More than Buildings, can Architects Design Relationships?
When we think what architects do, relationship building is rarely at the top of the list. But according Jeanne Gang, founding principle of Studio Gang Architects, its a vital role for architects to play. Inspired by ecology, she approaches each project by considering how design may influence the relationships between people using the building. To achieve this, Studio Gang engages with these people – from students to police officers and many others in between – to create spaces that support positive sociability. Depending on the type of space, this can include a range of interventions. Designing a centre for social justice, they created a foyer that includes a fireplace for exchanging stories and a kitchen to promote cultural exchange. To encourage interaction between neighbours in a high rise, balconies were staggered to create social corridors. To build badly needed trust between police and neighbours in Chicago, they designed a police station that could also serve as a community hub. It’s clear that there are no shortage of design opportunities to foster sociability. Taking a step beyond architecture, creative (but not necessarily new) approaches such as co-housing communities and pro-social urban design can also foster greater sociability. Wrapping up her talk, Jeanne Gang notes that architects are trained to defend their design, rather than opening up and engaging with the people who use the end product. Beyond trailblazers such as Gang, is the architectural profession ready for such a transformation?