Blog archive June 2024

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21.06.24 / 01 / burolandschaft

Just to illustrate the crazy freedom of 1960s-70s burolandschaft (see the first image here).

Armstrong ceiling ad 1977Scottish Widows burolandschaft 1976Osram burolandschaft 1963Osram burolandschaft 1963Osram burolandschaft 1963

The apparent chaos was tuned for efficient communication and workflow. Desks were turned so that workers did not face one another (no monitors to hide behind in those days). Obvious hierarchies were abolished, even managers sat in the open office (maybe with a meeting table and more screens). Sight lines were restricted by screens and plants to avoid the sense of being adrift in a huge space.

One innovation was the constantly available teapoint and breakout space. It now seems odd that such a thing had to be invented, but previously refreshments had been delivered to desks on trolleys (easier when everything was in straight lines) or workers went to a canteen at set break times. The inventors of burolandschaft recognised that informal breaks enhanced productivity.

Buildings designed for burolandschaft had very deep plans with minimal obstructions, uniform carpets and uniform lighting, so that anything could be anywhere in any arrangement and moved any time. This had downsides. People spent all day deep in artificial light and artificial air, barely able to see outside. The combination of chaotic layout and uniform background was disorientating. Circulation routes were vague and shifting. Without stable and defined primary circulation, how to sign and light fire escape routes? How to sign where workgroups and departments are?

Reactions varied. In Germany workers' councils rejected the open office in favour of cellular workgroup rooms. In the US the Action Office furniture system was intended to enable a version of burolandschaft, but was perverted into the horrors of the cube farm. In Britain there was a reaction towards shallower plans which gave occupants views out, and more architectural articulation to break the monotony and discipline the work groups. This was soon overtaken by a demand for deep open offices for financial services, with densely packed rows of desks tied to underfloor power and data grids. The plants and irregularity went and have only recently returned.

11.06.24 / 01 / workplace evolution

The points under 'simplicity' in notes on sustainability led to some drawings. It's interesting how workplace layouts are moving towards the freedom of 50 years ago as we uncouple from the underfloor power and data grid and the tyranny of the desk.

05.06.24 / 01 / rediscovered records

I found some records in a wardrobe at my mother's house, hidden under a heap of scarves. I thought they were lost long ago. I must have left them behind when I left home in 1984, they got put in the cupboard... and somehow not noticed for 40 years! It's good to have them back. Of course it's unnecessary to actually play them nowadays...

rediscovered New Wave recordsElvis Costello This Years Model 1978Elvis Costello This Years Model 1978Elvis Costello Armed Forces 1979Elvis Costello Get Happy 1980The Specials 1979Ultravox Vienna 1981Japan Tin Drum 1981

'This Year's Model' is the first UK edition with the 'manufacturing error' sleeve, which sadly was 'corrected' for all subsequent issues. 'Get Happy!!', also a first issue, has the track listings the wrong way round on the rear sleeve, and a poster. All the Costellos have the original picture inner sleeves. The genius of Barney Bubbles. More images here.

Ultravox 'Vienna', oddly, is a Swedish pressing with an inner sleeve advertising Swedish records (not ABBA!).

02.06.24 / 01 / a personal manifesto from 2002

While digging through obscurely named files on a backup drive I found a personal manifesto from early 2002 detailing what I wanted to achieve in 'church futures'. I was seeking funding to do the projects as full-time employment - I thought that I could make a significant impact in about five years if so. Unfortunately no money was forthcoming so these things had to remain as spare-time occupations, and consequently be difficult to do and take much longer. In particular my involvement with Ship of Fools had to end - travelling the country reporting on alt worship and co-hosting a discussion board into the small hours every night were not compatible with a long-hours job in architecture.

I see that I knew what I wanted to do from the start. Some of it has been achieved, some things died, some things remain to be done (like turning this site into a book!).

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