My Palo Alto
Documentation September 10, 2000
Added Photos July 7, 18 & 24, 2002
two years of use, both my work and environment has evolved.
These changes are documented
is a popular myth that the environment in which someone
works does little to effect their productivity and
creativity. It is assumed that offices and work areas
relate more to status and who you are
rather than to what work you do and what supports
that work. Somehow, the human organism is supposed
to function independently of its environment
like some disembodied soul.
KnowledgeWorkers are being squeezed into smaller and
smaller spaces. There are few options for personal
expression and having around the information and objects
that stimulate and delight. Individuals and teams
disappear in a sea of dull sameness and misappropriated
this is done in the name of efficiency, economics
and protecting the image of the corporate architecture.
The language which describes these places is more
that of feedlots and prisons than that of exuberant
creativity. There is much talk of a new
economy, but if it be coming, it is being designed
in the rabbit warrens of the industrial age. One might
wonder if this might effect the result.
spend half you life where you work. How practical
is it? Do you like it? Does it support
your work? Does it express your world view? Is
it a place where you want to go? Would you
go there if it was not for the moneymaking function?
not, why not? And, why do you put up with it?
work place is at the cross roads of a retail space,
the group process area and the path that
winds from the front patio all the way through the
Alto KnOwhere Store out to the side and rear parking
lots. I am 25 paces away from the front patio where
I often sit and make telephone calls. I am in an active,
vital public place in an island of productive rest.
Prospect and refuge. Access and privacy. With a few
paces, I can easily change my environment and degree
of interaction with coworkers. Within my own domain,
I have room for a multitude of different activities
- each requiring a different set of space, furniture,
tools and ambiance.
have several work stations which allows me to multitask
without putting work away. The appropriate tools are
within easy reach at each station. There is room for
private dialog with several visitors and a WorkWall
for working big and displaying my work. Inside my
Pod, I have storage and bookshelves for 500 books
and over 50 square feet of flat work surface to hold
project materials. Adjacent to my Pod, there are retail
shelves for the 500 books, tools and materials accessible
to the participants in my ReBuilding the Future course.
is a stimulating and relaxing place to work. I can
totally reconfigure it in a matter of minutes.
total footprint is 18 x 18 feet. Large you say? Not
when you look at it. This footprint supports my work
as CEO of MG Taylor, design principal in an architectural
firm and a work interiors/furniture manufacturing
firm, and facilitator/educator with a robust client
load for a variety of organizations (MG Taylor, AI,
KnOwhere, SFIA). I have no full time support person
and do my own scheduling and communication/correspondence
functions. I do my own drafting, web pages and client/customer
interface. In fact, my space is small compared
to that used by my peers and their support people.
of thinking about holding down the number of square
feet per worker as a budget item, facility planners
should be thinking about the revenues generated per
square foot against the total (and real) cost of the
square footage actually used. Instead of thinking
about minimizing the cost of each piece of furniture,
the focus should be on the financial performance of
the whole space including everyone and everything
working in it. This is, of course, retail store thinking
- and that is what I work in - a retail store for
the mind. Good retail stores have to create a pleasant
environment for the customer, our spaces create it
for the producers as well - and for the same reason.
It makes economic sense. And, beyond the economics,
it makes human sense. The cost/income performance
of my space blows away the most economy-focused workplace
that can be found. My space is a knowledge-factory
- most workplaces are single-function ghettoes.
place should have an entry and this is mine.
It is not a hard closed entry but one that establishes
a sense of moving from one mode to another. This is
an interface issue. A punctuation. A ceremony. When
I am in my Pod I am in a private place. When someone
approaches, they know it is private and they
also know that it is friendly and inviting. It is a
permeable membrane not a wall. Sitting in a high traffic
area, as I do, gives me constant feedback on this issue
of balance between privacy and openness. The flexibility
of our furniture allows me to fine tune the entry so
that it continues to work. I know what is going on around
me and can choose the level of participation and interaction
that works best for any moment and task.
inside my environment, the world changes. Here is
a space that can be adjusted in an almost unlimited
number of ways to fit the specific work being done
yet always feels complete the way it is. I am surrounded
by my tools, reference materials - everything an arms
length away. Toys and other fun, stimulating, objects
are there to engage the mind and hand. The outside
recedes but is not lost.
above, my Pod - like it treats the horizontal spaces
around it - both screens and invites interaction.
