2./ Urban Spaces as a Platform for Growth

Yesterday we introduced the report that Gehl Architects have written together with Realdania By that examines the connections between public space, business, innovation and growth through a number of principles and best practice examples. The document can be downloaded here (Danish language version only).

Today we explore the categories we identified that should be the sights of action The Public Space, The Business and The Employee.

The Public space
Good public space can create growth for businesses, not only by adding to property values, but also in reducing costs by offering shared facilities and providing spaces that encourage interaction and the exchange of ideas and networks. The main purpose of public space in relation to innovation is in providing a physical platform for interaction and communication. Interaction can be something as subtle as watching others go by from the comfort of a well located contemplative bench, becoming inspired whilst moving with the crowd in a challenging fast paced sensorial place or even communicating directly with co-workers while taking a walk or meeting a client at a sidewalk café. This can be organized but also happen as an incidental meeting that might spark a new idea or innovation. These public spaces can be common urban meeting places such as parks, squares and streets but also less ‘thought of’ public meeting spaces such as libraries, public transportation or hybrid spaces like hotel lobbies. As more and more businesses locate themselves in new towns or in transformed industrial sites such as harbors or former production factories – the issues of connectivity and communication with the surrounding urban environment becomes increasingly pertinent. Even in the information age – while we have high-speed internet and are able to travel the globe with little effort – proximity, face-to-face communication and personal relationships are still an important issue in business development.

Innovative urban environments that support growth can be supported by….

1./ Establishing hybrid urban environments that combine different business types and activities with the surrounding public realm
2./ Businesses that expose and brand themselves in public through architecture and communication
3./ Creating a mix of businesses, housing and culture in a vibrant innovative environment
4./ Create possibilities for workstations in public space through integration of IT in street design and furniture and the creation of informal meeting spaces
5./ Providing accessible facilities that can reduce the costs for businesses and provide possibilities for connections with other such as shared facilities.

The Business
The business can influence outside of the physical structure of the working environment by utilizing the surrounding areas as a resource for client relations and by making an impact in the local setting.

1./ Showcasing the activities of the business through good interfaces between the public and private realm at the ground floor plane in the shape of foyers, showrooms, conference facilities, cafés etc.
2./ Integrating other functions that will draw non-traditional users or potential clients to the business. This could be in the shape of double programming: a bank and a bookstore located in the same space
3./ Offering possibilities for co-location with other types of businesses or employees through office collaborations
4./ Creating outdoor spaces and public spaces around the business that invite the public in such as parks and sports facilities

The Employee
In the knowledge society a business is defined by the capacity and creativity of its employees – so smart businesses make sure to provide attractive environments that attract the best staff and this in return gives the business the competitive edge. Key to attracting talented co-workers is that a business can offer good working conditions and a decent salary – but increasingly the top talent also require a business to be located in a particular location – often in an urban setting and at the least close to a major transit hub – which enables the employee to integrate working life into their day-to-day routines in a fluent and coherent way. In future (and even present) workplaces work is not limited to 9-5 behind a desk (I am writing this blog entry “at work” on a train on my way to a meeting while speaking to a fellow traveler about another shared project). Diversity of settings can have a stimulating affect much the same as meeting diverse people in an urban setting can stimulate an employee and encourage innovation.

1./ Innovative spaces offer possibilities for employees to fulfill potential.
2./ Create and participate in networks, social relations or business development
3./ Offer the possibility of using hybrid spaces outside the workspace as a supplement to the daily workstation
4./ Provide diverse inputs in the form of either physical structures or meeting between “strangers”
5./ Attract talented employees by providing stimulating urban environments that provide possibilities for an interesting work-life balance.

If we are to continue to contribute to the growth – both financially and socially – in cities we must consider all of these approaches above to support urban spaces as a parameter for growth. Tomorrow we will give existing examples of this in action. The full report can be downloaded here (Danish language version only).

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