Collaborative spaces are one of the most important aspects of modern work and they don’t just come out of nowhere. A lot of thought, planning, and design work goes into the desk you don’t even think twice to sit down at.
Daniel Utrilla Mellinas is the Space Manager at Impact Hub Vienna. A designer through and through with a background in engineering, Daniel took the time to sit down and talk about how he approaches space design, how he ended up at Impact Hub Vienna, and what’s in the store for the future.
What brought you to Impact Hub Vienna?
Facebook. I saw an ad on Facebook that they were looking for a host. This was a little over 3 years ago. I initially came to Vienna on a grant to learn German. When I was finished, I was ready to head back to Spain. But then I found the Hub and it was exactly what I was looking for– a place where I fit in terms of creativity, innovation, and design in general. After a few months I was part of the Space and Infrastructure Circle. A few months later, I was Floor Manager and Space Curator, and about a year after that, I became Space Manager.
What’s your creative process? How do you begin to see the possibilities of a space?
Before I design anything, the most important thing I have to understand are the needs. I can’t design anything until I know what those needs are. Sometimes there’s a really good briefing but if not, I’ll conduct interviews and do research because I need to understand the problem to be solved. Once I’ve got that, I start brainstorming, sketching, and prototyping in order to come up with ideas to fulfill the needs that I’ve identified and then I’ll iterate until I get it right. Sometimes I’ll get to prototyping on a 1:1 scale. When it’s a space, I like to walk around and see what my ideas might look like in the actual space with wood, paper, or cardboard. Sometimes I realize it’s not working and go back to 1:100 scale and start again.
Why do you think collaborative spaces are important?
I think it’s important now and it’s become more important in the last few years because the way we work has evolved towards more collaboration. Obviously, it depends on what you do but generally, work requires more collaboration and if a space isn’t set up that way, it’s not a surprise if productivity or efficiency is low. Nowadays, it’s pretty common in a project for a variety of departments or circles to be involved such as social media, marketing, design, engineering; there’s so many inputs that are necessary.
How do you create the opportunity or facilitate collaboration in a space?
There’s no one rule so it depends on the organization and the requirements of the organization. It’s not just taking down walls and making everything open plan. If that’s not appropriate for a company, then it won’t work and you have to explore other options to enable collaboration in a space. It could be making a coffee area in the center of the building so everyone goes there to start conversations. You could put innovation cores in different areas so people connect there. But like I said, there’s no golden rule. You need to analyze the way people cooperate and collaborate. If collaborations are primarily online, the solutions may be different than if collaborations are mostly in person.
What’s the most important element in creating a collaborative space?
I think collaboration is really connected with emotions. I want to work with someone because I trust them. Creating this trust is very important and one of the most common things to start this process is coffee. Coffee connects people and having an area where people go to take a break allows people to have conversations which leads to connections and collaboration. Standing tables are also very interesting because it’s been shown that people feel more secure when they are talking while standing up. When you are sitting behind something or sitting down, you’re not as open as you are when you’re standing up. But ultimately, the most important element is to understand how a particular organization or space collaborates and go from there.
What’s up next for the Impact Hub Vienna Space? How have the recent renovations affected collaboration?
We have 3 floors now and we’ve noticed they’ve been operating independently and we’d like to change that. We want to create more connections between the floors and one thing we’ll be doing is having more co-working space on the 3rd floor. Other things we’re looking into is creating signs and objects that link the floors while also representing the Hub so when you look at these things, you know it’s Impact Hub. We’d also like to try and get people to move around between floors so if there’s an event, it’s on the Ground Floor. If it’s chatting and coffee, 1st Floor, or if you need a Silent Area, it’s on the 3rd Floor. We’ll try these things to see if they work. If not, we’ll iterate and try again.