I have had a stimulating few days in Perth at the IAHSA (International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing) International Conference. Subjects vary from the impact of technology on the sector to inevitable discussions on the challenges of caring for the growing numbers living with dementia.
Under pressure from my generation (and it is all about me!), the ‘Boomers’, there is a lot of chatter about client-focused design and the need to engage the end user early in the planning process. Despite the rhetoric, there are few insights as to how this cohort, now aged between 50 and 70 years of age, can actively inform the nature of care they are seeking and the place in which this service will be provided.
Coincidentally, the business world is also dealing with the expectations of different generations recognising that smart, effective design needs to engage the user very early in the development of a product or service. ‘Design Thinking’ is a current buzzword (Harvard Business Review September 2015) and with this methodology the desired outcome is described as an ‘artefact’. Two parallel processes are considered: the design of the artefact itself and the design of the intervention that that brings the artefact to life. Intervention design sets out to predict and understand behaviours that influence or result from the creation of the artefact and how the new process/product will be introduced and integrated into the status quo. It is argued that with very complex artefacts, the design of the intervention is even more critical to success than the design of the artefact itself.
The architectural design process needs to go beyond simply meeting the fundamental spatial requirements and broaden its scope to examine the behaviours of users. Edmiston Jones starts design with the premise is that ‘the solution may not be a building’. While the outcome may ultimately be manifested in a built form our experience is that more informed solutions result from an approach that is not driven by a preconceived architectural icon.
At Edmiston Jones we have established graphic tools and processes to elicit our clients’ fundamental requirements so that they are documented, understood and agreed long before definitive floor plans are produced. We take a position that a ‘plan’ is a solution and presenting a part solution early in the design journey is not the best way to encourage lateral thinking and engage with the end user.