The impact of the design and decor of buildings – and the signals that these send about the nature of the work that goes on within – was a theme that arose repeatedly.
Participants commented on colleagues’ access (or lack thereof) to their offices, and they mentioned architectural design and decoration of their workspace and the extent to which these physical attributes enabled or inhibited interaction, teaching and networking:
‘Physically – we are in a locked building, so drop-in is simply out of the question. Perception is an issue too – we are in an administrative building, which puts people off from the start and links us with the admin function, which sits uneasily with what we do.
Similarly we have no teaching space of our own and are only allowed to book space from the central teaching pool once our academic schools have had space allocated for teaching, hence we tend to get second-rate space that no one else wants – again leading to the perception by staff attending that this activity is somehow of lower priority to the University.’ (R 99)
In this instance, the lack of control over how space is used and how it is presented means that academic development can be spatially and visually codified in certain ways, and the physical location can dictate, to a degree, whether it has a corporate feel or an academic atmosphere. Additionally, one interviewee spoke of how a unit’s move into the institution’s main administrative centre and the changed access arrangements, open plan office and lack of an academic atmosphere (including, for example, the lack of bookshelves) altered the perception of her work: ‘for me the space is crucial and has affected things hugely.’ (IE)