Designing spaces for creativity, collaboration and learning
How do I improve my private living environment? How do we, as an organization create a better office environment? How can we, as a city provide a truly communal public space?”. Over the years, by answering our clients’ questions, we have learned that a successful environment – whether a private residence, an office, a museum or a public park – is driven by three forms of interactions: creativity, collaboration & learning. As Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes, founder and lead architect of AKKA believes
“It is at the intersection of different forms of interactions such creativity, collaboration & learning that added value and (open) innovation emerges. Every space needs to foster interactions, only to varying degrees”. This is why, we at AKKA are dedicated to creating spaces that foster interactions. Whatever your architectural needs are, we start by asking “how can we design your space to foster interactions?” To answer that question, we have developed our unique architectural process.
Our vision: Architecting Interaction
Our work at AKKA is driven by our vision, a philosophy we call “Architecting Interaction”. The term Architecting was first used by Stephanie to refer to a verb, an action, an ongoing process. Interaction, as Stephanie defines it, is “literally inter & action, the action taking place in between different entities“. Architecting Interaction explores human interactions on a scale of interventions, a scale ranging from individuals, to communities to organizations and projects and a scale ranging from products to furniture, to interiors, to buildings to urban interventions.“We do not design interactions, Stephanie believes, instead we design the contexts for interactions.” We do
not believe in designing interactions themselves, that’s because interactions are by nature spontaneous and context-dependent, interactions are living relationships and they always happen within a context. This is why we focus on designing the contexts in which interactions emerge and blossom. By context, we refer to the environment, the space we are in; and that includes the screen you’re looking at, the chair you might be sitting on, the room you’re in, the building, the city and the people. Interactions are the pre requisite to innovation. Designing the context for innovation, this is the essence of Architecting Interaction.
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Your vision: creating your space is a collaborative process
Our vision is to create your space to embody your vision. To create spaces that foster creativity, collaboration and learning, we have developed our own AKKA process, an intrinsically collaborative process based on the communal creation of knowledge. As Stephanie says “Architecture is a service, not a product. Architecture is for the people using it, not for the architects who designed it“, we believe in co-creating spaces with the users who will be living in them. This is how we can create living spaces. The essence of our process is a collaborative practice we call ‘Community Consultation‘. By Community we mean the different groups of people who are concerned by the project;
that includes the client, the users and the visitors among others. By Consultation, we mean a deliberate process of involving the project’s Community in the process of creating the project. The goal and means of our AKKA process are one and the same: interactions and collaboration. The goal of our process is to deliver spaces that foster interactions. At the same time, our process itself is based on the interactions we facilitate with the different people involved by the project. This process ensures that the space we deliver is perfectly tailored to your needs, now and in the future, since it is able to develop with you. More about our AKKA process here.
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Your project: a space designed to support your needs
“A space needs not only communicate your identity, Stephanie believes, a space needs to encourage your behaviors in line with your values“. At AKKA, we believe that the purpose of a space is three fold. First, your space needs to embody your identity and values, whether you are an individual, a group or a company. Second your space needs to communicate your identity to yourself and others. Third and most importantly, a space’s real value is when it is able to support you in living your identity and values. This means the space’s role is proactive in encouraging you to further be you, whether you are an individual, a group or a company. Your use of your space and your behavior in it, is what we call the flow in a space. To explain our approach, we use a metaphor from the world of physics. In 1905, Einstein formulated the world famous E=mc2, where E is the energy, m is the mass and c is the speed of light. This formula basically means that the energy of an object or system is in relationship with its mass
content, taking in consideration the speed of light. Translated to architecture, m becomes the built mass i.e. the brick and mortar, the form and c translates into the velocity i.e. the movement of people in the space; their interactions, their flows. E, the energy emerging in the right space ‘m’ with the right interactions ‘c’ is the emerging quality of the space.“We need to stop conceiving of quantified spaces and move into creating qualified spaces.” says Stephanie A. Hughes. There is a fundamental difference between focusing on delivering m as a static mass, as a form or focusing on the flow of interactions happening in the space, in order to deliver an emerging quality. At AKKA, we aim beyond delivering the mass ‘m’, we deliver the energy ‘E’. ‘E’ is what emerges when the focus is put on the flow of interactions and the space is considered in relation with people’s interactions in and around it. It is not the form that defines the flow. It is based on the flow that the form emerges.
