I was listening to NPR last week and they interviewed a reporter from the Atlantic Magazine about an article she wrote entitled, “The Optimal Office”. It was a broad brush stroke on a topic I deal with daily: how to design an office space that maximizes productivity while keeping the size efficient. Privacy, lighting, noise and even caffeine play into an employee’s productivity. The reporter came to the conclusion that you can’t make everyone happy all the time. The Atlantic had another article entitled, “America’s Workers: Stressed Out, Overwhelmed, Totally Exhausted”. This article looks at what is driving the American overwork culture and can we change it. Apparently the writers at The Atlantic really need a sabbatical.
What fascinated me the most was a far more interesting and in-depth article by Paul Goldberger in the January 2014 issue of Vanity Fair. This link is an abbreviated version of the article. Mr. Goldberger explored the development of the new headquarters for Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon and how these technology companies are redefining the American workplace as well as the shifting relationships between the city and the suburbs. These are also the companies that developed the technologies and set the work trends that are causing the Atlantic writers’ nervous breakdowns.
The gist of the article is that these companies who are the thought leaders of tomorrow are taking a look outward. They are thinking about their work environment, their free time and now taking the time to design the work space that best reflects their culture instead of attempting to adapt a typical suburban office building. The tech companies need to develop a working environment that fosters creativity, collaboration and employee retention. It will be interesting to see how each of these giants tackles the project. The most renowned architects are engaged in designing these new corporate headquarters. Sir Norman Foster is designing the Apple headquarters which is a glass ring whose circumference curves for almost a mile (a.k.a The Spaceship). Facebook has hired Frank Gehry to design a headquarters that has a single room that will accommodate up to 10,000 workers beneath its rooftop gardens. These projects will generate new ideas in all areas of building materials, design, furniture design and layout, lighting and other environmental systems which will trickle down to all of us over the coming decade. I am excited to see what they come up with. Stay tuned.