“The job of buildings is to improve human relations; architecture must ease them, not make them worse.” - Ralph Erskine
Architecture and the rich possibilities of immersive technology can allow us to go beyond material boundaries. The question is how to use digital design in space to tap into human consciousness and emotion. How can we approach and evolve digital placemaking?
ArchDaily defines placemaking as a process centered on people and their needs, aspirations, desires, and visions, which relies strongly on community participation.
Today, technology is an intrinsic part of daily urban life. With the intimate relationship we now share with digital technology in our houses, workplaces, and areas of recreation, connected spaces can foster trust and encourage bonds between people from different contexts.
Before exploring some ideas, perhaps we should recap how far we’ve already come.
The Timeline and Context
Architecture has evolved through time. When we first considered architecture, we studied topography. We thought of the area’s geography and climate. Next came utilitarian values like occupancy, infrastructure, and circulation. Then we looked at the aesthetics of facades and fenestrations. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, participatory models in urban design started being explored with the considerable involvement of architects, politicians, city planners, and people, marking a new phase in urban development.
Fast forward to today, and beyond the physical attributes, architecture includes new metadata—information. We have increasing information on architecture like communication, transportation, and perception-leading contextualization.
To refashion Louis Sullivan's famous maxim, Form now follows function and also information.
The power of ubiquitous computing makes information fluid and accessible across built spaces, flowing from homes to workspaces, recreational areas, and even our cities seamlessly. Scenic locations are #instagrammable. People 'waze' through a city with live traffic updates. We reduce our carbon footprint based on occupancy or weather.
Spaces aren't based on architectural conception alone. They are an elegant orchestra of form, function, intention, and technology. Technology and architecture have come together to facilitate intelligent spaces. Paired with behavioral manifestations, we can now create digitally conscious architecture.
In the past two decades, tech companies have done applaudable work creating seamless technology. Places now accentuate their identity with synchronous data. We are now a world of digital natives, born and raised with the internet, and digital immigrants, who have embraced the digital portfolio of life. The products and services omnipresent today strongly influence our lives.
But the spaces where we experience these products and services are in technological debt. The time taken for places to embrace this technology and the expectation of human beings inhabiting these places is not in sync. They need to catch up. Just as we upgrade our phones and OSes, we need to consider our spaces as evolving and robust. Approaching buildings as digital platforms that require updates and upgrades enables spaces to be continuously involved with their inhabitants.
So What Lies Ahead?
How can digital and physical spaces come together to create and define phygital experiences? Is there a way to make technical touchpoints become intuitive experiences rather than intrusive?
Academicians have extensively researched the psychological impact of space. At crUX.design, we have studied and distilled academic theories like proxemics, placemaking, and psychogeography to build a unique process that aids the crafting of digital experiences in built forms. We design these experiences with two novel frameworks: Digital Juxtaposition and Digital Intervention.
Built spaces responding to user needs with digital solutions.
Our consultants analyze the physical space and its primary occupants' digital behaviors. We then provide insights through a digital master plan. The building is adapted to these insights and accommodates to place these installations. Planners, consultants, technologists, and denizens come together to influence a cohesive master plan.
We craft a digital solution as an add-on layer over static spaces to make it more accessible and functional. For example, in a retail space, that could mean adding barcode scanning machines to check prices and self check-out counters to reduce time at checkout. This serves to better utilize a static space for a digital realization.
Technology allows users to experience moments differently. Brands use technology to transform static spaces into interactive, immersive experiences.
Lately, we are entering a new era of immersive branding that takes us beyond brick and mortar brand experiences. Metaverse, the imagined-yet-almost-here future of the internet, is poised to build these shared virtual environments. Blending the physical and digital boundaries, we are ready for a world where brands influence and market to consumers through virtual stores, AR, and digital shows. Experiential marketing treads on a thin line of being intrusive; hence it becomes critical for brands to think through these new user journeys before embracing this technology. This medium also has the potential to influence brand loyalty. By integrating personalized digital services and amenities, on-demand media, mobile wayfinding, and gamified experiences into large event venues, owners and event organizers can empower fans with an omni-channel experience that enables new connections and builds brand loyalty. It is crucial to achieve a balance of tactile and immersive branding to avoid overkill and cognitive distortions.
Built spaces evolving to adapt to digital behaviors.
Our consultants analyze the project and create digital workflows that manufacture intent for a space. While creating new spaces, we take into consideration behaviors and inclusion. The Amazon Go shopping experience is an excellent example of digital intervention. We saw user behaviors from an online retail website transcend to a brick-and-mortar experience rather than vice versa.
Another example is seen in airport master plans, where the circulation paths are modified to guide users to pick-up zones for rideshare services. Traditional physical signage is being overlaid with digital counterparts like GPS and AR-based guidance apps to aid traffic circulation at most metropolitan airports.
Purposeful innovation in architecture can impact a gamut of application areas, including evolved circulation patterns, distributed occupancy, and sustainable utilization of static and dynamic spaces. The conscious creation of digital interventions can spark robust interactions between people and spaces.
At CrUX.design, we create unique user-driven spatial journeys through digital juxtapositions and digital interventions.With our structural execution partners and esteemed advisory panel we are able to take this journey from abstraction to realization both in the digital and physical realm. Our team helps clients understand the digital-physical reality and delivers on transcending experiences for built spaces.