“When every penny counts, creativity is priceless.”
Hazel York Partner
Buildings tell stories about people. So it follows that public buildings have the broadest stories to tell. They tell us what we value as a society, from the services we think matter to the art and artists we choose to celebrate.
The temptation with cultural buildings is to see them as art in themselves, and they can be, but the risk is that the designs become indulgent and overlook the very people they exist for. A gallery doesn’t get plonked on a plinth behind glass, it gets used and abused. A library shouldn’t be designed for Instagram or architecture journals, but for reading, socialising and learning. And here’s the lovely surprise: when you do take a people-centric approach, something exciting happens—you end up with a striking, memorable building after all, because unexpected ideas emerge from the melting pot of human needs.
People are surprising and predictable, wonderful and difficult, open and private. Designing successful public buildings means embracing contradictions and conundrums, being tenacious and empathetic, businesslike and human. Being designers, yes, but also citizens. After all, that’s who the buildings’ stories are ultimately about.
Supporting the regeneration of Gillett Square, Hackney