Nothing is completely cut off but a sense of privacy
and shelter is maintained. Again: Prospect and Refuge.
Light filters in and out of this space, making an
enclosure - but one that feels like there is a world
beyond to explore. Those on the balcony have a sense
of my activities without impinging on what I am doing.
These are subtle gradations of interaction - all controllable
by those working in the environment. Community is
created without violence to individual space, time
view, a little further down the balcony, reveals how
the Pod sits at the intersection of the retail and
group process areas of the KnOwhere Store. The negative
space created by the round Pod and the rectilinear
building interaction provides niches for drafting
board and my personal retail area - which also servers
as a quite reading area for my students. The WorkWall
that screens my space from the public areas composes
a small sitting area, provides a wall to sketch on,
and - on the outside - a display space for my intellectual
goods. This is my billboard strategically placed along
the well traveled path from the front patio to the
interior of the Store. The angle of the WorkWall creates
a slight tightening at the entry and then opens up
to embrace the drafting area beyond. This serves to
slow down entry, making it a more formal
event, while encouraging movement to the Pods
backyard of adjacent work and resource
spaces. The drafting area also opens a side
door out of my personal areas - an informal
way to come and go.
entire assemblage is a room within a room
a technique develop by Wright at the turn of the 20th
looking from above - and to the right - the KnOwhere
Radiant Room (at least as it was on this date) can
be seen. The Pod that you see at the left is not mine.
My area is directly to the left and rear of the picture.
The Pod you see is the present screen between the
group work area and the front patio of the Store.
this shot was taken, the Radiant Room was being set
up for an Executive Retreat/Silicon Valley Walkabout
for the Knight Ridder Newspapers. This was a PatchWorks
exercise that involved our entire facility with visits
to and from organizations in San Jose, Palo Alto,
San Francisco and Berkeley. I was involved in different
activities and, because of my location, was able to
keep a sense of things as I worked on other projects
in between my active involvement with Knight Ridder.
For two days, interactive activities of various sorts
were ebbing and flowing in and out of the Store. A
very different workplace than what is commonly misnamed
as normal. Working at KnOwhere is like
working in a replacement city in Jane
outside we can follow the path from the Patio through
the retail area to the back door of my
work area and then onto the spaces behind my Pod.
In the distance of 40 paces, you will travel through
a number of different zones, functions and spaces.
Keep in mind, however, that other than the exterior
walls, the columns and the balcony itself, everything
you see can be moved and reconfigured in a matter
of a few hours - a great deal of it in a few minutes.
When we work with groups we actually do this as the
work progresses and requirements change. The front
doors of the Store fold open to blend the interior
environment with the street. In this picture, one
bank of doors are open - the same can happen to the
immediate left. The wood trellis and patio tiles continue
into the Store drawing you into the interior. Cool
breezes are drawn in also, pulled through the space
and exhausted out the round, opening glass dome at
the center of the environment. Nature and the urban
scene interact with the activities within the space.
The transitions are subtle and can be adjusted by
the users. This is not how most work environments
are. Typically, the implicit premise is that distractions
have to be guarded against and the corporate jewels
protected. This is environment on the defense. The
KnOwhere idea is different. It embraces variety and
change. It engages and interacts with the world. It
is an active place.
the retail area on the right looks toward my Pod -
the Radiant Room (group work) area is on the left.
