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Emotive Spaces

30 May 2018

So often I sit in design presentations and feedback becomes focused on ‘I really like the ideas but can we talk about how robust it is? Or what will the maintenance requirements be? Can we reduce the planting? (even though more greenery & planting is usually top of the list of community requests) Can we make sure it won’t cause any budget impacts? and so it goes on.

Now of course we think about these things; we have to make sure a robust scheme is put forward and there is no point in putting anything forward that is so prohibitively expensive to maintain but why does the conversation always have to focus on this rather than what people might feel and experience in a space. What might the emotional response to a piece be, what will the impact be and what we really aspire to is that our work will spark joy and make people smile.

The thing is that if you don’t think about the emotional impact and focus on the pragmatics you can end up with robust mediocrity. The extension of this is that you create spaces that feel joyless, are frustrating, grind you down and only serve to reinforce a sense of the grey milieu of life that separates those who get to experience the buzz and vibrancy of London from those who experience exactly how blooming hard it can be to enjoy city life and feel like you are just running to stand still. Perhaps our thinking on this is most aligned with place attachment, the emotional bond between a person and place, and the idea that if people feel connected to a place this boosts a sense of happiness and belonging.

This ties in so much to our thinking on creating a locally relevant project aesthetic. If we are so focused on pragmatics and not on narrative or impact how can we hope to create projects that could not just be anywhere (because we see the same stuff everywhere)?

London Festival of Architecture’s theme for this year is identity and we will be tackling this exact conversation through two workshops and an exhibition at the biscuit factory.

Event information here.

I love that our work focuses on those humble spaces that everybody experiences but often do not notice, or just rush through. They are not glam, they are not high profile but they are the everyday experience of the average person and it is because of this I love that we have the opportunity to work with local people to make these spaces feel special. Essentially it is a love for phenomenology, places should move us, makes us feel something and not just achieve the lowest threshold of function.

I really do not want to dismiss the importance of being prudent with spending of public money, making sure that work is robust and is not to maintenance heavy is one of our priorities but this should not be the only important factor and I would love more conversations on impact, particularly the emotional impact.

It is definitely easier to do what has always been done than it is to take a risk and try a new approach. Easier to do mediocre design that feels familiar to decision makers than to do something that illicit some kind of positive emotive response but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t always strive for this.

So here is to quality design, that works in the long term and sparks joy in the everyday.