DEGW were established in London in 1971 as an offshoot of New York space planners JFN. The original partners were all educated as architects, with Luigi Giffone also being an engineer; Francis Duffy, John Worthington and the late Peter Ely, studied together at the Architectural Association. DEGW specialised in the design of office environments and were one of the first practices to place an emphasis on how organisations use space and the important role that design has to play in this. They revolutionised space planning for large scale offices by placing an emphasis on the changing nature of organisations and the need for office accommodation to reflect this, incorporating ideas on mobile and remote working.
DEGW's approach to design places an emphasis on research and they combine concepts from US planning and business, such as 'time budgeting', 'activity mapping', 'advocacy planning' and the explicit use of scientific methods in building design. Their over-arching concern with time and management in architecture has produced influential work on the differing life-cycles in buildings from structural core to interior fittings, the involvement of users in the design and management of their space, the emphasis on facilities management as key to the success of large-scale building, the use of pre- and post-occupancy surveys, workshops, strategic briefing and focus group techniques. DEGW thus serve as a pioneering example of how architectural intelligence can be applied in a broad range of contexts.
A key to DEGW's approach was the combination of consultancy and design work, each challenging the other. Since their takeover by Davis Langdon in summer 2009, DEGW have closed their design services, concentrating on consultancy alone. This has arguably changed a fundamental and productive dynamic within the practice, which allowed it to test its ideas on organisational structure and management through concrete design and vice versa.
DEGW, 'Workplace Forum', http://www.workplaceforum.com/ [accessed 18 March 2010].
Francis Duffy, The Responsible Workplace: The Redesign of Work and Offices (Oxford: Butterworth Architecture, 1993).
Francis Duffy, Design for Change: The Architecture of DEGW (Basel: Birkhäuser, 1998).
---, 'British Airways at Waterside: A New Model Office?', ARQ: Architectural Research Quarterly, 3 (1999), 125-140.
Richard Steer and Frank Duffy, 'Interview with Architect & DEGW Founder Frank Duffy', GleedsTV, http://www.gleeds.tv/index.cfm?video=484# [accessed 18 March 2010].
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