The view into my Pod is arrested by my billboard
which shows past and current work. As you progress,
you can turn left into the Radiant Room, to the right
into the retail space or continue on to my back yard
work area. These areas flow into one another, however,
each is distinct. Each makes a foreground and background
for the other. There is an integrating armature
and a high variety of specific places. Intimate
niches fit into abundant spaces making a human built
ecology of functions and experiences. Transitions
are distinct yet smooth - causal and easy.
view into the Radiant Room is framed by the second
floor balcony and the opening dome skylight beyond
it. The eye is never completely stopped - never -
somewhere, like life, there is another idea,
another place to explore. Yet, you are never left
exposed and vulnerable. The message from
the building is an invitation to travel at your own
pace to seek what you will. To participate where you
can. This capasity of facilitating movement through
space is brilliantly demonstrated in Frank Lloyd Wrights
Morris shop built in 1948.
KnOwhere Store is, in reality, a physical and virtual
portal into the world of collaborative work. It is
a place to work with Group Genius and a way-station
to meet other travelers. A place to equip for new
travels. As such, it an ideal location for me to have
my workplace. It is like camping out on the river
where the wagon trains going West are assembling for
the future. Many would never think of having an office
in such a public place. But what better place than
IN the market?
cannot think of having an office in some shut away
place devoid of community and interaction. With our
way, the research lab and design studio are at the
point of sale and product delivery - what an idea!
is my side door entry, past the billboard
to the drafting areas and my personal retail store
beyond. The workspace on the balcony above me is Gails
workplace - we often talk to on another over the rail
as neighbors in an urban setting will do. We can keep
a sense of what the other is about without conscience
awareness or effort.
the way - notice the T shirt. You have
to have a T shirt.
you are looking at is a high variety environment
- one that deliberately designed to be restful as
well. The proof is when people can spend 12 hours
here and walk out energized and tranquil.
view back from Gails area clearly shows that
path we just traveled from the front of the Store
to my area. The front Patio can be seen though the
windows and doors - You can see how easy it is the
totally change your environment by going outside
to sit and work. We planted the trees in the front
when we recreated this building in 1997. One more
summer and the entire front of the building will
be a canopy of lacy shade. You can connect to the
Internet via our T1 line from the front patio.
use a great deal of wireless in this environment
and this small technology advancement bestows enormous
increases in freedom. This is important to remember.
The central idea of our work at AI, KnOwhere
and MG Taylor is how the integration of work processes,
environments and technology tools can augment human
genius. Every part is important but no part will
do it alone. It is the whole that has to
work. Work environments, today, are too often fragmented.
Many reasonable and often credible efforts fail
to add up to anything significant. This results
in dull places devoid of power. These environments
suck up human energy rather than infusing it. The
results are all around you and declared practical.
at ground level here is the view from my personal
retail area past the drafting board and into the
general retail area. The shelves at the time of
this picture taking were just set up. They will
be filled with those books and tools which I personally
use and sponsor. The kind of retailing we do here
is not based on what sells but are selections of
what we personally use. We believe that this is
the value added aspect that we bring to our associates,
clients and customers.
that this is a small space. It gets wider as the
Pod curves away from the bookshelves. The shape
of a space is an is important as its absolute
size. The wall on the left just begs for some posters
and art pieces and will soon have them.
purpose of this niche is to provide a quite place
to browse, sit and read. My ReBuilding the Future
Course covers a broad body of knowledge with is
outlined in a reading list of 500 carefully selected
books. This is a self-contained spot for those interested
in the materials to find what they want.
addition, materials and tools useful for documentation
are to be found here. It is a surprisingly intimate
thing to put on display the very personal books
you read and the tools you use. Turning back around,
and stepping a few paces under the balcony, you
are in a team work area. I often use this area in
conjunction with my meetings. The WorkWall
beyond is the new AI Foundation II Series rolling,
curved WorkWall, in this case, displaying materials
for the Knight Ridder session and screening the
rotunda area under the dome. This area behind my
Pod is a pleasant, intimate space that can serve
up to 20 people, in one group, comfortably or two
groups of about 10. The low ceiling presents a nice
contrast with the higher spaces on found on two
you have wondered what is up on the second floor,
here is the short tour. The second level has group
work areas and private work areas for members of
iterations, KnOwhere and MG Taylor. In addition,
there are spaces for office hotellers and companies
in startup. PhotoAccess
incubated here in 1998/1999 growing from one person
to over 20 when they moved out to their own facilities.
