“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” – Frank Lloyd Wright
It seems common sense until you consider the Frank Lloyd Wright quote above. Then it seems obvious that the form/function relationship cannot be as simple or passive as one following the other. For all that the best building design must meet the needs of the user, so too should it influence, motivate and even inspire those users.
That might seem a lot to ask of bricks and mortar – or in the case of Auckland’s Ironbank on K’Rd, iron and glass – but think for a moment about how your state of mind may change by simply moving your desk near a window, compared to sitting in a row of partitioned, identical cubicles. Our work environment is not benign, there just to provide shelter while we toil. It affects us emotionally and therefore has an impact on motivation – even if it’s subconsciously.
Most of all, a well-designed workplace should allow humans to be human. We do not naturally sit in one space for the whole working day, beavering away single-mindedly over our computers, isolated from each other and the world. We talk, we interact, collaborate – even argue. All of that contributes to performance, whether it’s just in taking a break and having a laugh, or finding inspiration in someone else’s perspective.
Humans move. All the time. It creates energy, which creates inspiration. A well-designed building should allow us to move and interact – to find social spaces or quiet nooks, or places to observe the world moving around you. All that interaction feeds back into performance and engagement.
A well-designed building should not take energy to merely be in it. People distracted by air temperature, flickering fluorescent lights and parking wardens, are not performing at their best. They’re irritated and less productive. Remove those elements, making the indoor environment as natural as possible, and people will be more relaxed and focused. But at some level they are also happier; more content. And happier people are more productive people.
Finally, and less easily quantified, is the way good design inspires us. We see something that appeals to the eye or our appreciation of innovation and we aspire to it; we want to be a part of it, even be worthy of it. We want to push the boundaries of our own spheres of influence. Be better.
Good building design is exciting and engaging and, the way top athletes might inspire school children to take up a sport or train harder, excellence demands to be emulated.