The Future of Architecture Encourages Social Interaction

Buildings are on the cusp of a revolution.

The way we live, work and play is changing and so too will the buildings that we use. From concerns about carbon emissions through to an increasingly urban and ageing population, the challenges and opportunities facing the built environment are plentiful.

All that requires a change in approach.

Offsite manufacturing, designing with standardised kits of parts, adopting new structural materials along with better design for social cohesion will all play a role in delivering buildings fit for the future, with the focus on building inhabitants rather than the design.

Designing for a future of loneliness is an area in which architects are spending a huge amount of time thinking about.

Architecture that encourages social interaction is now at the forefront of architects thinking and tracking as an emerging trend.

An industry survey published last summer asked 1000 Londoners how many neighbours they could name. The average was just 2.5. Of those living in flats, three quarters failed to name anyone in their block. Research shows that it’s not just old people who suffer from loneliness. Students, particularly overseas students, young mums and disabled people are as likely, if not more, to suffer from social isolation as the old.

architecture that encourages social interaction

A conservative estimate suggests that just over 1 million workers experience loneliness in the UK while a study in 2007 by New Economics Foundation estimated that in 2007 the cost of loneliness to employers through its impact on health and wellbeing was £2.5 billion per year.

There is an enormous amount of work architects can do to design places that help overcome isolation. Here at SpaceShapers, we’re currently designing numerous building types to meet multiple demographic user groups and activities.

When you look at the London City Plan 2036, there’s an emphasis shift from London and its business credentials to people.

The term “mental health” is in the plan several times. Likewise, it’s suggested how we could improve that by designing active ground plans. Also, improving pedestrian permeability and public realm between the buildings.

In the CTBUH’s latest annual research into tall buildings, the number of towers over 200m tall across the globe is steadily growing with over half containing a residential element. The biggest growth is in China which continues to grow its cities. It completed 25 more tall buildings than the rest of the world in 2010. Also, this increased to 87 last year. It also built seven out of the 10 tallest buildings completed across the globe last year.

United Nations projections show that urbanisation combined with global population growth could add another 2.5 billion people to urban populations by 2050, with close to 90% of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.

It’s just as much about

  • the public realm in and around the building,
  • the amenities in the building
  • the way they’re used

as much as the quality of the building itself.

To help solve some of the issues concerning the lack of interaction between people in tall towers, there must be bigger bridges between buildings. This increases access to communal space and makes it easier for people to connect.

architecture that encourages social interaction

Growing population density means that making sparsely available land in urban areas more productive will be increasingly important.

Exploiting previously underused space, for example, above railway lines and stations, is something that we are now seriously considering. Also, we’re building upon this with all Crossrail stations and new rail and underground station developments across London.

One of our SpaceShaper projects is working on a large conservation building and site in France. Here we are renovating and developing a multiple demographic offering. We’re using tourism regeneration to aid facilities and residential offering for local aged assisted living.

This is one of many projects where SpaceShapers are seeing building briefs blurring into multiple typologies. What is needed is for the council planning systems to catch up to this new way of thinking!

Get in touch with us to discuss with us your projects: we aim to assist you in matching housing architecture and social interaction!

Architecture that encourages social interaction
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Architecture that encourages social interaction
Architecture that encourages social interaction is now at the forefront of architects thinking and tracking as an emerging trend.
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SpaceShaper Architects
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