1st Edition

London’s Global Office Economy From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub

By Rob Harris Copyright 2021
    372 Pages 97 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    372 Pages 97 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    London’s Global Office Economy: From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub is a timely and comprehensive study of the office from the very beginnings of the workplace to its post-pandemic future. The book takes the reader on a journey through five ages of the office, encompassing sixteenth-century coffee houses and markets, eighteenth-century clerical factories, the corporate offices emerging in the nineteenth, to the digital and network offices of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

    While offices might appear ubiquitous, their evolution and role in the modern economy are among the least explained aspects of city development. One-third of the workforce uses an office; and yet the buildings themselves – their history, design, construction, management and occupation – have received only piecemeal explanation, mainly in specialist texts. This book examines everything from paper clips and typewriters, to design and construction, to workstyles and urban planning to explain the evolution of the ‘office economy’.

    Using London as a backdrop, Rob Harris provides built environment practitioners, academics, students and the general reader with a fascinating, illuminating and comprehensive perspective on the office. Readers will find rich material linking fields that are normally treated in isolation, in a story that weaves together the pressures exerting change on the businesses that occupy office space with the motives and activities of those who plan, supply and manage it.

    Our unfolding understanding of offices, the changes through which they have passed, the nature of office work itself and its continuing evolution is a fascinating story and should appeal to anyone with an interest in contemporary society and its relationship with work.

    1. Introduction  2. Recording: emerging white collar factories  3. Explaining: a facet of the city  4. Planning: a tale of indifference and ineptitude  5. Building: a triumph of hope over experience  6. Building: re-shaping a global city  7. Mediating: from advice to service  8. Working: from corporatism to individualism  9. Managing: from liability to corporate resource  10. Divining: from castles to condominiums


    Rob Harris is a consultant and analyst in the commercial real estate sector, where he has spent over three decades advising developers, investors, occupiers and public sector bodies. His interests and experience range from advising occupiers on their use of space to the urban policies that help shape future cities: from the 'workstation to the city region'.

    Rob started work at design practice DEGW in the early 1980s, where he contributed to innovative work on new developments including Broadgate in the City of London and Stockley Park, Heathrow. He worked at surveyors DTZ and Gerald Eve in a research capacity, and he was director of research at Stanhope Properties plc in the 1990s. He established Ramidus Consulting Limited in 2003 as a specialist, independent built environment research and advisory business.

    Rob has a wealth of research experience that has involved projects throughout the property process, including design, development, management, investment and occupation. He has been involved in establishing and running a number of industry groups, including CoreNet UK, Federation of Corporate Real Estate, Society of Property Researchers and Workplace Consulting Organisation. Rob presents widely on a range of property market issues, and he has published industry reports recently for the British Council for Offices, Corporation of London, Greater London Authority, Investment Property Forum and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.