Sub-theme 01: Bringing the building back in


Chris Harty, University of Reading, United Kingdom
Alfons H. van Marrewijk, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Kristian Kreiner, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Kjell Tryggestad, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Call for Papers

“Now my aim is clear: I must show that the house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and dreams of mankind”

(Gaston Bachelard, 1994:6)

Space is an important and contested term in organisation studies. The relation between spatial settings and the management of organizations has recently been explored in organization and management studies (Kornberger and Clegg, 2004; Van Marrewijk, 2009). Kornberger and Clegg (2004) argued that a close look at a classic of management theory demonstrates the importance of space: “…what did Taylor do other than reorganize the spatial arrangement of the entire organization by dividing space into individual cells, so that every single activity had to take place within its own space (cell), separated from the others?” (1096). Also Weber’s early focus on the separation of public and private space can be drawn on in explicating space as an implicit concern of organization theory. Sydow (2002) argues that organisational studies have seen a spatial turn over the last two decades. But even though space remains a concern of organization theory, it might be argued that something is missing; the physical buildings through and in which these ‘spaces’ are constituted.

This places further importance in the role of building and infrastructure design processes, and the increasing use of digital representations within them, as not only producing buildings, but also enabling possibilities for new spaces, places, practices and performances. The link between design premises and effects often fall outside the narratives of managers and architects Kreiner (2010). Therefore, it is easy to underestimate the difficulties in changing socio-spatial arrangements as organizing space is about organizing social order (Clegg and Kornberger, 2004). In sum, organizational processes are at the same time spatial ones, and vice versa (O’Toole and Were, 2008).

This session aims to bring the building back in.

We want to generate discussion around the contribution of the physical space in the reproduction and transformation of organisational spaces, performances and practices (Dale and Burell, 2008). The office, factory, school, and hospital are intimately implicated and active in the constitution of the practices and performances within them. Space can be more than a room, a building, a physical infrastructure. The space can also become a place (van Marrewijk and Smits in press). These physical artefacts can constrain and enable different practices, and contribute to the broader construction of organisational spaces, whether in (re)producing asymmetric power relations, as organizational symbols, or as sites for the construction of  multiple meanings, identities and roles.

Indicative themes:

  • What are the affordances and connections between transforming physical space, and organisational change? How are such relations designed, enacted, and performed?
  • In what sense may building design construct organisations/organizing, as well as buildings?
  • By which processes may digital representations offer new possibilities and limitations for designing new organisational spaces and places?
  • If there exists a relation between ‘creative buildings’ and ‘creative organisations’, what sense of creativity is implied?
  • What conceptual, methodological and analytical approaches are being brought to bear on issues of accounting for buildings?



Bachelard, Gaston (1994) The Poetics of space. Boston: Beacon Press.

Dale, K., and Burrell, G. (2008), The Spaces of Organisation and the Organisation of Space. MacMillan.

Kornberger, Martin and Clegg, Stewart (2004) Bringing Space Back in: Organizing the Generative Building. Organization Studies 25:1095-1114.

Kreiner, K. (2010), “Organisational spaces: From ‘matters of fact’ to ‘matters of concern’,” in Organisational Spaces. Rematerializing the Workaday World, edited van Marrewijk & Yanow (Eds), Edward Elgar.

Sydow, J. (2002) “Towards a spatial turn in organisational science? A long wait” SECONS Discussion Forum, University of Bonn

O’Toole, P., and Were, P. (2008), “Observing places: using space and material culture in qualitative research”, Qualitative Research,  l8(5): 616-634.

Van Marrewijk, A.H. (2009). Corporate Headquarters as Physical Embodiments of Organisational Change. J.of Organization Change Management. 22(3):290-306.

Van Marrewijk A.H. and K. Smits (in press). Projectscape: the role of spatial settings in managing complex megaprojects. Int. J. of Complexity in Leadership and Management.


Chris Harty is Reader in Design and Construction Innovation at the University of Reading, UK. His research focusses on the use of IT systems to deliver complex infrastructure projects, and on the role of the built environment in the organisation and delivery of healthcare.

Kristian Kreiner is professor in Organization at the Department of Organization of the Copenhagen Business School.  He was the founder and leader of The Centre for Management Studies of the Building Process. His research is mainly ethnographic and focuses on all aspects of organizing work in relation to building physical structures, including architectural design and construction work.

Alfons van Marrewijk is professor in Business Anthropology at the Department Organization Sciences of the VU University Amsterdam. His academic work focused on the everyday life in complex (mega)projects and technology driven organizations. He is co-editor of Organizational Spaces, Rematerializing the Workaday World (2010).

Kjell Tryggestad is associate professor at the Department of Organization Copenhagen Business School. His research concerns complex building projects such as the construction of hospitals and healthcare spaces and the role of physical (re)organization for the organization of work practices.



Posted On: June 8, 2014
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