A New Humanism: Let’s Take Technology for Granted
So much of our time and energy has become intertwined with new technologies, and incorporating them into our work. Now I feel a shift in focus coming on. In many ways it is a refocus upon the essential design approach, and a return to the art of construction.
Lately, I have been thinking about the effects that lifestyle trends have on my approach to design. In my work I find myself craving — more than ever — authenticity, craft, texture, and unique spatial quality. I feel like this aligns with a greater cultural shift that has a lot to do with a new generation who takes technology for granted. Observing the way this generation embraces things like community involvement, local businesses, sustainability and craft beer, I begin to draw a parallel to a new humanism and localism emerging as powerful trends in architectural design.
It all centers on renewed emphasis on real human interaction. Progressive companies and learning institutions understand this and see value in chance interaction, casual exchange of ideas, the power of real discourse, body language and the social aspect of work and learning. Because technology has offered people the convenience of working remotely, spaces now need to give people a reason to choose to come together in-person.
So how do we take technology for granted and create magnet places? Three ideas come to mind:
- Design for the senses: The importance that we’re now placing on localism, craft, and authenticity isn’t new. It’s tied to essential human needs for immediacy and direct connection through the senses. Successful design is sensory for that reason, and can be both explicit (such as in materials or color) and implicit (such as good air and light quality in a sustainably designed environment). In our recently completed AFI headquarters, emphasis was on space that is expressive, tactile, and authentic to the company’s brand and culture, which manifest in the employee break room just as much as the technology- rich main conference room.
- Design spaces where people can unplug: There are nuances to communicating in person (rolling a chair backward or forward, pointing to things, passing something back and forth, hand gestures, facial expressions, looking someone in the eye...) that just don’t come across a screen. You can still feel a distance in collaboration technology, and that has some impact on how effectively we engage with our coworkers. Vibrant companies like Ping Identity Corporation continue to create great places where people can unplug to work together face-to-face because it’s how people work best.
- Design for chance interactions: Even technology giants build spaces with the goal of getting employees to run into one another and chat. Our team has been designing TI’s and a new campus building for Google, whose workplace standards focus on getting their employees up from their desks and meeting each other in what they call “casual collisions.” These are encounters that not only build culture, but lead to new ideas that wouldn’t have occurred any other way.
Technology has hit a development level that we can start to make it invisible, allowing us to remember that in-person connections have the most impact in our lives. Organizations are reemphasizing the importance of space in their operations: inviting places where people can work together face-to-face; where the cultural importance of “local” is honored; where connections are at their most authentic; and where sustainability is shared as both a value and an experience.