On The Receiving End

by Don Friedman on June 23, 2016

Design in general is about finding ways to meet multiple goals with limited resources. As a structural engineer I have to think about material properties and performance, code requirements for stress and deflection, construction logistics, and the relative costs of different solutions, among other issues. Architects have it worse*, because they have to worry about all of those issues, plus human comfort (AKA mechanical systems performance), plus aesthetics, plus other random items that I get to ignore**. I try to avoid playing architect with our clients because at best I’d be a dilettante and at worst I’d be a disaster.

But there’s an exception: our office space. Our lease runs out at the end of the year, so we are currently looking at new spaces***. We want about 2000 square feet (real s.f., not rentable s.f.) and that puts us in the “small” category for the NYC office market. It’s not that landlords don’t care about small spaces, it’s that we are simply on of many, many small firms looking for similar spaces. So there’s a limit as to what we can get and how much work will be done customizing it for us. Which leads to the semi-farcical conclusion that I am trying to do a miniature version of an architect’s job within the constraints of the spaces offered to us.

We’re not designing a whole office layout, so what’s left? Among other things adjacencies. This:


is not our staff.**** Just because something might fit in a spot physically doesn’t mean it makes sense. To use the most obvious example, our servers shouldn’t be next to the kitchen wet areas. Different people have different priorities for their space (light versus noise, for example). And if we’re trying to offer our employees a good atmosphere, then an office arrangement commanded from above is the wrong way to go. I’ve done more CAD work in the last week for this effort than I have in the previous six months.*****

The best part of the process is the knowledge that it will end. One way or another, this December we will celebrate our new office and our tenth anniversary as “Old Structures.”

*Or better, depending on your point of view.

**For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

***We want something like what we’ve got but bigger and better laid out.

****Really. We are not assemblies of squares or cubes.

*****It’s not like I’m going to pull one of our engineers off of their regular work to play around with where my desk should go.

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