Outdoor Spaces as Conference Areas and Other Uses

By Guanxi Chen, Architectural Designer at BAM Creative, New York

6 feet, the distance recommended by the CDC to maintain between you and people outside of your household, has become our new directive. Outdoor spaces have much better ventilation conditions where the airborne virus won’t transfer as easily as indoors. How to use outdoor spaces for conference and other activities with social distancing in mind? We can adapt, by moving meetings outside utilizing existing benches, parking lots, and neighborhood open spaces. Heating elements can be added for colder winter months.


Park benches have varieties of lengths from as short as 4’ to as long as 15’. A common bench like the image above is usually 6’ to 8’. If you want to have an in-person brief meeting, staying 6’ from your pal, seating on the other end of a long bench or having a bench between you, could be a simple measurement of 6 feet. Don’t forget to disinfect the public benches prior to initiation of meetings.

Picnic tables in the parks are usually measuring from 6’ to 8’ wide. A usual picnic table can hold a two-person social distanced meeting with some work surface to layout laptops and files. Seating diagonally at opposite locations can help maintain the safe distance.

Parking Lots

New York City has converted many street parking spaces to outdoor dining. Southside Johnny and the Jukes held their 1,000 car drive-in concert at the Jersey Shore this summer. The Town of Southwick held their town meeting outdoors in the parking lot. From 2-person private dining to thousands of people attending a concert, the parking lot scenario has varieties of possibilities to hold meetings, provide huddle spaces or training spaces for business and for educational classes.

Above is a typical 90-degree parking layout with dimensions. The grid lines that divide the parking spaces has lots of 6’ imbedded.

The parking space can be converted to conference, huddle, and dining spaces with simple folding tables and chairs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two-Person Meeting

Four-Person Meeting




During the pandemic, Juleanna Glover, a Washington lobbyist conducted some of her meetings into “outdoor walking meetings” She and other people have met up outside of someone’s home or an agreed upon spot, then they walk along a lightly populated route, staying 6 feet apart from each other.

As early as February 2020, one of our BAM Creative’s Principals, Dan, proposed conducting “walking meetings,” coincidentally before the pandemic officially was recognized by the United States. The purpose is that this is freeing for creative minds, also allowing for work to be commenced. The walking meetings can be utilized to conduct internal reviews, mentoring conversations, informal calls to clients and the like. Dan also generated a series of ‘walking maps’ with routes around the Flatiron district where our BAM’s New York offices are located. The different routes included: several coffee shops, parks, and public squares as destinations, with return loops back to the BAM Creative offices. The walking length varied to accommodate different conversations. Dan’s idea was forward thinking, considering the many benefits “walking meetings” can offer during this pandemic. Encouraging people to conduct work outdoors allows for ventilation and a healthier environment.

Future Planning and fit-out

Many scientific studies reflect that taking a walk outside helps people to:

  1. Feel happier about their work and life.
  2. Generate creativity.
  3. Focus attention more easily.

Offering flexibility for companies’ indoor programs like conferencing, huddling, café times and working outdoors is not only just responding to the current COVID pandemic but is also helping to improve efficiency and the well-being of employees for the long term. The outdoor spaces could be provided in various forms, whether fully open or with semi-enclosed seats, trails, gardens, terraces, roof gardens, and the like. When embedded within green spaces, these outdoor spaces would in turn benefit the neighborhoods or communities they could serve. Finding those places could be treasures for both existing conditions and future constructed environments. So why not be on this forefront? Is there an opportunity to negotiate with building representatives for more outdoor public spaces that could be included as part of a tenant improvement program and built into leases? The ideas of outdoor space should be discussed with clients during the process of site planning and building fit-out. This will be important for many years as it will make people more comfortable as spaces for respite.

Here are some examples of various outdoor spaces for offices:

Apple Park Campus

Apple Park Outdoor Seating Area

Facebook Menlo Park Campus Roof Garden

Facebook Menlo Park Campus Sunken Garden

Facebook Menlo Park Campus Path Sketch

Facebook Menlo Park Campus Bike and Pedestrian Path

Outdoor Adaptive Use

For existing buildings, we can take full use of the site to “find” some outdoor conferencing, huddle or café areas, either movable or permanent. Here is a concept sketch of outdoor adaptive use. The site is a life-science realty in Ardsley, Westchester.