Collaborative Spaces, Part 4
In a recent webcast for Demco’s ongoing library webinar series, I discussed what makes collaborative spaces effective. With today’s technology we can collaborate anytime, anywhere, and with anyone around the globe. But sometimes we need to be face-to-face, and we need spaces that don’t merely allow collaboration to take place. We need spaces that encourage working collaboratively. Providing furniture that supports group work or a white board and monitor on the wall of a study room are a good start. But collaborative space demands more thought and planning to be highly effective. Fourth in the series:
Our brains are wired to look for patterns as a survival tactic. We have an innate ability (and instinctive need) to make order of our surroundings through that pattern seeking. Otherwise all the individual visual inputs that confront us daily would exhaust and overwhelm us (and we might not see that human-eating animal through the trees).
This factor is useful to remember when designing any learning space, including those for collaboration. Many available tools facilitate collaboration, but all of them don’t need to be visible or present at all times. Clutter can confuse our minds and distract us, whereas clarity and focus can result from mentally and physically clearing the decks—from creating white space.
Libraries can provide a gadget-free experience as an option. Sometimes collaboration only requires a room to allow focus. White space can be achieved by closing off a room that otherwise would be open to daylight through the use of sliding panels. Take a cue from loft living where many varied activities are efficiently packed into a very small area. As with a murphy bed, use layering to conceal tools when white space is needed, and to reveal them when the tools are desired. Allow furnishings to be reconfigured or stored for large-scale collaborations and project work.
Collaborations can be intense at times. Daylight and views can help open minds to think expansively, consider new ideas, and inspire a team dynamic of good will. Fresh air can open the mind. If your building site and climate allow, consider providing collaborative options outdoors.
Sometimes white space is achieved by being able to change the lighting or views to affect the participants’ focus. Tiered lighting provides variety to suit specific needs. Simple additions such as a curtain, sliding wall for privacy, or blackout shades to control daylight and views all play a role in figuratively creating white space.