In the new Manhattan office of the Barbarian Group, an interactive marketing firm founded in 2001, all 125 of the agency's NYC-based employees share a single desk, and no, it isn't due to some Kafkaesque cost-cutting move or a perverse, competition-inducing game of musical chairs. The place has a fun-looking layout made possible by 'Superdesk,' Clive Wilkinson Architects' latest attempt at redefining workplace design, an 1,100-foot surface that snakes its way around the space in a long unbroken loop, with seven archways that create semi-private nooks for meetings and collaborative projects. It's been a long road to open-office Shambhala, not without head-scratching moments and potential pitfalls, and the view sure is fine.
In an interview with the New York Times, Wilkinson—who previously designed Google's Silicon Valley headquarters, among other workplaces—explains that the main purpose of the project is changing with the times: "Desks, as they've been traditionally defined, are becoming redundant. They are based on people working with paper, and I think our attitude toward paper is changing because paper no longer has the same meaning. Twenty years ago, we printed out things and found ways to store them. Now you store things electronically. People say you just need a surface to put your laptop on." In the rare event that a Barbarian employee does need to physically store something, each workspace hides a small file cabinet underneath.
Superdesk was created in sections in L.A. and shipped to New York, where the plywood pieces were assembled, and and an unbroken surface coat of resin was applied over a top layer of medium-density fiberboard. It set Barbarian back $300,000 in total, which the firm claims is less than a traditional setup would have. Check out the video below for a complete walkthrough:
· "Superdesk" Seats All 125 Employees at a Single Table [My Modern Met]
· Table Manners at Work [New York Times]
· All Office Spaces posts [Curbed National]