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The Space-Organisation Relationship. On the Shape of the Relationship between Spatial Configuration and Collective Organisational Behaviours

Sailer, K; (2010) The Space-Organisation Relationship. On the Shape of the Relationship between Spatial Configuration and Collective Organisational Behaviours. Doctoral thesis , TU Dresden, Germany.

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Abstract

Spatial structures shape human behaviour, or in the words of Bill Hillier – human behaviour does not simply happen in space, it takes on specific spatial forms. How staff interacts in a cellular office differs significantly from the patterns emerging in an open-plan environment. Therefore the dissertation ‘The Space-Organisation Relationship’ analyses how exactly spatial configuration shapes collective behaviours in knowledge-intensive workplace environments. From an extensive literature review it becomes clear that only few insights exist on the relationship between spatial structures and organisational behaviour, despite several decades of intensive research. It is argued that the discourse suffers from disciplinary boundaries; a lack of rigorous research designs; as well as incoherent and outdates studies. Founded on this diagnosis, the dissertation puts up two contrary hypotheses to explain the current state of knowledge: on the one hand it could be argued that hardly any coherent results were found due to the incoherent use of methods and metrics. If this was true it would mean that different organisations would react comparably to similar spatial configurations, if the same methods were used. On the other hand it could be hypothesised that it was inherently impossible to achieve coherent results even with the use of consistent methods, since each space-organisation relationship was unique. To investigate these ideas further, the dissertation employs a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, embedded within an explorative research design. Both a comparative analysis of different cases and an in-depth study to understand specific organisational behaviours were aimed at by conducting three intensive case studies of knowledge-intensive workplaces: 1) A University, 2) A Research Institute, 3) A Media Company, all of them accommodated in varying spatial structures. Based on a multi-layered analysis of empirical evidence, the dissertation concludes that the relationship between spatial configuration and organisational behaviours can be described by two principles. Firstly, evidence of generic function was found for example between spatial configuration, the placement of attractors, and collective movement flows. These influences are based on general anthropological behaviours and act independently of specific organisational cultures; yet they are rarely found. Secondly, the majority of evidence, especially on more complex organisational constructs such as knowledge flow, organisational cultures and identity suggests that the space-organisation relationship is shaped by the interplay of spatial as well as transpatial solidarities. This means that relationships between people may be formed by either spatial or social proximity. Transpatial relations can overcome distances and are grounded in social solidarities; as such they are not motivated by spatial structures, even though they often mirror spatial order. In essence organisations may react uniquely to comparable spatial configurations. Those two principles – generic function as well as spatial and transpatial solidarities – come in many different forms and jointly shape the character of the space-organisation relationship. This means both hypotheses are true to a degree and apply to different aspects of the space-organisation relationship.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Space-Organisation Relationship. On the Shape of the Relationship between Spatial Configuration and Collective Organisational Behaviours
Event: TU Dresden, Germany
Publisher version: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:14-qucosa-3...
Keywords: spatial configuration, space syntax, interaction, workplace, office building, organisational culture
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1342921
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