Something Rotten In The State Of Our Offices

By M@ Last edited 160 months ago
Something Rotten In The State Of Our Offices

City Hall is falling down. Not literally. No, the glass and steel shell remains largely uncompromised, bar the occasional shattered panel. The problems are within, where too many staff are being squeezed into too little space, where meeting rooms are ‘dungeon-like’ and the internal atmosphere is described as ‘vile’.

All this from an old Evening Standard report, so we have to exercise a certain amount of scepticism.

But having toured the glass testicle ourselves, we can well imagine that working conditions there are all-too-similar to clone-me office spaces all over London. Once you look past the giant spiral eye-candy at the heart of the building, the cluttered desks and cabinets could easily belong to the world of David Brent.

Jonathan Glancey, prolific architectural commentator, spells out all the things that are wrong with the modern, identikit office space in an excellent opinion piece from last Saturday’s Guardian.

Does the following sound familiar?

I bet, no one has remembered to water the dusty cheese plant by the photocopier with the "toner low" sign on, tucked into that airless corner of the office by the dirty sink. And the emergency exit sign.

Sounds very, very familiar to us, although we’re not sure why you’d want to water the emergency exit sign.

Glancey is always an interesting read – Londonist’s copy of his Dorling Kindersley guide to architecture is well-thumbed, more for the quality of the writing than that publisher’s trademark ocean of illustrations.

In his Guardian article, Glancey calls for a revolution in office design.

“Instead of a dumb, or cynical, office comprising vast open-plan floors, sealed windows, suspended ceilings, acres of stinking carpet tiles, a dodgy air-conditioning system, windowless lavatories and door handles charged with static electricity, we might ask for offices gathered around open courtyards.”

More light, more space, windows that open. That’s the ticket.

Londonist was also privileged enough to take a tour of the Gherkin a while back. Glancey doesn’t mention this groundbreaking tower in his article, which is a pity as it seems to fit most of the criteria he seeks. The floor plates are designed so that every desk is bathed in sunlight. There’s plenty of room in there, considering the building is only partially filled. And, while the windows can’t be opened by staff, they are inclined to fall away every now and then.

So, what’s the worst thing about your office? And what novel ideas do you have for improving the office space. We’d like to know. We’d REALLY like to know, before we force open a window through the expedient of flinging our bull-whipping Editro through one.

Last Updated 18 November 2005