David Daniels, Director of Architecture at SSH on the why the current crisis requires designers to explore new paradigms of the public space.

As a multidisciplinary design-led practice, we at SHH have always challenged ourselves on both what we do and how we generate our design solutions to ensure that we create places for people to enjoy and use within the built environment.  Although a considerable part of our urban design work and building designs within our portfolio are traditional assets, such as residential buildings, commercial offices, malls, and hotels, we always try to collaborate with our clients to produce designs that aim to surpass the traditional functional use.  Moving forward, however, we believe this approach will become even more essential.

Buildings and the surrounding context, are all places for people to enjoy and be a part of, as well as achieve the intended design function.  This is why, moving forward, we must look beyond the boundary of pure functionalism and focus on the development of spaces within the urban realm and buildings, which not only maximise the potential for their original function but are also designed to be adaptable over time for multiple programmes.  This is particularly relevant when considering common large social areas. 

In light of the current situation we all find ourselves in, we now believe that there must be more attention given to areas which have previously been considered as secondary or in-between spaces.  Our focus is to develop these poorly perceived zones into usable spaces.  This approach shall not only help increase the return on the value of the investment but, more importantly, will support existing function, provide new social opportunities and contribute to a places character and identity.   

External spaces are the first entry point to a development.  It has always been one of our key design principals to consider these spaces as equally as other spaces, which are often given greater importance.  Our connection to the outside is now far more treasured in who we are as human beings, during this time of stay home and stay safe.  We strongly believe our innate interrogation and incorporation of such external spaces is vital to the wellbeing of us all.  We have always aimed to design these spaces as an equal and fundamental building function and vice versa in the context of an urban space being the extension to an enclosed space.  In order for this approach to be successful, it is imperative that closer collaboration between clients, architects, landscape and urban designers is undertaken with mutual respect. 

As architects and designers, we have all been trained to continually question ourselves, either through review, debate or assessment.   Today these processes though are predominately focused as to why arrangements are the way they are.  Obviously, this has been driven by prescriptive norms set out by Clients, Operators, Statutory Requirements and others.  These are fine and in many cases have been generated and adapted over time themselves.  However, we must learn once more to challenge and question these norms and not to accept the status quo.   Only through a return to first principles, self-challenge, mutual respect and true collaboration; which remarkably appears to have been re-invigorated as we now all sit at home, will we be able to truly influence and help create places which will nurture and allow us all to live in harmony with each other on this single planet that we all call home! 


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