The Physical Space

//The Physical Space

The Physical Space

By | 2015-08-31T19:24:36+00:00 May 1st, 2014|Editorial|0 Comments

While it is true that with the Internet and all our mobile devices—iPads, laptops, cell phones, even Glass—we can work anywhere.  Yet, the strength of a group of people occupying a physical space and working toward a common goal is undeniable. Communication is direct, episodic, incidental and occurring. Innovation happens.

Although working remotely has enjoyed a hip reputation in recent years, I have to admit I’m in the camp of Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer, who undertook making her company leaner and more efficient since her appointment in 2012.

In February 2013, the former Google executive oversaw a major personnel policy change at Yahoo! that required all remote-working employees to convert to in-office roles.

[pullquote]“The great myth of our times is that technology is communication.”— Grammy award-winning American composer, Libby Larsen.[/pullquote]“While people are more productive when they’re alone…they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together,” she said in a Huffington Post interview. “Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together.”

In the effort to reconvene a substantial workforce in Chattanooga’s downtown, this philosophy and adaptive redesign could be the best tools yet to energize the City Center and fill commercial property. Collaboration requires a human presence in the physical space.

As millennials are quick to point out, this space needs to encourage collaboration by being more open and less contrived, but definitely physical. Modernizing the downtown will create important new workspace.

With Chattanooga’s powerful wifi capabilities in place, it now needs the assistance of architects and developers to customize workspace, offer variety and thoughtfully market older repurposed spaces, using all the media resources available to property managers.

As business incubators offer a jumpstart to new companies, developers who invest in appealing build-outs and lease at reasonable rates help Chattanooga’s City Center revitalize. Chattanooga developers Matt and Mike McGauley have taken impressive steps toward this end (see “Directed Development”).

When the late Steve Jobs was head of Pixar, he hired an innovative designer to plan the company’s headquarters. In his biography, he said it was to be a place that “promoted encounters and unplanned collaborations.”

Pixar had originally separated different employee disciplines into three different buildings—one for computer scientists, another for animators, and a third building for everybody else. However, because Jobs was fanatic about these unplanned collaborations, he envisioned a campus where encounters could take place, and his design included a great atrium space that might act as a central hub for the campus. Obviously, he was a believer in serendipity.

John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer at the time said of the facility, “I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”

To see innovative office snapshots visit

About the Author:

Debbie is the retired Editor of Chattanooga Magazine, and ongoing contributor.