How the Right Interior Design can Help Achieve Strategic Goals / 2

When space and décor are put into a theoretical context, interior design becomes something more than just the beautiful styling of rooms. Based on theory developed by Bill Hillier, Julienne Hanson, and their book ‘The Social Logic of Space‘, Architect and Spacemanger, Inger Ravn shapes interior solutions that support behavior and functionality in an aesthetic and purposeful manner.

In ‘How the Right Interior Design can Help Achieve Strategic Goals / 1‘ I touched on ‘strongly managed‘ and ‘loosely managed‘ building programs and discussed how these can foster or limit movement and knowledge flows. The thing is, no matter the building program it needs to be easy for the users to decode functions and flows. From a psychological perspective, humans rely on their ability to read and understand their surroundings. If a space and its functions are not clear the brain will naturally read danger, and what we will see is that the users feel uncomfortable and do not use the full potential of a space. Therefore, it is utterly important that interior designers understand and consider how a room is perceived – and create rooms that are easy for users to understand, in order for them to feel comfortable and use them as intended.

Inger has been running her own company, Spacepro since 2008. Additionally, she joined forces with the Copenhagen based construction consultancy V2C, some years ago. She is a specialist in Space Management. She uses her many years of experience and background as an architect to create unique designs and interior design concepts that foster creativity and innovation that ultimately meets the customer’s strategic goals.

Contribution by Inger Ravn / Architect m.a.a / MBA / Spacemanger


The power of right interior design

A strongly controlled building program has a structure in which movement and knowledge flow are restrained by strict building and room structures – rather than the interior design and layout. This creates highly controlled interfaces between space and people. A loose and less controlled space program will look more like a beehive with streams of people and activity crossing, which facilitates a higher degree of seemingly random movements and static spaces where encounters between people can occur.

It is often easier to design a highly controlled building program because you can redefine what functions and actions you want to take place in each room, and thus, create pre-defined interfaces between the space and people. In the example below, nine rooms are furnished with office functions, providing highly controlled activity streams. This could just as well have been rooms arranged for recovering patients in a hospital, the point is the same; there is no surprise in what functions and activities that would take place in these rooms.

Figure and Image © V2C/SpacePro Architects 

When we analyze rooms objects become symbols for functions: A square desk may symbolize office, whilst a round table symbolizes a meeting room. When we use such symbols to decode our surroundings, mathematical experiments have shown that we spend less energy decoding the world around us. Evolutionarily, it means that we are better at surviving when we turn reality into symbols – the faster and better we are at reading different situations, the better we are at surviving (Roberto Verganti, Innovation Strategies, 2006). 

For many, repetition is perceived as a security element and this objective approach to space and interior design enables us to copy and reuse familiar and constant constellations to effectuate our understanding of the three dimensions of space. However, if we stick too rigidly to these symbols it can also occur that it actually takes us longer to understand a room if, for example, an office has an oval and not a square desk.

Figure and Image © V2C/SpacePro Architects 

Above an example of a ‘loosely controlled’ space program Is shown. Here it is visible how the interior layout becomes much more controlling for movement-patterns in the room. And unlike a heavily-managed program, we now have to deal with the inventory and not the space.

If we were to remove the walls and leave the furniture, we blur out the functions, because the room now has multiple functions within the same space. In order to decode functions, it is now necessary to broaden our focus and look at the people using the furniture. This is often what scares us that we now have to deal with both space, furniture, and people. For what navigation system do we now use to feel comfortable in surroundings with multiple sensory impressions?

The brain is lazy and primarily chooses the approach that requires the least energy from us. So, when we must choose between the object-related and the subject-related approach, the choice naturally will fall on the objective approach. Nevertheless, it is also very human to have a subjective approach to the furniture, especially when there is a human behind the furniture. thus the brain might be working a bit on overtime in a more loosey-controlled setting.

It eases our everyday life when we do not need to use unnecessary energy on reading or understanding – the world around us – rooms and interior. And it is often heard that people become more tired from the many sensory impressions that are in open offices than people who work in single offices. Precisely because the subject-related sensory impression is so complex and consists of so many sub-elements. Thus, especially, in the loosely managed building program, placement and use of fixtures must have a clear purpose, otherwise, it will seem silly and cause irritation.

Just a few years back, swings, hammocks, and roller coasters became popular features in the office decor. Gimmicks that signal that the organization is modern, advanced, and probably has a flat hierarchical structure. And it is okay to take a break or work in other settings. Things that can be of great value because it can give outsiders an impression about the company’s culture and values.

Put into an outwards looking perspective, interior design can also be seen as an expression of what is happening in the Wold. In periods where the economy is booming, there is room for quirky interior design, Showing that your company is worth working at, while all superfluous square meters are cut away in times of recession because people would rather lose square feet than colleagues. 

Following up on the example from my last article, ‘How the Right Interior Design can Help Achieve Strategic Goals / 1‘. In the last article, I explained how NordGen was advised to relocate to a new domicile, as this solution was found to better accommodate their needs than the alternative solution, which included a full renovation of their existing domicile: A conscious decision that was based on a very positive and user-controlled process.

In this project, proposals for advanced interior design concepts and a loosely-controlled space program would most likely be opted out in favor of a tightly-controlled space program that complies with the necessary guidelines of the laboratories and research offices.

On the contrary, Nordgen has great ambition in relation to branding. To aid this ambition the proposal focuses on making the company’s outward activities visible, this includes their outdoor cultivation fields, conference, and meeting rooms that will be a place for radical change in the new building proposal.

NordGen is a company that collects, sorts, and stores genetic material from grains, potatoes, and large livestock from the whole world. This gathering of gene material dates back more than a hundred years and naturally, this conscious forward-thinking tradition should be exhibited in the decor and design.

Keywords of the new building program and interior design:

– Visible
– Nordic
– Timeless
– Durable
– Preserves for the future
– For everyone

In conclusion, a good design expression should underline and support the branding of NordGen. This could be done by clearly incorporating a brush of nature in the interior design, including, colors, materials, and textures that represent the element. For many, it is probably easy to imagine how nature can be integrated into the design of a space. Lots of plant containers, small trees, or living plants as dividing walls are now common in many offices. On the other hand, this is a very original concept that already exists in many offices, and thus you will really be tested on your creativity if this is the design concept of choice.

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