Beyond the table is the iterations Library area
employing the AI CubeOffice system. On the other
side is an incubation space for a new enterprise
moving in the week these pictures were taken. This
is the fourth new venture that has occupied this
space since we opened the Palo Alto KnOwhere in
view out of their windows is toward the rear of
the Store which is parking and landscape. Skylights
bring additional light in from above. The balcony
looking down into the Radiant Room and retail area
is about 20 paces behind these pictures. As my work
is closely connected with iterations research,
I use the library on the second level and often
work up there with associates and clients. All of
these areas are intimate to how I experience my
personal work space. In a real sense, I feel like
I work in a 20,000 square foot environment that
is almost totally mine. Yet, I share it with up
to 50 people, on a daily basis, and over a hundred
more when events are taking place. Activity levels
vary - and this is one of the more pleasant aspects
of KnOwhere - However, it almost never feels crowded.
The few times it does is because a really big bash
is going on and it is better to join up!
KnOwhere venue is a completely unique way of managing
space. The physical environment is different and
so is the way work is conducted. It is more like
an ecology of people, organizations and activities
than a sterile organization of ghetto-like cubes
and prison-like conference rooms. You have to accommodate
more in a space like this and you get a great deal
more in return.
get used to it around here and take it as normal
- which it is! Then, we go to a typical environment
and it is shocking.
final stop back downstairs inside my Pod area and
our tour is done. There is a standup work station
I use for reading and hand note taking. I also keep
my hand text scanner there. The furniture piece
I use for this work is a prototype of the AI BatWing
components of this piece cantilever off a column
and each can be attached in a variety of heights
in any order desired. The column, then, can move
up and down as a unit from sitting top standing
height. People sit down too much in their work environments
and this leads to back troubles and other to be
avoided unpleasant things. Movement is necessary
to thinking and health and should be subtly promoted
by the way the environment is designed and arranged.
I do not use this unit often however it is important
to me when I do. Without it, the materials I use
there would have to be put away. This is inconvenient
and too typical of the traditional work space. Having
to take out and put away impedes the flow of work.
KnowledgeWorkers need lots of work spaces each organized
for a different work process.
aspect of the BatWing is that it both encloses the
sitting area intimate to the Pod and defines the
space intimate to the Drafting table. Because the
BatWing has several surfaces and drawers that swing
out, I am able to store drawing materials, tools
and supplies on its back side to be close
at hand when I am drawing. Too often the mistake
is to arrange tools just in front and to the sides
of a work station. This forces the work flow and
causes the worker to usually stare at a wall or
partition just a few feet in front of the nose.
each of my work areas I am surrounded by tool, display
and storage units, I work in a full 360 degree environment.
My view is open in, at least, several degrees of
freedom - up, out, right, left.
do the Pod and CubeOffice systems work in a typical
office building footprint? This question was answered
by my original 1990
sketch which demonstrated that standard densities
can be accomplished while accomplishing far greater
utilty, flexibility and ambiance.
2002 Note: Several elements of this 1990 concept
were realized with the construction of the Vanderbilt
NavCenter in 2002.
is no real financial barrier to people working
in far better environments than they do. Environments
that fit their personalities better, provide more
utility and adapt better. It has to be understood
that the standards in place are self referential
- they merely support themselves. They do not promote
or measure true productivity. They are, in fact
poor substitutes for direct measures. They are budget
focussed rather than productivity supportive. They
promote many hidden, negative, unintended consequences,
the costs of which, are not factored into the equations.
