The Best Things about my Future New Office

February 24, 2014 — 35 Comments

I am counting down the days to when we expect to move out of our current office and into our new one. There was the office at my last job – [An Architect’s Office] – which shows how I laid that office out. We had a lot more space then we might have needed but since my name wasn’t on the door and the rent didn’t come out of my pocket, I am going to admit that I didn’t worry about those sorts of things.

It was a sad day in June 2013 when I moved out of my private office [Moving Memories] but there were bigger and greater things ahead, I couldn’t be bothered with a private office … I am a man of the people!! So in I moved to an office built for 4 people which is currently housing 8 … you could say that we’ve experienced some growth. It’s been a while since I’ve experienced an open plan office [Architectural Office: Open Plan] and there have been some moments of discovery along the way.

Let’s start with a look at our current office:

architects open office

We have 6 people in 218 square feet of space … which I know in some countries would accommodate a family of 12 but since I don’t live or work in one of those countries, I find it a bit challenging to sit at my computer and open a roll of drawings. There is a daily ballet of people coordinating moves as they move through the studio, carefully coordinating the rolling in and out of chairs. In all fairness, this space was only intended for 4 people and our growth has created the density our current studio enjoys.

architects office entry

This is what you call our “multi-purpose” space. We have printers and scanners, models (and more models), flat files full of drawings – this is a working space and we need all of it.

an architects conference room 02

an architects conference room 01

This is the conference room, which also doubles as Michael’s office. Once person #5 showed up in the studio, Michael relocated into this room. He gets the same desk against the window that Audrey and I have except now he has to deal with sitting through other people’s meetings. Since he is out of the office so frequently it hasn’t been challenge but let’s just say I check his travel schedule before scheduling my meetings.

This space is now 5 years old and the firm has simply outgrown it. We have been making it work because we generally love the location – at least, I know I do. I only live 2.3 miles from where I work and the commute is pretty easy. But with the passage of time, all things must change and the time is drawing near when we will relocate into our new office. (which is still only about 5 miles from where I live #winning)

Bob Borson Instagram Nov 26 2013

I think it’s par for the course that architects spend the least amount of time working on their own projects [Working on your own house sucks] and this project was no different. Our new office is still not particularly large – it’s 1,677 square feet which compared to our current sardine sized office will seem so much larger that it’s almost tacky. We went about designing this office only considering how it will work for our needs – how to make it cool will come later.

Transparency breeds Collaboration
A recurring theme on my site is transparency – I will tell almost anybody anything when it comes to all things “Bob”. I’m substantially more guarded when it comes to other people’s information but there is a synergy that is created when everybody has a voice and gets to chime in with a thought or observation about a process or design. In our office, the people here collaborate at a level that I have never seen before in 20+ years of working. I have been wondering if this is just the mixture of people in place or is there something in the water. When everything is open for discussion and opportunities for involvement are as close as the person sitting next to you, people tend to get together and synergies are created. For that reason, we are still going to use the open office plan and I am going to sit in the thick of things.

[click floor plan for a larger view]

Life of an Architect New Office1  My Desk
My role in this office has evolved into an interesting combination of manager, friend, quality control, designer, karaoke superstar, and “how do I …” question responder. While filling out my time sheet has become an endless run of 5 minute entries, I have my finger pretty much on the pulse of everything that is going on – and coming out – of the office.

2  The Studio
We are going with a fancy pants furniture benching system. No partitions or panels separating worker bee #1 from worker bee #2, and considering how often the people in our office collaborate with one another, this is a very good thing. Plus it makes it easier for me to shoot them with a rubber band from my superior tactical position in the corner.

3  The “Monster Model”
We have the largest model ever built [Architectural Modelsand this is where it will live … at least until we need two more workstations. We will have highly functional work space to accommodate up to 15 people should things develop in that manner, a fact that is both awesome and terrifying to me at the same time.

