Duffy, F., & Powell, K. (1997). The new office.
Francis Duffy was born in 1940. He graduated from Princeton University with a degree of Ph.D. in Architecture and afterward practiced architecture design and consulting mainly in the UK. Hisdoctoralresearch at Princeton focused on mapping the relationship between organizational structureand office layouts. Francis Duffy was one of the founders of DEGW, the world's best-known workplace strategy consulting and research firm. He was the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) from 1993 to 1995.
Francis is one of the earliest specialists in workplace strategy. One of the book's primary goal was to broadcast the idea that office space design and arrangement are essential for supporting and stimulating business performance for organizations in the future. The author argued that there are two dimensions of improvement in the use of office for optimizing management – gain more efficiency and winning more effectiveness. According to Francis, gaining more efficiency means increasing density and driving down occupancy costs. Winning more effectiveness means using the space to improve the quality of work being done there, in other words, adding value to business performance. Twenty office case studies were introduced in this book. Most of them were new-built large corporation headquarters built after the 1990s which were designed by star architect offices. Francis’s company DEGW worked as programming consultant or interior designer for 3 of them.
The book explains why workplace strategy recently grows fast in the design profession. It is because the aspect of design that workplace strategy focuses on matches with organization's interest. Research methods that were used to study the impact of spatial arrangements on performance was another important topic. Francis embraced the idea that the impact of the office working environment on business performance need to be quantified, so that it could be properly valued by the business industry. He introduced the measurement techniques which includes building appraisal, workplace envisioning, time utilization studies, workplace performance survey (WPS) and Post-Occupancy Evaluation. For Francis, an intelligent understanding of what user needs are and how they develop is critical to reaching the goal of both efficiency and effectiveness.
Although user’s needs and preference is articulated in the book, the author stands at the organization’s position and holds a strong willingness to help maximize the organization’s profit through spatial intervention. The concept of efficiency was operationalized as how intensively space was used by office workers. The underlining assumption is that if space is underutilized, there may be a need to intensify the utilization by making the space smaller or changing it to serve other wanted functions. However, it is not difficult to find that efficiency is much easier to be observed and quantified than effectiveness. Very possibly, the result of time utilization study could be utilized as evidence to convert personal office layout to open-plan office layout, regardless of any consideration of effectiveness, as effectiveness sometimes is impossible to be measured. To my surprise, I find this concentration on space efficiency is like a backslide to Taylorism, which values the maximum use of every inch of the workplace space. Topics like workplace social justice between different culture, gender, age groups, the changes of demographics in the workforce, small business's workplace environment, the relationship between urban context and the workplace were not discussed in this book.
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