We make our buildings – and afterwards, they shape us


The world we live in is becoming increasingly digital. In the past decades we have seen the growth of the internet greatly affecting the way in which we work and even socialize with one another. And the future is promising to blur this line between physical reality and virtual reality even further, allowing us to immerse ourselves deeper and deeper into the virtual world. Yet, we are still physical beings living in a physical dimension, and the importance of our physical surroundings should not be forgotten. Seats2meet is a great example of the importance of this combination.

In the midst of research on coworking spaces I came across Beatriz’ blog **here** and decided to leave her a message (props for the blog photo by the way, a brilliant way of making yourself accessible for comments like mine: ‘hey, should we have a coffee?’). We met at Café Noir at the Haagse Toren and we talked about how high ceilings, natural views and plants have been studied in connection to increased creativity and what kinds of architectural solutions in buildings could enhance serendipity. How horizontal distances are more favorable for collaboration than vertical distances separated by stairs, and how noise levels at open plan offices are still a problem in many office environments today. And other things, of course, like how our hostess is so beautiful, like a Disney princess.

With a BSc Architecture and my current studies in MSc International Design Business Management I am all about combining disciplines in better understanding the world we live in. At the moment I am looking at coworking spaces and how they are encouraging collaboration and openness, especially in their physical dimension. Having gone through all of The Hague locations during the last week, I have had the pleasure of being invited to the mothership, seats2meet Utrecht, following the above mentioned coffee chat.

At seats2meet Utrecht, as soon as you enter the space, the interaction between physical and digital can be seen. Digital information from the platform, such as knowledge tags of the users of the space, are displayed on the screens at the entrance. Inside the workspace you can choose a desk space on a long rectangular table, or a round table, maybe even sit on the couch or by the coffee bar. It’s all there and the freedom of choice is yours. It’s interesting to observe how the different elements are used in different manners – rectangular desks see more individual focused work while the tall, standing tables are vibrant with interactions. And without any rules or signs, just following the natural way of human behavior, the different elements are being used in their unique ways.

The central coffee spot is a classic example of enhancing serendipity, inviting the users of the space to gather and interact. Narrow corridors between the different meeting rooms bounce people together as they are passing from one area to another, and the beautiful views of the cityscape fill your mind with creativity. The openness of the workplace triggers unplanned face-to-face interactions but leaves little space for individual concentrated work. Maybe the pop-up meeting space concept could be expanded to include also pop-up focus desks? For those who are in the state of “flow”, or otherwise known as “in the zone”, needing a space for privacy and concentration?

But in the end these are just my observations. What would really help us improve our environment together, more than my individual observations, would be the experiences of us all. Comment below on your thoughts, needs and wishes, and together we can shape our environment to serve us, rather than being shaped by our environment. What do you most appreciate in your workspace at seats2meet, what aspects would you improve on?

“There is no doubt whatever about the influence of architecture and structure upon human character and action. We make our buildings and afterwards they make us. They regulate the course of our lives.”

-Winston Churchill, addressing the English Architectural Association, 1924