Structuralist Office Case Study

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1.1 Origin of the office

The office has existed in one system or another throughout history as an administrative adjunct to the centralised power of the state. The Palazzo Uffizi in Florence of the Medici or the Bank of England are famous examples.
The first commercial offices came in the northern industrial cities of the United States in the late nineteenth Century. With the discovery of the telegraph and telephone, offices could be sited away from the home or factory and control could be retained over production and distribution to distant markets. New technologies such as electric lights, the typewriter and the use of calculating equipments allowed large amounts of information to be accumulated and processed faster and more efficiently
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The Dutch architect Herman Herzberger developed a kind of structuralist architecture influenced by the ethnic anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss.
Herzberger’s Centraal Beheer insurance company project — built in Apeldoorn, Holland in 1974 — is a type of ‘worker’s village’ designed so that the employees ‘would have the feeling of being part of a working community without being lost in the crowd’.
The building is a deep spatial matrix of concrete and blockwork organized on a tartan grid. Platforms divided by light wells enable light to filter down into the centre of the plan. The fragmentary quality of the materials and the repetitive nature of these small stands allowed them to be appropriated by small groups of 8-10 people who were encouraged to personalise and decorate the space. The company actively encouraged a sense of the family to enter the office and many employees actually brought quantities of furniture and members of their family from home into
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Although cubicles are repeatedly seen as being symbolic of work in a modern office situation due to their equality and blandness.

Pros: comparative degree of privacy
Cons: blocks sunshine, stability of working space

Steven Lisberger. Tron. 1982

1.6 casual office

“... at the same, businesses began to distinguish that white-collar work was more than pushing paper - it was pushing ideas ...”
Chrysanthe Broikos
The casual office is established by Silicon Valley software firms in the eighties, which boosts highly personalised workspaces suited to long hours spent programming. The ‘dress code’ of such an office befitted much more relaxed than a conventional office. As this tactic becomes more common, mainly in creative industries in 24 hours to enable more flexible working configurations. Clearly these offices are the backgrounds where design and creative thinking are evolving new ideas that can make the office a more motivating place.

Pros: activity based work spaces, flexible working environment
Cons: tough to control the work of employees

Barry Levinson. Disclosure. 1994

ChiatDay offices. Clive Wilkinson Architects. Los Angeles.
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