Rematerializing the Workaday World
Edited by Alfons van Marrewijk and Dvora Yanow
Chapter 1: ‘All Together, Altogether Better’: The Ideal of ‘Community’ in the Spatial Reorganization of the Workplace
Karen Dale and Gibson Burrell In recent years many companies, frequently aided by consultancies, designers and architects, have sought to reshape their workplaces in order to achieve organizational goals directly through their spatial arrangements. These goals naturally include economic ones of maximizing the use of expensive built assets, but what particularly distinguishes this trend is an approach to spatial manipulation that goes much further than the economic. The move to reorganize these workplaces is aimed at the wholesale change of both social and individual motivation and commitment to the organization. The objective is to break down barriers to cooperation and communication perceived to be a result of current spatial arrangements, and in so doing to produce improvements in team-working and increase the identification of groups and individuals with the organization and its goals. This approach is perhaps best expressed by one of the foremost architects involved in promoting it, Frank Duffy, one of the founding members of DEGW (a major international consultancy involved in workplace design) and past president of the British architectural community’s professional body, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Duffy argues that buildings are ‘agents of change. Buildings have a catalytic effect. They can express new ideas and push new possibilities forward’ (Duffy 1996). One of the most startling organizational changes involves the removal of over seven miles of internal walls at the UK Treasury Department – literally dismantling the original ‘corridors of power’ to establish open-plan working spaces. Here the rationale was to open up the...
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