Working memory is a part of everyone’s life. That is, it is the combination of the processes that go on during focused attention. Until now, it has been thought that such working memory is really limited to only one focused task, but now there is a theory that working memory is really a sum total of different processes that go on to accomplish tasks. (1)
For instance, say you’re involved in focused attention to get ready for a presentation. Well, the tasks that you are involved with to finish your presentation may be numerous, and may vary widely in terms of the type of work that needs to be done. Reading is a different task from building a design model, for instance. And when you engage with the task of reading, different parts of your brain process as compared with when you engage in the task of building a design model.
So what does this all have to do with architectural design?
Well, when designing a professional office design that needs to help its occupants carry out certain tasks — wouldn’t it be beneficial to design it in such a way that it promotes the very creativity, productivity, and efficiency that its very occupants are trying to achieve with their work?
In an effort to design for better creative offices, you as the architect may want to think about environmental features that boost such working memory. Thus, you would need to dissect what tasks your occupant engages in during their day, to better understand what senses they are using, when they are using them, and how they are using them with each other — that is, to determine if a task involves both visual, aural, and memorization (like when preparing for a presentation), or the sense of touch, vision, and proprioception (as when building a model). Then, you should find solutions that boost those functions.
Such a technique may also work beyond professional office design, as it may also be used to help environments for the aging or for those with impairments. The key is to uncover and delve deeper into not only what tasks your occupants do, but to better understand the physiology of how they do them. By uncovering what your occupant actually does from a sensory standpoint, you can unravel what is behind seemingly simple and more complex tasks like reading (seemingly simple) or building a model while listening to music and referencing architectural drawings (seemingly complex).
So, think in greater “dimensions” about the tasks with which the occupants in your architectural designs engage. You will like uncover clues and greater insight which will help you to design more personalized and more harmonious environments. And the more creative and thoughtful your solutions, the more likely your occupants will achieve what they set out to achieve. Creative offices are only the beginning.
Citation: (1) How the Brain Keeps Track of What We’re Doing. Science Daily. July 29, 2011.
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