George Bernard Shaw's writing shed was incredibly sophisticated. It was built on a turntable so that he could push it around to follow the sun. It had electricity, telephone and a buzzer system. He called it "London" so that he could avoid visitors by having staff say "He's not here, he is in London". Nancy Astor once banged on the door, saying "Come out of there, you old fool. You've written enough nonsense in your life!"
That is just one of the gems you learn from Alex Johnson's wonderful new book "Shedworking."
The garden shed started as a British phenomenon; the climate is temperate, they know how to put on a jumper (sweater) when it is cold, and they used to have privies at the rear of their lots, leaving the perfect spot for a shed. They also live in smaller houses, so there are not a lot of spare bedrooms and dens for home offices. The shed is the perfect response.
Alex Johnson is known to TreeHugger readers for our endless links to his wonderful Shedworking website. The book adds a lot of value and content beyond what is on the site; his experience as a journalist for the British newspaper The Independent shows.
Alex also spends a lot of time in the book on this side of the Atlantic, looking at the American shed scene and in the later chapters, the very American mobile office milieu.
It is clear that our jobs are changing, that technology lets many of us work from anywhere, that the office is becoming less relevant. I have had commenters complain about my obsession with cute little sheds, but just yesterday I did a slide presentation from a cabin in the woods near Algonquin Park, Ontario to viewers spread from San Francisco to Arkansas to Manhattan, all free, courtesy of Skype and Google Presentations. This is a new, exciting world of work. The sheds are an architectural manifestation of a much bigger phenomenon; your job is where you are.
Alex's book is not just about cute sheds; it is about a way of doing business in a changing world. The shed is the English ideal of the place to get away to, but every culture has its own dream. Mine is the cabin in the north Ontario woods; in the city I work out of a spare bedroom. But whether you live in an apartment with no yard or have six bedrooms and a basement which you can convert to a home office, this book is still relevant; the sheds are really just a convenient meme. They are glorious eye candy but the book is really about, as it is subtitled, the alternative workplace revolution.
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