The transformation of our work environments is only just beginning, but it could have a major impact on architects, developers, corporations, and society at large in the years to come. Far from making offices obsolete, as the digital pioneers of the 1990s confidently predicted, technology will transform and revitalize workspaces. We could soon work in a more sociable and productive way, and not from the top of a mountain. The ominous “death of distance” may be reversed with the “birth of a new proximity.”
This analysis ignores what I would term the “tyranny of distance” that comes into play with daily commute trips to centralized office buildings. And that tyranny extracts an enormous and now unnecessary cost from knowledge workers in lost personal time, stress and daily travel expense.
The 1990s visionaries (and for that matter, those that preceded them in the 1960s (Arthur C. Clarke: “Men will no longer commute, they will communicate”) and the 1970s (Alvin Toffler and the “electronic cottage”) were right: information and communications technology disintermediates distance. It has now matured to the point that the daily commute is obsolete and collaboration can be done virtually with the occasional in-person meeting to reinforce social ties.