© Laurian Ghinitoiu, Courtesy OMA.
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Axel Springer has launched a move from print to digital media. Its new building on the campus in Berlin acts both as a symbol and a tool in this transition - a building to lure the elite of (Germany’s) digital Bohemia. Bisected by a diagonal atrium that opens up to the existing Axel Springer buildings, the essence of the design is a series of terraced floors that together form a ‘valley’ that creates an informal stage at the centre - a place to broadcast ideas to other parts of the company.
The genius of print is that it is a cheap, physical, hyper-accessible embodiment of a complex collective effort, for which so far the digital has been unable to find an equivalent. Architectural offices are similar to newspapers in that they produce complex assemblies and selections from radically different sources of information.
As architects, we have experienced the advantages: speed, precision, smoothness. But we have also suffered one crucial consequence: the relationship between the worker and his computer, which isolates him in a bubble of introverted performance, inaccessible to collective overview.
In the classical newsroom, dominated by smoking, typing journalists, each inhabitant was aware of the labour and progress of his colleagues and of the collective aim: a single issue, with the deadline as a simultaneous release. In the digital office, staring intently at a screen dampens all other forms of attention and therefore undermines the collective intelligence necessary for true innovation.