4  Lobby/Seating/Conference #2
This is our new “multi-purpose” space – they are all the rage in designer offices. We get our fair share of vendors who swing by the office so this is an area where we can accommodate them should there be a meeting in the main conference room. I would also imagine that this will be where people will gather for coffee:o’clock, lunch (which we’ll cover in more detail once we get down to #11) and our highly competitive Beer:30 quarters matches (don’t even act like you don’t have those.)

5  Entry
Our office will be on the second floor of a retail development and as a result, there are certain standards we are working with (around) … like the storefront mullion pattern and location of the entry door.

6  Bookshelves + Model Display
All architectural offices have the equivalent of 3 shipping containers full of books and we are no different. Most of the pretty architectural books will be in the office (#8) but we’ll keep trade books, code manuals, and periodicals in this area. On top of this 18′ long bookshelf will be were our “non-monster” models will be placed. I don’t know what to tell you, everybody likes models … they are irresistible to all walks of life. Whenever people see one of our scale models, they are drawn to them like a structural engineer to a calculator.

7  Conference Room
Pretty self-explanatory – we need one and this is it. We will eventually have tack boards [The Architect’s Tack Board], magnet walls galore, etc. There will be a lot of presentations that happen in this space and we are going to need a place to pin up.

8  Private Office
This is the only private office in our space and it’s where Michael will sit … he’s earned it. The truth is, he’s either gone or on the phone 97% of the time and nobody wants to sit next to someone who’s constantly on the phone … I’m pretty sure that’s how I got my private office in my last office.

9  Break Room / Copy
Copy room is what this space is but … whatever. This is really about having a break room, a luxury that most people might take for granted. Our current office has a dorm-sized fridge but that’s it – no microwave, sink, counter, or joy. The glass half-full guy would also say that we don’t have stinky reheated food smells wafting through our office either … which considering the lack of dietary restrictions demonstrated by our staff is probably a good thing. But I don’t care, bring on the real break room and full sized refrigerator! (but if you’re going to be eating a lot of egg salad sandwiches … don’t.)

10  I.T. Closet
We currently keep the our server on a rack in the corner of the office between two work stations. There are cords, cables and equipment all over the place and at least 3 times a day I worry about someone shifting in their seat and kicking some wire loose. It’s at this moment when there would be a sizzle/crackle sound just as the overhead lights flickered, a loud *POP* followed instantly by a barrage of horrified expletives, eroding into me balling up under my desk and weeping. I love you future new I.T. closet.

11  The “Coffee Bar”
When I laid this space out, it was really important to everyone that we create a counter, sink and fridge – the proverbial coffee bar [Architects and Coffee]. Out of all the things our new office space will make available to us, this 8 foot stretch of real estate probably is the thing that excites most people. We typically eat out now – there’s only so many cold leftovers people feel like eating – and now we have a place to accommodate this significant change in office culture.

12  Toilet Room
Without being too crude, I am so happy we will soon have our own restrooms. This is my preferred toilet room layout for obvious reasons [Modern Toilet Room] but that’s not why I am so excited about having toilet rooms. I like the idea that … you know what? In a rare moment of restraint, I think I’ll keep it to myself.

So yes, I am marking off the days the calendar until we move into our new office.


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  • Bffnnn

    Are the U shaped desks going to work? One of your requirements was room to layout drawings and blueprints. Do you have room for laying out prints in the desk pattern? U shaped desks (and kitchens) lose a lot of space in the corner. In my open offices we have linear desks. Why didn’t you go for a linear desk layout? For example two rows of desks along the walls, and a row of common use tables between to collaborate.

    Also with all the glass at the entry, that would have been a great place to show models. I’ve seen lots of firms that place models along the entry wall.

    Finally, the location of the toilet room seems problematic for clients. You’ll have to keep the whole kitchen area neat for client visits.

    • Of course U-Shaped desks will work – if you think linear desks will work, I don’t understand how a U-shaped desks wouldn’t. Each person gets at a minimum an L-shape (part of which would include a linear desk). We have a linear desk layout currently and it sucks. Being able to lay your drawings out side-adjacent to the computer you will be facing is ideal.

