As architects, designers and urban planners, we are challenged with how to adapt to the rapid growth and change, especially in the biggest cities of the world. For years, architecture has followed the model of designing buildings with the purpose of serving a more self-oriented and individual-focused consumer culture that has shaped the way we built our homes and cities at the moment. Places that later became unused and abandoned by their citizens, ended demolished and other simply inhabited.
But, what is happening right now with the buildings? How are these spaces in the city changing?
With the introduction of the Sharing Economy, the habits and ways people live have changed. Moreover, people are looking to live a better, more efficient, convenient and eco-conscious life by utilising resources in order to bring people together and develop more user-centred services with the help of new technologies. Nowadays, we are able to rent parking spaces in crowded cities and rooms in houses that are adapted as meeting or workspaces. This is happening thanks to the revitalisation of buildings through the change of use in order to give them a new purpose for which they were created.
A well-known example in the UK is WeWork, one of the leading companies that provides shared workspaces. It is becoming one of the biggest renter of office space in London covering a total of 2.6 million sq. ft. (WeWork, 2018). It focuses on creating spaces where companies and people collaborate together while having free beers or singing karaoke. Through the incorporation of modern concepts of open spaces that are modifiable and adaptable, they are changing the perception of how offices are designed and distributed as well on how people are working.
WeWork office in Soho – Sheraton House, London. (WeWork, 2018)
This approach to the sharing economy on the reutilisation of spaces has led hotels to integrate residential condominiums. Furthermore, houses and residential buildings have started to offer co-working spaces and retail shops have brought coffee spaces. What is more, shopping centres are seen more as a community centre where people can spend time rather than having a lot of shops together.
Additionally, new companies like changetheuse.co.uk have developed a market in which they help their customers convert their spaces from commercial to residential use or vice versa (The Planning Guys, 2018). This demonstrates how architects and designers are changing and evolving their skills and tools to adapt to a new era in which people are willing to live closer to the city centres and take advantage of unused spaces.
As architects, we must know how to create a built environment durable and flexible enough to support these trends. Our projects are becoming more complex, as more uses and needs are being incorporated, to our lifestyle. Therefore:
“Our opportunity, as designers, is to learn how to handle the complexity, rather than shy away from it, and to realize that the big art of design is to make complicated things simple”. Tim Parsey. (Blender - Product Design & Development, 2018)
WeWork office in Aldgate Tower (WeWork, 2018)