The environments we design must first and foremost meet their functional requirements. But these spaces can have far greater significance than function alone. By thinking about the broader benefits and consequences of an environment, we can create ‘Environments for People’ that contribute to and improve our quality of life in the short and long term.
DesignInc recently presented at Sydney Build Expo 2017 on the importance of creating environments for people. “The objective of the presentation was to demonstrate the fundamental approach to design from the user or human experience point of view,” says Managing Director Sandeep Amin. Supporting the presentation with three case studies – Transport for NSW Transport Access Program (presented by Principal Garth Davies), Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (by Design Director Richard Does) and Lindfield Learning Village (by Associate Jacqueline Urford) – the DesignInc team showed how they apply this human-centred approach to different types of projects. Indeed by concentrating on user needs and experience, we can create people-focused environments that break with tradition and convention.
People-focused environments elevate the human experience of a space, offering an emotive layer on top of meeting the functional requirements of a project. “It moves beyond responding to a functional brief to consider emotive qualities and experiential elements, and how they can be beneficial,” Sandeep explains. “It is not just simple beautification, but relates back to the user to enhance and enrich their experience of a space.”
Over the last 20 years DesignInc has designed the upgrades of many transport stations as part of Transport for NSW’s ongoing programs for enabling accessibility and providing a better experience for public transport customers. For Oatley station, a heritage-listed building with 1980s additions, DesignInc created a new footbridge to provide an arrival experience aligned with the concept of ‘a journey.’ Perforated aluminium walls create interplays of light and a balcony at the end of the footbridge offers views across the local area.
“We focused on improving the commuter journey at Oatley station; if people feel good about going to and from work it improves their daily experience and productivity,” Sandeep says.
Reflecting the success of the design of Oatley station, DesignInc is also using aluminium screens for the upgrade of Harris Park station. The local area has a vibrant Indian community and the screens will be perforated in a manner inspired by “Jaali” of traditional Indian architecture with playful colours.
At Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), a layer of emotional experience warms and softens the otherwise very functional and state-of-the-art hospital. “VCCC has research and clinical functions in the same building, and is therefore not only developing cutting edge and emerging technology to deal with cancer, but also treating patients with that technology. We had to consider how to create an experience that will help patients feel calmer and happier during that treatment,” Sandeep explains.
Free-flowing geometries that reflect the natural world are intended to create a sense of calm and relief for users. The exterior follows a pattern that depicts branches of the “tree of life” growing and splitting, and the lobby features a simplified palette of natural timbers and white terrazzo flooring. Organic lines, natural light, texture, pattern and splashes of colour create a warm and welcoming space, which can help contribute to better patient outcomes.
Lindfield Learning Village is a unique education environment that encourages specialisation from an early age. To conceive the design, DesignInc took on board education models for new ways of learning, as well as considering the needs of the new-age workforce. “We needed to think backwards from what the future workforce will be and require: the accountants, engineers and architects of this world, as well as the workforce employed by game making, or companies such as Google, who don’t really follow the convention of traditional professions. How do we provide education facilities to cater for this future generation?” Sandeep asks.
Lindfield Learning Village makes use of the old UTS Kuring-gai Campus, a heritage-listed Brutalist building designed in 1967 and constructed until the 1980s. The campus has existing woodworking, metalworking and ceramics workshops; drama and filmmaking studios; science labs and other special-level facilities supporting six smaller learning communities conceived for students to develop and progress in line with their natural aptitude.
“We designed six ‘home bases’ from K to 12 where students enter at kindergarten and graduate in HSC from the same home base. However, they will be able to advance based on ‘stage and not age’ within that, so if they are good in maths, they’ll be able to take classes with senior students without compromising any other learning,” says Sandeep. “There is no restriction on learning due to age, convention or lack of facilities. Rather it focuses on user need, instead of following what has been done in the past.”
As the DesignInc team demonstrated at Sydney Build Expo 2017, creating environments for people requires thorough consideration of the broader benefits and consequences of a space. But through this consideration we can create environments that contribute to and improve our quality of life in the short and long term.