the flexibility illusion

the flexibility illusion

Most clients I work with want their space to be ‘flexible‘, but what does that really mean?

I tend to think of it like a t-shirt. If you put on a few pounds, it will still fit. It might feel a bit snug, but at the end of the day it’s still a t-shirt, it still looks OK.

Some clients like to think their t-shirt can somehow morph into a 3-piece suit. That’s the flexibility illusion. You cannot realistically create a space that has the potential to be all things to all people all the time.

‘Flexibility’ can also be a code word for ‘we don’t know what we want’, or ‘we don’t really have a strategic plan’. That’s fine, because I’ll bet you actually need less flexibility than you think.

When it comes to laying out space (your home included), there are ‘good’ places for certain uses and ‘not so good’ places. There are reasons why some areas often end up in generally the same position in most houses. The same is true in the corporate world.

Sometimes this logic can appear to be uninspired design. A client may think they’ve received a layout that’s been churned out a dozen times for a dozen other companies, simply because it resembles something that they’ve seen before. Occasionally, that might be true (but not for our clients, of course). Mostly, it’s because some things simply make sense from a workflow perspective.

How does this affect flexibility? Once we nail down a layout that makes sense, based on the building’s characteristics and your needs, a layout that allows for some expansion and contraction, do we really need to incorporate the ability to Rubik’s cube it into a completely different configuration?

Put another way, will you ever turn the Foyer into the Master Bedroom? Will you ever turn the Laundry into the Dining area?

Perhaps, but how likely is that? How will that affect the flow between spaces, privacy considerations, and what are the financial ramifications?

Corporate business strategies will always change and yes, you might need to add more people to a particular business unit, or change two small meeting rooms into one large one.

Flexibility. Let’s aspire to it, but let’s keep it real.

No matter how skilled your tailor, a t-shirt is not a 3-piece suit.