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The power of placemaking: creating a sense of place

With employees driving workplace trends more than ever, the focus has shifted from organisations dictating spaces to staff actively shaping them.

Placemaking, a term established in the world of real estate and urban planning, has emerged to capture this shift. Emphasising a people-centric approach to designing public spaces, placemaking is the art of turning spaces into places.

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Defined as the goal of humanising shared spaces, the discipline of placemaking is both a process and a philosophy centred on knowing the needs and aspirations of those who inhabit and utilise a space. It requires us to listen, observe and better understand those who use and share these spaces.

At M Moser, ‘We design for people at work’ – a statement that captures our human-centric philosophy. In this article, we showcase this approach, highlighting some of our recent global projects.

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1. Planning & programming: bringing life to space

Placemaking is emerging as a powerful catalyst for change, breathing life into ordinary spaces and fostering a sense of belonging and purpose. The art of placemaking starts with strategic planning, providing the right environment to support organisational functions as well as cultural and individual needs. Ever vital community spaces need to be flexible, adaptable and constantly activated by human life.

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Dyson’s Singapore HQ exemplifies this principle. At its centre is a four-storey atrium, the former turbine hall of this repurposed power station, which offers employees a comfortable, human-centric destination. Inspired by the quadrangles of academic campuses, this space now serves as a circulation hub, connecting all departments visually and physically. It features collaborative break-out areas, quiet focus spaces and an amphitheatre for community engagement, supporting communication, experimentation and constant learning. This inner sanctum embraces wellness and biophilia, providing a heart and soul to this industrial building while allowing people to focus, relax, meet, share, socialise and connect.

The iconic spiral staircase is strategically located, echoing Dyson’s engineering heritage and the site’s industrial past. It serves as a vital circulation artery and a point of inspiration, symbolising the importance of function and beauty. It is a powerful reminder of this building’s new revitalised purpose: design and engineering innovation.

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2. Experience & aesthetics: crafting connection and meaning

Another principle of placemaking, experience & aesthetics, considers not just the look-and-feel, but also the user experience of the space. Transcending visual appeal, this principle actualises the fusion of design and experiential space to cultivate engaging spatial experiences that foster connection and engagement. These spaces deeply resonate with employees, encouraging meaningful interactions and a sense of community.

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For Sony Music’s workplace in Mumbai, we crafted a experiential, club-like destination to attract top musical talent, focusing on creating memorable moments in line with our client’s goals. The central lobby acts as the dynamic, welcoming heart, with natural materials, mood lighting and curated art for inspiration and a sense of connection. The design, featuring other casual and creative spaces like the Music Lounge, recalls the intimate experience of a recording studio. This creatives oasis features a small stage for rehearsals and impromptu performances, and a recording area with an impressive vinyl library and DJ booth.

Designed as a journey into Sony Music’s rich cultural heritage and that of Indian music itself, our brand experience experts have helped craft inspiring spaces with meaningful touchpoints. This delivers on the client’s goal to create a musical culture club for Mumbai’s creatives.

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3. Comfort & inclusivity: supporting diverse human needs

Research proves the business case for inclusivity. Studies show that organisations prioritising inclusivity tend to experience higher levels of employee performance, engagement and innovation.

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For Spotify Mumbai, we designed an award-winning, inclusive workspace that mirrors the organisation’s commitment to employee comfort, wellbeing and diversity. To create a supportive environment, the space aligns with local values and encourages a culture of creativity. Offering flexible working arrangements, from sit-stand desks to quiet areas and collaborative spaces, the design prioritises acoustic management and varied lighting to enhance productivity and inclusivity.

With wellbeing and neurodiversity in mind, we planned the workplace around a spectrum of noise levels, with busy and lively spaces at one end and a range of focus and reset spaces at the other. The busy central ‘Angan’ – inspired by traditional Indian domestic courtyards – is a comfortable yet versatile community space for internal and public events. It captures a warm and welcoming aesthetic with its local materiality and furnishings, reflecting the friendly welcome expected of an Indian home.

By infusing the office with cultural references and collaborating with local artists, we’ve created a dynamic, employee-first environment that supports connection, celebrates India’s diversity and enables Spotify’s innovative and progressive culture.

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To create thoughtful, human-centric environments, spaces must meet the functional requirements of organisations and the diverse needs of their people. Places of work need to have more relevance, clearer purpose and greater meaning.

By designing with this in mind, we can create impactful spaces that foster connection and community, celebrate diversity and inclusivity and benefit the health and wellbeing of all.

Associate Director, Addy Walcott, explores the importance of placemaking in creating spaces that address individual and collective needs. Watch the full video of his latest presentation in Paris:

Contact our Brand Experience team to explore how we can deliver meaningful change, turning spaces into places where businesses and people prosper.

Author
Addy Walcott

Associate Director

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