ReturnTo: The History of Taylor WorkPODs
Gallery of WorkPOD photos and drawings
1990 to 2007

“Sharing is not only a pattern-forming process and an art; it is also a condition of life. With every breath of air, with every sip of water or bite of nourishment, we share the resources of the earth. In The World As I See It, Albert Einstein says:

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.

This is the reciprocal sharing of the Golden Rule and the golden section.”

Gyorgy Doczi
The Power of Limits
Proportional Harmonies in Nature, Art,
and Architecture
page 29

Light - badly overlooked in much of modern architecture - is a key aspect of workplace. A full spectrum is a basic requirement for health and for productivity - not to mention happiness. Nature-like shade and shadow is essential. The play of light - reflecting, highlighting, softly glowing, coming from many sources - its intensity and spectrum controllable by those using the space - is necessary for the making of a true architectural space. PODs both receive and supply light thus creating regions with prospect and refuge. Private-public reciprocity can be “tuned” by each user to fit time of day, mood, the work at hand and to signal receptivity.

In Christopher Alexander’s Pattern Language, #135 is a Tapestry of Light and dark. Properly designed, placed and employed workPODs accomplish this important pattern.

“you are thinking in a box.” “My back was against the wall.” “Bill has tunnel vision.”

These are are pejorative terms common to our society.

The interesting things is these statements describe the acual architecture that the vast majority of people work in all day long almost every day.

Does anyone think this is strange?

Do people really believe that the environment has no effect on human cognition and well being?

Would you take a vacation in your workplace?

Everything speaks. What is your workplace telling you? What is a redwood forest telling you? Or a beach - the montains?

What is the view of the world expressed by your workplace - a place where you spend the greatest amount of your mature life-time.

If you could have your ideal workplace - and you can - what would it be?

What does an environment have to do, functionally, to augment knowledge-work?

If you listed out all of the functions you perform in your work, does your work environment support your work appropriately?

Can you adjust it as needed as your work modes change?

Do you participate in the making of your workplace? Or, are you a stranger in a world you never made?

A gentleman came to by office recently to sign some business papers and, after looking around, asked me if “this was some kind of place for children?” At first I was taken aback for here was a working environment full of books, multimedia, computers, drafting boards, eleven adult-sized workstations and WorkWalls.

Yes there were some toys, objects of art and many plants but I wondered what made him ask the question. He clearly liked he environment but just could not see what the place did in terms of any typical business role. It was clear he associated its playfulness, mystery and absence of standard referents with children. This was an interesting comment on the notion of adulthood and the default definition of “serious” work. We did our work quickly and then drifted into a pleasant conversation which went on for some time. It turned out that we both had many experiences and values in common. So we both gave up a portion of our busy day to enjoy a dialog much like two old friends might have over a lunch. As he left, our lives added to in this small way, he commented on how much he enjoyed being here.

Clearly this spontaneous dialog would not have taken place in an office which was only the expression of transactional activities. Yet, we exchanged ideas of both human and business value despite busy schedules and our business being strictly mechanical in nature. Two strangers connected much as we would if we were in pleasant social circumstances on holiday. What does this say about the typical places where people work? Some would say they are sending the right messages. Maybe so in the old industrial paradigm sweat shop - but in a knowledge factory?

The environment speaks loudly. It is YOU in four dimensional form. It is your brand. It tells people what your values are and what you want in life and work. And, it effects you just as it does others. It is feedback to yourself from your inner self.

The “top” of the mediaPOD creates enclosure and provides a screened view into a higher greater space. The mediation of light between these two spaces changes the sense of openness and enclosure. How much the POD is actually opened or closed does the same. The important thing is that this sense of enclosure can be modulated by degrees by the user and that these adjustments can have a profound effect upon the atmosphere of the work environment. The single ubiquitous, bland, brightly lit void is gone. So is the static, always-the-same, box. Each POD becomes a personal work-home, a place of individual identity arranged to serve the work requirements of that individual. Pictured here and above is the mediaPOD mule, pre-prototype version set up at the AI Shop for client review. See below under Updates for the prototype as installed at the University of Virginia Medical Center Radiology Department.

There is a strange notion which still persists that the creation of the workplace is best dominated by utilitarian concerns. How this is reconciled in an era of knowledge-work, I do not understand.

What people get for a place to work is still a factor of rank far more than an understanding of the space and tools necessary to do their work.

The average worker has invested more in the car with s/he drives to work - and which sits empty all day long in the parking lot - than on their own personal “knowledge-factory.” And the car, on the whole, is a far better designed tool than the typical workstation.

The idea that the entire world of work can be accomplished on the screen of a computer is an absurdity that goes without comment. Every tool and physical place has a cognitive bias and promotes a way of seeing the world and responding to it. Knowledge work requires a broad range of mental modalities and the requisite tool kit.

The workplace is a social system. It is a community. It functions as a city functions. It is, in Jane Jacobs terms, a replacement economy - or not. The economics of the modern workplace go far beyond mere budgeting and now have to focus on creating the conditions which give rise to knowledge productivity not just how to hold down the costs of the physical infrastructure.

The culture you create in the workplace - physical and virtual - determines the product you ship to the marketplace.

