Jim Watson's faculty offices
By James Robert Watson, PhD
Link to fotos on
Fall 1987 UCO 1 semester
I brought office furniture with me from my apartment in Dallas. Some of it was furniture I had designed and built years before for a home office. I bought a few other pieces to outfit my first professional faculty office. At the community college, my office had built-in furniture, so I didn't have to add any pieces. At UCO, I used this furniture only for one semester, as I had already begun planning a better layout.
Spring 1987 - Summer 1998 UCO 11 years
During the Thanksgiving and winter breaks in 1987-88, I renovated the office to what is shown to the left. I had the desk tops custom made in Dallas and bought the shelving units at Storehouse.
I never really liked the idea of a desk separating students and visitors to the office from me. It is just too cold, formal, and condescending. Sometimes, people use it as a way to express their position and power. I had no need to do that. The use of the large square table and chairs on two adjacent sides worked well and allowed me to better interact with students, especially while we looked at their work or discussed advising on their degree plan.
This office went through many variations. At one time, it was stuffed full of models, knick-knacks, and geegaws that I had collected. For a while, a duct tube and a slinky hung under the corners of the large desk as 'table legs' - one even ended inside an old shoe. Alphabet models hung from the ceiling. There was a large collection of paper models: Victorian street, Wild West town, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, and Chinese pagoda.
Fall 1998 - Fall 2001 UCO 3 years
I remodeled the office to an even simpler layout, although much brighter. Yellow wavelengths of light promote creativity and energy. It seems they can also replace caffeine. I created a 'closet' by arranging the white shelf units to form a barrier wall. Offices typically become a storeroom for lots of stuff - samples to show in class, past student projects, etc. I wanted to hide that out of view. I adapted.
Fall 2001 - Spring 2006 UCO 5 years
During this era, I served as the Chair of the Department of Design and moved into a new office that was part of the expansion of the new department. My parents and I donated the funds to renovate a former classroom into a suite of offices. More info: plans and fotos.
Fall 2006 - Spring 2008 UCO 2 years
Due to a faculty resignation, I had the opportunity to return to my former office (see above). None of the furniture that I had in there before was saved so I had to start from scratch. I took advantage of this and experimented with a couple of concepts.
We work in different office environments today. Right now, I am typing these words while sitting in Starbucks. I work on the plane, in NY, at OSU - all sorts of places. I like the freedom and flexibility that using a laptop affords. I really only use the computer in the office for entering grades and checking email. For course syllabi, project handouts, and tests I use the computer at home or one of two laptops. This shift in work habits will continue to evolve to a scenario where we may need less space in faculty offices. At some point, we will need to rethink the use of office space in an academic environment that is cramped for space. I was influenced by those companies that are innovating with personal lockers and wireless communication throughout their space so that workers can work in meeting rooms, the cafeteria, lounge chairs, just about anywhere. There is still a need for a space to conduct private and confidential meetings with students and other faculty, so we will likely still need a few offices that can be closed for privacy. But for most daily functions - we should acknowledge that we work differently now from when academic buildings were built (office hours for faculty are almost unnecessary as students now have 24/7 contact with teachers thru email).
The work wall
I had read about some research into the efficiency of standing while working. I was a bit skeptical (I am basically pretty old and lazy and like to sit down whenever I can) but I thought what a great opportunity to try it. I bought and installed about $700 of metal shelving from Lowe's Depot. I used several 20" deep shelves to provide adequate work surfaces. The computer sits on one and materials for classes sit on others. I like the idea of standing to use the computer. This new office responds well to a new lifestyle of a faster pace, in and out, and working on portable computers.
Fall 2008 - Spring 2009 OSU 1 year
I retired from teaching at UCO in May, 2008 and had moved all my office stuff to my home office. After conducting my final UCO study tour to New York, I returned to NY for the summer. I was loving retirement when I got a phone call from the head of the art department at OSU - she made an offer for me to come teach full time for 1 year. I thought about it and called her back to accept the position. I was given an office in the Bartlett Center. It has two windows - this is the first time in 24 years of teaching that I have had an office with a window. Windows are great.
The layout and look of the office was inspired by the dominant architectural element - the mass of the walls that intruded into the room between the windows. That mass suggested that the furniture also be massive and positioned along the samegrid alignment. The traditional desk was fine, it was massive and solid. I secured a large shelving unit from OSU surplus and brought the Corbusier Petite chair from my home office. It respected the concept of blocky masses.
Zones, from left to right
1. Conference/consultation: meet with students to review work.
2. Work: desk, computer, printer/scanner, files, bookshelf.
3. Relax: comfy chair, ponder the view
6 framed pieces by Watson that were in the 2008 OSU Faculty Art Show. Poster of the 1984 LA Olympics graphics by Deborah Sussman.
Sussman's graphics program poster, signed by her. An old tray from the cafeteria in the Student Union, rescued from campus surplus.
Desk, bookshelf, and fun hanging clock. Print of poster for the San Francisco Symphony by Clement Mok, signed by him.
Poster designers: Seymour Chwast of Push Pin Studios, Henry Beck's London Underground, Marcel Duchamp's The Fountain.