No. 41 . 07 March 2001 
ArchitectureWeek
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Curvaceous Workplace

by ArchitectureWeek

When the economy is booming and unemployment is low, it is difficult to attract and retain workers in the stressful, round-the-clock business of call centers. For the British telecommunications company Cellular Operations, this problem has been solved through a dramatic new work environment designed by the young architect Richard Hywel Evans.

When approached from the south, this call center in Swindon, between London and Oxford, appears to be a great, two-story black box. But it is the glazed, bulbous extension to the north that is most striking. To the local press, this is a "glass zeppelin." To the employees inside, it makes the workday fun.

"We set out to design a flexible office," says Evans of the 46,600-square-foot (4,300-square-meter) space. The open floor plan falls within a rectangular grid on the south side but follows the contours of the organic glazing on the north.

Evans believes the building's form fulfills the need for a humanistic, and occasionally humorous, approach to normally unstimulating work environments. He placed as much emphasis as the budget allowed into making the spaces special.

Improving the Workplace

Absenteeism and short stints of employment are commonplace in call centers, leading to expensive and regular retraining. In Swindon, with unemployment running at only two percent, workforce loyalty was crucial.  

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