The brain builds its sense of self from the people around us

The brain builds its sense of self from the people around us

We are highly sensitive to people around us. As infants, we observe our parents and teachers, and from them we learn how to walk, talk, read – and use smartphones. There seems to be no limit to the complexity of behaviour we can acquire from observational learning. More →

The office needs to take on the characteristics of the city. Despina Katsikakis IN conversation

The office needs to take on the characteristics of the city. Despina Katsikakis IN conversation

Despina Katsikakis, the new President of the BCO has been shaping the way we think about offices for four decades

One of the unintended consequences of the era of online meetings is a chance to gain an insight into people’s actual lives. So it is that as Despina Katsikakis and I are talking, she spots my whippet Luna wandering into shot in the background and lets out an exclamation. She too has a whippet by her feet. And as a result, this abnormal, formal situation becomes a lot more normal and relaxed.   More →

Canary in the coal mine: other business districts are watching what happens next for Canary Wharf

Canary in the coal mine: other business districts are watching what happens next for Canary Wharf

Already the symbol of a bygone era, Canary Wharf runs the risk of becoming a relic unless it reinvents itself. And others are watching The first casualties of the already cliched injunction to make offices worth the commute were always going to be the world’s most inaccessible business districts. In the UK the most high profile of these is Canary Wharf, 52 hectares of former wasteland in East London that became a financial powerhouse. Part of the regeneration of the area that began in the 1980s, it became synonymous with the era and with Margaret Thatcher and her reform of the financial services sector. This came to pass even though its most iconic structure One Canada Square was only completed in 1990, shortly after she had left office and shortly before its developer filed for bankruptcy. More →

Smart technology needs to start with people if it wants to get smarter

Smart technology needs to start with people if it wants to get smarter

A wood carving of a blank, slumped person sitting at a desk with a laptop to depict the dehumanization potential of smart technology“My engineering students had come to class with technology on their minds.” So says artist and design researcher Sara Hendren, author of What a Body Can Do: How we Meet the Built World. It’s a fascinating book in which she consciously pushes back against the prevailing narrative that so-called smart technology has a fix for every problem. As a professor teaching design for disability at Olin College of Engineering, Massachusetts, Hendren draws attention to the assumptions that drive normative behaviours to define what is a ‘problem’ in the first place. More →

Is the workplace experience shaped more by maintenance or by design?

Is the workplace experience shaped more by maintenance or by design?

The workplace experienceWhat has resilience got to do with the workplace experience? It is a word that has been used a lot recently as the great British public has demonstrated massive amounts of resilience in coping with Covid-19, fuel shortages, worries about food availability and a massive shift in how we work. So what is it? The dictionary gives two meanings: firstly the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, i.e. toughness. And then secondly, the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity – like nylon for example.   More →

Memories of the Office Age 

Memories of the Office Age 

memories of the office ageNo author uses the built environment like J G Ballard. In his 1975 novel High-Rise, the eponymous structure is both a way of isolating the group of people who live and compete inside it and a metaphor for their personal isolation and inner struggles. Over the course of three months, the building’s services begin to fail. The 2,000 people within, detached from external realities in the 40-storey building, confronted with their true selves and those of their neighbours, descend into selfishness and – ultimately – savagery.  More →

How routines and boredom can spark creativity

How routines and boredom can spark creativity

Every day, after a leisurely breakfast in bed and the opening of his post, Roald Dahl would wander down his garden to the grubby little hut crammed with personal paraphernalia he had created. There he would sharpen the six yellow pencils that were always by his side while he worked, settle into an armchair, put his feet up on an old suitcase filled with logs, place an American yellow legal pad of paper onto a makeshift board on his lap and work for two hours. More →

Why does colour psychology make so much difference to us?

Why does colour psychology make so much difference to us?

In 2013, two Australian academics set out to discover the answer to a deceptively simple question. Why is there such a thing as colour psychology, but not shape, line or texture psychology? The answers they come up with are complex, arcane and wide-ranging but they manage to sum them up to some extent in the conclusion to the paper they published. “No other visual attribute shares such diverse representations”, they wrote. “Study into shape, line, and texture hardly competes. For this reason, there are no proportion-shape-line-texture prediction agencies, and chromotherapy is not challenged by proportion-shape-line-texture therapies. Colour remains special and, given its rich and complex heritage, is likely to remain so.” More →

A brief history of the future of work

A brief history of the future of work

The future of work has always existed but never arrives. It is best seen as a way of thinking about current and emerging issues The past few years and our current predicaments should serves as a reminder of that tragic, unchangeable feature of the human condition, best expressed by Kierkegaard, that we are doomed to live our lives forwards but only understand them backwards. Retrospect is particularly important when we look back on sudden, large changes that knock us off our normal path. It’s important to remember this as we continue to grapple with the nature of the present and future of work in the wake of the pandemic. More →

All we are saying is give lease a chance

All we are saying is give lease a chance

The lease of office fit-out elements looks like a no-brainer for a number of reasons. But is the sector ready to embrace them?By their very nature, trends come and go. What we are now seeing with sustainable, responsible product and material sourcing goes way beyond trend or fad, of course, and in recent discussions we’ve had (and we’ve had quite a few) on the subject, the question of furniture as a service or a furniture lease model has arisen on a number of occasions. So often, in fact, that we decided we should look deeper into the subject, to ascertain its pros (and cons) and to decipher whether this is merely a hypothetical – certainly at any large scale – that the industry would like to adopt or is a very real here and now. More →

Urban design can make people less likely to use public spaces

Urban design can make people less likely to use public spaces

urban designUrban design campaigns are usually sold to local residents as a way to improve their daily lives. Design elements – from lighting systems to signs, benches, bollards, fountains and planters, and sometimes even surveillance equipment – are used to refurbish and embellish public spaces. Designers refer to these elements as “urban furniture”. And the projects they’re used in are usually aimed at increasing social interaction, heightening safety, improving accessibility and generally making life in the city better. More →

The constant craving to put numbers on working relationships

The constant craving to put numbers on working relationships

The answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything is not 42, as you may have been led to believe. It’s 1/137 (or near enough). This is the greatest of the two dozen or so universal constants. According to current thinking, without the physical and quantum relationships it describes, the universe as we know it could not exist. More →