The Story of Charlie, The AppHaus Extension
How a creative space comes to life
Say hello to Charlie, our newest member in the AppHaus family. Charlie is the little brother to Fox, the 4-year-old AppHaus in Heidelberg. He also has cousins in Berlin, Palo Alto and South Korea. My name is Beate. I’m his “midwife” and I will tell you Charlie’s story.
Some of you might already know Fox, SAP’s first customer-facing AppHaus in Heidelberg. He is a great space to explore creative ways of working as a team or with your customers in. Indeed, he became so popular, that the waiting period for workshop rooms has been extended to up to two months. And this was not the only problem: Once the workshop was done, there was no space to continue the customer projects. So, switching locations during the project became an unavoidable condition. A lot of brown papers and post-its got lost during the transport between meeting rooms and the AppHaus. Quite a few DT Coaches got some extra wrinkles trying to decode blurry photos of whiteboards, they had taken during workshops outside the AppHaus.
In 2016, new space became available at the Landfried (office complex in Heidelberg and home to Fox and Charlie). We got the chance to extend the AppHaus, testing a new concept. The thing is, you don’t just pull an AppHaus concept out of your sleeve. So, how do you approach such a complex, undefined project? How do you move from project understanding, create an idea, confirm it and finally launch it? For that, we decided to apply our user-centric Design Approach: Discover, Design, Deliver.
First, we started to think about Charlie’s definition. What will his uniqueness be, when compared to his brother? How can he support the customers’ needs best?
We already collected a lot of needs from our team and the workshop groups that we had hosted in the past. The finding was: Charlie should offer workshop spaces for smaller groups where nobody would have to pass the room to get to the printer or other meeting rooms (which is the case at his brother’s place). Besides, the AppHaus team and other teams working on projects struggled to find a permanent space to work together with their customers for a longer period. They needed a room where they could leave their current work — especially the thousands of post-it’s and concept drawings on the walls — while they were out e.g. doing field research. This issue becomes even more crucial, if you have a mixed team with SAP folks and customers. So, now we had our scope: Workshop space for smaller groups and project spaces that provide a secure set-up for confidential information.
Next: how to fit this scope into the blueprint? And how many rooms do we need for which activity? And what does a project room look like? This list of questions grew big. We spent the next weeks with research, matching our ideas to the research findings and drilling deeper into the level of detail with each iteration. We could use the experience Fox had provided us with. But we also knew that we needed to leave some white spots to be filled by ideas of the people who will use this space. There are so many things you cannot predict about how something will be used, once it is set up. At the same time there are a lot of different needs we tried to serve. A certain flexibility in our concepts was simply crucial.
You can’t easily change power outputs or walls once they are installed, but you can certainly move furniture. We had several brainstorming and prototyping sessions. For example, we taped parts of the blueprint in real size to our workshop room’s floor to get a better feeling of the room size and furniture arrangements. We built a model to test our interior designs. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our new tool MOSAIC available at this point, which would have made this phase a cakewalk. Those prototypes have also been reviewed and validated by SAP’s facility management and architects. All that feedback combined is now visible in our AppHaus extension space. And yes, there are a few things that I would do different, if I could to do it again, especially the power outlets. But I don’t know whether things would really be better, if these little details were different.
My love for Charlie, which builds on all the thought and effort we put into him until that point, was accompanied by a spoonful of fear. I was worrying a lot whether the people testing the space would like him, whether they would feel happy and have everything they need to have a successful workshop.
Charlie was always set up to be and remain somewhat unfinished, a sort of prototype that grows over time. The challenge with prototypes is that people should give you feedback, so you can improve. The first groups using the workshop spaces and project spaces gave quite a hard feedback: “Nice, but empty”, “I don’t want to use the new space. It’s cold.”, “If we have to use the new space, we will not come”. What do you do with such feedback? How do you convince people it is a benefit to shape a new space and not a burden to work in an unfinished room? How do you know at what point the space is ready to be used without being blamed to be “cold and empty”? Which people will see white walls as an opportunity and will help you to add the small, beloved details? When will the moment come when somebody walks up to you and thanks you for setting up a beautiful, creative space in which the person feels at home? These and similar questions will always come up, if you open your prototype for testing. And you should not start arguing that a creative space needs time and people to create its creative patina, but listen to the feedback. Just by listening and understanding, you will get answers to your questions- just as I got mine.
As a conclusion, though it was hard to convince the people to join us at the beginning, it was a rewarding experience. You have to keep on going. Adjust the plan to the people’s real needs without losing your goal out of sight. At the end, something inspiring will arise from the first ideas you have written on post-its.
I’m happy to welcome Charlie as a full member to our creative space family.
If you want to know more about Fox and Charlie or swing by for a visit, drop me a mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or read more at: https://experience.sap.com/designservices/apphaus/heidelberg