New experiences are a fundamental part of life. They’re a basic need that, after over a year of lockdown, we’re feeling more keenly than ever. One of the most fascinating things about architecture is precisely that it can create new experiences for the people for whom it’s designed. Architects not only design space but also time. Whether that time is part of everyday life or a vacation, spent at home or at the office, it’s a portion of our life. During this time, residents, workers, or customers occupy the architectural space, which influences their actions, which, in turn, influence the space.
There’s a direct relationship between the architect’s ideas and the end user’s experience – a relationship in which the architect plays the role of a demiurge as they fashion a multisensory experience. There are many tools, which can be combined in infinite ways, available to the engineer of this creative process, from the choice of materials to the use of light, interaction with the setting, and the presence of natural elements. All these aspects find their ultimate expression in interior design, which represents the heart of the architectural project – the moment in which the concept suggested by the exterior is finally revealed, and users immerse themselves, body and soul, in the experience, much like the characters in a novel.
This is an apt description of what happens when guests step inside Can Bordoy – Grand House and Garden, a boutique hotel in the historic center of Palma de Mallorca, designed by Spanish studio OHLAB to recreate the feeling of a home. The hotel is, in fact, the product of the renovation and repurposing of an old, abandoned house, which, together with its lush, extensive garden, has burst back into life. In the architect’s contemporary reinterpretation of the building, its history hasn’t been hidden or brushed over. On the contrary, it’s been embraced and enhanced. The result is an eclectic style, in which the existing furnishings have been combined with locally sourced handicrafts and antiques, carefully selected modern furniture, and custom-built pieces by the designers.
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While Can Bordoy offers guests a historical experience in an urban setting, the experience offered by the new Triodos Bank headquarters in Driebergen-Rijsenburg, Netherlands, is all about nature. The building is set in a forest, and has green roofs and a curving footprint that follows the flightpaths of bats. The glazed walls, which provide perceptive continuity between the interior and exterior, were designed by Ex Interiors. They feature organic shapes and natural colors that create an ongoing exchange with the forest backdrop. Continuing the nature theme, the building features full timber construction. This is sustainable architecture with a minimal CO2 footprint.
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The variety of rooms and their different functions, combined with the building’s natural shielding from the elements, meant that when it came to designing the interiors, the architects were free to explore a universe of materials to find innovative solutions and combinations that fully expressed their own vision while fulfilling the client’s brief.There’s no ignoring the role played by a building’s external glazing in the context of an architectural project. This is obviously the case when, for example, we’re examining how natural light will enter a building. But it’s also fundamental to the design of its interiors, both in terms of enhancing these spaces, as well as playing a role in the psychological and physical wellbeing of users.
Natural light, combined with sympathetic surfaces, are key elements in the overall concept for the luxury residences at Kamran Street No 4, Tehran, Iran. Each of the apartments has full-height windows that open onto a 33-foot (10 m) wide south-facing terrace. As regards colors and materials, designer Hadi Teherani opted for an understated palette. Inside the apartments, dark oak parquetry combines with upholstery in soft shades, matt white wooden doors, and touches of bronze trim. The travertine of the façade appears again in the entrance lobby, where it forms a dialogue with water pools. It’s the understated approach to the interiors that has given the project its elegance. Moving from outside, in through the common areas, and into the apartments themselves, the residents’ experience is all about stepping into a place of quiet and comfort.
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A far cry from the intimacy of the home, Social House by Xintiandi in Shanghai is a glamorous mixed-function building that combines retail and dining spaces. With the design incorporating audiovisual installations, the designers from Kokaistudios take visitors on a journey of the mind, body, and soul. The interior design is distinguished by an elegant, feminine aesthetic that blends wood in light colors, white display units with gold trim, and soft furnishings in pastel shades. The design sets out to convey an urban vitality and lifestyle. The leitmotif of this immersive journey through fashion, perfumes, books, and more is the metaphor of the garden, expressed through the changing of the seasons, with a different season used as a theme in its different areas.
Read the article: Social house by Xintiandi
While a pursuit of excellence underlies all these projects, their ultimate objective is to create exceptional experiences. This prompts a question: today, in the century after the advent of postmodernism, in a world in which globalization is the norm and environmental sustainability is seen as essential, how do we define – and even push back – the parameters of architectural innovation and experimentation? In our post-pandemic age of digitalization and ecological transition, what experiences will architects and designers be called upon to create for society?
This issue will be examined more deeply during the Panel Discussion “Creating Experiences,” to be held as part of Perspective Virtual Northern Europe Forum, May 18 and 19, 2021.
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