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Your actions: an extended service while you use your (new) space
Whether you are planning to move to a new space, or you have just moved into a new space or even if you are not moving, but simply want to optimize your current space, our service goes beyond the usual end of the architect’s role. Traditionally architects design and build buildings. They work from the very beginning of design and until the end of construction, when the building is ready to be inhabited. The minute people move into the space, the architects have gone and are never to be seen again. We however believe that it is precisely when people move into the space that the building’s life begins and that is when, we as architects, need to be the most involved. This is when we can talk of a living space, a living environment. We believe that our responsibility as architects extends into the life of the building,
it is our responsibility to accompany people as they move into a space and learn to live in it. Architecture needs to extend into ‘Architecting’. From the perspective of human interactions, Architecture is static, Architecting is living. We believe that extending our involvement into the living phase is crucial to successfully create spaces that foster collaboration, creativity and learning. This is why we have developed a very unique last phase in our process, that we call Adapt. During that last phase, which can also function as a stand-alone, we upgrade your space based on observing how you are using it. This is how we can ensure we deliver a space that is tailored to your actions and your needs, a space that ‘fits you like a glove’. “A space can only come to life when it is inhabited, when it is a living space” – Stephanie A. Hughes.
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Our process: translating your vision into reality
At AKKA, we are specialists in creating spaces that foster interactions, namely creativity, collaboration and learning. That is because we have learned that creativity, collaboration and learning are the pre-requisite for value creation and innovation. The question is: how do we create contexts that foster interaction? Architecting Interaction is our vision. To make it reality, to implement it, we have developed our unique AKKA process, an intrinsically collaborative process based on the communal creation of knowledge; through interactions. Even before the resulting space it creates,
our process is, in itself, based on interactions. All through the process, we collaborate with the clients of the project, its users, its neighbors, its visitors as well as other professionals. This process is obviously not the standard process used today in the architecture field. To be able to implement our vision of Architecting Interaction, we had to design our own process. The AKKA process is a four stages process, the first three stages happen before the space is delivered and the last stage takes place after people have moved in the new space.
1. “How can we understand what we need our future space to really be?”
Stage 1: Appreciate. Appreciate is dedicated to  defining the Community of the project: i.e. the different groups of people concerned by the project, and  extracting through Community Consultations the real ‘brief’ of the project. Community Consultations are aimed at involving the people concerned by the project in the process of creating it. Since we believe users are the experts in their use of the space, different conversations are conducted with the different groups of the community. It is through Community Consultations that we uncover the culture of the community and a shared understanding of what the project wants to be.
2. “How can a shared vision be created among a group of different people?”
Stage 2: Kernel. The Kernel is the core of something, its seed, its source of growth. After having collectively reached a shared understanding of the project, phase two is dedicated to co-creating a Shared Vision of the project by & with the project’s community. This stage is the beginning of design, this is where we translate the Home Language into a conceptual spatial design,the vision of what the project will be, feel & look like. As any other phase, this phase is punctuated by a number of Community Consultations where we share the progress of the concept design, with the relevant groups among the project’s Community.
3. “How do we make our vision reality?”
Stage 3: Kick-start. Kick-start is dedicated to realizing the project. In this phase design development, detailing & execution are completed as per the shared vision set in stage two. To benefit from the feedback that reality provides, realization & detailed design go hand in hand and one is able to inform the other. Here, we take an action, reflect on it, learn from its feedback & let it inform our next action. This is what we, at AKKA, call Learning by Doing. It is through Learning by Doing that we are able to achieve a more successful space, tailored to your specific needs.
4. “What happens after we move into the space?”
Stage 4: Adapt. When the building is ready to be inhabited, we as the architects do not hand over and leave. On the contrary, we accompany you and your community as you inhabit and use your new space. Adapt is a ‘post-execution phase’ dedicated to ensure that the space created embodies the community’s culture & does in fact actively support & serve the ever-changing needs of the people using it. It is by observing how you use the space that we are able to advise on the adjustments & refinements needed to deliver an exceptional space, perfectly tailored to its users.
This is the process of Architecting Interaction: Appreciate to find the Kernel, Kick-start for Adaption. Going through the last phase of our process Adapt; actually leads us to a renewed understanding, an renewed appreciation of the project. This means that our process is in fact not a linear one, by a circular, ongoing one. Through our collaborative process, we are able to implement our vision of Architecting Interaction and develop our expertise of creating spaces that foster different forms of
interaction, including collaboration, creativity and learning. At the heart of AKKA lies the dedication to innovate human interactions.
For a full detailed process, please request AKKA’s Process pdfhere.