Middlesex Emergence

Middlesex Emergence
Originally uploaded by christophercarfi.

A number of us went out for snacks and such at the Middlesex Lounge when I was in Cambridge this week for the Business of Community Networking conference. The food was tasty, the beverages were great, and the DJ was (how-do-you-say) "interestingly experimental," but the thing that really caught my eye was the furniture.

Check it out. All the tables were easily movable, and all of the seats were on casters. The room was designed to be reconfigured on the fly. More folks in your party? No problem. Impromptu dance party? No problem.

Although we talk a lot about modularity in software design, this was one of the few times I'd encountered it in the world of atoms.

What else works better when it can be reconfigured at will?

5 Replies to “Middlesex Emergence”

  1. Chris,

    Glad you enjoyed the Middlesex. It’s a personal favorite.

    Two other entities that can be reconfigured at will:
    1. Sports arenas: The manner in which these arenas facilitate a basketball game by day and a hockey game by night is astounding.
    2. Grid-cities: The genius of the grid-layouts of cities like New York and Washington is that they allow for all manner of interruption (detours, barricades, convoys) without completely stopping the flow of traffic. Were you to shut down a main artery in Boston, for example, all traffic would grind to a halt. In DC, processions can be orchestrated in such a manner as to allow for relatively easy detours.

  2. > What else works better when it can be reconfigured at will?

    Library catalogs!

    (Oh, wait, you probably meant physical things that actually already exist… 🙂

  3. Chris,
    Glad you snapped Middlesex. What is often dramatic for me about open spaces is the starkness. They are not ornamented environments. When people are present and begin using the space becomes alive.

    Many years ago a colleague and I facilitated an open space conference which buzzed with energy for two days. On the third day, part of the same group met but with a reconfigured space, and formal pp presentations run by business unit leader. The energy was gone and the group felt “imprisoned”.

    MG Taylor, an amazing architect and thinker has designed open mobile spaces since the 50’s. It is breath taking how long ago he recognized our network behavior, and designed for interaction. http://www.matttaylor.com/public/architectural_index.htm
    The E&Y Center for Business Innovation at MIT was one of his creations. Taylor still operates two locations for groups to both experience their process and use a modular space. One is in Palo Alto. He is an unsung futurist.

  4. ian and ivy … great examples!

    victoria … LOVE the taylor link, thanks! another interesting use of open space here, this time to the end of better traffic flows:


    “Monderman is one of the leaders of a new breed of traffic engineer – equal parts urban designer, social scientist, civil engineer, and psychologist. The approach is radically counterintuitive: Build roads that seem dangerous, and they’ll be safer.”

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