      The toilet location is exactly where it needs to be an in office like this (which is tightly configured). I don’t want it out in the open and we will keep the kitchen neat for our purposes, not for our clients.

      Take a closer look at the floor plan sketch – in the front corner of the entry is a 12′ x 6′ display area dedicated to models.

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  • Vinnie

    look at all that desk space! i’m so jealous 🙁

  • John

    Sorry to beat a dead horse Bob, but I wonder about the toilets too. Are you req’d to have facilities for both sexes? If the copy and break area can’t be adjusted, can you reduce the number of toilets to a single unisex, considering that only 6 people work in the office and that there are additional facilities outside the tenant space when the suite bathroom is occupied?

    • John

      (I meant 8)

      • There is nothing left of that dead horse.

        There was not an option to do a single toilet room and there no facilities outside our space (not unless you count the gas station on the adjacent lot … which I do not)

  • Wow. I could never work that closely with other people. You’re amazing.

    • Ha! I don’t know about “amazing”, the closest person is still about 9′ to 12′ away. Besides, I like talking to people 🙂

  • Chad

    Bob you realize that with an open line of sight to your targets, er office mates they’ll also have a clear LOS to you for return fire. Best implement a ban of Nerf guns in the office less you get caught in a nasty cross fire.

    • In previous offices, my pinned down position would have been an issue. These days, nobody but me really knows how to properly shoot a rubber band so the threat is minimal … they all fear my retaliation (as they should)

      • Chad

        I pity your minions, er co-conspirators, uhm team mates.

  • AlmostJane

    Great move keeping your people together in one OPEN space. Made me think of an optional seminar in classroom design I attended during my undergraduate student teaching semester. Biggest take-away? Children work better together, learn more and LEARN FROM EACH OTHER when grouped at ROUND tables. Basically, at a round table, everyone can see & hear everyone else – “feels equal” – and feels comfortable contributing. Looking back now, I can’t believe I needed to be told that. Since my classroom days, I’ve worked in other environments [private office for each staffer, the proverbial “cube farms” and breezy communal spaces]. And hands-down the best ideas, solutions and [most importantly] relationships occurred in the communal offices.

    • It does seem somewhat obvious when you think about it. There are some studies going around that argue against the open office, that the collective noise of the space is distracting and keeps people from focusing. I do think there is some merit in that line of thinking – however – we won’t have so many people over there that the room noise would be intolerable. Heck, we’ve got that many people in a space 1/3rd that size now and the noise level is manageable for 90% of the time.

  • Mikheil

    Bob, How come, you open the door and see toilet? Please switch toilet and vanity locations.

    • for reasons described below (look at one of the very first comments)

  • You may want to reconsider your tactical situation vis a vis the next rubber band war. It seems you are trapped at the end of the systems furniture. Perhaps a trap door under your desk that allows access to the IT closet is needed? It must be fun to design your own office space ahead of time.

    • You would think it fun – and I’m not trying to complain – but I think I spent the entire part of an hour working through this plan. I have no doubt that my time spent in this space will be parts joy and disappointment over lost opportunities.

      I think that’s why we’ll be playing Beer:30 quarters matches

  • Brenda

    The toilet rooms – let me guess, you’re excited that there’s A) two of them instead of everyone sharing one and B) it’s not right off your work space, it’s tucked away in a more private area.
    Our toilet room is right off the main entry vestibule, which is also adjacent to the conference rooms. Several times I’ve walked out and some guest was right there by the front door – talk about a “hello!” moment!!
    Toilet rooms need privacy – there should always be a place where one can feel like they have a small area to compose themselves when they leave.
    One of the most uncomfortable spaces is saw was a spec home with a guest powder room right off the main living room. We were there for a party and I had to really go – I just held it. I didn’t want to use a bathroom that felt like it was right in the middle of everything!!

