We mould ourselves to the spirit that emanates from the objects around us!

Should we extend our thinking of public spaces beyond just being 'a social space that is generally open and accessible to people'? If we consider not only parks and beaches as public spaces, but also roads and pavements, should we maybe extend the definition to include some spaces where people conduct business and life?

If we move away from thinking of public spaces as merely 'gathering places' but consider them in a broader light, how would our thinking around the design of such spaces change?

Here’s an example; privately owned spaces to which society needs access. Embassies & Visa offices are an example of this. 

It’s bad enough that freedom of movement is controlled and in some cases restricted. To add salt to the wound, embassies are generally very cold and unwelcoming places to be when you need to get your visas or papers in order. This actually extends to most government home affairs offices. Narrow spaces with bad lighting and aircons that are set either too high or too low……

The concept of private spaces with the appearance of public space; where the right to common passage is determined by ownership instead of use, is quite confusing.

Back to my example above. I don’t care who owns the property on which a ‘visa office’ sits. The fact that I have some business being there, i.e I am an intended user, means the design should at least consider my needs. The tiny 'mailbox' below is how the Egyptian embassy chooses to engage with the public. Now I don't know whether this is a case of wanting to push for extreme efficiency, saving space in an expensive real estate environment or if it's another message that the design is sending....

At this point, reader, you might be thinking yes, but so what?

I always say that design matters. Not only from an aesthetics point of view but from a behaviourial perspective. Because the human brain is lazy, it uses cues, nudges and easy influences to navigate the world. Design of things that are part of our activities and lives matter a lot because they influence us. Bad design is not only inefficient and costly but it can also perpetuate structures, systems and ideas that we so desperately need to get rid of. In the example above, the design perpetuates alienation and unwelcomeness.

Our environments change and influence who we are. We mould ourselves to the spirit that emanates from the objects around us and become as great or as little as they are. When we think about our decisions and interactions with others, it's easy to think that we're the masters of our own destiny and we dictate our future. But everything around us (well, most things) are designed with a specific intention in mind. Your local big box store places sweets and junk food closer to the tills at the end of your trip because by that point you feel pretty good about the few apples and veges you bought earlier & therefore likely to fall for their scam. Your local charitable foundation asks you to untick a box if you do not want to donate to 'feeding kids in Africa' because opting out is more difficult than going with the status quo. Your credit card is designed not to resemble real cash to eliminate your strong attachment to your hard earned money. So, in the context of places of work, business, play and life....yes, absolutely design matters.



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