Starting without furniture
How embedded in our thinking about the settings for work are the conventional artifacts that we use today? Would people be able to conceive work settings and working environments without those components?
I periodically wonder how people might shape a workspace if they began the design without furniture.
If their design project started at the architecture, the surfaces around them, where would they placed their attention, what would they value most?
How would the volume of the space matter? Would they put ceilings in, or take them out? What lighting would they choose? Would it be uniform throughout the space, or would they choose to illuminate different areas in different ways?
What flooring would they choose? Would they leave that concrete uncovered, or would they put other surfaces on top of it? What other materials would they consider to be appropriate for the workspace? What walls would they erect, if any? What would they place near windows?
Would they think first about individual work tasks or would they consider the interactions between and among themselves and design for that, first?
If there were yet no places to sit, in what ways would they think of arranging and accommodating their work? Would many individuals find their own unique ways of working? Or would we find that many follow a leader and do similar things in similar ways?
If after all that and it finally came time to insert things into the space would they consider a table and chair as essential components of the workspace? If those fundamental elements weren’t available, how would people choose to approach their work? Would they place a 30" x 60” horizontal platform 30” above the floor to put papers on? Would they pull partitions around themselves?
If we did this project in the near future, and large high quality digital display screens were available accommodating voice input and gestural interactions, will they choose other objects to augment their work at those devices?
And after designing their own space in this way, at what time will they arrive? At what time will they leave? Will the products of their work be any different than they might have been utilizing conventional ways of designing the workspace?
What about you? If you were to walk into an empty space and begin to select finishes, furniture and equipment that you thought would be most effective for doing your work, would it include the things in your workspace now?
Look around your workspace. What things are in it that you take for granted but that actually no longer have real value for you and your work? What things are in your workspace that are important but that you could do with less of? What things are there that are really good and that you think you should have more of? What is missing in your workspace that hasn’t been invented yet but would be good to have?