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Spatiality and transpatiality in workplace environments

Sailer, K; Penn, A; (2009) Spatiality and transpatiality in workplace environments. In: Koch, D and Marcus, L and Steen, J, (eds.) Proceedings of the 7th International Space Syntax Symposium. Royal Institute of Technology (KTH): Stockholm, Sweden.

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Abstract

It is widely considered that the physical layout of workplace environments has an influence on social interaction and therefore the social structure of an organisation. However, there is little accordance among scholars from different disciplines on exactly how the relationship between space and organisation is constituted. Empirical studies often come to different conclusions: for example, on the influence of an open-plan office on communication patterns among staff, as many studies report increases as report decreases or unchanged communication behaviours. This evidence-base is further confused since few studies make a link between a profound spatial and an organisational analysis. We suggest that the inconsistency of results is for two main reasons: first, methodologies for operationalising variables differ significantly with each study tending to analyse a distinct notion of a phenomenon. This makes further comparative conclusions and predictive modelling problematic. Second, even where the same methods are used, contradictory evidence emerges, where one organisation reacts differently to another to similar spatial conditions. This suggests that, at the core of the problem, lies an apparent lack of understanding of the nature of the space-organisation relationship. This paper explores these phenomena by drawing on the results of various case studies conducted over the last few years in diverse organisational settings (a university, a research institute, and in corporate media companies). Two main lines of argument will be developed: first we will show that some influences of space on organisational behaviour seem to be generic. Understanding of these generic influences may be used to design spaces enhancing interaction and knowledge flow for any type of organisation. Second, we outline how organisations depend on context, culture and character, and may react to similar spatial configurations in a unique way. We will suggest why this may be the case, referring to Hillier and Hanson’s notion of spatial and transpatial modes of social cohesion. The two underlying theoretical concepts, i.e. space as ’generic function’ and spatial versus transpatial operations will be discussed concerning their application to, and meaningfulness for, workplace environments. Finally, inferences are drawn for the practice of evidence-based design.

Type:Proceedings paper
Title:Spatiality and transpatiality in workplace environments
Event:7th International Space Syntax Symposium
Location:School of Architecture and the Built Environment, The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden
Dates:2009-06-08 - 2009-06-11
Publisher version:http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/15303/
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Graduate Studies
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Built Environment Faculty Office

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