As a researcher in commercial real estate, it’s not often I find a documentary film director turning their camera to an everyday interior feature of our industry to tell a compelling story, but that’s exactly what Three Walls delivers. It’s a Canadian filmmaker’s look at the birth, growth and journey of that building block of the modern office layout: the cubicle. Watch the 25-minute film here.
Its blurb reads:
With equal doses of deadpan humour and historical insight, the Canadian filmmaker Zaheed Mawani tackles the rise of the cubicle and the matter of why its inventor, the US designer Robert Propst, came to hate its implementation. Along the way, we hear office workers who spend their days fantasising about breaking free from their three-walled lives, cultural critics who lament the soullessness of the modern office, and even a few cubicle defenders.
The short film is a well-made, balanced and very watchable surprise, even managing to be poignant about the topic. While often overlooked, or assumed as a permanent fixture of the office, the cubicle can inflame passions these days as information technology, desuburbanization, and millennial worker demographics are all conspiring to reshape the office layout, and with it the expectations of its workers and managers. It’s not just tech companies that advocate for “openness” as a basic expectation, running counter to cubicles. But something like a backlash against that trend has been forming for some time now, with advocates for more enclosed workspaces saying that worker collaboration is less valuable than worker concentration.
No matter which side of the debate you end up on, Three Walls will make you think about cubicles in a whole new way.