A thoughtful memorandum from the archives of

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2008

A thoughtful memorandum from the archives of the RAND Corporation as they contemplated designing a new building for the optimal accomplishment of work in 1950.

This implies that it should be easy and painless to get from one point to another in the building; it should even promote chance meetings of people. A formal call by Mr. X on Mr. Y is the only way X and Y can develop such a tender thing as an idea — the social scientists have taught me to use X and Y in that bawdy manner. If the interoffice distances are to be kept reasonable, the building must be compact. It need not be circular; a square is often a good substitute for a circle, and even a rectangle is not bad, if the aspect ratio does not get out of hand.

The memo’s author even gets into lattice theory in attempting to keep inter-office travel times down. As a contemporary example, Pixar’s office in Emeryville was designed to bring the company’s employees randomly together during the day:

I was the first person from the group of journalists to arrive, giving me plenty of time to look around the lobby, which is actually a gigantic football-field length atrium, the centerpiece of the entire building.

As it was explained to me later, Steve Jobs originally proposed a building with one bathroom, something that would drive foot traffic to a central area all day long. Obviously, they’ve got more than one bathroom in the building, but just standing there and watching as everyone arrived to start their day, it was obvious that Jobs had managed the feat.

The mailboxes, the employee cafe, and the common room where all the games are all open into that atrium, and people lingered, talking, exchanging ideas and discussing the various projects they’re working on. It seemed like a fertile, creative environment, and I felt like Charlie Bucket holding a golden ticket as I examined the larger-than-life Incredibles statues in the center of the atrium and the concept paintings hung on the walls.

(thx, jean-paul)