Public Private (work)Space Enclosure Culture Stuff #workplaceblogs

I was loitering around MORE London the other day and was struck by the contrast in foyer space between Ernst & Young and pwc.  (Btw yes pwc is PricewaterhouseCoopers ie PwC but their new logo doesn't reflect the idiosyncratic capitalisation that we know and love them for.  I do hope it's not on the way out, it seems to be alive and well in copy across their site) 

Anyway, this is what I saw (they're only short…):


oh and then I went round the corner and shot this of the "front" of pwc:

Now I should point out that what I was doing here is very very naughty indeed.  MORE London is private property and both loitering and photography are among many things that are severely frowned upon.  However, I'm a wild-eyed rebel at heart (as y'know) and I just don't care!

The first one is Ernst & Young – it's too short really to get a feel, but basically it looks more like a media company with big screens pouring INFORMATION out all over you as you sit in reception waiting to see your tax accountant.

Over the street, is pwc.  

Well it's not really a street is it? It's a private paved thoroughfare leading from Tooley Street to City Hall. The mayor's testicle is at one end, so what does that make The Shard?  Oh and it has a little miniaturised (and highly sanitised) open sewer running along the middle of it to remind you of the history of the Thames.  Now I think about it though, I think the water's running away from the river, I'll have to go back and check, but that would be no good, a sewer that ran *into* the populated areas? yikes!

Anyway, back to the offices.  When I've walked past before now, I didn't realise that the downstairs bit of pwc was corporate space at all, it's just rows of sofas like you might find in a hotel lobby.   The slightly brighter though warm lighting is the clue though.  This isn't a place to slop and read a book or have a quiet cup of tea, it's a place where Work goes on, just the gentler, cosier, friendlier Work than the bright bright white-light WORK that goes on in the little rooms on the first floor just above.  

What's going on here? Is the firm saying "Look at us, we know how to work hard and work soft!" "We're not grey heartless accountants, we can kick back and relax on comfy chairs with the best of them – and we're not afraid of you seeing that, in fact we're going to make it the first thing you see when you get out of your cab and walk round to see us." "But don't worry, we do work really really hard, we do serious stuff, wearing suits, with whiteboards and flipcharts and everything, upstairs".  Or what?

And what does it feel like to work in a place like this?  What's it like to have meetings in these areas?  What's it like to talk?  Is it always this empty (this was just before 5.30 on a Thursday so I guess most "meeting" work would be over by then, everyone's back at their desk e-mailing madly before the pub).

Overall, I'm interested in whether the inspiration for this comes from "new ways of working" thinking or "new ways of marketing" – is it about the staff or the image?  I'm coming down on the side of it being a shop window, but if so, what are they really selling?

Oh and can someone please find me some Evil Empire music to go with the last clip (probably with some crows cawing, maidens screaming and maniacal evil laughter in the background)

Originally posted on Lloyd’s posterous