Photo essay volume on office architecture: co-working business solutions – taz.de
A photo book by Florian Idenburg, LeeAnn Suen and Iwan Baan shows how creative US office architecture can be.
Apparently, you don’t want to be completely without an office these days either. Many employers ordered their employees back to work in the company as soon as the corona situation permitted it by law; at least on certain days, at least at certain quotas. And among them are a surprising number of the big, hip tech companies from the United States that had long and ostensibly committed to abolishing work as we know it. Even today, companies do not want to hand over the design of the workplace entirely to their employees.
A book from Taschen Verlag has now gotten into this post-pandemic situation. Its cover photo of a cozy workplace complete with a coffee mug and an umbrella lamp in front of a huge mountain peak and snow panorama draws the eye. “The Office of Good Intentions. Human(s) Work” by Florian Idenburg and LeeAnn Suen, with Photographs by Iwan Baan, explores the architectural environments employers have created for their employees in the United States over the past 60 years.
These include an advertising agency, a biology institute, large commercial buildings, a digital production studio, government office buildings, but also gigantic commercial building complexes such as the monumental concrete and mirrored glass pyramids of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates’ College Life Insurance Company Headquarters in Indianapolis.
In the middle of the desert
And last but not least, the famous Arcosanti complex, only partially completed to this day. Starting in 1970, the architect Paolo Soleri sought to combine communal living and working with this building in the middle of the Arizona desert in his visionary and idiosyncratic arcology (architecture and ecology).
Baan’s photographs of these architectures for the work are forays into essays. Sometimes they focus on trivial matters, sometimes they focus on the big picture, but without claiming the authority to interpret the photographed workplaces.
Whispering employees who think they are not being watched for a moment in the endless nothingness of a white meeting room. An office Shiba Inu who’s curled up on the floor. Quite a number of office dogs, in particular – of course – in the Californian advertising agency. As in the rooms designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects, the Californian architecture firm has made “Building Creative Communities” its company motto.
Probably stimulating associations
Baan shows canteens and open-plan offices whose subtle Christmas decorations provide an indication of when the photo was taken. Deserted storage rooms, office plants, film posters, small people in grotesquely oversized halls: they are supposed to provide the workers here, with basketball hoops hanging above them like the sword of Damocles, with stimulating associations of the factory loft.
The official office equipment is promising. Idenburg and Suen bring out archive footage of long-forgotten ergonomic office props called “Antron III” or “Ultronic 9000”. Close-ups show current office equipment from gaming chairs, workout computers, zero gravity workstations or, more mundanely, the support pillow for the afternoon nap at the desk.
Through this thicket of desk knick-knacks and often grandiose buildings like those of Marcel BreuerIM Pei or Paul Rudolph the authors are now cutting their essayistic paths. Sometimes they provide the history of the punch card, sometimes a historical classification of the inspiration – a momentum that is the stated goal of many office environments to bring about.
Influencers from the nursery
It goes without saying that the change in the workplace itself also plays a role in the book. In addition to the self-selected or arranged home office, the authors also dedicate individual articles to the work situation of influencers, who have already become highly paid entrepreneurs in their own right from their childhood.
The small-format book impresses with its associative, knowledgeable exploration of the office as a place of modern work. It appears as decidedly contemporary as it is frayed. Consistent perforation of the pages, as known from old fax and printer paper, may serve as a reminder that not everything that imposes hip slogans in the office world presented here is new.
How the ideas of the past continue to have an effect in the workplace of today in their visible forms – their buildings, canteens, meeting rooms, their hardware and software, in the office furniture and the recording of working hours.