“Design from the inside-out”

“Design from the inside-out”

Design. We’ve been thinking about it a lot, especially since I co-presented last week at the Design Council’s event* as part of the Unusual Suspects festival, focused on the application of design to public services.

It was therefore a treat to catch up yesterday with another unusual suspect, Sadie Morgan from dRMM architects over some rather splendid sardines.

We talk a lot about user-centric design in public services, and it is perhaps never more powerfully illustrated than in the design of actual spaces where people live, move, and have their being. dRMM recently won the Mayor of London Housing Design Award for their Kings Cross ArtHouse development, a vibrant and innovative mixed-use scheme in Camden that provides 143 apartments of which 29 are ‘general needs social rent’, above a plinth of commercial spaces.

This fabulous short film is well worth a watch. It showcases ArtHouse, including interviews in which client, architects and residents unpack the design principles behind the development. Amazing, yet so simple: physical space that is attentive to how people feel about themselves, the world around them, and how they relate to each other.

“My favourite bit is the balcony: you can see your neighbours; you can shout down to them if they’re that way inclined.” (Edward, resident)

How difficult is it really to design physical spaces or indeed social interactions that promote wellbeing, a sense of connectedness, and that grow community? It’s not a great leap to see how this type of thinking and doing could (SHOULD?) be playing much more of a role in efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens.

Design. Let’s do more of it.

*Perrie – who was present – may have something to add about how that went; suffice to say I got a bit passionate and advocated for ‘unusual suspects’ deliberately setting out to leave public service people (& systems) irreparably disrupted & changed by our work, rather than just working round them. You’ll find the bit of my rallying cry that was captured on slides attached below:

Ruth Kennedy