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The spatial context of organizations: A critique of ‘creative workspaces’

  • Donatella De Paoli (a1), Erika Sauer (a2) and Arja Ropo (a3)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.


This paper examines office design as a spatial context of organizations. Organizations increasingly invest in designing workspaces to support employee creativity, foster company innovation and communicate a positive company image. This paper takes a critical view of this ‘hype’ by describing and analysing images of the headquarters of allegedly ‘creative workspaces’ published on the internet across a broad range of industries and corporations. Our analysis shows how their design follows standardized or stereotypical approaches to nurturing creativity: playfully or artistically designed open spaces, environments reminiscent of home, sports and play, nature, past/future technologies, or culturally aligned symbols. We discern underlying connections between office spaces and creativity, suggesting that creativity flourishes in happy, relaxed and playful communities within close-knit teams. We then identify three contradictions in relation to the existing literature on creativity and workspaces: individually versus collectively produced creativity; professionally designed workspaces versus workspaces created through participation; and planned versus emerging creativity.


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