Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “We shape our buildings and afterward our buildings shape us.” The first part is obvious—architects create buildings. We design them, build them, furnish them and ultimately people occupy them. It’s the second part of his quote that is more intriguing. How do buildings shape us?
The Importance of Taking Time to Discover During Building PlanningThere’s a reason the first step of our Upward Thinking process is called Discover. It’s primarily a listening and learning phase. Whether we’re designing a new learning center, athletic complex, residence hall, or commons, we start by learning about the people that will use it. It’s in this crucial step—before any building design is done—that we explore how students, staff, and faculty are using the current building they occupy. What’s working. What’s not working. What’s missing. We also explore how a new building can work more efficiently for them—or be more inspiring for the work they’re doing. Our goal is to turn Churchill’s quote a little on its head and make sure everyone can use the building in a way that suits their needs, rather than having to adapt movements and workflow to a sub-optimal building design.
Space Can Change BehaviorSometimes we learn that people have adapted to problems within their old space—creating habits that aren’t efficient and shouldn’t be brought to the new space.
- Staff members don’t use the stairs because they’re cold, dark and noisy.
- Students use a service entrance to a campus building because it’s closer to their natural walking path than the main entrance.
- Faculty store materials in multiple locations because there isn’t adequate storage near their classroom or office.