Open plan clutters minds

February 26, 2009

The story on the evolution of academic work space into open-plan offices highlights the dangers of following corporate trends ("Office size shows who measures up", 12 February). The move from "monastic cells" may have helped with collaboration, but it does little for concentration.

The Royal College of Art has just completed a study of corporate office space for "knowledge workers" such as engineers and research chemists ( It reveals that the pendulum in office design has now swung so far in the direction of teamwork and brainstorming that opportunities for deep, uninterrupted thought are few.

As well as space for concentration, people working with their brains also require space for contemplation, to relax, revive and let the mind run free without surveillance. Universities' traditional, fast-disappearing staff common rooms were good at this, which is why so many large corporations are introducing them in their offices.

Jeremy Myerson, Director, Helen Hamlyn Centre, Royal College of Art.

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