The Flea vs Goliath

August 25th, 2015 by Andre Marquez Architects

So this is the story of two design firms consulting to the one client.

The project involved the interior architecture design to renovate the space of a large government agency.  The agency was composed of several divisions and branches, each uniquely staffed and uniquely tasked in different service areas.

The two firms in question had very different approaches to the design of the space, and this resulted in some conflict. The designers for the big box firm were driven by standardization and consistency, while the architects for the small, boutique firm focused on unique designs based on the end user needs.

The two approaches could be summarized as:

1. Systematic, furniture driven layouts, where every floor is standardized

2. User/function driven layouts, where every floor is unique

There are many studies about the importance of designing spaces that encourage physical activity ( And, many more on how color, light, and biophillia stimulate your brain (  Then there is the relatively new approach that claims disorientation can be helpful in places where creativity and alertness matter (

And thus, the conundrum: different approaches to interior architecture, mostly subjective. So, you can design a series of spaces where everything is in predictable locations: i.e., all the printers are by the stairwells, all the open offices on the perimeter. Or, you can switch things around, so that you create a sense of exploration within the daily office routine. Of course, when taken to extremes, these approaches can result in either boring blah, or stress and confusion.

We believe that, when added as a side element, a touch of randomness in an otherwise structured environment can be a good thing; even in the halls of government or corporate bureaucracies.

So, back to the story:

The big box firm designers insisted on regularity; the boutique architecture firm on elements of serendipity and flux. The big box firms became obsessed with standardizing printer and huddle room locations, while the small firm kept stressing printer and huddle room locations based on user needs and interesting flows. Who won?

Aaahh… that’s another blog.

In the meantime… tweet/post/comment… what do you think?

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