces. This is geared towards large corporate entities with Facility Management staff and is intended to introduce them to the cost savings potential of alternate workspace and officing paradigms. If you are trying to explain Hoteling to somebody and they can't understand why a company would want to take away workers permanent offices this webcast covers the basics. It does suffer a bit from the over enthusiastic production values, but its really just a series of presentation slides with a voice track. This was prepared by PeopleCube who produces software to help companies manage rotating assets like hoteling office suites and workstations - so they have interest in moving companies into this kind of work pattern, and infact pitch their product at the tail end. So take what you hear in light of that context.
Alternate Workspaces at People Cube (site requires registration and a resultant call from sales staff!)
Friday, April 17, 2009
Another entry in the $100 plastic chair search is the Cinto by Human Scale. This chair has a perforated seat and back that introduces flex and ventilation in the manner of some of the newer advanced task seating - a first I think for inexpensive pull up chairs. The size and frequency of the perforations introduces different amounts of flex to the seat and back in strategic locations increasing the comfort of the chair. Its available with arms, or without, with legs or cantilever base, or with wheels even. Several nice colors, and silver or black frames.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Yesterday I had a long telephone conversation with Todd Sundsted, one of the trio of authors of I'm Outta Here: How coworking is making the office obsolete. We were talking ostensibly about CoWorking, but in the end what we were really talking about was the culture of working as it relates to the workplace. It was a far ranging conversation and I hope to expand on more of these topics as blogging continues here at Workalicious. Here is a brief of some of the ideas covered with Todd - get ready, there is a lot to swallow here:
- In writing their book they really hoped to cover the individual's relationship to work, more so than CoWorking, but CoWorking is becoming the hub for a new class of independent entrepreneurial workers. So it is about CoWorking - an activity, and less so about CoWorking - a kind of office or workplace.
- CoWorking appears to be at the cross roads of many work trends - independents, mobility, cafe culture, and as such it can take on many variations within the umbrella of shared workspace.
- The cultural component of CoWorking is what ultimately separates it from office suites. Suites bottom line is to provide space and office services. CoWorking's cultural component goes beyond that, bringing people together for more reasons than shared space. But this cultural component can take on many different forms. There are social dimensions, collaborative dimensions, entrepreneurial focuses - ultimately each CoWorking site/community has to define for itself what the culture of its site will be and how to foster that.
- The design of CoWorking spaces has not been studied closely to date, and the range of work environments provided has not been looked at in regard to how it interacts with the culture that the site/community wants to foster. Some people want a social atmosphere, others want project collaboration, some need some solitude. The right mix will vary with the overall mission of the site/community.
- Manufacturers of office implements, furniture, services do not have CoWorking on their radar yet, and have not considered how they might tailor their product to serve this growing work paradigm.
- The economic slow down may become an engine driving the growth of independent working as many workers are laid off. Many will decide to go on to work independently rather than seek out another employer. In some situations the souring of business will cause the best workers to leave companies and seek independence - the workers that the companies can least afford to loose.
- Can companies offer workers the benefits they see in working independently? The series of Dot-Com booms have seen a change in the management and design of workplaces. New media companies desperate to retain creative workers incorporated recreational activities into their workplaces - ping pong, basketball courts, dogs at work, in house coffee bars. Much of this has bled over to larger less creative corporate workplaces. But is this enough to retain the worker tempted by independence? At some level this is seen as pandering to the worker, and provides none of the meaningful issues that are fulfilled by independent work.
- Todd related story of Best Buy corporate that instituted a new results oriented management style, where workers were not evaluated by long standing conventions - conforming to office culture, work hours, absenteeism; but rather by the results they achieved. What if workers were "cut loose" so to speak to pursue the responsibilities given to them by the method of their choosing. What if they choose to work from home, out of a local coffee shop - what if your employees could operate as independently as they choose, in order to produce the best results.
- Can companies import a CoWorking like culture - not in a superficial manner by putting a coffee bar in their office, but in a true sense by allowing their employees to act with true independence. Could this enable them to retain the best people. Todd is a partner in a new consultancy, Shift 101, whose mission appears to be helping companies institute this form of office culture. Fascinating. They are in the process of launching a new CoWorking site in Birmingham, Alabama where I imagine they will test the waters of this idea.
