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Ice the Cubicle

Everyone has their idea of what an office should be. Some people are even working in it.

September 15, 1997|SUSAN VAUGHN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Luxurious . . . simple . . . stark . . . inviting . . . fun . . . formal . . . neat . . . cluttered. Judging from the responses of the design professionals and laypeople we interviewed, the ideal office is as unique as the people who envision and work in them.

First, what the professionals have to say about the way an office "ought" to be:

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The architect: Eric Owen Moss, FAIA, Culver City

* What an office should be:

"People shouldn't feel that at work they're just another cog. There should be public spaces for lounging, eating lunch. And some unusual views and auditory experiences--like a [bubbling] fountain. My own belief is that when we see something unexpected, or something that we don't recognize, like an unusual color or shape or space, it stretches the mind a little bit. In that way, a work environment can increase imagination, invention, creativity, energy and excitement. Office space should be created one person at a time."

* What an office shouldn't be:

"Basically, if you don't like your work and it's a pain in the neck, architecture can't change that, 'cause even if you're working on a roller coaster or Ferris wheel, you're still gonna be miserable. But I think architecture can ease the pain a bit."

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The architect/designer: Barbara Bestor, AIA, Los Angeles

* Should: "Spaces should be as interesting as possible--I like to use eye-catching colors, unusual materials and layers of light to achieve this."

* Shouldn't: "The traditional office is oppressive. There's too much privacy and not enough communal space."

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The designer: Mark Enos, Enos & Co., Los Angeles

* Should: "We're all using computers now, and our computers are liberating us from file cabinets. Many offices are now putting all their files in one file room instead of keeping them in individual offices and in desks, as they had in the past."

* Shouldn't: "Right now, there's a tremendous number of companies pushing the envelope in office design by doing away with the concept of 'territory' and not giving their employees offices. Instead, the employees just wander around with their laptops, cell phones and work, and take whatever space is available at the moment. It's a great concept--I'm sure it can be liberating, but it's also very frustrating, and people are resisting it. They still want their private space. It's difficult for people to be so mobile and organized. And now some companies, which had embraced this 'office-less' concept, are backing away from it."

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The medical office designer: Brooke Antonoff, Los Angeles

* Should: "There's more personality emerging in medical office designs today. Doctors now want their offices to reflect who they are. But at the same time, they are tightening their belts and utilizing smaller spaces in order to save money. Many medical corporations are joining together to occupy one facility and rotate operating times."

* Shouldn't: "If the waiting room and the furniture aren't updated, and the reception area is unclean and sloppy, it makes me wonder: 'What about everything else in the back rooms? Is the doctor keeping up with his medical knowledge? Is his equipment up-to-date and sterile?' This gives off the impression that a doctor may be resistant to change. And this would scare me."

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The architect: Lauren Rottet, AIA, DMJMRottet, Los Angeles

* Should: "Because everyone's using computers now, we can access one another without leaving our offices. This causes a real lack of interaction between employees. Good office design encourages employees to start communicating again--circulation patterns can be created so that people [encounter] each other in the halls and chat."

*

The architect/designer: Rinaldo Veseliza, Artech International, Santa Monica

* Should: "It's ideal to be able to totally control one's environment--one's acoustics, lighting, air-conditioning and visual privacy. Someday, I believe each person will be able to control these elements of his work space via a monitor. I also believe it's very important for people to be able to play music in their environments while designing, creating computer products or even doing monotonous tasks. And it's important for people who do lots of computer work to have a couch in their office, so they can back away from their computer--they can rest and change their visual environment."

* Shouldn't: "Be uncomfortable. Every minute that an employee's not comfortable is a minute that he's not productive."

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And now, here's what people in various fields have to say about their own ideal offices:

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The cosmetic surgeon: Dr. Francis Palmer, Beverly Hills

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