    • You are spot on with all your reasons but one of the things I am most encouraged about is that I will be leaving behind the communal facilities in my current office. We share a restroom with every other office on our floor – and some people journey up or down a floor to use our restroom. It can be so heinous in there at times that management felt the need to put a letter up on the inside of the stall doors that included this phrase:

      “This is a shared facility, please show your courtesy to others by flushing the toilet.”

      The fact that you would even need to ask such a thing is stunning.

  • Ann

    I have worked in two offices with the studio desks in this arrangement. One completely open, which was nice to see what everyone was up to, and who was coming and going. More of a “team” environment. The 2nd we had 4-foot wood partitions which helped for phone conversations or when you want to tune out the office noise, but promoted gossiping. Honestly, I prefer the open “team” environment as it promotes a “we are all in this together” mentality which I think makes for a more healthy office and successful practice. Unless your table mate is having an affair with the married partner of the firm, THAT is both distracting and annoying.

    • That WOULD be distracting (and in my particular circumstances, a serious problem)

      I think I’ve worked in just about every possible configuration there is and there are positives and negatives to every one of them. In my case, the only one I think matters most is that I have room to spread my work out. If I have that, I think I can make the rest of it work.

      • Ann


  • just george

    To each their own, but I don’t think I could work in an environment without a dream sofa and a bit of creative chaos. You did say “cool” was next, so I’ll hold my tongue. (smile)

    • The chaos will be present upon arrival have, have no doubt about that. As for the sofa, I don’t see that happening but you never know.

  • Kerry Hogue

    it is a shame how the computer has ruined an architect’s office layout: there is not a space for a blue line machine anywhere! oh, and the dedicated exhaust system to rid the space of the caustic ammonia..

    • I remember my summer running prints while I interned … but just barely (pretty sure I became somewhat “brain damaged” although it’s really hard to say)

  • gt

    Nice and efficient workplaces layout, with flexibility…

    Especially the fridge/copier/toilet suite. One can pick up a print, get a drink, lose a drink, smell the cooking, all in 3 sqm….
    I guess that part is more efficient than nice Bob… not legal in plenty of places, too. Guess the US code allows sanitary facilities without an airlock?
    Personally, I never let the porcelain friend be visible when the door is open, and your 2010 toilet post was quite good in that regard. What happened here?

    • no airlock is required (and hopefully not needed)

      This 2010 post represented an easy way to get this layout when there aren’t two restrooms adjacent to one another. I would have had to flip the entries into the rooms to the opposite end and decided I would rather rely on closing the restroom door than give up the square footage at the ends. Easy decision for me but could be a coin toss for others

      • Doug Kuchta

        I would like to ad to the previous comment. Is there a reason you could not flip the WC and Lav?

        • Because that would not meet ADA accessibility requirements. I would have to mirror the entire restroom and that would mean the doors more to opposite ends. I didn’t want to do that because 1) I wanted a place to terminate the kitchen cabinets and 2) I wanted a spot to locate the copier.

          • There is optimal design and then there is reality (aka compromise). Looks like fun!

          • And then there is the “I have to pay for this myself” part. The difference between 6 extra feet of counter top versus “close the door to the restroom” is enough to where I’ve found my comfort level. 🙂

          • superreader

            Your amazeballs office plan mostly looks well thought out for visitability by clients & reps 🙂 A couple of tweaks: It may be way too late to impact now, but whatever the ADA guidelines *say* the door placement relative to the toilet-side transfer space will make it hard for *actual* wheelers to access that space without punching holes in your fixtures/doors/walls. (#BTDT) If you could move the doors slightly to make that path a straight shot we mobility-impaired folks (plus the maintenance folks & your budget) will thank you mightily. And please, please, please make other arrangements for trash cans, chairs, supply cabinets or other “easy-to-move” items so the transfer space actually *stays* open. This is not the time or place for physical therapy! [sigh] The only other issue I can see is you could make sure the conference room table & chairs sit more towards the window so a wide enough path is open for client meetings in there. That 90-degree turn from the nice wide hallway will be tough enough even with space so a little more openness is a help.