| Authors: Semihcan Goksu, Sebastian Torres
| Professors: Douglas Oliver, William Cannady
| Rice University School of Architecture
| Project Report:
The workforce has become increasingly dehumanized. The life of the individual has been disregarded for the advancement of head count and the bottom line of corporations. The introduction of the cubicle and the over-reliance on air conditioning has turned individuals into a monolith. The advancement of technology led to longer work hours and the sacrifice of private life. Some actions, such as the introduction of amenities in the workplace, have produced a Las Vegas effect that makes it nearly impossible to distinguish between private and professional experiences. The workplace needs to be re-imagined to empower the individual’s agency and break away from antiquated methods of engaging the workplace.
Individual identity can be reintroduced through attacking the two main culprits, the cubicle and air conditioning. The one-size-fits-all approach to the office needs to be replaced with a fluid environment that allows the inhabitant to calibrate his or her space as they see fit. This fluid environment can be achieved through a passive ventilation system that produces micro-climates throughout the spaces. Conventional mechanical systems can be replaced with an operable double skin that can provide fresh air and solar chimneys that can extract hot air as necessary. The envelope of this tower is composed of a non-operable, ETFE-clad diagrid structure that wraps around an operable curtain wall. These two layers are separated in a manner that maximizes the prevailing winds of the area and moves those winds through the building’s mass by creating pinch-points that take advantage of positive and negative pressure to cool the periphery. In the interior, two ETFE-clad diagrid solar chimneys work to extract the heat that is produced by daily activity through the building’s center. The combination of a responsive exterior envelope with an internal chimney produces an environment that changes throughout the day and throughout the different seasons as well. Because of this, people can position themselves according to their own thermal comfort rather than being told that 74° is the temperature they should be comfortable in.
Replacing programmatic diversity with thermal diversity is a fundamental component to re-imagining how we inhabit our workplace, but it will fail unless we replace the static and stoic cubicle with a system that can be as fluid as the micro-climates that are created in the building. Whether it is the air or the worker, flexibility through mobility is imperative to the concept. The workplace needs the introduction of several different seating arrangements that can be reconfigured to fit the needs of individuals, small teams, and large conferences. The reality is that if the individual’s agency is activated, migration patterns will begin to emerge according to both daily shifts and seasonal changes. The goal should not be to design the perfect modular piece of furniture, but to create an environment where common tables, private work stations, and bean bags can all be used simultaneously and interchangeably with equal amounts of success.