The Eudaimonia Machine: An Office Space Idea for the 21st Century? (2023)

met Alan Ruby/ October 25, 2018

The Eudaimonia Machine, as described in Cal Newport's bookDeep Work: Rules for Targeted Success in a Derivative World,offers design principles for office spaces that try to avoid many of the well-documented shortcomings of today's open plan office. How does this concept differ from the current 21st century version of the open office? Can it help promote the most desirable features of the open office?

Collaboration versus reflection

In my latest article on theopen officeI noted that the current version of the open office has become, according to many observers, a contradiction to the concept it is trying to promote. On the one hand, team touchdown stations and collaboration hubs encourage interaction between employees so that they can achieve superior creative and purposeful results. On the other hand, the well-documented disorders inherent in these spaces often lead to the exact opposite effect. Critics would say that there is clearly a gap between concept and reality.

The article also introduced the Eudaimonia Machine as a possible improvement to the collaboration shortcomings of the current open office layout..This article examines the logic of the Bliss Machine as a solution to organizational problems.

Five linear stages

The Eudaimonia Machine concept is described in Cal Newport'sDeep workit came from David Dewane, professor of architecture. The Bliss Machine is an architectural concept that attempts to support the idea that form follows function. It is a linear series of rooms or stages that lead the occupant into ever deeper levels of contemplation, culminating in profound work. In short the rooms and the associated knowledgestages of the Bliss MachineInvolving:

  • The gallery - inspiration
  • The living room - collaboration
  • The library - research
  • The office space - surface work
  • The room - deep work

A comparison

How does this concept differ from the open office? In my opinion, the individual components of the Eudaimonia Machine and the open desk are more similar than each other. For example, the cell resembles a closed office. The main differences lie in the areasemphasisInagreement.

Individual parts

First, let's look at the content and purpose of each room compared to its open-plan office counterpart.

The gallery: This space contains examples of in-depth work produced by the organization. The goal is to inspire employees and create a culture of healthy stress and peer pressure.

While there is no formal open office space designated for this purpose, it is not unreasonable to assume that an open office reception area could be designed to provide exactly this type of entry experience.

The living room: This room has access to high quality coffee and maybe a cafe. It would be furnished with sofas and Wi-Fi. The lounge is intended to create an atmosphere that is a cross between intense curiosity and argumentation. This is a place to discuss, brainstorm and generally work out the ideas that will be developed deeper into the engine.

The intended function and design of the salon is almost exactly that of a collaborative center in an open office: a relaxed environment for interaction and exploring new ideas.

Library: This space stores a permanent record of all work, as well as previous books and resources used by the organization. Copiers and scanners will be located in the room to collect and assemble the information needed for a project. The library should be thought of as the hard disk of the machine.

In a traditional open office design, the computer room, combined with office support areas and a small reference library, could perform the same function.

The office space: The office space will consist of a standard meeting room and booths with desks. The office space is intended for low-intensity activity. This is the space set aside for completing the least demanding efforts required for a project. A manager with an office space office can help tenants improve their work habits to optimize their efficiency.

Similarly, the space in an open office with touch stations would be a place to do more surface work.

The room: The last engine room is a collection of deep work rooms. Each room is intended to be two by three meters in size and is protected by soundproof walls. The purpose of the deep workroom is to allow full focus and an uninterrupted workflow.

This is identical to the primary function of the closed office: to allow the resident to concentrate undisturbed.


The focus of the open office design is… the open office space. This is usually a large room filled with touch desks and other workstations. It is this space that has received the most criticism for shortcomings, including those related to room temperature, air quality, amount of light, sound privacy, visual privacy, distractions and cleanliness. And it is these deficiencies that have been found to reduce the worker's ability to concentrate.

Instead, the Bliss Machine's focus is on the rooms – the final stage in the evolution of space and depth of thought. In a sense, it duplicates the function of the closed private office, albeit much more efficiently in design and use of space.

If deep work is truly a superpower, then the Chamber is the facility needed to make it happen.


