A grammar of creative workplaces

PhD Thesis

Williams, Alison 2013. A grammar of creative workplaces. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Architecture Computing and Engineering https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.3077
AuthorsWilliams, Alison
TypePhD Thesis

This study proposes a grammar of creative workplaces which identifies and codifies those elements of the physical environment that are reported to actively stimulate and sustain creativity in the workplace. The grammar is explicit rather than metaphorical or taxonomic. It emerges from and is applied into workplaces, predominantly office environments. Three elements, meaning, lexis, and syntax, central to the structure of linguistic and non-linguistic grammars, are proposed as the grammar’s method and as its content. Respondents in the research study identified the creative behaviours that stimulate and sustain their creativity, and the discrete physical elements that influence and support (and can hinder) those activities. It is suggested that those creative behaviours and the discrete elements of physical space are congruent with the three key grammatical elements.
The grammar addresses that gap in knowledge in the fields of architecture, design and psychology where the impact of the physical environment on people’s creativity in the workplace is acknowledged, but is without mediating structures of theory or implementation.
The grammar is presented in two forms. Firstly as a detailed instrument for assessing a workplace’s capacity to support user creativity, and secondly as the theoretical foundation of a generative grammar for the design of creativity-supporting workplaces. As an assessment instrument the grammar sets out in depth the places needed for users’ creative behaviour, six meta-categories of workplace sensory properties reported to enhance user creativity, the affordances or materials and equipment needed to support creative behaviours, and the behaviours themselves that lead to creative outcomes.
In its generative form the grammar uses these identified elements of place, properties, affordances and behaviours in an IF→THEN configuration. Place, properties and affordances form the grammar’s lexis, and behaviours is its syntax. This generative form creates the basis from which spaces with optimum creative potential can be designed.
The grammar in both its forms thus aims to inform and supplement existing good practice in which architects and designers use their experience or intuition to design for i
optimal user creativity. In its assessment form it aims to empower workplace users to audit their own workplaces and identify changes they might make to increase creative potential.
Configurations of visual language encompass both patterns and grammars and this thesis draws on work done by, among many others, Alexander, Chomsky, Stiny, and Halliday in this field. Patterns and grammars exist across many disciplines to build structures of communication and analysis: this thesis positions its argument within three-dimensional physical space. Derived from the data through constructivist grounded theory, the emergent grammar is validated through the analysis of two workplaces, demonstrating its robust nature and its rootedness in practice.
This study, therefore, proposes an explicit grammar of creative workplaces that can inform the design and the evaluation of physical workplaces. The study further proposes that in its generative form the grammar could provide a foundation for testing the influence of physical space on creativity, beyond the reported impact examined here.
This work aims to contribute to the fields of Architecture, Design and Creativity Research, and to inform and inspire those who create, and those who use, workplaces. ii

KeywordsCreativity; Workplace
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.3077
Publication dates
PrintMar 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited15 Aug 2013
Publisher's version
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