Ask most people where they go if they really have to concentrate, and get something done, and it is almost never the office. Depending on the person, it may be a coffee shop, a library, a park, home or some other space that better suits them. A friend of mine recently Skyped me from his car. He was sitting outside so he didn't disturb his family, downloading his thoughts in what he called 'Genius mode'. It also meant he could turn on his massaging seats. How we spend our time is merging into more creative endeavours with computers doing the boring, repetitive stuff, and the boundaries between what is school, what is work, and what is our passion disappear. Designing happy lives often boils down to designing happy shared spaces.
Alex Read shared this article about a teacher spending two days as a student, and the lessons she learned. It is remarkably similar to what I learned from reading 'Brain Rules' by John Medina. The biggest take home I remember from that book was realising how much time we spend sitting, and how bad this is for thinking. We really are designed to normally be moving. Both pieces are reminders that how we learn and do, is as important as what we learn and do.
Yesterday I went to the Amsterdam Library (Openbare Bibiliotheek Amsterdam). My choice of Stockholm, Helsinki and Amsterdam was in part driven by stalking Gemma John as she does a tour of libraries around the area. A Social Anthropologist by training, she has transitioned, through Interior Design, to look at how people use space in order to inform decisions about the build environment. As someone who is looking to find cheekily cheap ways to spend time doing the things I love (learning and spending time with people), I admit to having largely forgotten about libraries. I am not quite as rigorous as she is in quizzing users (How they use space/where they sit/how long they spend there) so follow the work she is doing at Designing Libraries.
A Still Space in the Amsterdam Library
I think there is massive overlap in re-looking at how offices are designed, how schools are designed and how all the spaces we use are designed. The digital age has made ideas easier to shift around, but ideas only lodge when they matter to us. For things to matter, they need space, time, and personal connection.