Designing Places for People

In today’s world of architecture magazines and design blogs, it seems that many structures are designed for photo shoots, rather than people. The emphasis on “starchitects,” fancy renderings, and dramatically photogenic buildings combines with yet another troubling change in the industry. The ever-increasing focus on project management may result in a more efficient process, but the results are not necessarily good social architecture. Are architects placing form over function, to the detriment of the actual human beings who have to work or live in the spaces we create?

Pinnacle @ Duxton, Singapore

At our Boston design firm, we contemplate this dichotomy of form versus function in all of our architecture and interior design projects. We strive to create architecture that makes space for people, rather than just making pretty space. However, while aesthetic concerns should be secondary to use and enjoyment, they are also critical to making that happen.

We recently came across a great article on Architectural Record that explores the difference between merely building a structure and creating homes.”The public housing: building communities vs. providing a place to live” explores the problems associates with high-rise housing projects in America, and contrasts them with the extremely successful high-rise housing in Singapore.

Pinnacle @ Duxton, Singapore

A recent Singaporean housing project, the Pinnacle at Duxton, consists of seven 50-story buildings connected by sky bridges. The buildings feature amenities like playgrounds and a walking track, as well as a roof garden.

It’s in the nature of high-rises to be far more impersonal than communities of more human scale. But if one plans high-rises with care — social as well as physical — the results can be highly positive.

It’s a great point, and it reminded us of another take on building people-friendly spaces- Oscar Newman’s Defensible Space. This 1972 book discussed ways to build communities that deter crime by fostering a sense of ownership among the people who live there. Still an interesting theory to apply to both residential, institutional, and corporate architecture. Check out the full article on AR to read more, and share your thoughts with us in the comments!

photos: Architecture Lab

1 Comment

  1. Great AR article. I definitely agree that “soft” form issues need to be more thoroughly and thoughtfully addressed in the U.S.

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