Panopticon? It’s greek to me…..

When Apple’s new corporate HQ was proposed, a slight smirk had spread across my face. While some saw this as a design enhancing hippodrome of collaboration within nature–– I mean, Steve Jobs! Who wouldn’t want to work in this environment–– all I could muster was a slight shaking of my head the way a parent does when their child is trying something they think is new but they are not prepared for the consequences of its failure

The idea of a circular, donut shaped, building is not cutting edge and has its cons (literally).

Build yourself a Panopticon, get yourself a flute and they will follow you like the children of Hamelin. The word ‘penopticon is derived from the Greek word, ALL SEEING. But the story gets much more interesting. In 1785, Jeremy Bentham (founder of utilatarianism) traveled to Russia to visit his brother and stayed for a couple of years, sketching out the ideas of a panopticon, based upon his brother’s observations that applying constant observation to workers in prison, might bring those workers in line with the rules (better behavior). Returning to London, Bentham, along with his brother, began to apply their theories of a panopticon and put forth proposals for a new building design (donut shaped) as well as drafting out a complete penal code.

The fundamental design of a Panopticon is the idea of a circular building with a central tower offering very small windows with 360º views of each cell (office). This would have the affect of the prisoners not sure who might be watching them at any given time and therefore, would fall into line with the rules of the prison. Bentham also felt that his design could be applied to asylums, factories, hospitals, and schools.

Returning to the new Apple HQ design, since every office window can now be seen by every other window, workers will never be sure just who might be watching them.