It is inevitable for architects to integrate occupants into their design process. Not only must environmental designers solve for occupant needs, but they must also consider how occupants will engage with and subsequently change the design intent once the environment has been constructed.
In other words, as an architect, it is important for you to ask yourself if the way your design gets constructed and used is the way you originally envisioned when starting the design process. Of course, as a designer it may be impossible to foresee every single possible use that your design has as different people engage with it every day. Nevertheless, as you are forming your vision, it will help you to try.
For instance, if a building's exterior plaza features like benches, stairs, and handrails will be used by skateboarders as a practice playground, and you wish to deter this activity – it will be valuable for you as the designer to foresee this type of usage so you can integrate aspects to the design that would deter skateboarding and encourage sitting and relaxing on the benches and stairs within the plaza. By foreseeing alternative design usage, you can expand your design intent to encourage or deter particular occupant behaviors within the environments you construct.
There are also times during which you can learn from these alternative occupant usages, once your designs are already built. In fact, when you study and analyze the successes and areas for improvement from your past work, it will help you to ask the question again: Is the way your design is constructed and used the same or different from the way you originally intended? If it is different, how is it different?
By asking the latter questions, you will fine tune your thinking for future projects – helping you to see more deeply and helping you to do a better job at converging your design intent with what becomes design reality.
There is a point of departure where your design intent may take on new or unimagined meanings for your occupant – particularly over time. As an architect, you may not be able to imagine the long-term meaning your occupants will interpret from your design. This is further reinforced as the contexts surrounding your design change over time as well. These contexts pre-frame your designed environment and affect occupant interpretation.
As an architect, this leaves you with the responsibility of foreseeing not only occupant need, but also occupant usage and further interpretation over time. Thus, as you architectural visions form, it becomes helpful to push them and evolve them, by studying them from as many angles as possible. And when you do so, be sure to include both alternative occupant uses and changing occupant interpretations over time.
While you cannot foresee every single possible evolutionary scenario, thinking and incorporating these two factors will help your design vision to stand as a much needed, beautiful, and meaningful place. The more predictive your design intent, the further your design can evolve into poetic realms once realized.
Image Credit: © Ivnl | Fotolia
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