At the Barbarian Group, there’s no danger of showing up late to a meeting and having to hover awkwardly in the corner of the conference room because there are no seats. The entire office is one giant undulating conference table, allowing each of the New York City advertising firm’s 125 employees to work, meet, and collaborate, without dealing with draconian notions like desks.
Designed by architect Clive Wilkinson (responsible for the infamously wacky Googleplex), it’s called the Endless Table. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but at 1,100 feet long, the surface winds, coils, and curves its way through all 23,000 square feet of the New York Internet advertising company’s office.
“Desks, as they’ve been traditionally defined, are becoming redundant,” the 59-year-old architect tells the New York Times. “They are based on people working with paper, and I think our attitude toward paper is changing because paper no longer has the same meaning. Twenty years ago, we printed out things and found ways to store them. Now you store things electronically.” All you need is enough surface area.
Wilkinson has designed office spaces for TBWA\Chiat\Day and Ogilvy & Mather, Wilkinson has built tables like this before. The Endless Table is actually a riff on a previous table Wilkinson designed back in 2004 for an advertising agency in London. Called Mother, the agency had started around a kitchen table; as the agency grew, so did that table, until Wilkinson was called in to design a surface that could fit 200 people.
In the 2004 version, Wilkinson was inspired by a racetrack that Fiat had on its factory rooftop, but it was 14 feet wide, made of concrete, and three inches thick. For the Barbarian Group, Wilkinson opted for a different approach, snaking the table through the the company’s headquarters so that it actually created walls, dividers, and arches. The Endless table doesn’t fit into a room; it actually defines all of the rooms.
At the end of the day, the Endless Table affords about four feet of working space for up to 175 employees, who can sit, work, or meet where they want throughout the day. And at night, we’re guessing it makes a bitching ramp to practice your skateboard tricks.