Designing a space that hundreds of individuals can enjoy simultaneously is no easy feat. Especially when today’s social spaces have come so far in creating heightened immersive experiences.
June 14th, 2017
I might be showing my age here but my childhood memory of libraries is of vast, beige spaces devoid of colour and personality. (And an occasional ‘shh’ from the librarian.) Similarly, gyms, schools, cinemas and other communal spaces simply just served a purpose first-and-foremost. They certainly weren’t beautiful or creatively imagined.
Luckily the world of A+D has evolved considerably since then and buildings designed for group-use are a far cry from the sterile, monochrome boxes of old. In fact, the increased attention our A+D community is dedicating to revolutionising spaces for communality and bringing people together is something we wish to celebrate at this year’s inaugural INDE.Awards – and we’ve partnered up with the best team in socially-thinking design to find the best social space in our region. We’re on the hunt for the region’s most imaginative, most inclusive, most ground-breaking take on using design as a tool for communality. Powered by Living Edge – the Official Partner for the INDE Social Space Award in 2017 – one of our country’s premium suppliers of authentic contemporary design, the Official Shortlist for the INDE Social Space award is elevating Asia Pacific A+D on the global stage.
Take the new Woollahra Library in Sydney designed by BVN architecture studio. On entering, visitors are greeted by a series of organic-shaped voids adorned with tranquil hanging gardens. Inspired by the library’s former location amidst Blackburn Gardens, greenery is everywhere and there is even a slide that drops down into a colourful ‘secret garden’ area for kids. The enormous central staircase – not traditionally a place to linger – is now known as ‘the forum’, with comfy cushions inviting people to perch whilst they read or watch movies on the retractable screen.
Of course there is still a plethora of quiet areas for those reading and studying but the library looks great and that, in turn, makes us feel great to be there. As Christen Grosen (pictured above), Design Director of Scandinavian powerhouse Muuto (distributed throughout Australia thanks to Team Living Edge), says: “Whether we have a sense of interior or not, we are aware when something works. Everyone knows the feeling of getting into a room that is nice to be inside, and a room that is not so nice… mainly because design interacts with and influences all our senses. Colours and lighting affect our mood.”
All eight shortlisted projects for the INDE Social Space Award showcase a unique approach to designing social spaces that simultaneously highlight their function and enhance the users’ experience. The new Humming Puppy yoga studio by Karen Aberneathy, for example, deploys a clever mix of visuals and acoustics to set the tone for harmony and reflection. From the light-filled reception area with its uplifting kaleidoscopic backdrop to the dark stairs and main ‘shala’ (complete with reverberating hum), the building itself helps visitors direct their energy inwards to a more spiritual place.
“Today, the boundary between private and professional lives is slowly dissolving – workplaces, restaurants and other public spaces are becoming less formal and we do not enjoy everything too sterile and rigid,” says Grosen. “I am very aware of how much power aesthetics has in a room. For example, the difference between a table being square versus round – it changes the dynamics of a meeting. You change your daily life by moving around and it shows what a huge influence your décor has,” he adds, “it creates renewed energy and, derived from that, a sense of happiness.”
Indeed it does. Colour and light’s power to uplift a mood is extraordinary; equally so, materials, textures and even the shape or layout of furniture translate tactile experiences into intimate moments for individual and communal reflection. The effect of design on our emotional state cannot be underestimated. Balancing finish with form to enhance a person’s experience within a space, whilst still remaining appropriate to the function of that space, is undeniably a difficult skill to implement – and a much harder one to master. For a brand like Muuto that strives to expand on a strong Scandinavian design tradition but always approaches it with an international, new and original perspective, the emotional aspect of design is paramount. Everywhere, every detail, every flourish (or, indeed, lack thereof) exudes a quiet, introspective and thoughtful approach to positioning design right in the centre of our interpersonal relationships with one another:
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