Inhumane work environments produce products and practices in the social-economic system which are their corollary. Both impoverishment and excess is a distortion. Newspaper and television News is the Testament to this relationship.

At MG Taylor we design the 7 Domains of the collaborative, creative, healthy workplace.


PODs are rooms-within-rooms and offer the opportunity for a person or team to craft a space to their own liking. PODs bridge the often neglected gap between the scales of furniture and room. They provide refuge yet can modulate the degree of interaction between the POD occupant and the larger space with its varied activities. PODs are expensive yet they last for decades and can be moved and placed in many different settings. The materials and craftsmanship of AI PODs make them objects of art which help transform the ill-conceived utilitarianism of the modern workplace. The POD is conceived to become a personal workspace, owned by individuals, to be taken with them as they change their location of work. This allows each individual knowledge worker to “practice” their POD until it works for them and is an accurate expression of their work style and personality.

PODs also can be - must be - adaptable to and expressive of the “personality” of the organization and the locality of each place of of use - and, to each individual user. This makes three levels of brand. The modern concept and misapplication of mass production which results in peas-in-a-pod workstations is rejected by this approach. Cybernetic production will lead to mass-customization. Also, with this approach, the present breach between craft work and machine work will be closed.

The MG Taylor-AI-TMA approach to design-build-use combines a platform approach (for production and economy) with individual design and hand crafting (the art of the matter) to achieve a balance between manufacturing and hand work. The machine is as much a tool in the hand of the true artist as is the hammer, chisel and paintbrush. Each executes specific processes best. A proper combination is superior than either machine or hand work alone. In a short time, smart machines will add yet another dimension to the architect’s tool kit.

The UVA mediaPOD, is a prototype for the radiology application. This reading Room space is a test of a number of architectural Ideas and furniture from different firms to inform the design process for the permanent facility to be built in 2009. The architect of the project was Perkins Eastman. Herman Miller and others supplied the workstations.


The mediaPOD during the install and testing phase at the University of Virginia Radiology Department May 2008. Click on the photos for more detail. This is the first client installed prototype based on the “Mule” shown above. Each new application type of this POD will require active client participation in order to work out the interior functionality. We believe that there are nearly a dozen specific applications for this design. The mediaPOD configuration creates an interior space of strong intimacy while being a notable object-of-art as background to other work areas in the room in which it is placed. The photo on the left shows the console being reworked in the AI Shop after feedback in early may.

[link: media_ pod_ applications]

The WorkPOD has come a long way since 1990 yet we are just at the beginning of the journey. There are many avenues for improvement: it can get lighter and easier to assemble, take down and move. The mediaPOD is an advance in this direction. The POD can get much smarter and it will as new augmentation technology comes down in price. It can get greener. Renewable resources, better glues and finishes, and new materials are being developed daily. It can become more ergonomically sound. Again, the mediaPOD is exploring “extreme” adjustability of display units and work surfaces. Further invention is required so that PODs can be both enclosed, meet safety code standards while not losing adjustability and mobility. We have to accomplish with sprinkler systems what we have achieved with wiring systems. The POD can become more affordable. Continued innovation and higher production volumes will see to this as will a new attitude about use, ownership and life-cycle economics. These PODs are designed to last for decades therefore making both financial and ecological costs become much lower as people buy to keep and reconfigure rather than throwing away with last years trend. This is as important a revolution of the workplace as the need to transform the products of work toward the movement away from consuming to using and recycling. Mobility and permanence can be achieved. ARCHITECTURE is fact-based and the direct expression of the values of a society.
Whatever changes, it is the essence of the POD which must endure: It is meant to be a personal place even when used for collaboration. It is a work-home, or better a work-cabin - a retreat and place of refuge - an expression of its owner. It is a personalized knowledge augmentation tool. A workshop for knowledge-production. This means that each POD user must be able to make intimate adjustments to its configuration. The POD design and construction must invite this - not just “tolerate” it. PODs must be easily moveable because modern work moves a great deal. POD “owners” must be able to easily take their POD with them when they migrate. Not only to different locations - even in one team, configuration and proximity requirements change often. This is true even with the increase of virtual connectivity. The POD must grow to become a true work of art and craft. It must express the values the knowledge-worker, within it, is seeking to accomplish in the world. Anything less than this is a contradiction. Of all the elements of the workplace, one’s personal domain is the most intimate. It is as necessary to collaboration as are the collaborative spaces - the two, together, are the manifestation of a social theory. Their interaction is a model of society and the output from this interaction becomes the “goods” (or “bads”) which are let loose into the world. In the world we are building - with the tools we are creating - REALITY follows ART.

“It is by utilizing mass production in the factory
in this connection that some idea
of the remarkable new economics possible
to modern architecture may be seen approaching those realized in any well-built machine.
If the standardization can be humanized
and made flexible in design
and the economies brought to the home owner,
the greatest service will be rendered
to our modern way of life.
It may really be born - this democracy, I mean.”

Frank Lloyd Wright
The Natural House

UVA mediaPOD
design build process
UVA mediaPOD
Matt’s WorkPod
Palo Alto
History of
Taylor POD Designs
posted: November 17, 2007 • revised March 1, 2009