Allison Arieff on design ‘beyond the cubicle’

Over cocktails, an old-school literary agent told me that either an editor “gets your work” or she doesn’t. It was the best description of intellectual sympathy, of shared understanding, of common purpose that I’d heard since moving to New York 2 years ago.

So when I read Allison Arieff”s “Beyond the Cubicle” yesterday, I saw immediately that she gets it. She gets that design can’t start from old assumptions concerning the separation of work life from home life, thinking from playing, the work day from the weekend, making from resting. Instead, genuine design must begin from philosophical considerations: What is work? What is the workplace? What does it mean to work in common? How does work integrate different facets of our being? And so on.

Our spaces of work must not only reflect our mental life but inspire our creative potency in an endless feedback loop of physical surrounding, intellectual activity, necessary reprieve, and leisurely strolling.

Arieff concludes,

[H]ow can the workplace evolve to respond to the contemporary realities of work culture?

The [Wall Street] Journal is right that good design can inspire creativity and great ideas, but I’d argue that the focus should be less on floor plans and more on ways of working. When’s the last time you had a creative breakthrough in a Monday morning meeting? Creativity springs from unexpected places and sources — from a walk in the park to the rare block of uninterrupted time — so thinking more broadly about the intrinsic motivations (autonomy, learning, etc.) that facilitate good work is likely to have a far happier outcome than the “latest” innovation in cubicles.

Definitely gets it.

Further Reading

Andrew Taggart, “The Life Need of Philosophy”

—. “Rules of Thumb for Starting a Way of Life Business.” (See especially Example 2.)

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