Working in a ‘non-place place’ can’t deliver inspirations and aspirations. Ideas need infections, not Clinical Isolation Units.
Marc Auge is a French Anthropologist that coined the term ‘non-places’, to describe spaces of little or no significance, of ‘transitory nature’ such as hotel rooms, or supermarkets, or airports. (Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity 2007, 2009). These ‘non-place places’ deserve an analysis of their own.
I sometimes feel that some organizations work on non-place mode. The environment is sterile and the all-glass offices have simply replaced the all-panel offices for another material whilst keeping the border close (but gaining in luminosity). In a non-place-company-place there is little room for associabilty, or the associabilty is forced into spaces where the only thing missing is a sign hanging from the ceiling: ‘you must be sociable here’. Examples are the solitary corner with a small table football, the awkward table tennis table surrounded by sofas, the open plan seating area with a whispering TV screen. Be here and do that: play, rest, eat (or eat, play, love).
Some company offices are closer to pre-operating rooms in hospitals than a work place. As an external observer, I often feel the pain or migrating from a ‘you work here’ to a ‘you play here’ area passing by a ‘you get your coffee here’ corner.
Some modern facilities with pristine space and tons of glass are modern prisons of ideas, non-places of undistinguished clinical interaction, that far from inviting human interfaces, discourages natural communications: silence is heard, faces are hidden behind transparent screens, meetings are orderly conducted behind the borders of fish bowls. Only the toilets provide some space for liberation, even if segregated.
Don’t trade off an old, messy, inconvenient and cramped place for a pristine, delux, glass cathedral non place.
In a non-place office even the receptionist’s ephemeral smile reminds you that you enter into a carefully designed world, a sort of Japanese garden of ideas, where humanity has been hijacked until the 5pm rush to the car park.