Saturday, February 9, 2008


I couldn't resist........................

A Case of the Monday's: A Case Study

Yes, that will be the title of my paper.

Here's the abstract:

" The organization and design of any office environment has a direct effect on the individuals that reside in that particular working establishment. An architectural design firm should be the ideal model of how a successful working environment should be assembled. We are, in fact, design professionals. This, however, is not the case with most design firms. A majority of firms fall into the common pitfalls of being an office where the main goal is to generate profits like an assembly line. One such office workplace is my current place of employment. This essay will delve into this working environment and explore the possibilities of creating a more ideal workplace. "

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sounds like you got a case of the Monday's (On a Wednesday)

So most of us are communicating through email and the blogs have gone almost dormant. I never used to blog, but now I have a voice on the internet and damit I am going to use it. So anyway, I realized just now that my paper has been done before, anybody see the movie Office Space? Classic movie, maybe I will watch as "research" for my paper. It is an non-encyclopedia source, is it not?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thoughts and Ideas

I would like to explore why there is a negative studio culture in my architectural office. Now don't get me wrong, people come into the office, day in day out, buildings get designed and constructed, the firm, monetarily, is doing well. There is something missing. The studio environment is bland. Complaints about "work" are high. Very few people actually want to be in the office. There is not many positive vibes in the office. Lack of energy and enthusiasm would adequately describe the office as well.
After visiting Cambridge 7 's office, the intangible became evident. How the office is organized/built (the built environment) effects the overall studio culture of the firm. To go further, the studio culture effects how people perceive going to work. To go even further, the studio culture and how people perceive going to work, effects the quality of output. (Output the services rendered to our consultants).
Why does this matter? The firm has set a goal to be a "destination" firm for the architectural profession, with an emphasis on young professionals. Several "programs" have been started to accomplish this goal. The studio atmosphere remains unchanged. A positive studio culture will improve moral in the firm. The moral will improve the quality of services rendered. More people will want to stay with the firm. More people will be attracted to the firm. So on and so forth. A continuous cycle will happen.
How will this materialize into a paper? Research paper to be exact.
1) Book research on office design. Several books have been written about the the changing office environment, including several on architects offices. This should give me a good baseline on what academia thinks is a good architects office design.
2) Take a cross section of offices from the cohort. Ask everyone to send in an office plan, picture of the office or the like. Also, ask across the board what they like don't like about their office. What is their culture like. Etc, Etc. A questionnaire of sorts.
3) A questionnaire for employees in my office. This should give me a good idea if what I have observed is true, or if I am crazy and just need to quit my job.
4) Possibly visit other architecture offices in my area to compare.
5) Observations in my office. One good one is to see where people eat. At their desk, conference room, out at a restaurant, etc.
The above should give me a basis for what are the problems within the office that negatively effect the studio culture. From this, I should be able to deduce a solution to fix the problem.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Riverside, IL

I left a comment on Herb's blog about Riverside, Illinois. I thought I post this image from Google Earth (great idea Tim!) to show the stark contrast of neighboring towns. Notice how the the town differs from the standard Chicago Grid when it comes to planning the streets.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

James Duncan article-Geographical Review

It is pretty amazing how the social landscape of a certain place can be traced back that far into history. Overall, I agree with Duncan's findings. The numbers speak for themselves. In comparison to Bickford's article, Duncan found that people tend to segregate themselves just as much as the built environment does. Although this town was zoned in a way that promoted segregation among social classes, the people in the town "raise flags" as signals to their neighbors. These flags psychologically let other people know who you align yourself with. The roots of segregation run so deep that, when "newcommers" or lower class individuals try to desegregate, it is met with stark opposition.
To compare both of the articles, I believe Duncan would counteract Bickford's thesis that the built environment is hostile to democratic involvement. It can be concluded from Duncan's findings that even if we were to create a vacuum where there is no built constraints, people would still self-segregate. This touches on two aspects of social behavior. People fear change and people fear what is different. People also get very defensive when forced to change or are forced to intact with the different.
I found interesting Duncan's assessment on how the Alpha social group didn't feel the need to display their wealth outwardly towards others. Since the Alpha group was old rich, they had much more subtle, but refined tastes. Whereas the Beta social group wanted to "see and be seen". This group was seen to be "new rich" and wanted everyone to know their good fortune. The term McMansion comes to mind. This term basically describes a lavishly designed house on a tiny lot. It is not uncommon to have these huge houses built almost on top of each other in subdivision. Purely a Beta common thread. It is fairly prevalent in the affluent suburbs of Chicago.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Architectural Politics DeConstructeD

Why use 23 pages to describe something that could have been written in 2 pages, double spaced with size 18 font (times new roman or arial, your choice).
On the surface, I agree with the basic idea that Ms. Susan Bickford set forth. Social and private spaces are constructed in ways such that democratic social interactions are very rare (last paragraph). This point is very evident even to a layperson that is not familiar with architecture or social sciences. However, the writer has the cause and effect reversed. It seems that she takes the stance that because the spaces constructed in a way that promotes segregation, it effects our daily interactions with other persons not of our "normal" social circle. Therefore, she logically concludes that if we construct spaces to force interaction, this will help to fix the problem. In my opinion, it is the opposite.
People have a preconceived notion of how spaces should be created (be it the client or architect). This prejudice then influences the final built space. Then, the problem of democratic interaction is acerbated because the outward reflection of the created space is either perceived as 'safe' or 'dangerous'. Thus further propagating the problem as a never ending cycle. A planner can design the most utopian space ever imagined but it still won't solve the democratic dilemma. The owner will require the benches to be "homeless proof" and to have controlled access into the building. The construction manager will value engineer the space so that an ugly facade is toward the "bad neighborhood" instead of beauty all around. The end user will forget that they told you to design a space one way, and use it in the exact opposite what was intended. Finally, the public within the space will find some way to ignore your best efforts at the utopia, and use the space as inegalitarian as possible. It's a loosing battle. You have to change people's perspective in order to change society. Something that is much harder to do then to simply create the space.
Shortly after this article was written, the Chicago Housing Authority started to a project to gentrify the City of Chicago. Albeit they wouldn't use that terminology. Without going into great detail, the city began it raze most of the low income and "project" housing in the city limits. Most notably the Robert Taylor Homes which could be seen off of the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94 to all the non-Chicagoans). The low income housing in the city was in shambles and something did need to be done. So the city consolidated a small number of citizens to other more suitable housing within the city limits. Most got displaced to the surrounding suburbs. In the place of the demolished projects, new "yuppie" housing was planned (aimed at upper-middle class and above). To legitimize this, the City of Chicago mandated a certain percentage of the new housing had to be " below market value and affordable". This was before the housing market took a dive recently. The affordable housing was very hard to acquire (scarcity) and not very affordable. It would be interesting to hear Bickford's take on this case study. The projects were a perfect example of her opinion of social inequity and the solution was in kind to the problem.
That was a bit of a long winded response to a long winded essay. I welcome all commentary (even though you are required to for the class) be it kind words or harsh critique.