Organizational Spaces

Organizational Spaces

Rematerializing the Workaday World

Edited by Alfons van Marrewijk and Dvora Yanow

This insightful book poses interesting theoretical and methodological questions for the processes of spatial design and the treatment of workspaces in organizational settings of various kinds. The contributors expertly answer the need for practical field research on spatial settings and materiality in organizations of various sorts.

Chapter 4: What do Buildings do? How Buildings-in-use Affect Organizations

Marja Gastelaars

Subjects: business and management, critical management studies, organisation studies, research methods in business and management, research methods, research methods in business and management, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


4. What do buildings do? How buildingsin-use affect organizations Marja Gastelaars This chapter focuses on the organizational impact of buildings-in-use – that is, what happens when an existing building is reused for purposes of a new organization, rather than being designed and constructed ab origine for the occupying organization [as in the case of Prison P, Chapter 3. Eds.]. I draw on illustrative data from a respected nineteenth-century physics lab that was reoccupied by a newly founded School for Public Governance – from now on called the School – that is part of Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. To explore the impact of this quite venerable building on this new School’s activities, I make use of the six Ss Stewart Brand once proposed to conceptualize the durability of buildings (Brand 1994, pp. 12–13). Following Brand, I focus on a number of material aspects that any building might have and that are summarized in terms of six concepts beginning with the letter S. Drawing on Latour’s (2005) conceptualization of material actors (and actants), I show how this old building’s Site, Skin (or façade), Structure, Space plan (creating its hallways, rooms, etc.), Stuff (its furnishings and other mobile accoutrements), and Service (its infrastructure, which, for Brand, denotes various facilities, from plumbing to coffee machines and IT) take part in the new School’s activities. These material aspects are not only there to ‘keep randomness from invading [our] minds’ (Csikszentmihalyi 1993, p. 22), nor should an understanding of their impact be limited to symbolic functions...

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