Despite Efficiency: Labour

A celebration of time-wasting at work, this collaborative project explored and subverted ideas about labour efficiency. Over two months in 2014, we worked with a group of BA Interior Architecture and Design students from the Canterbury School of Architecture to create the exhibition design for Despite Efficiency: Labour, an ambitious project for the University’s gallery space.

As striving for efficiency becomes ever-central to the way we work now, Despite Efficiency: Labour was a (working) space where ideas about efficiency – and inefficiency – played out in the design of the space and the narrative content, curated by Emma Brasó.

The students were actively involved as both participants and accomplices in designing the space, and our resulting design was a satire on the windowless, soulless, open-plan office space. In a playful twist on this, exhibition-goers were invited to take an information sheet from a filing cabinet, sit on an office chair and wheel themselves underneath an abnormally low Styrofoam-tiled ceiling into a soulless world lit by desk lamps.

Hanging 1.5m off the floor, we brought this suspended ceiling grid – a staple of modern offices – into the gallery and created a number of different openings for visitors to pop their heads above ceiling level and see into the naturally-lit world above. There, they could enjoy a series of multi-media installations and video artworks from a variety of viewpoints and vistas. Binoculars placed by each opening allowed visitors to take a closer look at a series of laser-cut panels, each one individually designed by the participating students and illustrating the history of office design.

Over three weeks, the transformed gallery hosted a number of live performances, videos and other time-based projects all exploring unprofitable, futile or ineffective work.

“Aberrant Architecture have a really impressive way of working with students and inspiring them to produce amazing work. The office ceiling and structures produced for the exhibition not only worked perfectly, but they were also able to capture the spirit of the whole project in a unique way.”

Emma Braso, Former Cultural Programme Curator, University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury


Canterbury School of Architecture




Canterbury, UK

Project Duration

3 Months