By Gideon Strauss

As I mentioned in the previous piece in our Moving Out Loud series, Jerry Cruikshank and Clark Malcolm in their book Herman Miller Inc.: Buildings and Beliefs (1994) recount the questions that guided the process in which the Herman Miller company (of which Max De Pree was the CEO) planned and built their facilities. One of those questions was, “Who can teach us something?”

Part of our answer to that question would be “the people who have been working and living in this building, and with whom we now share this workspace.” Another part would be “the people who have been maintaining and continue to maintain this building.” Yet another would be “our neighbors next door and across the street.” And then there are the architects and designers in the De Pree Center community of friends. Earlier this week we hosted a two-hour consultation with¬†architect, environmental designer, and visionary John Chan, architect and furniture maker Brandon Richard (from whom we published a short piece yesterday), and De Pree doctoral fellow Michaela O’Donnell Long, to help us imagine the future of our new home at 493 Walnut Street.

Where we're coming from

Where we’re coming from

We started our consultation with introductions including sharing about our former workspace and what we believe are the losses and gains as we transition to our new space.

What we'd like

What we’d like

We also shared some of our hopes for our new workspace.

"Let's see what you've got out the back." (Left to Right: Brandon Richard, John Chan)

“Let’s see what you’ve got out the back.” (Left to Right: Brandon Richard, John Chan)

To our surprise, the first thing our guests and conversation partners wanted to do was go outside!

(Left to Right: John Chan, Brandon Richard, Laura Gossman, Michaela O'Donnell Long)

“This would make a GREAT party space!”
(Left to Right: John Chan, Brandon Richard, Laura Gossman, Michaela O’Donnell Long)

Quite literally taking our conversation outside of the box, John, Brandon, and Michaela helped us look at the spaces outside our building and the entrances into and out of our building as places of opportunity to contribute to our neighborhood and city, connect with our neighbors, help recover green space and bring fresh life to the heat island created by the concrete around our building.

"Hmmmmm." (John Chan)

“Hmmmmm.” (John Chan)

The conversation did not consist of untethered flights of imagination, but took into account our very real constraints: the existing fabric of the Walnut Street building, the ecosystem of interpersonal and institutional relationships within which the De Pree Center exists, the frugality to which our financial limitations invite us.

"How can you get some light into these back corners?" (Left to Right: Michael O'Donnell Long, John Chan)

“How can you get some light into these back corners?” (Left to Right: Michael O’Donnell Long, John Chan)

Beyond the possibilities and the constraints posed by the building, we also talked about our needs as a working crew, including the need to be able to focus individually on our work without interruption, the need to collaborate as a crew on our common projects, and the need to connect with our neighbors, guests and passers-by with an appropriate approachability while being responsible about our priorities.

This brief consultation opened up several avenues of investigation that we as the staff of the De Pree Center had not previously noticed. Now to see where we should go, along these pathways …

Think about your own workspace. What do you dream for your workspace? Can you tell us about something inventive that you have done to an existing space to make it a more inspring home?

Gideon Strauss is the executive director at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and also editor of Fieldnotes Magazine.

Editor’s note:This article is part of an ongoing series related to the De Pree Center’s relocation. Read the rest of the related articles: Moving Out Loud 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email The Editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.


One Response to Moving Out Loud (5)

  1. As a library director, I am very interested in how we evolve physical places to incorporate emerging patterns of human and technological relationships. You’ve identified the three spheres that are constantly being renegotiated in shared spaces (quite often with “the frugality to which our financial limitations invite us”): the individual, the collaborative, and the public.