Duffy to challenge industry professionals at Sapoa Convention

Posted On Wednesday, 21 April 2004 02:00 Published by eProp Commercial Property News
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One of the international speakers who is sure to stimulate lively debate at the upcoming SAPOA Convention from 12-14 May 2004 at the Cape Town Convention Centre is Frank Duffy.  An architect by profession and Founder of DEGW, the international architectural practice, best known for user research and brief writing, as well as large scale interior design, architecture and urban design is set to challenge conventional criteria for planning and upgrading office space.

Frank DuffyThis “Space Guru” has already ruffled many feathers in the commercial property fraternity throughout the world by suggesting that “designers and architects have failed to relate office space to what businesses really need”. 

“Tenants are either assumed to know what they want, in which case the supply side assumes that they will be able to look after themselves.  Or, more likely, not to know what they want, in which case developers, real estate brokers and architects are more than happy to assume that all they have to do is to continue to provide what they find convenient to deliver with as little user research as possible”, says Duffy.

“Take the Bay Area in California, the site of the so called Silicon Valley Mystery – how is it that the spot on the earth best endowed with intellect, technological capacity and capital (not to mention one of the finest climates) should have wrecked itself visually and environmentally to accommodate some of the worst and most wasteful buildings known to man?   The most charitable explanation is that no one, clients, architects, developers etc., had enough time to think during the dotcom boom of the late Nineties.  The resulting buildings are poorly constructed, badly serviced, more or less windowless, gas guzzling and, worst of all, remote from what businesses really need.

“Every business whether it wishes to or not shapes its culture through the design of its offices.  Office Design is an extremely powerful medium, which can communicate certain values such as how important, or unimportant, employees are to the company.   More recently and with more positive spin-offs more enlightened companies have discovered that they can use office design as a catalyst for business change through involving their employees in the decision making process.

“More important than aesthetics is ownership, i.e. empowering employees to realise that office space is as much theirs as are their homes.   As we enter the “work anytime, any place” economy our biggest challenge is not so much designing conventions that will allow people to control the use of space but inventing new conventions that will help people to regulate the use of time.    If we are not careful and open ourselves up to unbridled access all the time we can create even more destructive and uncivilised conditions for living and working than anything the 19th century dreamt up.   Better working environments will not happen by accident – they will depend upon imaginative and responsible “design” in the widest possible sense of that misunderstood and undervalued word.”

Duffy has been President of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architects Council of Europe.   He has recently returned to London after a three year secondment to DEGW North America office in New York.   He is a visiting Professor at MIT.


Last modified on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 10:44

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