The relationship between environment and culture is an interesting one: i’ve been particularly lucky this week to work in a wide range of organisations, sporting different physical spaces, from the high tech glassy to the downright arty slum. In one of the more modern spaces, someone said something to me that really resonated: their space exposed the raw structure of the building, the girders, wires, cement and steel poked through. A staircase had been driven right through this structure, so you literally walked through the fabric of the building. He said ‘we deliberately have the space like this because it reminds us that our work is only 1% done, that we are creating the culture and future’.
I like this notion of architecture as community memory and provocation: the notion that by deliberately stripping out the finish we can provoke ourselves to achieve more.
But environments are not the only story: permissions count. Too often organisations use environment as a mechanism of control: clocking in and out, segregating refreshment spaces from ‘work’ spaces and ‘support’ spaces, restricting access and movement. Spaces themselves have no value: it’s the communities and stories we forge within them that count.
Our environment may provide context and history, but we need permission to innovate, and that doesn’t come from the architecture. The building may partition a space, but it doesn’t automatically give permission to experiment.
Agility is a mindset, not a process or space.
We need to be fluid: spaces that are unfinished, that can be redefined, democratised, shared, repurposed, adapted.
The environment should not control us: it should be agile enough to liberate us. The wallpaper does not matter: our ability to draw on the walls does.