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Professional Office Design that Can Boost Creativity By Targeting Occupant Working Memory

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

Image Credit: © MAZZALIARMADI.IT |Flickr

Working memory is a part of everyone’s life. That is, it is the combination of the processes that go on during focused attention. Until now, it has been thought that such working memory is really limited to only one focused task, but now there is a theory that working memory is really a sum total of different processes that go on to accomplish tasks. (1)

For instance, say you’re involved in focused attention to get ready for a presentation. Well, the tasks that you are involved with to finish your presentation may be numerous, and may vary widely in terms of the type of work that needs to be done. Reading is a different task from building a design model, for instance. And when you engage with the task of reading, different parts of your brain process as compared with when you engage in the task of building a design model.

So what does this all have to do with architectural design?

Well, when designing a professional office design that needs to help its occupants carry out certain tasks — wouldn’t it be beneficial to design it in such a way that it promotes the very creativity, productivity, and efficiency that its very occupants are trying to achieve with their work?

In an effort to design for better creative offices, you as the architect may want to think about environmental features that boost such working memory. Thus, you would need to dissect what tasks your occupant engages in during their day, to better understand what senses they are using, when they are using them, and how they are using them with each other — that is, to determine if a task involves both visual, aural, and memorization (like when preparing for a presentation), or the sense of touch, vision, and proprioception (as when building a model). Then, you should find solutions that boost those functions.

Such a technique may also work beyond professional office design, as it may also be used to help environments for the aging or for those with impairments. The key is to uncover and delve deeper into not only what tasks your occupants do, but to better understand the physiology of how they do them. By uncovering what your occupant actually does from a sensory standpoint, you can unravel what is behind seemingly simple and more complex tasks like reading (seemingly simple) or building a model while listening to music and referencing architectural drawings (seemingly complex).

So, think in greater “dimensions” about the tasks with which the occupants in your architectural designs engage. You will like uncover clues and greater insight which will help you to design more personalized and more harmonious environments. And the more creative and thoughtful your solutions, the more likely your occupants will achieve what they set out to achieve. Creative offices are only the beginning.

Citation: (1) How the Brain Keeps Track of What We’re Doing. Science Daily. July 29, 2011.

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what members are saying...
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.

Ron Ward
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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