Will the theatre of work change the parameters of office design?

A new book by Clive Wilkinson emphasises workplace parallels with the theatre of the street and the market while a new report from Nespresso also predicts a convergence with public space

The relationship between office users and the environments they occupy is evolving to the point at which there is now an interplay between people and space that offers a new kind of vital and compelling theatre with parallels to the ‘archetypal theatre of the street and the marketplace’.

That is the central message of a new book by architect Clive Wilkinson, one of the world’s leading workplace designers, to be to be published in November 2019 by Frame. Wilkinson’s award-winning practice has worked on projects for such leading tech companies and advertising agencies as Google, Microsoft, TBWA and Publicis.

Humanistic principles

The Theatre of Work looks at global developments in workplace thinking, historical antecedents, and performance touchpoints for the new office; it proposes seven humanistic principles that can bring Wilkinson’s concept of theatre to life. Each of these principles is demonstrated through case studies of the work of his design studio.

Clive Wilkinson believes that a sense of theatre and of play is essential to foster employee engagement and attachment. He explains: ‘If an office does not incorporate play in some form, it communicates that there is “no place for play” or in other words, no place for testing ideas.’

Rise of Work Malls

This theme of street theatre finds echoes in a new report, Workplace Futures, launched in October 2019 by The Future Laboratory and Nespresso Professional. This predicts the rise of a ‘communal workplace’ by 2030, imbued with civic purpose and ‘with human-centric design inspiring conviviality among an increasingly fluid, diverse and multi-generational workforce’.

In this scenario, the future workplace will both shape and sit in the wider civic realm as part of a mixed-use social landscape. Work Malls will replace redundant retail spaces with spaces for working, meeting and exhibiting that serve the broader community.

Office buildings were once sealed off from public life. But the street, it seems, is steadily coming closer.

The Theatre of Work by Clive Wilkinson is published By Frame (2019). Workplace Futures is produced by Nespresso Professional with The Future Laboratory (2019).
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