“Look at usual things with unusual eyes Vico Magistretti, The Humanist Architect
Design is not just about the appearance of space alone but how it is experienced as places to be in. A combination of multi-sensory ambience that leads to a spatial sequential experience for our embodied spirit. Sustainability in design then, is not limited to energy efficiency alone, but an eternal resonance space seeks with the soul.
As this period of self-isolation and containment ends, the workforce will return to the workplace. The ramifications of COVID-19 have rippled across every aspect of our professional and personal lives. It puts greater responsibility on design to address and adapt the lessons and experiences into the metrics of the new-normal. To front-end this change management process with an emotional intent rather than tacit knowledge.
Coronavirus has pushed the whole of humanity in the state of Metanoia. The elements of reflection and transformation have resulted in a change of heart and mind. This change will cause an altered perspective towards the sense of space. The function and utility of the space will no longer be limited to the external physicality but will have to be responsive to the internal sensitivities of the user, its occupant. Each user will bring in a separate series of associations, his family, his means of commute, the time, the distance, his set of irregularities, and the uncertainties. It is virtually impossible to attend to every individual’s needs. However, it is beneficial to engage the user on multiple sensory levels to imprint a long-lasting positive experience. The favorable experience will result in higher productivity in limited time. Our environments have a visceral effect on our mind and our inner wellbeing. Interactions with people behaviour experts have indicated how a designer can attune to the emotional reactions and design a responsive rhythm to the surrounding space.
The reasons why you like a place or you do not, cannot always be expressed.
Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.
Feel (an emotion or sensation)
Due to practical contact with and observation of facts or events.
Put simply, it is a first-hand, personal account of an unbiased observation of a feeling. No other profession but the designers are at the liberty to create a manifestation of feelings that cumulatively make up for an experience. As designers, how do you dictate how the feel? Let us curate the user experience enriched by the expert opinions.
To look around is to look ahead — according to the fundamentals of Anthropology. Agrees, Gayatri Sapru, a cultural strategist who puts people into the process of every equation. Understanding people and preempting their behaviour has always been the principle of social sciences. Business tends to imagine a future that will come from a stroke of tech genius — whereas the social scientist looks around to see subtle changes as disruptions towards innovations. The science of observation is sometimes referred to as ‘going native’ wherein you are forced to watch the relationship between the activities and its environment and to discover behavioral patterns. Post occupancy evaluations (POE) and evidence-based design (EBD) systematically evaluate measurable aspects in buildings. It includes levels of energy efficiency or the life-cycle costs but how do you measure the happiness quotient at the workspace? How do you quantify the intangible emotions which make you fiercely productive and proactive? There lies the difference between the Big Data and the Thick Data. An analyst can give you the number of times a co-worker gets up and walks to the photocopier, informing a designer on carpet durability, desk placements, or proper lighting.
But an ethnographer will watch people walk to the photocopier, consider how they navigate through the office, and observe how they interact with their coworkers. It’s the difference between asking people to explain what they do versus watching them do it and use those inputs to support, enhance, augment, or radically alter those places.
The energy of the space is the essence of the experience — advocates Swati Sule, a hypnotherapist and energy healer, from the institute EKAA. Every space has its own vibrations, just like every person has his own. Thoughts of a person are his primary source of vibrations. These thoughts are nothing but static energy which when in motion becomes kinetic energy. Hence, one of the important factors influencing the vibrations of the space are the thoughts of the people, its users, its occupants. The designer has the power to influence the thoughts of the space used. We are encouraged, not inhibited by design. Freed from anxiety and feelings of unease induced by hostile buildings, spaces, and surfaces, positive our emotions blossom in our subconscious. A building designed with sufficient attention paid to the natural rhythms of human neurobiology can result in conscious joy. By creating honest, reassuring, and stimulating environments the designer can create a place to heal and uplift. By introducing adequate sunlight, choice of colours and texture of materials, a space experience can be sequenced into a beautiful rhythm. According to Swati, the utility of the space should be carefully yet subtly introduced at a deeper level with the design content. Placing, ‘switch words’ (REACH, RECEIVE, REFLECT, etc.) at strategic locations at work will direct actions at a subconscious level. Choreographing sounds of running water, or sea waves coupled with meditative signs and symbols, can heed healing. Outdoor areas for instant connect with the elements of nature or a grass patch within the closed space can co-create the association with Earth, leading to the inner well-being and wellness of every individual.
Traditionally, most designers might start with a program or concept—square feet, color scheme, or spatial hierarchy, has anyone ever considered moving in, and working around in the same space before diving straight into design? Looking through the eyes of the user is a great way in, says Jane Fulton Suri, a leader of human-centered design at IDEO. That’s the basis of the content in design.
“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home”
Choreographer, Author of The Creative Habit
To make experiential design an art, is to make the space serve the intention of preparation and effort...only this time, making it the habit of design.
– Seema Lele
Architect I Content-led Strategist
A multi-part essay on emotional forces in design – way forward for the change management process.