This week’s chinwag is with Hannah Beveridge of Architectus, who has forged an interesting pathway, which has had a profound impact on her approach to workplace.
I have studied social sciences, psychology, anthropology and interior architecture. I went down the social sciences path initially where I learnt all about how groups of people interact and how social systems work. I found that really fascinating but there was this design element always niggling in the background ticking away. I decided to pursue interior architecture as it seemed like the right balance of focus on people as well as the creative side. I also have a masters of innovation, creativity and leadership, which has brought the social sciences and creativity focus together.
In the last five years, I have focused purely on the front end of projects where there is more focus on the human aspect of design. I’m involved in the client engagement and design strategy process, collecting client stakeholder needs and trying to align those to people’s strategic objectives. We then follow that through to align it with a design outcome that will address those needs. I have an affinity with sectors like workplace and the design of public spaces, where there is more conversation with clients and stakeholder groups.
One of the things that is an important part of what I do, is being able to speak many different languages. I’m not talking about different cultural languages but being able to talk to people at different levels. Being able to talk a design language to a design team, understanding what the CEO of an organisation is talking about when they head in a direction about risks and strategies, to what somebody in a mailroom might be wanting. The communication aspect is really important. Being aware of where people are coming from and what their exposure and experience might be, is a huge part of my job… and a lot of listening!
I tend to take a pretty relaxed attitude to my engagement with people. I don’t use big words or complicated language. I ask people to talk about how things are in their world. I try to embed myself in understanding where they’re coming from. Often open-ended questions can be difficult for people if they’re feeling nervous about not understanding the topic. Often, if they feel they don’t understand architecture and you start asking people to talk about space, that could be tricky. If you can give them some pictures, diagrams or sketches, then they are more often able to contribute.
There’s probably a really broad acknowledgement that we’re never going to go back directly to how things were. There is a resurgence of views about what the future of the physical workplace might look like. Organisations are talking about what it means for the way they operate in terms of organisational structure, leadership style, how are teams working, how does team cohesiveness work when you’re remote? That’s where a really interesting discussion can occur.
There is starting to be a shift from a focus purely on the purpose of the physical workplace to thinking about how the workplace has a role in the psychological and emotional well-being of employees. There are a few elements that are important in discussions of the workplace around communication and trust. What’s the organisation’s role and impact in this area?
I would like to see companies acknowledging the diversity of people that work for them and that can be suitable to work for them. There’s a lot of reasons that people might choose to not want to work in a busy office environment. It could be because of their personal circumstances or because of a health issue. It could be because their personality preference is that they prefer to be on their own rather than in big, noisy, crowded, open plan type environments. For all of those reasons, someone might prefer to be able to work remotely, partly or all of the time. The corporate world can be great for some people, but it’s really crappy for others. If more organisations could acknowledge that kind of diversity, it would be a really great start. I think the world becomes a more community focused, positive place to be.
I do think that with any change it’s important to think about the future. You can’t think about a period of change as being a circle that takes you back to where you started. We need to be thinking about the future on a national level, on a global level, on a personal level as well. Everybody needs to be thinking about, what have I learned through this period and how do I want that to impact what my future looks like?
I think people have realised that there’s a need to be prepared to be adaptable quickly. I would say that applies to buildings and that applies to businesses. You need to have a plan to be adaptable, flexible, able to shift quickly, and able to pivot quickly. Because the people who couldn’t do that, I would say, are probably the ones that have been struggling most through this time.
One of the things that I learnt from both my grandmothers was a lesson about bravery. They both had at different times and through different circumstances things that they did, which I think were incredibly brave. As a young kid when I heard the stories about their lives, I learned that being brave and making decisions that are right for you is really important and something that you should not be scared to do.
Hannah’s approach has people at the core and bringing the ability to understand design to anyone, from clients to users, is a real passion. As we move into the unknown it will be people like Hannah who we need to forge new understandings of our changing world and the built environment. We thanks Hannah for her time and wish her the best for the future. As always comments below are much appreciated. S, J & D x