Think about the last time you were at a party with a great host. The host welcomed you, made you feel comfortable, showed you around, introduced you to other guests, maybe encouraged you to try a new food, and made sure you had a good time. We’ve also all experienced the opposite: even when you’re someplace with good food, the right atmosphere, and interesting people, things can go awry without the right host.
The same is true for innovative workplaces and learning spaces – they need hosts too. Increasingly, spaces are becoming more complex: they contain technologies that bring together different group/locations, they can be reconfigured to accommodate multiple functions, and they support new activities, like a new pedagogy or activity-based working. Too often, these spaces will be perfectly designed to meet and anticipate the needs of their users but will be missing a crucial element: a host.
Spaces can’t be designed without also thinking about the services offered within them. The more complex a space, the more likely they are to need a host, someone that can train users on what’s possible, support them as they try new things, make them feel comfortable, and help to foster a certain culture of use. For example, sure Stanford’s Wallenberg Hall has clever design solutions for space, furniture, and technology, but much of the success in fostering innovative courses is certainly due to CIL dedicating* people to support and manage the spaces and work with faculty and students.
Over time, our spaces are more likely to become technology-rich, mulitifunctional, and shared rather than owned. So, they’re more likely to need hosts. The design of their services will play a larger role and must be thought of as an inseparable from the space – like software and hardware. By designing how our spaces will be hosted, we can better support their users and foster collaboration and innovation (and be sure everybody has a good time).
* A recent policy change to treat Wallenberg’s classrooms no different than any others may soon shed light on this…