I am absolutely thrilled that the foundations and implications of CoWorking run so much deeper than moving a workgroup from a coffee shop to a shared office space. It is clearly a by product of issues endemic to work culture in general, one that stands to have a great impact on the standing status quo. If independence is indeed the next coming wave of work paradigm, then it will certainly take hold in the very places it splintered from in the first place. The implements of work are bound to follow and we hope to cover this evolving work-landscape as it happens.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I'll often find that when I introduce the idea of CoWorking to somebody who's never heard of it they will often reply - Oh yeah, I know, its one of those office suite places. No, its not, not even close. How to explain this to people? Its so easy to get caught up in all the details of the differences in physical space and execution. They clearly are different animals. But at the most fundamental level the Office Suite model is all about being fake, and CoWorking is all about being real.
Here is the deal. No doubt people rent space in these office suites because they need a place to work. The suites often offer accommodations and services that would be more expensive on your own. Things like conference rooms, copiers, receptionists. So there is a legitimate value proposition here. But on another level these suites go out of their way to project a pseudo corporate atmosphere. Any branding of the space is very subdued - they do not want to telegraph their identity and break the illusion presented to the visitor that you are in the office of a corporate entity. I'm sure they feel they are being discreet rather than obfuscating. Not to dump on suites, but it points out a core difference in philosophy.
Meanwhile CoWorking is all about being open, transparent, sharing, interacting. The idea that a Cafe Culture is being transposed to a dedicated workspace is at the core of CoWorking. As such it serves to break down barriers between independent workers, rather than build them. You are not trying to hide the fact you are sharing office space and resources - in fact you are trying to exploit it, to everyone's benefit. As such it pays for the space to have a strong brand, to promote with that brand, in order to attract more people to contribute to the overall culture of the site. CoWorking thrives on the reality of the situation - shared workspace.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
New Work City is a coworking site in, of course, New York City. From their site:
New Work City is a creative, community-based coworking space in Manhattan. Unlike typical shared office spaces, New Work City offers a flexible, open work environment.
We're a place where you can brainstorm with like-minded people.
We're a launchpad for your startup.
We're a respite for road warriors.
We're the answer to the cubicle.
We're the answer to working from home.
This is the new way of doing work. Welcome to New Work City!
New Work City has a strong networking component and runs regular events. They are also members of CoWorkingVisa which allows members access to other coworkingvisa sites when they travel.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Tayrn over at Unplggd linked over to this interesting article on Wired which is a very brief snapshot of the evolution of the workplace. They start with the open rows of desks as we saw in office space back to the industrial revolution. That model did sort of hold until reconfigurable office furniture came about. But they have delineated Action office, the first cubicle based office system from Herman Miller from the hoards of copycats that followed. Meanwhile they have shoe-horned many of the interesting paradigms that have developed recently into one short description. The illustration suggests something like the honey-comb planning of Herman Miller's Resolve, yet they actually mention some of the Big Table Desking offerings by Vitra!
We are on the mail list for South Jersey pre-owned furniture dealer Boomerang and we got an email today saying they are expecting hundreds of Aeron and Freedom chairs in June and July. If you are fitting out an new office this spring and summer look out for deals on used pieces.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Nah, these are not the latest iPod speakers. Babble is a device for creating acoustic privacy in an open office setting - or at least a cubicle setting. What happens is you pre-record your own voice making certain sounds/words. Then when activated it plays a babble of these sounds as an ambient background. So, if you are on the phone with somebody, to the people in surrounding cubicles your conversation will be lost in the background sound of, well, your own voice. People on the other end of the phone line will hear you normally.
Its an interesting device. But what happens when everybody has one? I suppose you are not all on the phone at the same time...
Friday, April 10, 2009
Ok, all you folks out there with the tidy neat desks - I'm betting this site will be good for you (how presumptuous and prejudice of me...!) Getting Things Done is a blog all about time management, 24/7 tips and articles about taming your to do list and the like. Dig in and enjoy. I have not had a chance to read too much yet myself - had a blog post to put up, got to stay on schedule.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I love this elegantly minimalistic task chair designed by brazilian modern master paulo mendes da rocha. A sling based chair, it has a wonderful essential quality, from the tall spider base, to the cantilevered tube frame for the sling. Not sure that it was ever manufactured, but it was a part of a seating line that included a stationary chair and a chaise lounge.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
This desk is up for auction, and it will probably sell for a lot. You may ask: Why should I be interested in this random looking desk? Especially one that looks like a post-apocalyptic dystopian assemblage, maybe whipped up in somebody's garage? Well you should be interested. This desk is an artifact of perhaps one of the most radical experiments in office environments ever let loose on the American workplace.
Sometime in the mid-nineties (pardon me as I'm just going to recount and not fact check) Jay Chiat, partner of the Chiat Day advertising agency set out on a mission to create the ultimate in modern and flexible workplace. First in the Los Angeles office, and then later in the New York office, new workplaces were created that left all convention behind.
