Our fairly intensive participation in the design process for the new IT building got me thinking about what a place of work is and why a knowledge organisation, like an IT division, would have one. The new building is essentially an office building: it will not house technical infrastructure such as the data centre, but will be the place of work for the division’s engineers, system administrators, technicians, architects, analysts, software developers, managers, etc.
Besides the admittedly exciting “green” design features, such as the vertical garden, optimal orientation, solar PV panels, rainwater harvesting, bicycle store, and various other efficiency elements that will make it far more energy-efficient and sustainable than other buildings of its type, the other intriguing possibility that it presents is the opportunity to influence change in the culture of the IT division. The catalyst for this “change of culture” could be the university’s new norms that require that all new office buildings be “open plan”. For an organisation that has become accustomed to being housed for the past 25 years in what can only be described as a “rabbit warren” of cellular offices leading off dark, desolate corridors, this is a radical departure. There seems to be much trepidation and negativity about our “open plan” future, some of which at least is simply related to humans’ default discomfort with change of any sort 1. (more…)