There's no more iconic archetype of modern office design than Google's massive, four-building complex in Mountain View, California known to all as the Googleplex. It's sprawling, but whimsical. A post-office-park rendition of an office park, only with scooters and free Cheerios.
Poke fun all you like, but in 1998 the Googleplex blazed a trail for a slightly dreamier workplace. Architect Clive Wilkinson created not just mixed-use space, but also seating arrangements for small groups of employees who worked together frequently--say in groups of of three or four--and huddled them together, encasing the area with minimalist glass screens to serve as a noise buffer.
Wilkinson is the head of his own firm, Clive Wilkinson Architects, which for years has stayed consistently ahead of the pack when it comes to innovative office design. (His work is a mainstay for Inc.'s annual World's Coolest Offices awards.) His firm's work includes Macquarie's Sydney HQ at One Shelley Street, Pallotta Teamworks in Los Angeles, and, recently, the "superdesk" used at the New York offices of marketing agency Barbarian Group.
But enough with his past laurels. This month in New York City, Wilkinson has finished up a project he says is channeling the future. "This is like looking at 2030, but it's now," Wilkinson says, of the recently completed office of corporate-education firm Gerson Lehrman Group in Midtown Manhattan.
The theme he built GLG's workspace around is one he's dubbed "activity-based working." It's a philosophy of the modern, productive, energy-efficient workplace that Wilkinson has built over the years, and one that's evolved along with the way employees interact with technology, and with their office.
Increasingly, as workers become dependent on only a highly portable computer, the traditional notion of the cubicle, or the executive office, seems unnecessary, Wilkinson says. Yes, that's right: Both the cubicle and the individual office may be a thing of the past. Or at least that's true if this influential architect has it right.