INSIDE/OUT: MICHAEL RIEBEL, HAWKINS\BROWN

The Inside/Out Lecture Series is a series of talks about the built environment.  

To kick off this year's series, the Interior Design programme of The RCA School of Architecture organised a presentation by Michael Riebel from world-renowned architectural practice Hawkins\Brown. 

Michael studied architecture and sociology and worked as an art historian and architect throughout his professional career. At Hawkins\Brown, Michael heads the “think-tank team, which develops the research part of the design process. 

The lecture was a presentation of the firm’s research on creative workplace design and layout, including studying movement and communication patterns via a grid of Bluetooth sensors to understand the disruptive quality of layout design. 

Forms of knowledge  

In his talk he highlighted two types of knowledge. The ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘explicit knowledge’.  Explicit knowledge is like a book, where the knowledge is just there under your nose, whereas tacit knowledge it’s hidden.  

In tacit knowledge the transfer relies on social experience, trust and collaboration: Despite the rise of digital communication the importance of face to face interaction has endured as physical space is the ideal stage for tacit knowledge transfer.” 

He used the Matsushita bread making machine as an example for a true interdisciplinary effort. It’s a cycle of knowledge. We know more than we know. 

“What we perceive is not the physical space, but places that offer action possibilities to us.” – James Gibson 

Affordances 

When the research team of Hawkins\Brown looks at lay outs of the space, they look at the firm’s ethos, what sort of vibe and environment they work in. With that information they look at 3 points: 

  • Proximity 

How do people talk to each other? For example, a desk with bigger than 90-degree and round of corners allows people to talk more to each other. It’s just the little changes that make big differences. 

  • Permission 

When am I allowed to talk to who in the workspace? 

  • Privacy 

You can make a space private, but not totally private. How far can you can control the privacy? 

Disruption - Disruptive technology 

“Fun and engaging” offices with a lot of distracting activities like football tables and slides can be nice but how far can you push that? With simple elements, you can obtain an environment that encourages certain behaviour.  

“When you’re standing on a flat plane, nothing happens. There is no brain activity. On the oblique, you have feelings; you feel the force when climbing and euphoria during the descent.” – Claude Parent 

Prove it! 

To prove all this theory, Michael and the research team are using an application on people’s phones so they can track their moves and see where the most social hang outs within a space are when it’s the best time and where to meet the boss, and so many other data. They base their designs on this information. 

The lecture was really interesting, because we live in a world where co-working is the new type of working and opens an endless possibility to designing for the workplace 

http://www.hawkinsbrown.com/