The layout of the typical open desk is similar to that of a hub and spoke wheel. The centerpiece is of course the open desk full of touch stations. The spokes consist of shared locked offices, huddle rooms, a collaboration center and escape rooms that surround the hub. All spokes are intended to complement the open office by providing collaboration and privacy options. But without a clear usage pattern, they are often misused or used ineffectively.

The Eudaimonia Machine: An Office Space Idea for the 21st Century? (2)The Eudaimonia Machine: An Office Space Idea for the 21st Century? (3)

Typical open office layout

The main workspace in the open office is the workstations and contact stations, usually in a large open floor plan. The main workspace is full of distractions. If an employee goes from a touch station to an escape room for privacy, the stand often has a glass door that still provides a visual distraction. So, in many open office environments, it's impossible to really focus on work in a deep, uninterrupted way.

Instead, the layout of the Bliss Machine is linear, taking the passenger through successive stages of inspiration, collaboration, research, surface work, and finally deep work. It offers the spatial and cognitive discipline that an open office layout lacks.

The Eudaimonia Machine: An Office Space Idea for the 21st Century? (4)

The Eudaimonia Machine: An Office Space Idea for the 21st Century? (5)

Bliss Machine office layout

It is my opinion that the elements of space are insideopen office plancan be aligned with the spaces of the Bliss Machine. As shown above, the layout of spaces is a crucial difference. One of the greatest benefits of the Eudaimonia Machine is that someone can find a combination of spaces that suit their work and personality needs. In an open office, people move from a detached open workplace environment to a meeting room or escape room and then back to the open workplace environment. When someone in the Bliss Machine goes through one of the five phases, the transitions between the phases are less pronounced.

The design of the Eudaimonia Machine is ordered from the most open and distracting environments (i.e. the gallery and the living room) to quieter and less distracting environments (i.e. the library, the office space and finally the guest rooms). In such a development, people who need a quieter working environment can choose one of the phases suitable for concentrated work. For example, budget analysts, engineers or writers may spend most of their time in office spaces or classrooms due to the nature of their work. Conversely, marketing and sales staff can feel more comfortable in the lounge, which is designed for more interaction.

Different personalities can also benefit from the Bliss Machine. For example, introverts may tend to stay in the quieter phases (depending on their tasks), while extroverts may spend time in the more interactive phases (also depending on their tasks). Of course, anyone can work in any of the five stages, but linear progression, in my opinion, better accommodates differences in personality and work style than the typical open-plan office.

Again, the Form Follows function

The principles of the Eudaimonia Machine have not yet become commonplace in office design. But the idea's inherent logic seems to point to its eventual success. Overall, the Eudaimonia Machine appears to have the potential, both in emphasis and layout, to overcome the collaborative disruption to the contemplation of open office spaces. It emphasizes the importance of deep, concentrated work and form-following function. And in my opinion, it should push the design of the 21st century office even further.

This is the last blog written by Alan Ruby shortly before he passed away. Alan loved architecture and exploring the philosophical side of space. He left a legacy with his blogs and we hope you enjoyed the many ideas he contributed over the years.


Click here to learn more about current work styles

The Eudaimonia Machine: An Office Space Idea for the 21st Century? (6)

Labels:Strategy in the workplace


previous post Tips for Unsecured Offices [Infographic]

Next message Employees are not sardines: don't cram them into your open plan office

The Eudaimonia Machine: An Office Space Idea for the 21st Century? (7)

Alan Ruby

Alan Ruby joined Fentress in 2002 and is one of the firm's senior architects. It combines extensive knowledge of architecture and the built environment with analytical skills. Alan is an avid diver and cyclist and a long-time collector of abstract art.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jeremiah Abshire

Last Updated: 13/10/2023

Views: 6100

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jeremiah Abshire

Birthday: 1993-09-14

Address: Apt. 425 92748 Jannie Centers, Port Nikitaville, VT 82110

Phone: +8096210939894

Job: Lead Healthcare Manager

Hobby: Watching movies, Watching movies, Knapping, LARPing, Coffee roasting, Lacemaking, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Jeremiah Abshire, I am a outstanding, kind, clever, hilarious, curious, hilarious, outstanding person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.