New Office At the Building Centre, Store Street, London WC1, until 28 October 'New Office' is a show of missed opportunities. This is a shame, because office architecture is largely underserved by the mainstream design press, and there are countless new office projects under way in London.
Curated by New London Architecture (NLA), the exhibition only briey touches on some of the theoretical issues facing office designers, breaking them down into categories such as Technology, Location and Branding. But these themes aren't specific to workplace design, and their eeting mention has little bearing on the projects.
The show focuses primarily on changing technology, and specifically on the greater mobility offered by an increasingly wireless world.
The curators have included a usable public workspace, complete with office chairs, desks and wireless internet, to demonstrate the exibility of office environments. Herein the show sets up an internal contradiction: 'the office' may be becoming increasingly elastic as a spatial term, yet only traditional office structures are put in the exhibition.
In structure, focus and content, 'New Office' is a disappointingly underachieving relative of Paola Antonelli's 'Workspheres' exhibition at New York's MoMA in 2001.
'Workspheres' emphasised not only how technology transformed office architecture, but also how office architecture is unique in its balance of public and private, humanity and efficiency, and the need for complex infrastructure and spatial exibility.
NLA's exhibition tangentially expresses some of these issues in the projects section, which shows 25 recently completed Londonbased offices. Curiously, seven firms all have two or more designs included in this otherwise small show.
Several of the projects provide interesting examples of restructuring offices around egalitarianism and communication. In one such project, for the Mother advertising agency, Clive Wilkinson Architects has designed a communal racetrack-shaped table, in lieu of desks, to enable up to 200 employees to work side by side.
The Capital One building, by MCM Architecture, and AukettFitzroyRobinson's Sun Microsystems both contain systems in which employees can move easily throughout the office, to different desks and in different configurations on a project-by-project basis.
While modular and exible office design has been standard since the 1960s, when Robert Probst designed the Action Office for Herman Miller, the concept of freedom and mobility within the office could have potentially interesting implications for workers now.
It is such under-explored directions that mark the missed opportunities of 'New Office'.
The show suggests numerous points of theoretical departure that are left hanging, while its framework - those themes outlined at the beginning - is uninspiring. The free catalogue does little to compensate for an overall lack of clarity.