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Spaces and Places – are they one and the same?

For most of my professional career I have differentiated between workspaces and workplaces. Is there any difference? The official definition is that there are differences between workplace and workspace. Moreover in most of our minds it is rigidly set – workplace is the place where someone works, whilst workspace is an area allocated for someone to work in, especially in an office.
Whilst I was participating in the Corenet Global Madrid conference last week this left me with a conundrum – could I along with others, have been looking at things in the wrong way? As Shakespeare said ‘What’s in a name’? After all they are both places where work is carried out. More to the point, does anyone care?

I was in Spain to share my thoughts along with those of Imperial College on Place Making. Something which I contend is different to the space making that goes on within an office building. In my mind at least, workspaces being the interiors of office buildings and workplaces are where that building is situated and by extension its relationship to the wider neighbourhood. However both are inextricably linked. This being the case, I can now see that for many they are also interchangeable – c’est la vie!

Whatever your view may be on definitions and labelling, I believe that Place Making actually merits more attention – especially by those who occupy offices. Traditionally individuals or the organisations who employ them have had little input into shaping the places and the locations of their offices. Much of this is due to legacy and the nature of where work has taken place. But with the shift to even larger urban centres, is this now realistic? It is left up to urban designers, municipal bodies, regeneration corporations and developers to set the agenda for how our places look and feel.

However let’s think about this, should this be the case anymore in a 21st century world? Where the nature of office consumption is changing, along with a growing C-Suite interest in engaging with the wider community and beyond, as well as harnessing the power of their brand?

Should this remain the preserve of the supply side or should the actual consumers and users of spaces and places have a say?

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