People Power: The Rise of Communal Spirit in Architecture

SHoP Architects
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BUILDING TOMORROW PRESENTS THE CONTEMPORARY TRENDS IN BUILDING DESIGN AND THE GLOBAL FORCES DRIVING THEM FORWARD, USING ARCHITIZER’S ANNUAL A+AWARDS SUBMISSIONS AS THE BENCHMARK. THE DATA IS CREATIVELY VISUALIZED TO PROVIDE VALUABLE INSIGHTS FOR DESIGNERS, RETAILERS, AND ANY INDUSTRY WORKING TO CREATE EXPERIENTIAL DESIGNS.

Congregating and connecting with other people has always been an important function of architecture, but today’s public and private spaces are changing to reflect a greater desire for shared experiences and environments. Analysis of thousands of contemporary architectural projects — as illustrated in the first comprehensive report on trends in architecture by Architizer and PSFK — has revealed that architects and their clients are increasingly prioritizing buildings that encourage stronger social cohesion, both at home and in the workplace.

The recent proliferation of social-centric and dynamic designs appears to reflect a growing appreciation for the fact that these building types can help foster positive incidental functions such as conversation and collaboration. Vishaan Chakrabarti, Principal at SHoP Architects, understands this better than anyone, saying: “Architects have an extraordinarily important role to play to better guide urban growth toward more socially mixed and more innovative cultural ecologies that allow us to inhabit cities the way we want.”

Standout examples of such architecture span a plethora of sectors, from education to residential. As the report details, Atelier Hitoshi Abe’s design for Vienna University was configured as a “flexible campus with a high degree of permeability between buildings, in order to promote interaction between different academic departments. Overlapping volumes are arranged along the length of the site with shared atriums. By diverting traffic through the atriums, staff, faculty, and students are encouraged to cross paths, congregate, work, and collaborate.”

Homes too can benefit from these qualities, as illustrated by Egan | Simon Architecture with their High Place Apartments in Santa Monica. Numerous interstitial spaces were incorporated to foster communal spirit, inviting people to socialize: “High Place Apartments was built around a series of courtyards designed to bring natural ventilation while promoting community between the units in the building ... The open-air corridors connect different buildings so that people can see their neighbors.”

Outside the US, this intertwining of public and private space is also bearing fruit, as evidenced by SsD’s innovative Songpa Micro-Housing project in Seoul. As the report explains, the Songpa block cleverly “leverages zoning constraints
 to use residual space as semi-public shared zones. The residual space forms communal spaces for as many as three units and fosters interactions between neighbors.” Cross-programming is also adopted, resulting in unexpected social richness: “The café in the basement level transforms into a community theater at night.”

Perhaps the best example of all, though, is located in the town of Kayonza in Uganda. Sharon Davis Design produced a beautifully simple solution for the Women’s Opportunity Center, with perforated walls of brick wrapping a circular seat that encourages people to converse face to face in the comfort of great shading and passive ventilation.

Sharon Davis' project forms a subtle but significant precedent for architects moving forward — when well designed, buildings can do more than simply provide shelter and a space in which to carry out our daily functions. They can bring people together, and better still, get people talking — this is the age of communal spirit in architecture, and cities are growing ever stronger for it.

Vienna University by Atelier Hitoshi Abe, Vienna, Austria
 

Vienna University by Atelier Hitoshi Abe, Vienna, Austria

 

High Place Apartments by Egan | Simon Architecture, Santa Monica, CA.

 

Songpa Micro-Housing by SsD, Seoul, South Korea

 

Women’s Opportunity Center by Sharon Davis Design, Kayonza, Uganda