Contract - March 2010 - (Page 68)

essay: on the past January 1989 phenomenon. Its foundations were laid down only a little more than 100 years ago, during the period of dramatic social, economic, and technological upheaval historian Arnold Toynbee characterized as the “industrial revolution.” As a result, the modern office is a product of a “mechanized” way of thinking about the relationships between labor, management, and machines. Perhaps even more significant, the form and function of the modern office is a product of a set of technological constraints—in particular, in the areas of communication and transportation—that existed in the 1800s and early 1900s but that no longer holds true today. Whether we are simply experiencing the rolling after-shocks of Toynbee’s revolution…or whether we are, indeed, in the midst of yet another and perhaps even more profound revolution…there is no question that we are experiencing an era of unprecedented social, economic and technological change. Thus, should we really expect that the white-collar workplace that will eventually emerge from what we might characterize (for lack of a better term) as the officing revolution will bear even a passing resemblance to its industrial predecessor? Of course, the logical follow-up question is a bit more difficult: If the office of tomorrow won’t look like the office of today, what will it look like? Technomania as the ‘magic bean’ In recent years, corporate America’s strategies to improve office productivity have been largely driven by management’s knowledge about the nature of the office and of office work—specifically, that the office is some kind of “information factory.” The result has been that management has come to view massive infusions of technology as the “magic bean” that will once and for all turn the nation’s white-collar productivity cow into a goose that lays golden eggs. What makes all of this even more interesting, of course, is the fact that, in spite of a decade or more of investment in new technology of all kinds, office productivity may well be getting worse rather than better. Robert Solow, serving as vice chairman of is the office really necessary? A visionary rethinks the way we work and offers insight on managing people and technology. By Duncan B. Sutherland Jr. here is a revolution brewing in the office—a revolution, which, as a totally unintended side effect, may well sound the death knell for the design profession as we know it today. The revolution doesn’t have anything to do with sophisticated computer-based local area networks, state-of-the-art systems furniture, or even “new approaches” to office layout. Rather, its seeds are sown in a much more fundamental question: do we even need offices at all? This may sound like a rhetorical (or even silly) question. After all, if we didn’t have offices, where T would we put millions of American office workers? What would we do with billions of square feet of existing office space? What would happen to the thousands upon thousands of people whose livelihood depends on the continuing existence of the office—from custodians to leasing agents? What would magazines like Contract find to write about? Perhaps most important, what would office designers design? As important as these questions might be to each of us as individuals, they ignore a basic point: the “modern office” is a relatively recent 68 contract march 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - March 2010

Contract 3/10
Editor’s Note
Essays from the Past:
The Contract Design Dilemma (May 1962)
Space Planning Symposium (July 1963)
Changes in Workplaces Reflect Changes in Task Structure (June 1970)
Women Need Feminine Desks (June 1970)
Name “Interior Designer” Is a Misnomer Because of Broader Duties (August 1970)
Research Reveals Proper Height, Width, Depth of Furniture, from Office Chairs to Library Tables (September 1970)
Astounding Technology Portends Drastic Office Changes in the ’80s (January 1980)
Is the Office Really Necessary? (January 1989)
If You Cut Your Fee, Do You Bleed? (June 1990)
Design: Retrospective
Essays on the Future:
More Happiness, Less Stuff: By Ray C. Anderson
The Social Aspect of Social Responsibility: By John Cary
Leading in the Global Market: By Ross Donaldson
Technology Trends: By Cathryn Barrett
Inadmissible Evidence: By Michael Berens
Designers Rate: Eight Designers Pick Their Favorite Three Commercial Interiors Products of the Last 50 Years
Ad Index

Contract - March 2010