The Spaces in Between

Just between us
I think it’s time for us to realize
The spaces in between
Leave room for you and I to grow – Neil Peart

Good architecture is often invisible, but it allows whatever is happening in that space to be the best experience possible – Pezo von Ellrichshausen

Workspace without imagination is just an empty room – Yours truly

Last week I spent a day at the ChangeBoard Future Talent Conference. In truth I’m becoming tired of ‘The Future of…(insert the things you’d like to see improved here)’. It feels too much like an excuse to me – if we could make ‘The Now of…(insert the things you’d like to see improved here)’ better, then to some extent, the future will take care of itself. Too much aspiration, not enough action. Here are a few notes and thoughts from one of the talks which I enjoyed, and which focused more on the present.

Kursty Groves. Founder – Headspace. Space Matters: How physical environment can enhance creativity & innovation in our digital world

Draw a meeting – in 30 seconds. What a great start to a talk – a chance to put pencil to paper. Here’s my response to that lovely invitation.

Draw a Meeting

We need innovation – yet we design for efficiency, and then we wonder why we don’t get innovation.

We often don’t understand the creative environment we are operating in so we borrow from others (Google, beanbags, etc) and wonder why that doesn’t work. You are you. Where you have your best ideas is not necessarily where others do.

What do we know? Nature matters – so does movement. Not a pot plant and a treadmill. Green exercise. As far as I’m concerned – an opportunity to get outside to clear your head think about work, or whatever, is usually worth taking.

When it comes to the workplace, and indeed many other things besides, we assume you have to use what you are given ‘as is’. What happens when we move stuff round? Clear desks out of the way, change the position of stuff. I know from my own experience the dynamic of a team can change purely by changing the layout of the room. If the space you are in affords you the flexibility – try it.

Some numbers – for those who like that kind of thing. Sourced from Reading University I believe. Productivity uplift of 17% when you can personalise a lean desk (hot desk, flexi desk – call it what you will) – this rises to 32% when people feel they can choose where to work and/or have an input in the design.

You can see Kursty’s slides here – which include a selection of ‘meeting drawings’ that previous audiences have come up with. What I really liked about listening to Kursty was that she offers ideas you can experiment with and adjust, now. Not tomorrow, now.

To move forward, people need to be inspired: they need buildings that enhance their creativity and push them to take the future into their own hands. Diebedo Francis Kere

Mood Lighting

Mervyn Dinnen and I had a wander round the Sensing Spaces exhibition at The Royal Academy this week. The exhibition, which is as much if not more about the space you occupy and the mood that emerges from that occupation, rather than art you look at, feels a little outside the Royal Academy’s comfort zone. You are encouraged to move around the exhibition in any direction you please, so we started with an ascent to the ceiling via an enclosed series of ramps and spiral staircases.

On top of the platform we admired the ceiling close up, and (mostly) kept our hands off the historical architecture.

Please Do Not Touch The Historical Architecture

We moved round the exhibition drifting through various degrees of light and shade, standing on and touching different surfaces (no keep off signs this time), occupying different spaces.

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We continued our wander around and afterwards, stopped for a coffee (him) and a beer (me). As we spoke about the exhibition, Mervyn told me that one of the biggest impacts he observed while walking around, was how the mood of our conversation altered depending on the space we occupied. He was right. Earlier on, as we ascended to the ceiling we talked optimistically and enthusiastically in the bright open space. Our conversation became playful as we moved through a brightly coloured environment made of plastic straws. Here – you are given the option to play with the straws and integrate your work into a mass of colour. We drifted through darker spaces too, and just as the light dimmed so did the volume and tone of our conversation.

I enjoyed catching up with Mervyn, and the exhibition has caused me to think on about the spaces in which we work and play, and the extent to which their design can and does affect us. The exhibition runs until April 6th and if you find yourself in London with an hour or two to spare before then, it’s well worth a visit.