The AIANY Social Science and Research Committee’s seventh public program, the last of 2016, was “I Love this Place! Exceptional Design Driven through Social Research.” Co-chair Melissa Marsh, Assoc. AIA, concepted and moderated the event, and introduced the evening by explaining its premise: to showcase exemplary projects which demonstrate the power of embedding social science research in design. She invited three expert speakers to weigh in on how social science can shape constant improvement in our built environment.
Guy Geier, managing partner at FXFOWLE Architects, explained that much of his firm’s work begins with observing the experiences of building users—both occupants and visitors. He gave examples of workplace projects the firm has undertaken in which the client was seeking a cultural shift by moving away from a more cellular to a more interactive workspace.
Carlo Bailey, a design researcher at the co-working space provider WeWork, described how his company appeals to a wide range of individuals and small businesses with flexible workspaces that reflect today’s changing work-life relationship. He explained how the company uses a variety of methods to analyze the direct “member feedback” they solicit about what works in its spaces and what doesn’t.
Paul McConnell, design director at Intersection, a technology and media company focused on urban experience, described the company’s work on new tech platforms and the suite of user-focused methods they employ to make sure their products are safe, useful, and reliable.
Marsh then led a Q&A that queried the panel about how they define evidence of success in their work—beside economic valuation. Most responses included receiving positive feedback from end users, and some noted seeing imitation in other designers’ work. Marsh also fielded audience questions, including one on the balancing act of designing for increased human interaction while maintaining efficiency and privacy. The panel agreed that the ideal is a mix of environments tailored to meet each client’s needs.
Geier closed the event with remarks about architects’ increasing opportunity to use social data for greater collective benefit, and his hope that this opportunity will be taken.
This article is a summary of “I Love This Place! Social Research-Driven Design,” which was originally published in AIA New York Center for Architecture’s News blog on December 15, 2016.