Workplace Politics: the influence and legacy of public-private collaboration in DEGW’s Office Research Building Information Technology (ORBIT) Study (1983)

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific

Abstract

The transformation of commercial architecture since WWII is a subject of growing interest among architectural historians. Scholars have explored the political-economic relationship between real estate cycles, finance capitalism, technology and the changing nature of corporate buildings. At the basis of these studies is an assumption that state-led processes of marketization, deregulation and privatisation indirectly affected the changing style and structure of office buildings from the 1970s onwards. However, as yet the direct involvement of the state and real estate industry in the research and development of new commercial building types has been unexplored. This paper addresses this gap by considering the collaboration between the British state, industry specialists and the office planning firm DEGW in the production of the highly influential Office Research Building Information Technology (ORBIT) Study, published in 1983.

ORBIT was funded by the UK Department of Industry and the then state-owned British Telecom, alongside a consortium of industry specialists and real estate companies (including Greycoat Estates, Jones Lang Wootton and Steelcase), who were highly involved with the research and development of the project, including participation in monthly seminars. The study’s explicit aim was to assess ‘the impact of information technology upon office work and office workers’ (p.2). Yet underpinning the project were wider concerns about the changing accommodation needs of businesses at a time when Britain’s economy was being radically reconfigured by deregulation (enacted through co-sponsor, the Department of Industry). Using the material from the recently-opened DEGW archive at the University of Reading, this paper will investigate the ways that the political-economic interests of the sponsors shaped ORBIT and its legacy. The paper aims to expose the institutional processes through which neoliberal policies directly influenced the direction of office design in Britain (and subsequently America), interrogating ‘research’ as a non-neutral mediator between ideology and built form.
Original languageEnglish
Pages48-48
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event5th European Architectural History Network (EAHN) International Meeting - Tallinn, Estonia
Duration: 13 Jun 201816 Jun 2018

Conference

Conference5th European Architectural History Network (EAHN) International Meeting
CountryEstonia
CityTallinn
Period13/06/1816/06/18

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