Edited by Chris Bilton and Stephen Cummings
Chapter 15: Fun-parks or parkour? The ambiguities and paradox of planning pro-creative office design
Over the past century open office design has taken a number of forms, of which the open-plan office and office landscaping may be the most well known. The open-plan office, which traditionally was adopted in work environments housing white-collar workers such as typists and book-keeping assistants, lines up workstations to expose individuals to supervision (Hofbauer 2000). Conversely, office landscaping is less linear, more informal, and organises employees in circles and groups to facilitate communication and interaction. Nevertheless, it often organises workstations to make different groups easily recognisable, and employs principles of distance and visibility to inscribe differentials in status and authority between employees at different hierarchical levels (ibid.). While dividing walls and doors and private offices are at odds with any school of open office design, both the open-plan office and office landscaping are underpinned by a formal definition of office space, its use and purpose. But in recent years organisations have started to adopt distinctive forms of office design that give a new edge to openness in the workplace. By removing spatial and social structures by design, these approaches are typically intended to increase performance by fostering openness, spontaneous interaction and learning: like a fun-park. And, as such, many have associated this new way of organising with increased creativity. Many trace the beginnings of this workplace architectural revolution to the invention of Apple Computers.
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