Significance of Tangible Environments in an Era Dominated by Digital Realms

It’s no secret the world is becoming more and more digital focused. With that shift, we see physical spaces—where we work, gather, play, and connect—as more important than ever.

The Dematerialization of Digital

There are so many things going on in the digital world. Social media connects us to distant friends and helps us make new ones across the globe. Virtual reality allows those who couldn’t experience exotic locations a chance to feel like they’re really there. But that’s the point. It’s like they’re really there. So close but yet so far. As exciting as the Digital Revolution has been, it’s lacking in one key area—that physical sense of touch. Of being present. Of texture and space and sound that is so important to our lives.

The Role of Physical Space

Throughout history, physical space has been used to separate and protect. Walls of a castle protect from invaders. Distinct separation in office and medical buildings allows for privacy and separation of tasks and roles. And those functions continue today. More importantly though, it’s reassuring to be able to see, feel and touch something directly in front of us. Face to face conversation is less likely to be misinterpreted—and leads to better productivity. Our physical space helps our experiences feel more authentic. And gives us a sense of stability and control. In a time when we joke about how much people have their face buried in a digital screen, collaborative spaces in our schools, offices, medical clinics, and campuses are even more important than ever.

Encouraging Connection

No matter what project we’re working on, our clients always stress how important it is for their employees, students, faculty, staff—whomever—to be connected to one another. Yes, sometimes it’s about ensuring the latest technology is incorporated into the project, but equally so it’s about spaces that encourage socialization, collaboration, and conversation. Our digital world is here to stay—and growing every day—and so many wonderful things have come from the acceleration of technology! But as architects, we’re always reminded that where we spend time is often more important than what we’re doing. And who we’re spending time with, is the most important of all.

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