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Workspaces are Living Spaces

PROF. JAN TEUNEN | CULTURAL ADVISOR

Nowadays, most people work in offices. For many of these people, their workplace is the place in which they spend the most of their conscious, waking existence.

Because this is the case, office spaces should be such that people do not merely function there, but rather develop and outgrow their potential. Ideally, the office should be a factor which contributes to allowing people to be able to motivate themselves. A factor, that stimulates creative work.

For the office to have such a beneficial effect, it must have a quality that allows both a functional and a poetic relationship between human beings and their environment. Unfortunately, most offices lack this quality. They are dominated by economic rationality. In rooms with a character like this, people become neurotic, because the cultural environment does not respond.

Workspaces are living spaces

In average offices, people are weakened and devitalised, which not only harms people, but also businesses and, ultimately, society and the world. One could say that we are stuck in a dilemma with our offices nowadays. That is, we cannot just continue as before, but we can’t reverse what has been done either. You have to get out of a dilemma and this is best achieved through transformation.

There is one further reason for the necessity of this transformation. Post-digitisation has long since arrived in offices and as a result, many routine tasks are being increasingly carried out by machines. This is not inherently bad, as humans are not made for routine tasks. We are creators, so it is nice that what is left for us, as work in offices, is the co-creation we desire.

Offices dominated by economic rationality are conceptually unsuitable for co-creative processes. If they are to achieve co-creativity, offices must become greenhouses for creativity and that means they have to be flooded with beauty.

A prerequisite for the success of this transformation is a long memory. It is this that needs to be refreshed, because it has suffered a lot in the last few decades; the result of which being spatial unawareness. How did this happen?

To cope with the complexity of the modern world, many who are responsible for planning, designing and furnishing began with fragmenting. The simple was exchanged for the manifold and no end was found, because the beginning had been lost. This is why the restoration of memory is essential.

For this reason, twists must be made on the following origins, so that office spaces can be created in which life can grow and potentials developed:

1. THE UNIVERSE 
The Latin word “universum”, the Greek word “kosmos” and the Middle High German word “All” are all names for a beautiful, orderly and virtuous world. The office of tomorrow should also be such a world.

2. NATURE
In nature, everything strives for 100% of the invested potential. Such efficiency should also be the second nature of humankind, to which the office also belongs.

3. HUMANKIND
Humans want to be happy. Happiness comes from security and the consideration of individual desires and needs. Humans have a longing for connectivity and potential maximisation. These desires, needs and longings must be taken into account in the planning of new working environments. Indeed, they must be central.

Article on workingspaces

Jan Teunen (*1950) is a Cultural Capital Producer. As a consultant he supports companies in living up to their real potential: namely to create culture and preserve nature. He develops concepts for companies – concepts that contribute to the development of a sustainable company culture. His portfolio includes: dm-drogerie markt, Arbeiter Samariter Bund, Lufthansa.

4. THE HOME
The universe was the model that inspired the first home builders. That is why the first home became a very beautiful one. A home with the following five effective elements:

» Efficiency
» Protection
» Togetherness
» Cultural conservation
» Creation of identity

If these five effective elements are taken into account when designing new working environments, the chance of the new office becoming a beautiful one is very high.

5. THE MONASTERY
It is the cradle of the office. Monasteries are run by wise people. One must form a triad of rationality, emotionality and sociality to become wise. Without this triad, good leadership cannot be achieved. The religious do not have a job, they have a mission. They want to serve, create meaning and make a difference. In return they receive, like all those who do something meaningful, an internal reward. Applying the methods of the monastery in the office world of tomorrow is worthwhile.

6. THE OFFICE
The office is an invention made in 1179, in a monastery in the Rheingau. The importance of this fact is that the invention was made explicitly to protect that which is precious.

The offices of today and tomorrow must also protect that which is precious, namely, the people and their creativity and productive power.

Nature has self-healing powers. She does not have culture, and therefore she has to be constantly renewed. This is precisely what has been done since the invention of the office in Eberbach Abbey in the High Middle Ages. On the local scriptorium, the counting house followed in the Renaissance, which was replaced by the bureau in the time of the Enlightenment. Offices, as they are still widespread today, date back to the beginnings of the industrial era.

Today, mobility and digitisation make new office forms both possible and necessary. What is certain is that it will not be enough to develop them according to functionality and efficiency. This is not enough for the future. To be future-oriented, an office must be human and provide security. Functionality and poetry must be in balance, both concentration and communication must be possible, and after each creation, re-creation.

The office of the future is a place of well-being with humankind, their desires, needs and longings as the centre. A place where life succeeds. A place where life, love and work merge into one, thus achieving another twist on the origin. 

Jan Teunen

Jan Teunen’s editorial work has resulted in a large number of repeatedly prize-awarded publications. He is curator at the art college ‘Burg Giebichenstein’ in Halle an der Saale where he also has a professorship in design marketing. He is Fellow at ‘der Akademie für Potenzialentfaltung’ (academy of development of potential) and honorary member of the Genisis Institute for Social Innovation and Impact Strategies in Berlin.

Jan is married, has two children and two grandchildren. Since 1977 he resides and works at the castle Johannisberg in Rheingau.

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