Monday, March 3, 2008

The Growing Trend of the Virtual Office

There is a slow inclining trend of virtual offices and large empty office buildings. ...
Our research tells us that the era of working in one central office is on a decline. The era of the virtual office began in the early 1990's and will continue to grow exponentially.

The question is how do you get your team to strategically collaborate as a team?


March 2, 2008
The Office as Architectural Touchstone


IT will be either one of the most challenging fixer-uppers in the history of modern architecture or one of the most significant tear-downs.
In any case, Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., is for sale.

A decade ago, as many as 6,500 people worked in the low-slung complex, whose pioneering mirrored-glass facade reflects a gleaming three-legged water tower that looks like a giant Bell Laboratories transistor and pond-speckled landscapes where waterfowl outnumber humans.
Today, it is empty but for a few caretakers.

On a winter day, its vast atriums shudder with the sound of wind buffeting the sawtooth skylights. The only things moving along the miles of corridors are shadows.
And a prospective owner — probably more attracted by a contiguous 473-acre parcel near the Garden State Parkway in Monmouth County than by a vast, unwieldy monument — could demolish every bit of it. Designed in 1957 for Bell Laboratories, part of the former Bell System, by the architectural giant Eero Saarinen and the landscape firm Sasaki, Walker & Associates, the complex no longer suits today’s much smaller Bell Labs or its corporate parent, Alcatel-Lucent.

The property is on the market, but it is hard to imagine finding a new occupant for a structure custom-built two generations ago for physical lab work by a giant monopoly that no longer exists. The main building, with 1.675 million square feet of space, is organized into four pavilions set among atriums and linked by sky bridges. The perimeter circulation pattern leaves few offices with their own windows. Concrete walls divide many spaces.
While the fate of the Holmdel building is the most compelling preservation drama of the moment, it is not the only suburban corporate campus confronting 21st-century realities.

Mr. Saarinen’s research center for I.B.M. in Yorktown Heights, and Edward Durell Stone’s PepsiCo World Headquarters in Purchase, both in Westchester County, are among those that have been immaculately kept by their corporate occupants. But Union Carbide’s former headquarters in Danbury, Conn., has been in a state of flux almost since it opened. Others, like the General Foods headquarters in White Plains, have shed their original use and identity. I.B.M. kept its headquarters in Armonk, but in a newer and much smaller building.

“The less-centralized business model that I.B.M. has moved to can be done without the massive physical headquarters of past business eras,”
said Fred P. McNeese, director of I.B.M.’s corporate media relations. “There is also a different way of working, caused by advances in technology, that provides persons the ability to work remotely, doing the things that would have required them to come into a headquarters building in the past.”

/// Project implementors operate remotely is the growing trend.

How much longer can any of these postwar corporate centers — perfect embodiments of a moment in history when cities began to feel pestilential, when suburban flight grew easier on the interstates and when faith in America’s corporate power was unshakable — maintain the architecture and landscaping that made them such landmarks?

... Precisely because of those changes, solitary corporate campuses are regarded as “an evolutionary dead end” by Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit planning group concerned with New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. “They don’t provide the adaptable, flexible space that companies need,” he said. “They’re great architecture, but they act as a kind of straitjacket.”

... “Driving a long distance to a sylvan location is less appealing than it used to be,” Mr. Yaro said. In the tumultuous wake of World War II, the stand-alone corporate center in a verdant setting seemed like the wave of the future. The prospect of World War III loomed large enough that when the General Foods Corporation announced it was trading Park Avenue for Westchester Avenue in 1951, it took pains to say that “the possibility of an atomic attack on New York was not a factor.”

/// The emergence of the global economy and information technology has changed the rules of the global marketplace. ... The ease of communications and absolute privacy are essential to the remote project team. It is also important to collaborate as a team. Does your team know how to collaborate anywhere as a team?

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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