Tsui puts it this way:
is the birthright of every human being to
live in a world of beauty: a world that is
concordant with the needs and aspirations
of the innermost and highest elemental powers
in humankind and is expressive of the supreme
intelligence and spiritual powers manifest
who would be true to their inner, higher selves
must, necessarily, possess a continence of
dignity and love in daily living and through
their work. Work, thus imbued, is but a glimmer
of our latent spiritual powers and is truly
a reflection of the invisible workings of
God made visible. It is the nature and substance
of all that is and all that is becoming.
is our responsibility to illuminate the darkness
of ignorance that permeates our world and
aspire to greater insights and discoveries,
thus deepening our understanding of ourselves
and the world around us, of which we are an
need not more security-minded persons, not
more image seekers, not more obedience to
the established pattern of living, but men
and women of vision, who see the urgency of
a new way of living: a life in communion with
the benison of beauty in nature and the intrinsic
dignity and interconnectedness of human life.
are an alembic and are powerfully creative
individuals. This is our divine gift. Yet,
we have lost our direction and have become
obdurate and fearful. We wish to reach out
from our loneliness but we are afraid. In
our fear, we take pains to conform unquestionably
to the dictates of society. Here is where
our natural powers become subservient to the
opinions of the hour. We lose ourselves to
the imitative process that abounds everywhere,
and the world loses the potential for profound
Architecture - Nature As a Basis For Design
importance questions are the ones that I asked at
the beginning of this essay: You spend half
you life where you work. How practical is
it? Do you like it? Does it support your work? Does
it express your world view? If not, why not? And,
why do you put up with it?
test is: would you spend a vacation in a place like
your work environment? If the answer is no, what
does that imply?
architecture is the direct expression of our values.
There is no escaping it. Our environment is the
sum of a million choices we make one at a time.
It, in turn, acts to shape us in a million ways.
Architecture is not a visual art - it is an experiential
The place where you work is the expression of what
you stand for and the tool by which you project
your values out into the world by productive effort.
There is no neutrality here - only expression.
workplace is a complex alchemy of many factors.
It limits or augments you in both subtle and profound
ways. Choose carefully.
Bill Blackburn, product manager;
Matt Taylor, concept
Taylor and Bill Blackburn
WorkWalls and WorkFurniture
the Palo Alto KnOwhere
1997 Documented: 2000
Alto KnOwhere Store:
Roxy Rapp, Developer
Taylor Corporation/KnOwhere Stores
Norway , Architect of Record
WorkWalls and WorkFurniture and technical
Media Consultant: Tim
act of making enviornment is the act of defining
the self. It is intimate. It both points the way
to what you want to become and it facilites your
path to becoming it. In architecture, vision and
reality are one. Architecture is the environment
in which we create our future experiences.
pay attention to my work environment not because
it is my profession to make architecture but because
I am aware that I am programming my own future responses
by making the habitat I work in. This context
will influence my world view and sense of well being
- positively or negatively; my work process will
be seamless and smooth - or less so; those that
work with me will be able to see what I am about
- or will have to be told; the enterprise me
will be profitable - or not; I am living in an environment
that reflects my values - or surrounded constantly
by the reminder of my failure to accomplish them.
Architecture is fact-based. It is what you
have chosen out of a world of options.
to my Pod area, since the original set up in 2000,
is a much enhanced back yard with my
roll top desk (for notebook journal writing), a
sitting area (for quite reading) and a daybed
for naps and overnight stays.
area are high in refuge designed to
provide relief and variety to extremely long workdays.
This aspect of work-rest is one that is often overlooked
in the modern workplace. It is not considered businesslike
- although given recent business news one wonders
what the modern definition of business really is.
research has indicated that a 20 minute midday
nap slows the degradation of performance and a one
hour nap restores performance to the morning levels.
The relationship of naps, and quite reading breaks
to the gestation period of creativity has long been
acknowledged. Long, sustained work sessions are
part of modern work and the innovation process.
How this works in the office setting is a serious
January, Gail and I purchased a home in
a Northern California coastal community about
150 miles from Palo Alto. Gail, who is
Makers, is now there most of the time.
I continue to travel a great deal and work
at knOwhere when I am in town. This move
to my knOwhere space.
group process breakout area, behind my Pod has become
the knOwhere-iterations library. This moved down
from the second floor to make room for more incubation
and office-hoteling space. This works for me in
two ways. It makes it quieter in my back yard and
the resources are closer for my use.
into the Library from the side Entry of knOwhere.
The rolling, folding WorkWall turns the Library
into a breakout area during DesignShop events.
