Is all of life a game-like journey? Or is the journey more of an experiential process with no real end-goal? Whatever life seems to be at a given moment, it is interesting to consider what physical environments would be like if they were designed with a gaming mentality.
What if an architectural environment could change, learn, and adapt to help occupants as they live, work, heal, or play within a given space? Furthermore, what if such an environment allowed visitors to leave their own “mark” within its design fabric, so future occupants could perceive what came before? Such a malleable architectural environment, would work as if it were a fluid sculpture – able to absorb and preserve a “fingerprint” while still being able to respond to current and future needs and goals.
Most recently, I have been working with procedural modeling software to create very forward-thinking conceptual designs. This way of modeling objects, buildings, or even cities is quite interesting as it allows for a more rapid testing, experimentation, and prototyping of ideas. And when procedural modeling integrates sensory design methodologies, opportunity to achieve high level poetics can surface.
What if architecture’s function was not only to meet a need, but to also help its occupants to achieve a longer-term goal? For example, a person may want to exercise more to increase health, or they may want to create an amazing presentation to win a big project at work. Can environments actually help occupants with such goals? Yes, I believe they can – and the following are a few examples of how this can be possible…
When designing, do you give thought to how your creation will grow with its user? Of course, this means more than simply creating flexible space that allows building occupants to interchange its functionality. To truly create an environmental design that grows and evolves with its occupant means that you, as the designer, must compose the narrative of space to meet your client’s needs and predict your client’s goals as they evolve.
It seems that the environment can help its occupants to expand beyond their own comfort zones, to achieve higher potentials and realize authentic fulfillment. This does not mean pushing a person into a situation that is dangerous or completely unexpected. But it does mean helping a person step into their next level of greatness.
Learning through nature is a wonderful way to design architecture drawing from nature’s inspirational and very ingenious solutions. Nature has so much to teach designers, and designers can extract an incredible amount of design information from nature.
As responsive architecture uses data to inform its behaviors to better serve its occupants, the city will similarly use data to better serve its citizens through urban behavioral orchestrations. So the question becomes: How can data be strategically used to help all three scales — the individual scale, the building scale, and the city scale?
Responsive architecture is not just about providing an endless flow of information that continues whether or not the occupant absorbs it well. Architectural design for schools and museums can become more nuanced to better fulfill the real-time needs of occupants as they explore and learn.
As architecture gains greater transience, it also becomes an architecture that helps occupants at more impactful levels. For example, technology integration, smart material behaviors, and even kinetic motion can all serve to heighten more of the valuable meaning in transience for occupants.
As architectural environments become increasingly responsive, they gain ability to change and become more personalized as they meet the needs of their occupants. For students, this can bring big benefits as innovative school design ideas pull from an adaptive architectural design approach.
As interactive architecture gives way to adaptive architecture, it becomes important to understand how a more responsive space impacts its occupants. That is, does it make decisions for them? Or, does it provide choice to get occupants to think more carefully about their own decisions? Perhaps, the adaptive architecture can decipher when to do each — giving occupants the best of both worlds.
As a building stands serving its occupants over time, it goes through many changes. Some of those changes affect its design directly, and some changes occur without ever altering the way the building works. But what about adaptive architecture? Can an architecture that learns be more responsive to changes that occur?
The real question, thus, surfaces — Can architecture facilitate behavior change within occupants? You see, motivation is what is needed to engage occupants to take on new or changed behaviors.
Responsive architecture is design that interacts with people. It engages them with their environment — and it impacts the way they feel, think, and behave. This is where sensory design comes in, because it is a way of designing that places the building occupant at the center, with careful attention to the way a space may impact them both in the short and long term.
Architecture that is responsive is often thought to engage the individual — meeting one person’s needs through adaptive design. But what about the collective? How can a responsive building contribute to the collective need? And how large is the collective? Is it made up of three people, an urban area, or an entire city?
The relationship between architecture and occupant can be quite a beneficial one — particularly when both aim to improve occupant lifestyle. In particular, since architecture acts as a constant observer of that lifestyle, it is most beneficial when it engages its occupants to help them improve their life directly.
As a person works to achieve their goal, they often will encounter milestones along the way. And at these milestones it becomes important for them to assess how they are doing. Are they behind where they should be at a certain point? Are they ahead? And what happens as a result of where they are?
If a building can provide real-time feedback to assist with promoting positive behaviors, do you think it would be a good idea to design such a building? You see, the implications to designing such a building are many. For instance, notions of privacy, control, and determining what positive behaviors to promote all feed into what might make such a building challenging to build.
You may start to more truly understand what smart materials, and more specifically adaptive materials, are becoming capable of doing. Not only would such innovations help the building industry with the maintenance of buildings, and therefore also their safety, but they would also carve a path toward further developments leading to more sophisticated adaptive environments.
Environment and behavior are linked. And since research is showing that this is the case, I think you as an architect should be aware of how your designs may spark certain behaviors in your building occupant.
What if upon entering your building, you could see actual signals being sent to you from your occupants about how they feel while experiencing your building design? Would you design differently if you knew when within your building design they felt happy? Or in awe? Or stressed?
We are currently in the midst of an information revolution which I often hear overwhelms people, particularly as they strive to solve complex problems where they need to rely on specific information to know how and when to act upon their choices in order to find a clear path toward their goal.
While this responsive lighting innovation may sound somewhat simple in principle, it does take an interesting step toward providing a tool for greater adaptive design approaches.
Adaptive architecture will embody behaviors that respond to human and environmental interactions. It is with this transience that architectural space will more fully interact — or “converse” with its occupants, in grand part due to converging architectural technology.
One of the most profound and informative senses that we have is our sense of touch. This sense informs so much of the way we “see” the world around us. Some have even said that touch is the greatest of all the senses.
A recent exhibit at Vienna’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Gallery is titled Transitory Objects where architectural forms unleashed a redefined way of perceiving architecture. Adaptive architecture can easily stem from such displays where the form is actually a moment “captured” during its dynamic process of mutation.
There is no question that the design evolution of technology is skyrocketing – and having profound effects on architecture. As technology grows in processing power, it also shrinks in size, allowing for more complex uses where technology can be embedded in objects (and smart environments).
What if interactive architecture could do more than just react to its occupants? What if architecture was based on rules that could promote designated functions? In this light, architecture would be motivational and goal-oriented.
Just as the brain changes itself by learning, so too must interactive architecture. By learning from feedback, this type of architecture can learn to adapt to occupant needs in real-time. As it interacts, it learns – adapting and evolving as occupant need deem necessary.
It is my hope that you take time to improve your design process. For this is the root of your architectural projects’ level of success. Thus, I invite you to begin with the the following three steps that will help you to tackle the core of what makes your design process work. After all, this is how your projects can evolve over time to reach those next highest levels.
Architectural flow is a higher-level poetic goal to reach as you design environments. After all, there is a significant difference between a building that houses a variety of independent functions that co-exist near one another versus a building that fosters functions that harmonize with each other as each leverages the other. This is an important characteristic of architectural flow – where an occupant narrative emerges from a well-designed environmental narrative.
Designing occupant-centered architecture calls for designers to think about environments as providing more than mere comfort. For architectural design, this means striving to reach beyond functionality within your solution. Together with function, aesthetics and meaning must be fused. But how do these all work together to yield new kinds of poetics that innovate occupant experience to uplift quality of life for the better?