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200476577-001(MCT)—With the lines between our work lives and personal time blurring as new technology unchains us from our desks, the notion of what a desirable office looks like is also changing.

Corporate America is moving away from conventional layouts where an employee’s status is measured by the amount of space he occupies. Instead, more compact, playful designs are coming into favor.

People can do their jobs almost anywhere with their cellphones and laptops, the reasoning goes, so let’s make the office a place where people are stimulated by close interaction at their workstations and chance meetings in inviting public spaces such as lounges and coffee bars.

This gradual but pervasive shift in workplace culture that packs more employees into less room has been a blow to conventional office buildings in downtown Los Angeles and other financial centers. Acres of space lie vacant even though the economy is improving and many businesses are adding workers.

Making underused office properties desirable again may require radical modifications inside and out, real estate experts say. Few owners have taken bold actions yet, but architects and urban planners are scheming about how such transformations might be accomplished.

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