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  • Writer's picturebrentforsberg

Understanding Space and Uses for People

Most people know the definition of insanity.  “Doing the same things over and over again, expecting a different outcome.”  It makes sense when we are trying to bring a change to our life.  What about when we are doing the same things over and over again in our daily routine and it loses its sense of meaning in our life?  If you have seen the movie Groundhog’s Day, this scenario is played out beautifully by Bill Murray.  He gives up to the point we see a series of suicide attempts just to end the monotony.  While this comical portrayal has a happy ending when he finds his purpose, regular life doesn’t give us the opportunity to see ruts as they begin to form.  Sometimes tasks that brought us great joy initially become a burden stealing it.

This idea has been documented extensively in manufacturing workers. Excited to start the continual repetition becomes burdensome. Many big manufacturers have changed the model where workers switch stations regularly to combat this.  

Humans receive great satisfaction from accomplishing goals, from seeing an end result.  Change also creates stimulation that can help with overall satisfaction of life. Change removes the mundane feeling we sometimes get in our routines. 

It’s easy to fall into a rut of negativity and bitterness.  Especially with so much negative messaging surrounding every individual daily.  We let joy get stolen from us when all the pitfalls of life keep adding up.  It carries into our social circles, our work lives, our neighborhoods and communities.  

Placemaking is the buzzword to help combat this in public space.  Placemaking creates a sense of refreshening, creating space people want to be in.  It’s in our DNA that once we become comfortable with something, our level of awareness drops as our focus changes.  If you have had a piece of art or picture on your wall for a long period of time, the same thing can happen, after a while it becomes as indistinct as the wall itself.  Our constant seeking for future results relegates our current reality into a backdrop or worse a feeling of being stuck where we are.

As a developer, this idea is the front and center of how I look at design. What would keep it from happening? Is it constantly changing out decor?  More programming such as interest classes or entertainment?  Or is it inevitable that spaces will just decline over time?  The last line I feel has been proven in many places to be false.  There are many gathering spaces that are still vibrant after decades of use.  

As we discuss growth, understanding what creates a great experience for people should be the metric.  This is a nuanced difference from the current planning discussions of placement of uses. The key is, there is no clear answer.  The best we can do is try to find an intended purpose for the space the best fits the needs of those who use it.


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