My area is on the other side of the book cases.
from the Atrium and dome area. The curved book
cases create a niche for my roll top desk (shown
now have 4 workstations, three places to sit and read,
a place to nap or sleep without having to travel home
or pay what amounts to about $20 or more dollars an
hour at a hotel.
day bed is raised providing book shelving and storage
of the Library, Music playing area and the lateral
supports for the second level. The Library book cases
are to the left.
shoji screen opens to my private sitting/reading area.
A reverse curve in the Library book cases creates
a niche for my roll top desk - a place to write and
do business bookkeeping.
in foreground, Pod to the right, daybed against the
wall, roll top to the left under the low ceiling of
the second floor level.
my mind the roll top design is hard to beat. Great
presence and very practical. I have had this one since
1982. It is solid oak.
back side of the Library book cases provide a private,
restful place for personal work. I usually start my
day here working in my bound, hand drawn/lettered
day bed. It fills the negative space between
the Pod and the wall. The translucency of the Pod
prevents the space from closing in.
zen view from the bed looking back toward
the balcony and open dome space of the knOwhere Store.
Private but open.
to my Pod. I have added the desk and an iMac my first
desktop computer in over ten years. Increased architectural
drafting and Apples new design pushed me over
the hill. The WorkWall (to the right) has been flared
out (at the drafting board side) to provide more comfortable
sitting for guests.
iMac swivels around for work with other machines and
media, as well as, display-shows for guests.
use the Mac PowerBook for travel, building this web
site and e-mail. I can access my server, back up disks,
printers and my iMac remotely. All together this gives
me about 200 gigs of storage space.
AI drafting table with swinging file cabinet and tool
drawer. Scotts drafting board is to the right.
back to personal library area and the day bed. I have
shelving for about 1,000 books in my area including
the Pod itself - all reachable within a few footsteps.
purpose of the knOwhere Store is multifaceted: it
is a retail space (where all ValueWeb members can
sell their goods and services); it is a place to
deliver many of these services; It is a demonstration
place - a place to experiment and try new organizational,
technical, process and social options. Everything
@knOwhere is used for real work and everything
is for sale to clients and customers. As such, it
is a LAB for developing and delivering workplace
and home work-environments.
over specialized, socially isolated and mono-dimensional
workplace is an artifact of the 20th Century. It
will not last long into the 21st. It did bring discipline
and order to work. Fine. We have learned these lessens.
It takes a new order of discipline to have both
humanity and efficiency. It is time to create the
is one place I work. I spend about a third of my
time here. Presently, it is my home base. In time,
it will become one room in my Bay Area
reintegration of living and work, community and
work, productive effort and leisure (in the serious
aspect of the word) is an important challenge. A
great deal of the mistakes and abuses that take
place in the workplace and in business are the result
of forcing a dichotomy between these facets of life.
People end up in work-ghettos and become socially
isolated. The high touch feedback loops and severed
when this happens. Everything become an abstraction.
There is no time for thinking and contemplation.
Life become parsed into competing time segments.
matters. It creates a structure to human affairs.
And, structure wins. Architecture becomes built HABIT.
It should be viable, evolving, HABITAT.
2004 Note: with the closing of the Palo Alto
knOwhere Store in 2003 [link],
I moved my office to a space adjacent to the
Vanderbilt NavCenter in Nashville [link].
This space is an old office environment which
will be redone
as part of the expansion of the VCBH now scheduled
to start sometime after July of 2004. While not
nearly the setting of the knOwhere Store (at
least not yet until we redo it!), this move has
enabled me to arrange my workspace to support
a very different set of work requirements in
a greatly altered market space [link].
Concurrent with this move we designed a
new generation POD [link] which
key element in a couple of new projects:
Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital Executive
project relevant to the idea of personal workspace
in support of the executive routine and knowledge-work
is the office for Bill Stead which was installed
April 6th through 8th at the VCBH.
October 4, 2000
voice of this document:
VISION STRATEGY EVALUATE
October 4, 2000
March 8, 2004
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this document is about 99% finished
Matt Taylor 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004