Making a place out of space: The social imaginaries and realities of a Business School as a designed space

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Management Learning, 2018, 49 (2), pp. 168 - 186
Issue Date:
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© 2017, © The Author(s) 2017. We chart the sociomaterial imaginaries and realities of a new Frank Gehry–designed University of Technology Sydney Business School as both a space and a place. We review the broad sociological literature on space, considering its philosophical and conceptual parameters. Lefebvre’s work is central to such discussion, a centrality that we do not so much question as extend by turning attention from a macro-historical conception of space to consider the specificity of place and placemaking, contributing our ‘place in space’ heuristic model. We apply the model empirically through analysis of the design and occupancy of the business school, highlighting elements that concurrently produce the phenomenology of space and place. Our findings suggest that while organizational space ensconces power and the production of relationships, the translation of these into an identity ordering place is not a linear process. ‘Spatial narratives’, characterizing the imagined functions of the building, have been inconsistently materialized, and different actors have re-inscribed alternative functions and meanings in this new place. Theoretically, the article moves debate beyond the frame bequeathed by Lefebvre while building on it, proposing an analysis that affords equal emphasis to material elements (architectural features, furniture, policies) as to discursive elements (symbols, interpretations, narratives).
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