Sunday, March 29, 2015

Workplace Squatters at Glaxo's new Navy Yard Building

GlaxoSmithKline's new offices ditch the desks and try to mimic working in a cafe or cool co-working environment.

Workplace Squatters at Glaxo's new Navy Yard Building

I went down to the Philadelphia Navy Yard yesterday to take a look at the architecture of the new GlaxoSmithKline building (by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Francis Cauffman) but what really caught my eye was the desks, er, workspaces. Glaxo’s new offices are organized around the concept of hoteling, where employees aren’t assigned their own desk or cubicle. Instead, they’re encouraged to float around the building, checking in where they’re most comfortable. This might one of the comfy, colorful chairs in the light-saturated atrium, a big all-purpose table near a corner window overlooking Lincoln Financial Field or at a café table in the coffee lounge. For the more traditional, there are work tables that can be raised and lowered, depending on whether you like to work sitting, standing or perched on a yoga ball. When they need to work collaboratively, people coalesce into teams at one of the many large tables.

The big advantage of this arrangement for Glaxo (Though , maybe not for Philadelphia’s Center City)  is that it has been able to cut its office space needs by 75 percent from its old space 15th and Vine. Even though there are roughly the same number of employees at the Navy Yard, about 1,300, it didn’t seem the least bit crowded. Amazingly, 30 percent of the company’s space is set aside for amenities, like the atrium.

I’m going to be reviewing Glaxo’s new headquarters on April 5, so look then for a fuller treatment of the architecture, interior design and planning implications of its move.

Inga Saffron Inquirer Architecture Critic
About this blog

Inga Saffron believes there is architecture and there are places, and you can’t write about one without writing about the other.

Since becoming the Inquirer’s architecture critic in 1999, she has been just as likely to turn her eye toward Philadelphia’s waterfronts and sidewalks as to the latest glittering skyscraper. She is drawn to projects of all sizes and shapes, but especially those that form the backdrop of our daily lives.

Inga Saffron came to architecture criticism after five years as a foreign correspondent in Russia and Yugoslavia, where she covered two wars and was a witness to the destruction of two great cities, Sarajevo and Grozny. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 2004, 2008 and 2009.

Reach Inga at

Inga Saffron Inquirer Architecture Critic
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