This month in Scientific American there is an article by Emily Anthes called How Room Designs Affect Your Work and Mood. In the article she recounts how researchers are begining to make connections between the design of spaces, and how they may affect your performance at work, and your mood in other settings. Sure, we all knew that, but could we prove it? Experiments applying scientific methods are beginning to actually map these behavioral responses to places. The article kicks off:
In the 1950s prizewinning biologist and doctor Jonas Salk was working on a cure for polio in a dark basement laboratory in Pittsburgh. Progress was slow, so to clear his head, Salk traveled to Assisi, Italy, where he spent time in a 13th-century monastery, ambling amid its columns and cloistered courtyards. Suddenly, Salk found himself awash in new insights, including the one that would lead to his successful polio vaccine. Salk was convinced he had drawn his inspiration from the contemplative setting. He came to believe so strongly in architecture’s ability to influence the mind that he teamed up with renowned architect Louis Kahn to build the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., as a scientific facility that would stimulate breakthroughs and encourage creativity.
If you have ever seen the Salk Institute you will immediately recognize how the courtyard there was formed by Salk's travels. Visiting scientists have use of private studies that overlook the courtyard in an attempt to evoke the response that Salk experienced.
The article goes on to describe the affects of different situations - ceiling height, views, daylight. There is no right and wrong here as different conditions can evoke different behaviors, each valuable for getting the most effective work, or setting the right mood. This focus on experience is in my mind a key to creating the most effective workplace for yourself. Think about your own workplace in terms of the factors described in the article. Does it support and reinforce the kind of work you do? What might you change to improve its performance? More fun than that: can you imagine your ideal workplace? Windows? View? Daylight? High ceilings and low? Lets hear your dream in the comments.