First, nobody had a desk. Nobody even had a computer. Well you had a computer, but not your own computer - all your files were stored on a company server. When you got to work in the morning you checked out a laptop and a phone at the main desk and then set off to roam the office landscape. That landscape included desks, and cafe tables, meeting rooms, project spaces - both conventional and unusual work environments. No personal space, or at least no permanent personal space. It was a wild experiment, one that took great faith in the responsibility and behavior of the staff to let the organization loose in such a loosely organized workplace.
Meanwhile the New York office was a similar yet completely different experiment. There they brought on italian designer Gaetano Pesce to completely design the space for this new working environment. They were going to do the full monty here. A new way to work was not going to be hemmed in by the same old office furniture. They would design an environment specific to this new office model. And design it he did. It was something like a carnival meets a spooky Fellini nightmare, from the glossy poured resin floor, to walls made of bricks molded to look like cell phone faces, funky custom made chairs, and yes - funky custom made mobile desks. And now you see from whence this unusual desk came.
The natural follow up question is why are they selling one of their desks? Don't they need these in the funhouse to get their work done. Well, not anymore. There is no question the places worked. I won't say they worked great or wonderfully. By they did it, even if they weren't digging it. It was described as being like an ongoing cocktail party. People would be asked to sit in a different spot each day by Chiat to force "it" to happen. People could not locate their coworkers for days. Some staked out territory, some abused the freedom, but generally they worked with it. It played out in sometimes horrible, sometimes wonderful, but almost always unexpected ways. Eventually there was a change of ownership of the Agency, and along with that a new management team who unsurprisingly just did not get it. And so it came to an end. I'm not sure how all of the unusual furnishings from the New York office were liquidated. Some things no doubt went to MOMA, but for the most part I suspect the stuff just went away. So the fact that this desk has surfaced, and is probably going to auction for a lot of money is both a surprise, and is telling.
Others have written better accounts of this than I could ever muster, so I will send you their way:
and yes, we did touch on this briefly in this post about Malcolm Gladwell's book.
The desk itself is actually very interesting. Made of bent welded wire mesh it has a shelves below the top for the CPU, and an adjustable perch for screen. The desktop is a unique poured resin top as were many of the other surfaces in the office space. Top it all off with sturdy castor wheels and it really was a forward looking workstation.
And finally, the auction, from auction house Rago Arts
and thanks to Bill, my eyes on the scene who found the auction
Monday, April 6, 2009
I don't know how I forgot about the Oh chair when I was doing the $100 plastic chair review. The Oh chair will tick in well under $100, and its cool design by Karim Rashid gives nothing over to more expensive designs. They stack as well, sort of the poor man's Tom Vac chair. Available widely.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
In this fascinating lecture on the TED Talks site Kamal Meattle explains their studies into improving air quality in the workplace (and in homes) through the presence of specific plant species that act on the carbon dioxide and pollutants in the air. Their studies show greater productivity comes along with the better air quality.
Its short, well worth watching.
We've been touching on the topic of open offices vs productivity in the office during our summary of the Michael Brill booklet The Office as a Tool. I found a research paper at Herman Miller's site that gives their findings on issues surrounding privacy. They acknowledge up front that people in the office want privacy and that it increases productivity and job satisfaction. They go on to reveal that privacy is not always four walls and a door. There are issues of visual privacy, and acoustical privacy that contribute to an overall sensation of privacy. They also look at factors that suggest there are aspects of openness that are hardwired into us as a preference that brings a feeling of well being. They also outlined the logic for offering workers a selection of other places to work beyond their own workstation, where other levels of privacy could be gained. There are no simple answers. Our own findings of wide open offices in many creative agencies points to the variety of factors involved. Do the creative types simply thrive in a more open environment? Or is their sense of privacy different and fullfilled in another way? Different job activities will thrive in different environments and it behooves the organization making a new office to consider how to serve their workers best.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
This architecture office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is located in an interesting structure. The walls are made of gabions, or stone filled cages of steel wire. The gabion walls allow some amount of air to flow through the walls, and provide a great thermal mass absorbing daytime heat, and shading the interior. Inside by the way you will find some Big Table Desking going on!
The configuration of the building is also fascinating. The serpentine shape also serves to shade portions of the building at different times of day, but it also creates distinct outdoor spaces that allow certain work activities to move outside. These outdoor spaces can be as much part of the office as the indoor spaces, loosely as inside and outside is defined in this climate.
more photos at: