The Glass House

It’s a recent, steel-frame building, and inside the space is vast and light—far more impressive than on the outside. In the foyer you have to queue at reception for a visitor pass that will let you past the gates. Once through, you can get anywhere.

The workspaces are open plan, with glass meeting rooms of different sizes around the outside and the central atrium. Endless rooms, open to the viewer, none belonging to anyone, none with any determinate function. The whole space has been designed with flexibility in mind, and it consequently feels like it might be about to collapse.

You’d never feel secure working here, never entirely sure that your desk would still be there in the morning. The furniture is ephemeral and portable, ready to be picked up and carted off at any moment. The workers on flexi-time come and go, each replaceble by the next, the pattern of their appearances entirely lacking in regularity. Even the walls seem to have moved every time you look at them.

But what about the plumbing, plumbing isn’t mobile? I wander about looking for toilets, but they are nowhere to be found. Eventually a cleaner shows me the way. They’re round the corner, behind a screen, through a set of double doors, along a corridor with a low ceiling and…walls. Walls? These are the first things I’ve seen in over two hours that really look like walls. There has been glass, partitions, legs, and furniture. But walls, no.

When I leave there are people on cycling machines in the lower atrium level. Someone is shouting at them. “Faster”, he says, “go on, you can do it. Faster!”. They’re straining to break free. If only, I think, they had real bicycles.

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