Connecting Architecture With Its Users

I keep hearing complaints about arrogant architects who create ugly and dysfunctional built environments. Is there a gap between the ones who create and the ones who consume architecture?

Some years ago, while I was still in architecture school, my godparents told me how an architect had aggressively shot down their idea about building a traditional style, single family house. The architect could not understand how some people did not see the beauty of a boxy flat roof building. Eventually the architect left off calling his potential clients amateurs that don't understand what real elegance is. Another story was told by a friend who attended an apartment showing and asked the hosting architect why there are some metal sheets in front of the window. The architect had responded with a bored sigh and explained how the metal sheets play an important role in the facade composition. According to her, the view from the apartment to the sea can not be more important than her vision for the facade. 

These stories make me uncomfortable because most architects that I know get their professional fulfilment from helping people rather than from making them unhappy. Let’s not forget all the successful projects designed by architects and loved by the users either. Still, we don’t seem to have the best reputation and when it comes to connecting with users, I feel that there is a lot to improve for us architects and the whole construction and planning industry. The dissatisfaction with built environments is something many people including myself relate to and I have many times found myself asking: “Why are we professionals not collaborating more with each other and non-professionals?” This bothers me and I have discussed it with colleagues and clients as well as friends and family. The conclusion so far is that urban development is a complex process and no single answer could cover it all. I agree but it doesn’t mean we should settle with that. Instead, let’s get familiar with the growing amount of people, ideas and new solutions that makes it possible to create better built environments for all of us.

With this blog I wish to present and discuss some of these ideas. I also want to contribute by developing better practices and sharing them with you. My experience from working as an architect and urban planner for over 5 years is that many problems can be avoided with better communication and collaboration. Therefore the focus of this blog will be on collaborative design and solutions that help professionals and non-professionals communicate with each other. In my future posts I will go more into detail by presenting various cases, tools and methods. I will share discussions with persons that have a say on the subject. I'm also eager to hear your thoughts and experiences on this so please participate.

I see a future where urban development is more open, efficient and accessible for all. Whether you want to participate in redesigning your local park or if your community wants to build its own residential building to be better than any architect could ever do, it’s up to you. My goal is to make sure you will have an easy way to do it. Are you with me and how should we do it?

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These wonderful persons gave me valuable feedback before starting this blog, thank you all!

Miia Bovellan, Jyri Eskola, Peyman Fathi, Olli Gunst, Helmi Honkanen, Minna Hägg (Migga), Timo Hämäläinen, Emmi Jääskeläinen, Hanna Kahranaho, Juha Kostiainen, Risto Kärkkäinen, Jon Malangoni, Soroush Moradi, Cristina Rinnetie-Uski, Jenny Rissanen, Rajeev Siewnath, Katja Soini, Susanna Sucksdroff, Niklas Svensson, Mikko Särelä, Paul Thynell