Buildings are, first and foremost, spaces for carrying out human activities. Ideally, they have to be subservient to the needs of the people who work within. In reality, users are seldom consulted when architectural plans are drawn up and the building commissioned. Architecture, seen commonly as a creative and artistic discipline, often places form ahead of function. Aesthetics elements are the sole criteria used in judging merit. Ask the users, and you might get a completely different opinion. Le Corbusier’s design for the city of Chandigarh in India was an arrogant act that ended up in a cold, impractical set of buildings that had nothing to do with the culture or the landscape of the territory it was set in.
In general, public buildings such as hospitals, seldom take into consideration the requirements of their users. Far from being spaces for healing, they serve to intensify the anxiety and dread that patients feel within the premises. Care is often given in windowless, artificially lit spaces that are forbidding.
This video takes to task the lack of diversity in design that leads to thoughtless, compassionless spaces. Design has a unique ability to dignify and make people feel valued, respected, honoured and seen. The speaker, John Cary, calls for architects and designers to expand their ranks and commit to serving the public good, not just the privileged few. “Well-designed spaces are not just a matter of taste or a questions of aesthetics,” he says. “They literally shape our ideas about who we are in the world and what we deserve.”