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Clive Wilkinson

More than striving for formal beauty, Clive Wilkinson of Clive Wilkinson Architects, Los Angeles, wants his designs to contribute to the health of the company environment. This is not something that arises of its own accord, in his opinion, but has to be attained by means that include workplace design.

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Clive Wilkinson

In his office, sitting on a canary-yellow chair, he described how designing a workplace differs from other commissions. “Compared to other kinds of community, such as a family or a school, a company has to pay strict attention to its internal dynamic. Large organizations, in particular, can falter when the people who work there are insufficiently engaged with the wider process. So the challenge of designing a workplace is not to produce a seductive architecture, but to create a situation that generates a more intense bonding within the corporate community. The question is then how can design stimulate a community to become more healthy, vigorous, productive, satisfied and engaged with the corporate mission.”

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Barbarian Group

If a small company is like an extended family, how would you characterize a large one

“In the past, companies were organized in a way that came close to military organizations. These days, the dynamics of a large company are more like those of a village or neighbourhood. Our idea is to apply urban design thinking to the workplace, so that it will have an interesting, legible and transparent structure. The architect Terry Farrell, my former boss in London, used to say that urban designers and interior designers share the same field. Architects focus on creating boxes and enclosures, but interior designers are concerned with how people use places and what makes a community work.”

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Due to the internet, the boundaries between communities tend to be less distinct than they were. Do architects and interior designers have to make more effort to stimulate employees to form connections and to engage more closely with the community, compared for instance to a few decades ago?

“Yes, I think so. We did the interior of the global headquarters of GLG [Gerson Lehrman Group, a globally operating consultancy network, ed.] in New York City. The employees went from a conventional workplace to an Activity Based Working environment - a concept that was developed in the Netherlands. It recognizes desirable options for how people connect to one another, and gives them plenty of choice about where and how to work. It’s quite phenomenal how much they are energized and engaged emotionally. Employees become...”

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Macquarie Group Ropemaker