Architectural Ponderings

User Experience Design

The very first thing I learned as I was preparing for the Architectural University exam was the fact that any line you draw in a floor plan has a reason behind. Artist might can get away with saying “I just felt like doing that!”, but architects can’t. And that’s the way it supposed to be! We’re creating spaces that have the power to influence its users in a positive or a negative way. You don’t play with that kind of power. Or at least one would think you don’t!  

Besides the importance of proper research, not just in the architecture of the area to be built in, but also in its economic context, history, culture and social interaction, I’m a strong advocate of the importance of user feedback. There are many failed projects where the architect “knew better” what people wanted. True, we bring fourth ideas and experiments we can see being beneficial, but in the end the users determine the fate of the building.
UX design is now a massive industry. Designers and investors acknowledge the fact that a bad design is bound to kill even the best of ideas. So why is it different in architecture? Probably because it is a lot easier to choose a different app or website than it is to find a different apartment or house. However that is just the way we have been doing things up to now. The solution is simple: change. Yes, but change is difficult. No, it isn’t! You just have to want it. Yes, but it is too expensive. No it isn’t! If one were to calculate all the money we spend on tearing down buildings that become obsolete in extreme short amounts of time, the cost of traffic where parking was not properly thought through, the costs of dead parks that did not reach their audience, and so much more we’d most likely see the change not that expensive.

The TED talk bellow talks about a group of users that we easily overlook. Yes, we ask children what they need and want, when designing kindergartens and schools (sometimes, not always) but how many architects and developers have actually sat down to discuss with every single group of users? I have my suspicious that number isn’t that impressive.

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