Saturday, 26 September 2009

BMW and the distribution of the sensible

"The close integration of all workers is facilitated by the overall transparency of the internal organisation. The mixing of functions avoids the traditional segregation into status groups that is no longer conducive for a modern workplace. A whole series of engineering and administrative functions is located within the trajectory of the manual workforce coming in to work or moving in and out of their lunch break. White collar functions are located both on the ground and on the first floor. Equally some of the blue collar spaces (lockers and social spaces) are located on the first floor. Especially those internal reserve spaces that are waiting for full use in Phase 2 are allocated as social communication spaces to mix blue and white collar workers. This way the establishment of exclusive domain is prevented."

"Zaha Hadid has been allowed to bend building regulations to ensure office workers in her latest project for BMW in Germany experience the same heat and lack of daylight as workers in the new car factory next door.

"The car factory in Leipzig will begin producing BMWs next week and 700 staff have moved into Hadid’s new office building next door in preparation.

"But the white-collar workers could experience temperatures of up to 32ºC because the building has no air conditioning and in some instances office workers will be up to 30m from a window. The World Health Organisation recommends 24ºC as a maximum temperature for working in comfort. The design was only allowed after the local authority decided to take a liberal approach to its building regulations.

"The office, which sits between a new car paint-shop and an assembly factory, was built in accordance with BMW’s policy that its office workers should be subjected to the same conditions as factory staff.

" 'If the workers sweat in 35ºC in the factories during the summer, then the office workers should sweat as well,' said Lars Teichmann, project architect at Zaha Hadid Architects.'

" 'If the factory workers have no link to the outside world, then neither have the office workers.'

" 'The office will reach 32 degrees in the summer. This is not acceptable for regulations, but BMW said it had to happen.'

"The link between the office spaces and the factory floor is further strengthened by a production line that runs above the white-collar workers taking cars from one end of the facility to the other.

"The unusual working conditions, designed in Hadid’s usual angular style, have attracted complaints from staff.

"'There are a lot of complaints from people moving in from other offices. They were afraid of the noise of the production line overhead or the smell. That is what concerned them, not the light or lack of air conditioning,' Teichmann said. 'The client had a certain vision of how the working conditions should be.'

"If the lighting, high temperatures and the noise of the production line do not distract BMW staff, then snagging work being undertaken at the moment might, according to Teichmann. This includes new concrete floors being laid because cracks appeared in the original floor.

"A spokesman at BMW’s Munich headquarters said: 'We want everybody under one roof. It is not a question of air conditioning or the size of windows, it is about better connections.'"

Zaha makes BMW office staff sweat

"In another well-known statement Plato says that artisans have no time to be elsewhere outside of their work. Obviously this 'lack of time' is not an empirical
matter, it is the mere naturalization of a symbolical separation. Politics precisely begins when they who have 'no time' to do anything else than their work take that time that they have not in order to make themselves visible as sharing in a common world and prove that their mouth indeed emits common speech instead of merely voicing pleasure or pain. That distribution and re-distribution of times and spaces, places and identities, that way of framing and re-framing the visible and the invisible, of telling speech from noise and so on, is what I call the partition of the sensible. Politics consist in reconfigurating the partition of the sensible, in bringing on the stage new objects and subjects, in making visible that which was not visible, audible as speaking beings they who were merely heard as noisy animals. To the extent that it sets up such scenes of dissensus, politics can be characterized as an 'aesthetic' activity, in a way that has nothing to do with that adornment of power that Benjamin called 'aestheticization of politics'.

"The issue 'aesthetics and politics' can thus be rephrased as follows: there is an
'aesthetics of politics' in the sense that I tried to explain. Correspondingly, there is a 'politics of aesthetics'. This means that the artistic practices take part in the partition of the perceptible insofar as they suspend the ordinary coordinates of sensory experience and reframe the network of relationships between spaces and times, subjects and objects,the common and the singular. There is not always politics, though there always are forms of power. Nor is there always art, though there always are poetry, painting, music, theatre, dance, sculpture and so on. Politics and art are not two separate and permanent realities about which one should ask whether they have to be connected or not. Each of them is a conditional reality, that exists or not according to a specific partition of the sensible."

Jacques Ranciere

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