Symposium Creative Spaces

‘How can physical spaces positively influence group creativity’.

Recently I visited the third day of this symposium on Creative Spaces Design, at Utrecht University of Applied Science.
“Aim of the 3 days: Sharing knowledge and experiences about creative spaces and creating new insights in the relation between space and creativity. Generate a set of design patterns that can help practitioners in creating their creative space.”
flyer creative spaces

Designed spaces versus design approach

My opinion is: do not emphasise on designing dedicated creative spaces. Do organise dedicated meetings with creative programs. Depending on and applied to each specific issue, a creative approach to space, time and means is required. Prime participants, get them out of their daily business en organise feedback on the (in)tangible results and take care of fruitful continuation of the program and meeting.
Personal experience: after participating in LEF or the HU Concept Space several times, it’s becoming ‘normal’ or even disappointing because of high expectation not being met. (Expectations created for instance because of the high amount of effort, time, money and modern technology spent developing these spaces.) I was curious about the findings of the 2 day workshop preceding the symposium and about some of the speakers.

Participants’ learnings

Organiser and our friend Remko van der Lugt summarised the learnings of the 2 days workshops and excursions very briefly; some opportunities and some interesting fields of tension. (See moleskine notes below.) I think it is a challenge not to find and build the optimal point in these contrasts, but to keep them open to be adapted every time needed.
Notes on learnings presentation creative spaces workshops

Personal space

Key-note speaker David Kirsh explained the support infrastructure for externalising ideas is very important. His quite inspiring example was a choreographer who sketches by dancing and making sounds, and the dancers copy and evolve the movements. I can’t imagine a space more personal, adaptable, creative, physical and virtual than the space made or taken with your own appearance, voice and body.

White Space

A fresh vision was White Space, from Joren van Dijk. White Space: the space you leave out, you don’t fill, or which is left after removing things. Spacial distance, brakes; in White Space creativity can flourish. He promised to pore over Jelle van Dijk’s question: “What is the White Space left after removing the designer..?”

Space subservient to facilitator and process

The most energetic presentation was the interactive talk from the Creativity Company. After a warming up the audience was confronted with a picture of the most uninspiring boardroom ever. Statement: during a session space should be ‘noiseless’ (Dutch: ruisloos); shouldn’t take time or energy from the facilitator. (And participants, in my opinion.) Challenge was to come up with ideas to be able to transform this room into a creative space within one hour. Within 5 minutes we made the most fantastic plan, for me another proof that a creative approach is more important than a dedicated creative space.

Experts have tricks

The symposium has strengthened my opinion that a creative approach is more important than creative spaces. I heard some interesting ideas and details and can’t wait to test them in sessions or at my own living- or workspace. “Experts have tricks” (Kirsh) indeed and I think 31Volts is developing more and more professionalism in our creative and design approach, with our own strong but flexible processes and adaptable, accessible tools for any space. CreativeSpaces team, thanks for the organisation!



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  • Comment by Joren

    Hey Anouk,

    Nice writing! I am not yet up to the question of Jelle. It hangs – a long with four other learnings from csd10 – on my wall. My most important learning was about, as you describe it; the high expectations of designing such a special room. As someone in the audience phrased it, what does it says to your employees when you have something like a ‘creative room’. In my opinion, this supports the notion that we should try to enhance the level of all employees by whatever what means.

    Greetings, Joren

  • Comment by anouk

    Hi Joren,
    thanks for your comment and additive learning.
    Upgrading the entire office building regarding creativity could be more motivating than a single dedicated room indeed.
    Good luck finding a PhD place, please keep us updated on your findings :-) and welcome to test our (almost white but creative) studio during a lunch! (

31Volts [Service Design]