Sponsored by Patcraft
66 INTERIORS & SOURCES NOVEMBER 2015 interiorsandsources.com
furniture solutions that feature built-in power strips and data ports for easy
As one might imagine, libraries have also experienced drastic changes
from those of past eras. While many might still envision college libraries as
dark, quiet places that don’t allow for food or much conversation, both K- 12
schools and universities are now creating more casual atmospheres to foster
collaboration. Decisions such as removing the typical large oak tables and
incorporating more lounge seating, paring down the numerous standalone
computers, and allowing—even encouraging—food and drinks, are far more
common in educational facilities.
Further, today’s students are no longer tethered to libraries for group study,
as coffee shops on college campuses are also becoming an increasingly popular
option. Universities are turning common spaces into hip, café-like environments
with lounge seating that can easily be moved around to accommodate groups
of varying sizes. As a result, when a space looks more like a collaborative area at
a local Starbucks, and students are treated more like adults in a space, they are
more likely to act like adults. When educators are able to create spaces that foster learning and collaborating with peers, students tend to rise to the occasion.
As the trend toward collaborative working and learning environments continues,
design teams need to think strategically about how the space will be utilized
and adopt a new process that invites not only dialogue among stakeholders,
but a collaborative process as well. When designing workspaces in the past,
designers used to begin with a simple mathematical formula: divide the total
square footage by the number of employees to determine the square footage
of each workspace at each level or job function. But in order to design an area
that fosters collaboration, space planners must determine how people work
and what amount of space can be unassigned before they can customize the
space for how a particular group works.
It becomes a co-learning process for architects, designers, and a project’s
numerous stakeholders. It is, in fact, a collaborative process to conceive of a
functional collaborative space. It can be a difficult process for some, as this
removes the idea of one single person—such as the designer or architect—
being the expert during collaboration. It’s a co-learning process during which
all sides may need to concede a bit of control and be open to seeing new
ideas that come from a discovery process (see related sidebar).
So how do you take all of these findings and create a space that will work
with any budget or timeline (whether they’re quick fixes to retrofit or large-scale rebuilds) and provide solutions that work today and provide the flexibility
for years to come? Here are a few strategies that can help in the process:
◗ Leverage technology. Wi-Fi and mobile technology allow employees
to move around and work anywhere in a building. They can have
impromptu meetings instead of being tethered to a desk or conference
table. Make sure that workspaces are flexible enough to accommodate
technology that doesn’t even yet exist.
◗ Design for durability and flexibility. When selecting furniture,
materials, or flooring for example, find those that provide durability and
flexibility. Furniture should be comfortable but light, allowing anyone to
move them at any time. Hard casters allow for easier transport without
scratching up floors. Certain flooring is better suited to control sound
in open areas, and flooring designs can help define spaces, creating
visual cues for walkways and small gathering areas.
◗ Tailored spaces. Offer a variety of spaces fit to the end user. For a
collaborative space to be successful, people should have options so
they feel empowered to make decisions on how they want to work.
Some activities may be better suited for open, collaborative areas, and
other tasks may require quiet and privacy.
◗ Don’t overlook the forest for the trees, i.e, consider how all of the
individual areas work together as part of the bigger picture. Make sure
collaborative areas don’t interrupt the nearby private spaces, for example,
but also don’t place private spaces so far away that employees won’t
make the walk to use them as they’re intended.
◗ Think outside the box. Kaiser Permanente takes a true community
stance for its facilities by holding book fairs at the facility entrances
and hosting community meetings and events—such as Alcoholics
Anonymous, weight loss programs, and yoga—in their meeting spaces
that enhance their wellness message.
It should be made clear that collaborative workspaces can’t simply be
designed while expecting a company, healthcare, or educational facility’s
culture to follow suit. As Seth Kahan, principal and founder of consulting
firm Visionary Leadership, explains, “You can’t force collaboration. It must
be entirely voluntary. You have to set up an environment that’s conducive
to collaboration and make it easy.” This can be achieved by focusing on
employee engagement—from bonuses to benefits and recognition. Empower
employees to feel as if they are the “authors of their own destiny.”
Collaboration must be a key part of the organizational culture. Change
management has to be an important part of the design process, especially
for workers who are shifting from a conventional, all-closed office space into
a more open, flexible environment. Make sure to engage all employees to
explain the reasons for the new workspace designs and address concerns.
As the spaces where we work, learn, and heal continue to transform, one thing
is clear: Collaborative environments are forging the path to creativity, innovation,
and opportunity by empowering people and maximizing their potential.
1 “Transform Now … or Struggle to Survive,” Daniel Burrus (2013)
2 “U.S. Workplace Survey,” Gensler (2013)
3 “Compulsory Transformation: As the ACA Rolls Out the Healthcare
Industry Is Changing Out of Necessity,” Retrofit (2014)
4 National Learning Infrastructure Initiative, “Leading the Transition
from Classrooms to Learning Spaces” (2004)
Thanks To Our Collaborators
Stephanie Davies-Dickinson | Lead Designer, Emory University
Lance Carlson | Director of Strategies, Taylor Design
Nancy Eagan | Senior Director, University of California Irvine
Scott Green | Interior Design Team Lead, Progressive Insurance
Charrisse Johnston | Principal and Interior Design
Practice Leader, Steinberg
Joel Kalmin | Facilities Design Manager, Legacy Healthcare
Pamela Rainey | Creative Director, Patcraft
Brad Smith | Principal Emeritus, Taylor Design
Today, students are increasingly learning
from group projects, and as such,
classrooms are being designed around
collaborative learning or social activities
taking place within them.