According to Wikipedia, “form follows function is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.”
The American architect Louis Sullivan, in his “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered” (originally published in Lippincott’s Magazine No. 57, March 1896), references the full quote as:
It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.
Modernism in architecture began on this principle, to allow the shape of a building to be determined by its functional requirements. In today’s development of workplace strategies, this guiding principle still rings true. Form should follow how people work—and not the other way around. Too often in our office spaces the office space drives the way we work. And in many cases, the office space actually impedes productivity.
How many times have you sat in a conference room that did not support your activities? Should the conference table and its configuration drive the size of a meeting and how the meeting takes shape?
And how many times do you have to leave the office to get something done, instead of the office facilitating your work, your initiative, and your intended agenda? It just shouldn’t be like that.
Tomorrow’s office will be much different than the offices of today. It will feature:
• A variety of spaces in which to work
• Less space dependence
• A greater focus on collaboration and spaces where teams can work as teams
• More emphasis on views, not just daylight
• Multi-function spaces with enhanced flexibility
• Easy connections and access to technology and audio visual tools
The way we work and the ways we want to work should drive the design of our working spaces. And they should contribute to making work fun and rewarding. With the huge amount of time we all spend at work, our functional roles should be supported. When form truly drives function, the results can be astonishing.
Jo Staffelbach Heinz is President and CEO of Dallas-based STAFFELBACH. Contact her at email@example.com.