Monday, December 12, 2016We all need to Lobby-up

California Academy of Science in San Francisco, CA

Museums are a place of refuge, and possess an almost spiritual pause for me. From the swish of the huge glass doors, to sounds being hushed at the lobby, to the excitement of what journey my brain, mind and soul are to embark on. 

The sheer volume of people seen in museums (art, science, children), made me wonder what is it about the quality of these spaces that make us want to go into them, and maybe even sometimes see a decent exhibition. To further that question, I want to learn if it all it would be possible, to create these types, of seemingly straightforward functional spaces of interaction, and wayfinding, work in their shunned away cousin - the office building lobby -I mean we don't all run and feel happy in offices lobbies, break spaces, or their indoor courtyard cafes (as nice and as clean as they get). 

I have recently been to both big art museums and huge office lobbies and the difference in atmosphere and vibe was so striking to me. Yes you can claim that going to a museum is a mind set of sorts, a mini break from the realities of the world -- though some exhibitions could not bring you any more closer to reality The location of big museums is carefully selected, but this is also true to some downtown office buildings, and even in office parks outside the cities. 

Could it be the intention of why you walk into any of these spaces that makes the difference? 

Hudson Yard's Lobby New York City

But as a visitor to both these spaces, the grounds for me going to any of them can be similarly exciting // functional -- meeting a new client, creating new connections, building a new space. All (in my view) happy productive things. Where is in museums I try to get inspired while stuck in a creative process (one could claim this might create heavier expectations from that space). And yet these office lobbies depress me to the core and weigh heavy on me. Something is not "right" in them. Most of them borrow from the large 12th century cathedral ceilings, that intend to make you feel small and meaningless. Even if there is a cafe it's a very dire soulless functional one, which only makes matters worse because the lobby area smells of old coffee and stale pastries. Usually the lighting and furniture picked out for these spaces are so "inoffensive" they lack any personaly, grace or function (who wants to sit in a smelly, cold uninviting space). So many more people walk into these office lobby spaces, than to museums. I can't even imagine how they feel going in and out of these places day in and day out of their work week. 

It's not just about the reason or intention you walk with into these spaces, it is the intention (or lack of) whoever built these buildings. An office lobby is just a museum lobby without soul -- and that is the key difference. People want to feel connected, they want to feel someone has put some attention to their wellbeing. It all starts with a meaningful design process that is not just function driven. Yes it means digging deeper, but the effort will pay off in happier more content people in the work space -- and there are more people working in offices than going into museums. 

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