Above: University of Winchester building project (copyright: Design Engine Architects, used with permission)
This week, I took part in a thought-provoking debate in the new Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford. The evening was hosted by engineers Hoare Lea and titled ‘Designing the Future – Ideas for a Better Environment’. One of the five topics under discussion was the notion of shifting the emphasis from designing buildings to perform satisfactorily for human comfort, to putting human comfort at the centre of building performance. The two are not mutually exclusive, but when it was set out so simply it made a lot of sense.
Human comfort involves a heady mix of stimulation for the senses: temperature, ventilation, natural daylight, artificial light, ergonomics, noise (sometimes defined as ‘unwanted sound’) and so on. A single failure in this mix – think badly lit restaurant or a music venue with poor acoustics – and the experience is ruined. I once ran a student project based on sensory architecture and it produced some of the most unexpected and inspirational moments in my teaching life.