There’s an intrinsic dilemma that all architects and designers carry with them: the struggle with the idea of control. We lose precious sleep over the often unknowable outcomes of our projects.
An ever-present but less contemplated thought is the impact of those outcomes. While this also can be “unknowable,” designers can draw on evidence and research to predict the impacts of projects with more accuracy. From a business culture standpoint, we crave predictability. Yet, it rarely leaves room for growth, evolution or interpretation of the agile, creative problem-solving that opens the doors to new opportunities.
Designers often design to completion, leaving no detail unknown. We struggle with leaving things unfinished and open-ended. Can we challenge this notion of perfection in physical objects, including space? Throughout time, industrial designers have pondered this thought, which provides evidence of projecting themselves onto the objects and their imperfections as rational, endearing and personable.
The reality is that design is never complete because truly good and bad design is a mostly time-specific manifestation of ideals. That time can be five or 500 years, depending on the ideal, but every design is rooted in the time in which it was created.
With workplace culture, a company should always be evolving, some at a faster pace than others. Workplace designers should be thinking ahead of the current culture to improve and evolve the perspectives of those who work there. Employees should grow within – and sometimes beyond – that context.
Can building space be much the same way? How do you create silence and unfinished space that feels like a book with blank pages? Brands beget culture, and culture begets behavior, but how do we design to create a cycle of behavior begetting culture again?
I think about these long-standing philosophies of perfection and utopia to better connect with our surroundings, creating objects and space for that quiet simplicity that leaves room for thought, contemplation and growth.
John Cantrell is a senior designer at HOK in Atlanta.