Creativity as social and spatial process

Kerstin Sailer (The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, University College London, London, UK and Spacelab Ltd, London, UK)


ISSN: 0263-2772

Publication date: 1 February 2011



This paper seeks to argue that creativity in the workplace is a very complex construct that is difficult to measure not only in its own right, but also in its interrelation with physical space. Since creativity is a social process, this paper aims to suggest studying interaction patterns as a fundamental feature of creativity.


Based on the literature, two criteria for creativity in workplaces were developed: spaces for chance encounters with people from different teams; and a balance of spaces for communication and concentration. Using a mixed‐methods research design, a UK media company was studied before and after a relocation and refurbishment project in 2007‐2008. The case study included structured interviews, satisfaction surveys, social network surveys, space observations, and a Space Syntax analysis of floor plans.


The paper showed that only the first criterion was successfully met in the media company studied, and that the pressure on the industry inhibited the full implementation of the second.

Research limitations/implications

Owing to the nature of the research results cannot be generalised. The relationship between creativity, interaction and space requires further investigation.

Practical implications

The findings highlight the need to balance spaces for communication and concentration, as well as the importance of bringing people together to enhance creativity. This knowledge may be useful for workplace professionals in design, architecture and facility management.


The paper presents a valuable data set comparing one organisation in a pre‐post research design, where the impact of spatial changes on working processes can be monitored. It combines innovative approaches normally used in separation.



Sailer, K. (2011), "Creativity as social and spatial process", Facilities, Vol. 29 No. 1/2, pp. 6-18.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.