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How Architecture Can Promote Occupant Collaboration

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Buildings operate best when their pieces and parts work together as a system — and this includes occupants as being a part of that system as well. You see, in buildings like schools, hospitals and office buildings, occupants must often work together as a team to reach a desired outcome.

In schools, the desired outcome is to learn. In hospitals the desired outcome is for patients to heal with minimal suffering. And in office buildings the desired outcome is often one of productivity and creativity used to execute a project.

Whatever the case, buildings work better when their building occupants can collaborate while within them. And when collaboration occurs, the building itself brings greater value to occupants. So, it’s a win-win situation.

An example of all of this can be seen in office building design where employees must often work together to reach desired outcomes for projects. The architecture can help foster a collaborative environment by tapping into three key areas: communication, mobility, and productivity. When designs target these, occupants can stay better connected while working toward their end goal.

The main point here is to design environments that are adaptable. In other words, environments that can be reconfigured, or can allow for team brainstorming through state-of-the-art devices. Thus, as a team’s needs change during the different phases of a project, the environment can simultaneously change to meet those needs as the project evolves.

Hence, architecture that promotes collaboration amongst its occupants isn’t just about meeting an individual’s needs — it is also about meeting a team’s needs in relation to the “project” that they are working on. Just as an individual’s needs shift over time, so too will the team’s needs and so too will the project’s needs. And it is up to the designer to make certain that the architecture can respond transiently over time as a system.

So, for schools, office buildings, and hospitals, pay attention to the needs of the teams that work within those environments. Also, look for project milestone and goal needs throughout different phases. In doing so, you will be designing an architecture that brings value from multiple angles — meeting the needs of the individual and the collective, all in the language of the project which they are working on: whether that be to learn, to work, or to heal.

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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

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AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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