Sunday, July 01, 2007

When buildings go horribly wrong

When in Chicago I stopped by my alma mater to visit a favorite professor. I had not seen this new building, but had read about it in our alumni mailings. The first floor, intended to be a comfortable student lounge, had already been abandoned as a failure.

The space felt cold, with terrible acoustics. It wasn't a place you'd want to linger in.

There was no building directory, so I had to guess which floor my professor might be on. The elevator doors opened into blank hallways like this, with only the floor number indicated.

Which door to enter? Would I be locked in (or out) if if I ventured through? The building inspired no confidence. In fact, it felt actively hostile.

I felt sad for the students and staff members who had to work in this expensive mistake, as I couldn't wait to get out.

Tip of the day: Choose an architect or designer committed to user-centered design. Act as an advocate for your customers, be they students, patients, visitors, or guests in the space. It's the designer's job to make you happy, so make sure that they are designing a comfortable, friendly space. Visit their other buildings or interiors before you hire them. Choose based on how their work makes you feel, not their reputation. Many famous names design for themselves or their peers.

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