“As humans we need some friction in our lives…”
Verda’s idea that “friction” in the workplace could be a greater spark to creativity than comfort caught the attention of Metropolis’s editors and resulted in an invitation to edit the April issue. The interview Metropolis conducted with her (one of three with industry leaders that are featured in the section) focuses on technology as a distraction and the need for tech-free time. But Verda’s thoughts around friction in the workplace go deeper—right to the heart of what makes life meaningful, in fact.
“As humans, we’ve gone through the ages as working people,” she says. “That’s what we do, we toil. That’s where we gain our satisfaction—from hard work.”
Even that phrase—“hard work”—implies virtue. The harder you work, the more you benefit. The harder the job, the more you gain personally, spiritually from completing it. “It’s the myth of the artist that you struggle in your studio,” Verda says, “and the more you struggle, the harder you struggle, the more you create.” As a fine artist, she has experienced this seeming paradox first hand.
“I love getting into these projects that are a ton of work,” she says. “One of my favorite projects was for this group show called “Road” at the San Jose Museum of Modern Art—the theme was around roads and travel. I had these cardboard, telescoping roads, and they were like crazy, flailing arms supported with rebar and concrete bases. You could actually walk amongst them. It was probably around 8 to 10 feet. I would start out making the box and then I would paint the box. I would tape it off and do the little road marks and then I would glue them all together. It took me months to make. And, yes, I did it all myself. Then I went to San Jose with all the pieces in my car and I had to put them back together and make sure they stood up—and that took three days straight. It was just work, work, work, work. I LOVE projects where I can get into the manual labor of it.”
Small wonder then as O+A continued to introduce more and more comfort-driven amenities in its workplace designs—lounge spaces with fireplaces, fully-equipped cafes, places for taking a nap—Verda began to wonder if it was time for a course correction. On the Metropolis Think Tank panel in 2017 while others were talking about new tech in the R and D pipeline that would soon make work days even easier, Verda speculated about the benefit in a modern workplace of stepping away from the computer to chop wood.
“We talk a lot about how do you create creative places at work,” she says, “and we keep trying to create these places that are easy. But I’m thinking what if you just made something that was a little bit more of a challenge?”
Credit: Carla Fuentes, Jasper Sanidad
Buy Metropolis and read more about this special edition:
How O+A became magazine editors
What workplace will be in 2068
What rising Bay waters will do to the Embarcadero