• Experience unbound: The effects of coworking on workplace design practice

Privett, Imogen, 2020, Thesis, Experience unbound: The effects of coworking on workplace design practice PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This thesis uses the typology of coworking and the values associated with it as a lens through which to look at the design of the broader workplace. It examines the ways in which people behave in these new working environments and how these designed spaces are planned, briefed, commissioned and evaluated. The study responds to a continuing gap in the knowledge around the spatial constitution and behaviours of coworking despite a growing interest from corporate organisations.

Taking an inter-disciplinary approach that draws on environmental psychology, design practice and the social sciences, the thesis is rooted in both academia and industry, presenting four design studies that map the development and spatial manifestations of coworking and explore user behaviour in space. The thesis explores the values and spatial strategies of coworking through the quantitative analysis of 100 coworking home pages and 73 floor plans, and places coworking in the wider context of historical and current workplace development. Alongside this, it adopts design ethnography techniques to explore user behaviour in space at three different sites: the Impact Hub in Birmingham and
Second Home in London - both coworking spaces - and Sony PlayStation in London, a commercial workplace seeking to build a more creative community. Each site uses different strategies for managing change and co-creation, but with the same aims of prioritising user experience and building and supporting collaborative relationships. In the original design study, new user-centred design tools for brief making and evaluation are developed and applied at the Impact Hub and Sony PlayStation.

With relatively little academic research into the spaces of coworking, these design studies provide a platform to explore the values, infrastructures and spatial strategies associated with coworking, identify points of departure from established models, and identify whether there are central ideas within coworking that might be applied to the wider workplace. Six original contributions to knowledge are presented: a new definitional model of coworking, quantitative coworking spatial analysis, a design taxonomy of coworking spaces, an adapted framework for considering user experience, a user-centred design toolkit, and recommendations for incorporating aspects of coworking into wider workplace design.

The study identifies that the success of a coworking space depends on the experience that they create. This relies on complex and evolving interactions between space, support and service infrastructures, brand identification and community management, and the thesis highlights that simply adopting the spatial strategies or aesthetics of coworking without acknowledging its careful curation of space and relationships is unlikely to produce the desired results. This presents new challenges for the briefing, design and ongoing management of the workplace, which are discussed in the thesis. This PhD concludes with insights into how the essential qualities of coworking might be used to reshape spaces for creative knowledge work alongside a set of practical tools and recommendations that relate to briefing, design and post-occupancy evaluation processes.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Other > Social studies > L900 Others in Social studies > L990 Social studies not elsewhere classified
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: Research Centres > Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2020 16:22
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2020 16:22
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4444
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