Architecture and presence design

My research concludes that a presence-in-person paradigm prevails in our society, founded on the expectations of trust and knowledge sharing between individuals. Sustaining this paradigm, in particular within work and learning contexts, a design convention has developed in which meetings and interactions are achieved by means of gathering people in one geographic location at the same time.

Given that mediated spaces, specifically synchronous audiovisual spatial extensions using video and media technology as design components, may provide viable alternatives for meetings and interactions, the implications for workplace design are noteworthy. My study thus explores the contribution from presence design to architectural practice—as well as the reciprocal contribution from architecture to presence design.

I will briefly explore the foundations of a presence-in-person paradigm, arguing that, in line with the emerging network society, it is currently renegotiated with implications for architectural practice and theory. My focus is the relationship between presence design and architecture, with a particular interest in the implications for work and learning contexts where dialogic interaction and close collaboration are crucial. This design-led research is based on my reflective practice, first, as architectural designer (1990–2005) specialized in workplace design, and secondly as presence designer (2000–2010). It thus summarizes work carried out over a long period of time during which an iterative research-by-design process has developed from combining my experiences from practice with the theoretical and analytical tools of a reflective practitioner (Schön 1983).

To address knowledge management as a spatial and temporal design issue assumes a correlation between spatial organization and human interaction, which is a long-standing debate, not least within architectural theory. There is, for example, no scientific evidence that an open plan office layout stimulates more interaction than a cell-office layout (Steen 2009) but space syntax theory has, to an extent, shown that spatial features such as proximity, visibility and layout stimulate interaction and collaboration (Hillier 1996; Allen 1977; Nonaka and Konno 1998; Sailer 2010).

Charlie Gullström