Clive Wilkinson Architects was approached by Flaunt magazine in Summer 2015 with a request to imagine an architectural cross-pollination of the two very separate and unique cultural milieus of California and London, UK. Their special Fall issue, called ‘Califuk’, looked at a variety of provocative crossovers in fashion, art and culture in general.
From our sun-bleached Californian point of view, we chose to investigate the current systemic problems of London, which has become almost paralyzed by the clogged arteries of the city, with the consequent debilitating commute times for its workers. The underground rail system is overloaded and prone to frequent system failures, the roads are almost grid-locked and escalating land prices have compelled the work force to live further and further away from their workplaces so that from 2 to 4 hours of commuting a day is normal and progressively increasing.
Given that technology now supports new ways of working, our starting point challenges the need to collocate workers in individual business locations. The theoretical proposal was to ‘carpet bomb’ the city with a new type of workplace in a single, horizontally-connected level. The proposition imagines a mobile work mode where anyone can work anywhere, since technology now supports that, and so workers living in the existing infrastructure below can simply “go upstairs to the office”.
This of course solves massive commute times and avoids the numbing isolation of working at home by ensuring that you are part of a real live community, who also happen to be your neighbors downstairs. With this concept, one recovers something of the medieval model of collaborating with multiple disciplines in your local village and leveraging the healthy cross-pollination aspects of that.
A further suggestion implicit in this idea is that our current urban model may be ill suited to the technologically liberated future. And it may be a more invasive form of surgery that ultimately delivers new opportunities to spend time on things that we value: namely local, tribal communities, multi-disciplinary working, and unfettered connectivity to social and business communities without the enormous friction, stress and tedium resulting from poor ‘flow’ in a city.