Monday, November 04, 2019

The Theatre of Work

The Theatre of Work
Clive Wilkinson
Frame Publishers, November 2019

Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 11 inches | 280 pages | English | ISBN: 978-9492311368 | $49.00

Publisher's Description:
Architect and writer Clive Wilkinson examines global developments in the workplace and proposes innovative principles for a design process that will bring the concept of ‘work as theatre’ to fruition.

The modern workplace has evolved to provide better technology and more amenities for employees, but what advances have been made in building truly creative communities that spark creativity and collaboration? Is the 21st century office performing at its peak?

The Theatre of Work proposes an evolution of the relationship between office users and the spaces they occupy. As work processes and community relationships evolve, new collaborative synergies within the workplace are created. The interplay between space and people offers a new kind of theatre where parallels with the archetypal theatre of the street and the marketplace occur. This emerging new workspace should amplify and celebrate the activity of work and of human community, and in the process, become vital and compelling theatre.

In defining this new office landscape, architect and writer Clive Wilkinson examines global developments in workplace thinking, historical antecedents, the performance touch-points for the new office, and proposes seven humanistic principles that will inform a holistic design process that can bring this concept of theatre to fruition. Each of these principles is demonstrated through case studies of the work of his renowned design studio, Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWa), with rich iconography, diagrammatic strategy and contextual ingenuity. The outcome of this process, with its multiple performative layers, effectively promotes elevating a corporate brief of basic needs and goals to a profoundly human-centered presentation of ‘work as theatre’.
dDAB Commentary:
Clive Wilkinson was in the right place at the right time. Having grown up in South Africa and worked in London in the 1980s, the architect moved to Los Angeles in 1990 after a short stint in Australia. Landing in LA, he started at Frank Gehry's office when the firm was working on the Chiat/Day building — the one with the giant binoculars at the entrance — and was responsible for the advertising firm's (now TBWA\Chiat\Day) offices inside. Wilkinson started his eponymous firm one year later, just when the country was getting out of a recession and therefore building offices. In Los Angeles, this meant renovating old industrial spaces into workplaces with a mix of open plans, enclosed offices, playful spaces, and lots of exposed structure. Although Wilkinson isn't single-handedly responsible for the popularity of these types of offices and their explosion into other global cities, he has certainly been one of the most creative architects focused on workplace design in the decades since.

The Theatre of Work is Wilkinson's way "to dive into the complexity with which we work," per his Preface, "and try to better understand what it is and where it is heading." He does this in the book's two parts: "How did we get here?," a history of work over the last few hundred years; and "Where are we going?," a presentation of fourteen Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWa) office designs in seven pairs joined by particular themes. In between is the Intermezzo, "What did we learn?," which captures how Wilkinson approached the book as a tool for discovery rather than simply a means of sharing stories. Although the first part is a bit long and will probably be skipped by people who just want to dive into the CWa projects, it illuminates how Wilkinson sees the interior work environment like a city, framed by Kevin Lynch's influential The Image of the City. In turn, such offices as TBWA\Chiat\Day (done a few years after the design at Gehry's office) were designed with well-articulated landmarks, nodes, paths, and so forth. Three of the offices I featured on this blog before it changed to books (Mother London, One Shelley Street, and Barbarian Group) are included in The Theatre of Work, presented with plans, sketches, and renderings on top of the usual photographs. All these years later, my favorite is still Mother London, where a path is turned into a communal desk that snakes around the office — an innovative design feature that helps spark innovation in Mother's employees. 

Author Bio:
Clive Wilkinson is an architect, designer, writer and strategist with expertise in the application of urban design thinking to interior design, specifically in workplace and educational communities. His practice, Clive Wilkinson Architects, was established in Los Angeles in 1991 and is an acknowledged global leader in workplace design.
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