The ever useful and always intriguing George Perec describes rooms as passive until they are given function. All our interior spaces are just rooms until we, as users, place meaning on them (or should it be in them). It's in Species of Spaces, I think, that Perec explains that a room only becomes a bedroom with the addition of a bed, a dining room by the addition of table and chairs and a sitting room when we add a sofa and a tv. Without furniture acting as a marker for use, a room, says Perec, has no inherent function. Annoyingly, in this context at least, Perec didn’t go beyond the domestic and offered no concrete answer as to what needs to be added to turn a plain old room into a boardroom.
Moving on from Perec, but staying oh so French, Marc Augé in his killer book Non Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity talks about spaces that deny typical, relational (Perecian) definition. They are the opposite, he suggests, of the bed // dining // or sitting room whose whole raison d'être is to fulfil their named purpose. Instead, he suggests that there is another category of space altogether; airports, lobbies, shopping centers and office buildings are too transient to be given full place status. In these spaces, says Augé, people are anonymous, their identity is stripped back to a mere user of wherever they are. Character is homogenized and individualism curbed, instead someone in a mall is just a shopper, on a train they are a commuter, in a hotel a traveller, and in an office, a worker.
So Perec would say that no place holds inherent meaning in and of itself, while Augé might infer that the boardroom, with its diminished identity and bland aesthetics isn’t even a place at all, it’s just a marker of a hypermodern homogenized society defined by corporate structures. It could be for any board to sit in deciding governance for any business. Each boardroom will have its finance person, its ethics person (lol), its management person etc etc. But the actual identity of these people who are the board members are in fact entirely interchangeable. Generic, wealthy, white men moving from Fortune500 company to Fortune500 company with little to no noticeable difference.
The generic corporate boardroom with its long table, leather chairs and art-advisor suggested art would fall neatly into Augé’s definition of a non place - a place defined only by actions of the passing bodies that inhabit it. For Perec its very boardroomness is a little more straight forward and drawn from the table, the chairs and their usage.
What then, to make of this boardroom? It has the trappings of any corporate meeting room anywhere in the world; a nice big table, comfy chairs, an inspiring view. But its far from generic; it’s walls are all angled, it’s made of teak and concrete, in short it has a unique architectural language. For 363 days of the year it’s a sort of museum exhibit of a modernist boardroom, a monument to boardrooms across the world. A sort of Platonic Ideal Form of a Boardroom. This weekend though Kenneth Alme and the artists exhibiting have freed us from the cave and we can see the boardroom for what it is. I just hope one of you can let me know.
— Will Cooper