I spent this morning in a city council chamber talking to a team of managers about communication.
It reminded me of the role that design plays in our interactions. Courts are designed to create a sense of majesty. The judge is elevated and lawyers ask permission to approach the bench. Council chambers and similar decision making bodies use the same approach. I think that in many instances, the overall effect is less one of majesty than distance between those who govern and the rest of us. Speaking before the mayor and council begins to resemble a visit to Mussolini.
Sit in the chair of a major decision maker and you can quickly understand how an "Us versus Them" attitude can develop. Everyone else is "out there" and you are surrounded by gadgets and buttons that signal status and power. Push this one and things happen. Push that one and people come running.
We know about fast food restaurants that are designed to discourage lingering. How do you design a meeting room that provides comfort and enhances communication without removing a certain air of majesty and becoming too casual?