Corporate headquarters as physical embodiments of organisational change

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the interdependency of corporate architecture and organisation cultural change. Corporate headquarters have become symbols of corporate change ambitions to endure cultural value sets. The paper seeks to contribute to the growing interest in the re-materialization of organisational change. Design/methodology/approach: The study of spatial setting give rise to new methodological questions. There is a hermeneutic relationship between elements of spatial design and the meaning-making of their designers and users. The reading of built space and other physical arrangements requires interpretative methods. Methods such as interviewing, observation and participant observation have been used to study three headquarter buildings of a Dutch telecom operator in a longitudinal study (1995-2007). Findings: It is argued in the paper that the organisation's spatial position in relation to the Dutch Government buildings is a reflection of the privatisation process. During this change process three symbolic and aesthetic different headquarters have been designed. Each of the headquarters is an embodiment of the change ambitions in the different phases. The building is a physical embodiment of the organisational change history. Practical implications: The paper stresses the symbolic richness of physical arrangements, artefacts and aesthetic dimensions and the embodiment of cultural change processes. Given the large interest of organisations in architectural design to support organisational change the interdependency, change managers should be included in the architectural design process at an early stage. Originality/value: Although many scholars ask for a spatial turn in organisation studies, not many empirical studies have been done. This paper tries to fill in this gap. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-306
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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