The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland, known as HES-SO, represents and coordinates a network of 28 higher education centres. Helping to insure harmony across these schools, HES-SO also represents them politically and is recognised by the Swiss Confederation as one of the key actors in higher education in Romandie (French-speaking Switzerland).
The Dean’s Office accomplishes much of this through its satellite in Lausanne, which thanks to its central location in the region is the frequent site of meetings with educational partners, government representatives, industry players, and delegations, making it a critical place for HES-SO administrators to conduct their work.
Our challenge was to create a space where their team would collaborate effectively and comfortably, where HES-SO’s mission and vision were clearly communicated, and where the diversity of their collegiate network was honoured. We were tasked with finding solutions that reinforced this identity, offered collaborative catalyst spaces, and created a warm and welcoming experience for users.
By creating a strong sense of cohesion and warmth within the space, achieved through breaking silos and using tools like visual storytelling, we created an environment representative of HES-SO’s prestige that also welcomes and energises new collaborations. Using open workspaces, hot desks for nomadic team members, and focus rooms that match the working patterns of those who use the space, our activity-driven workplace concept better supports the organisation at an operational level. It also highlights the diversity of the network the HES-SO represents and the educational mission it advocates for.
A welcoming experience in a purposeful environment
Though not the official Dean’s Office, the Lausanne satellite’s central location means it is often the site of meetings with important partners, officials, investors, and delegates. For that reason, the space itself plays a critical role in communicating HES-SO’s larger purpose, identity, and mission – not just to the administrators who work there but also to the influential decision makers who frequently visit.
In order to convey in an intuitive way what HES-SO’s purpose and role is in Swiss education, various forms of spatial interventions and visual storytelling were proposed in the project.
The higher education centres in HES-SO’s network are grouped into six faculties, with each specialty represented by a different colour. We pulled this colourful representation directly into the space, using them to create thresholds between different work areas and bring a burst of brightness to the interior. Besides adding a fun freshness, these colourful transition areas, enhanced with facts and figures about the six different faculties, act as an intentional reminder of all that HES-SO represents and what everyone in the space is working towards.
The addition of elements like a large map of Switzerland highlighting the geographic footprint of the HES-SO network, serve not just as a reference to those who work in the space but also help to communicate the scale of their efforts.
Breaking silos and transforming ways of working
A major goal for the Dean and her Vice Deans was to improve the way that people would collaborate within the space. We facilitated this transformation by conducting a strategic evaluation of their work process and addressing the invisible mental barriers and hierarchies that had been induced by the original configuration of their workspace, instead favouring a flatter spatial and behavioural organisation that disrupted silos.
By giving up private offices, senior managers not only made a symbolic gesture but also showed their enthusiasm for the change mindset and organisational values they wanted the renewed workplace to embody.
Spaces are no longer defined by who they belong to, but on what activity or kind of interaction is needed. Besides making better use of their workspace through activity-based environments, this change encourages more people to work across more areas, giving them the freedom to move through the environment and behave differently in it according to their needs.
The satellite Dean’s Office is now an authentic and powerful representation of its network, showcasing HES-SO’s status and creating an environment that welcomes visitors and facilitates continued improvement in line with its mission.
We brought change-makers into closer collaboration by creating a horizontal workspace that breaks silos and creates room for the work habits HES-SO was looking to promote. By using their work environment as a catalyst for transformation, our collaboration with this prestigious academic institution has produced a space that offers a more transparent and contemporary presentation of their values.
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