Buildings are microcosms of the city - they change and adapt based on what they’re needed for culturally and monetarily. They are born and grow out of dreams of experiences for the spaces inside.
These spaces are built and styled as a reflection of ourselves and what we are, where we are, or who we aspire to be. They are as imaginative or as cold as we want them to be. They can be stiff and unaltered, or inherently flexible. And while they are functions of living, they become something much more fluid than that - once people experience them.
Our lives are shaped by the spaces we live and work in. Our minds and bodies respond to these spaces. We bring our own ideals and beings into them, hoping to blend in seamlessly with our surroundings. We hope that these spaces bend with us, but it’s often the other way around.
We thrive in conditions that are designed to comfort us, or give us a sense of openness and productivity. And we have the control to accept or not accept a physical space as something to live and thrive in. If a space is something we’re not happy with, then we can make opportunities for ourselves to change it.
One of my favorite examples in changing space is this book I picked up about a year ago, about Joinedupdesignforschools. It chronicles a program that went on in 2005 where architecture and design firms partnered up with a few schools in England to redesign the spaces in their buildings. They even designed more experiential things like their uniforms, identities, and internal communications. Rather than just give the job to the firms and start building, the program inverted this traditional model. They let the students model the ideas to change their spaces and their experiences.
The results are imaginative, varied, and above all, playful. These are schools focused on learning, but that doesn’t mean their spaces should be devoid of creativity. It should be quite the opposite. By letting the people that would be experiencing and using these spaces everyday take the lead in the design process, the results are so tightly integrated that you can feel the care and attention put into the results.
I haven’t heard of a bad design experience coming from interacting with the people that use them. And not just telling them how to use your designs, but actually asking them the whys and hows around using them. When I think about our impact on the spaces we live in, there’s huge potential in how we can positively change our buildings, cities, and the communities that surround them. It takes a lot of collective effort and passion, but it can happen if we truly want it to, and are open to the imaginations of others.