EXTERIOR DESIGN: INTERIOR SHIFTS

The season is changing, chocolate’s in the air.

We’ll all soon have that twinge of an urge to simplify, brighten up, change our surroundings a little.

Because we can. Can’t we?

In every office in which I’ve worked recently, I’ve been struck by how ‘zoned’ the space has become.  Privacy is the new status, and there are some fabulously imaginative ways of ensuring that subtle and covert signals are clearly understood.

(And overt signals have by no means disappeared.  I know a building where hundreds of young talented people work in which – still – carpet, wallpaper and a mysteriously wealthy fragrance greet those leaving the lift at the ‘Board Floor’)

Having just had a lovely little travelling time in a European city that has consistently appeared top of the happiness tables. (Copenhagen, Denmark. Britain was 23rd on this list in 2016) I’ve been struck by how profoundly and speedily, surroundings alter mood, morale, and possibly even world view.

A quick Google study will uncover many studies about architectural and urban design that promotes calm, or relaxes, or soothes.  But something much simpler is open to us all.
The effect of mixing, naturally, different ages, priorities, and expertise.

The interior effect in that extreme building (and it is intended, isn’t it?) to a visitor entering that floor is to feel inadequate, inferior, and clearly without power.  The interior effect of a Copenhagen street by contrast is very different.  An interior shift can be felt; a shift towards a positive yet relaxed feeling that anything is possible.  Because homes and business are mixed up. Because evidence of children’s lives are visible everywhere. Because the Civic Buildings (how thrilling to situate ‘Borgen’) are low –key and relatively open.

So simple. Mix us up more, and we feel better.

OBJECTIVES AND MARSHMALLOWS

L80pxtreeike betting cleverly on an accumulator, it was possible – with careful planning – to maximise holiday time this Easter. The consolation prize for those who didn’t get their act together is an amazing emptiness in the streets, and a mood of mild indolence in the office.

So ‘chop-chop’ cry the team leaders.

‘Lets focus, people!’

Objective setters are in the ascendant: they feel more needed than ever.

How else to drag our attention back to where it should be, to regenerate some drive and ambition?

Concentrate on the goal, keep your eyes on the prize, forward march.

But insistent exhortations to ‘focus’ and to get back to the objectives can make lots of us feel like doing the opposite (guilty). Why is that?

Some help arrived in the form of a little etymology paragraph at an exhibition.

Focus.

In Latin, it literally means ‘hearth’, the hearth of the household; a gathering point around the fire. As usage and meaning morphed (especially perhaps post Keppler in the 1600s around optics and mathematics and convergence) the sense of a concentration of energy at one point ahead came to the fore.

But how much more motivational to recall the older hearth and fire meaning.

The most indolent team might be persuaded by the thought of shared campfire stories, a toasted marshmallow or two. The idea of warmth, support and belonging is so seductive.

During any low energy in-between time it is helps to galvanise teams with reminders to focus. But perhaps it’s even more effective to gather them around a metaphorical hearth; a shared and supportive focus.