The sharing economy is very much alive and booming. Apps and services have transformed how we interact with cities and societies and, as a result, have become a real motivator for civic engagement. However, a topic that has gone largely unnoticed in relation to civic engagement is urban design.
Especially in recent years, “tactical urbanism” — parklets, organic underpass bridges and events like PARK(ing) Day — act as catalysts for change and participation. They disrupt quotidian city life and act as exemplary points of difference; spots of lush green starkly contrast gum-cladded sidewalks or grungy arched bricks. And with challenging the very notion of what an appropriate urban retrofit is, such tactics push people to think about spaces and places in new ways.
A more detailed and elaborate example is Michel Rojkind’s Liverpool Department Store in Mexico. This was once a bland building, which failed to entice people through its doors (despite a new metro station that was increasing footfall in the area). Rojkind created a honeycomb exterior, which has given the building that special something by opening up the center, letting shoppers now walk around the traditional department store layout. Then, surprisingly, shoppers re-emerge into daylight at the perimeter, where they can occupy the room-sized hexagons and navigate between them via a series of stairways and ramps. However, the design alone is not what has made this project a success.
At night, Rojkind’s design turns the department store inside out as the intricate exterior is accentuated with neon lights. This plan results in the surrounding exterior space becoming the focus. Through tactics such as hosting film screenings and bringing in pop-up stalls, Rojkind and his firm have turned this area into an evening hot spot. As a result, they have solved the two main challenges of the project: getting more people to come to the area and creating a new safe space to visit.
These design ventures are something that we as advertisers can learn from. Designers like Rojkind understand architecture as interactions and experiences with society. It is no longer simply responding to a building project; elements must come together to create something that gives back to people and communities — and go on to account toward future scenarios.
On our own, we need to think more about the experience rather than the product or content and embed this philosophy throughout our processes.
What will my customers take from this? How will it make them feel? What relationships will this spark? Such questions are what get people talking, sharing and enjoying the ultimate results in a more organic manner. The experience is the strategy.
Kathryn Butterfield — Strategist at gyro London
Stealing from Einstein, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” I’m interested in the world and the people within it — cultural trends, why people are the way they are and how this all affects brands, businesses and everyday lives. Also a lover of gin, my Kindle, adventures and anything with a beat that isn’t thrash metal.