Almost exactly 40 years ago, I got my first job in architecture: Not as an underpaid draftsman for some Pritzker Prize-winning architect or as an editorial assistant at a glossy design magazine, but as a lowly office clerk for an interiors and architecture firm in San Francisco.
One of my duties was to feed drawings into the blueprint machine. Noxious fumes would emanate from the machine, making my nose wrinkle. After copies of the blueprints came out, I would roll them up and deliver them, on foot, to nearby offices. Such was the state of architectural technology, circa 1980.
Yet my grunt work at the firm Whisler-Patri, and a later gig doing public relations for another San Francisco design firm, taught me a lesson that’s taking on fresh relevance as landlords and tenants scramble to remake offices in response to the coronavirus pandemic: Interior architecture matters.
What is interior architecture? In the world of office building design, it means taking blocks of raw interior space and planning the layout and design of everything from corridors and conference rooms to desks and stairs that connect floors. Architects tend to get the credit (or the blame) for building exteriors, but interior architects have enormous influence on whether an office feels capacious or crowded, mind-opening or mean-spirited.