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22 November, 2007

Sic transit

Well, that's it.  Everything in my office, from the PC to the wastepaper bin to the cleaner trying to empty it (it was a joke, okay?) has been labelled for the removal men and I'm going home for the rest of the week.  Publications has left the building.

Remember the NOISY building work last September? The ground floor and half of the first floor were remodelled in that phase of the project; now it's our turn. This weekend we're moving to the far north-east of campus* for a year or so, whilst those departments which escaped the building work last time get to hear the rest of the first floor and all of the second being similarly remodelled.

It seems open-plan is back in fashion with those wishing to practice dynamic and visible management; that's the format to which we'll return. To be fair, multiple stages of consultation have resulted in an acceptable layout with a minimum of tantrums, and I've been promised a dark corner with my own window blind. We'll see – few plans survive contact with the pneumatic drill, and all that.
The fundamental premise of open-plan wasn't open to negotiation, unfortunately, though of those colleagues I'll be seeing far more of on a daily basis, and of those who got to extend their collaborative working opportunities (what fun!) in the earlier phase, I've yet to encounter one person in favour of abandoning individual offices (or open-plan within individual departments' offices, rather than multiple tangentially-related departments sharing a collective space).

It's all so dehumanising. A clear-desk policy was implemented downstairs when those departments moved into their new space, whereby the only items of paper permitted on desktops are those on which the drones staff members are actively working. There's also a (probably apocryphal) rumour that the cleaners are required to remove any posters from work spaces each morning – no more family photos, then.

I wonder if it's coincidental that the 'Personnel' department recently rebranded itself as 'Human Resources'. There's a dangerous semantic difference between 'persons employed' and 'expedients'.

*: To seriously old offices, which will in turn be remodelled once we've moved back out. The plaster around my 'new' door is visibly crumbling – never mind a hefty kick, a meaningful glance would probably break my door down.


open-plan's persistence as a meme is fascinating. every. single. research. into it has shown dramatic LOSSES of productivity in open-plan offices, along with general degradation of morale and of job satisfaction.

and yet, it just keeps on coming.

insane. literally.

Posted by Saltation at November 28, 2007 10:47 PM

must be something going around. check out this painful academic re-build

the comments are good, too. over and above the awesome human-friendliness of the old old MIT buildings described, i particularly like the guy's comparison with software and his pungent last para:

"I appreciate bold and new architectural designs that stretch the imagination and push engineering boundaries. But I also know crap when I see it."

Posted by Saltation at November 30, 2007 10:40 AM

Yeah, well, it's a Gehry building, isn't it?

I used to like his work (as an observer, anyway – I hadn't considered the occupants' point of view), but then I encountered Gaudí's.

I appreciate an architect with a desire (and ability) to design fixtures & furniture too: it's a good indicator that he/she has an understanding of function.

Posted by NRT at November 30, 2007 11:04 AM
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