The Eudaimonia Machine – A Conceptual Critique by DeVono Cresa

By Joe Gillam, Director, Dthree Studio & Shaun Dawson, Head of Insights, DeVono Cresa 

Office design has gone through immense change over the past 100 years.  The evolution has been led not just by the type of businesses that occupy office space but by the proliferation of technology and the impact that this has had on the workforce.  How, who and when we use office space are key factors to creating a productive and successful office design. David Dewane’s Eudaimonia Machine serves as a good reminder that whilst design principles can guide us throughout projects, the dynamics of each office needs to be considered and approached with an open mind, as every client is different.

However what is perhaps missing from Dewane’s piece of work is flexibility. We have found that an overriding requirement from clients, especially in the current economic and political climate, is they want the ability to flex their space – it is actually key to futureproofing an office design, to a certain extent. It might relate to the amount of space they have or how that space is used, something we saw play out in one of our recent projects, designing the new London HQ for Red Bull.  

Red Bull sought to unite their workforce of contrasting teams into a single, connected space, each with a varying level of work depth and productivity requirement. The DThree team dived deep into the design details to ensure the layout could work for multiple teams, each with differing needs. Noise levels, focus times, arrival times for teams and individuals were just a few aspects that had to be considered, along with an array of diverse space configurations. Whilst this sounds similar to Dewane’s five-space principle, the similarity ends there. 

The linear progression aspect of the Eudaimonia Machine would be difficult to achieve, especially in the types of office buildings that are available in London, where every square foot of space counts. In this instance, we were tasked with delivering a design that would achieve productivity whilst ensuring that everyone felt connected both culturally and physically to the space. Creating separate ‘rooms’ as per the Eudaimonia Machine, would carve up space and create isolated areas, counterintuitive to the needs of the business and the workforce. 

The Eudaimonia Machine is an intelligent guiding design principle and of course inspiring in its own way, but it is almost impossible to achieve both a perfect floor plate and the perfect journey throughout the space. We believe that there are always trade-offs and compromises for clients. Our role is to reveal where we see the best value for them in terms of function and aesthetic. 

Current office design demands flexibility, a space that provides concentration, contemplation and collaboration. All of which are vital in nurturing a productive workforce.  Whilst we can identify synergies between Dewane’s example in New York and our portfolio at DThree, we have also spotted the areas from which most designers are forced to deviate. Design will always stem from the client relationship, but that’s not to say we can’t be inspired and influenced by concepts such as The Eudaimonia Machine – that’s the beauty of design.