Bound by the walls of our homes for months on end, it’s no surprise that we are collectively reprioritising and reimagining our values, lifestyles and how we might evolve post-Covid. According to a recent YouGov survey (April 2020), ‘only 9% of Britons want life to return to normal after lockdown’, valuing cleaner air, cooking meals from scratch, time spent with family and stronger local communities. As architects, designers, thinkers and makers, our team at Heta is exploring what these considerations mean for the places we create.
Built environments have always been conceived in response to the needs, behaviours and desires of people. Our most beloved places have, during their development, had their creators spend time understanding the people they are designing for. From a plaza to a workplace, a home to a coffeeshop, a market to a gallery, the key to successful places is the ability to attract, engage, connect communities and inspire a sense of belonging for the people that use them. Time understanding the communities who will interact with the project is the basis of human-centred design and user experience in the rejuvenation and development of places. As such, our work is not about replacing, rather it’s about enhancing what already exists – what makes a place and its community special – to create meaningful experiences that supercharge the community and their values. This is what makes a place unique and memorable, it’s what encourages different groups to take part, tell others and keep coming back.
Connection to Local Culture
As an international practice, Heta Architects work across myriad sectors with diverse communities and local partners. The connection to local culture, behaviours and values in these projects is even more essential to avoid assumptions and ensure our strategy and design is authentic and relevant to end-users. We have been working through this approach recently with a client developing an eco-village in the Algarve, Portugal. Before pens hit paper, we outlined the project ambition and the groups of people who would live, work, learn, exercise, recover, grow, play in, and visit the site. Through our research and engagement with these audiences we mapped local interactions and opportunities and identified their needs, behaviours and shared values that informed the vision and brief for the project. Ultimately, the vision for the development – ‘a place to live well’ – is realised through the shared values of this community – healthy living, sustainable community and shared discovery. From the active seniors who are valuing the quality of life that exists in the Algarve, spending their days eating well, exercising in the garden, pool or gym, relaxing in restoring wellness spaces and local salt spas, or engaging with local artisanal crafts and culture, to the local workers who value the healthy and safe community to raise their children, the convenient and nutritious offering and amenity, the community and co-working spaces, and the green spaces to relax and entertain, the vision and principles of the village will become the lived experience of the community.
Ultimately, the vision for the development – ‘a place to live well’ – is realised through the shared values of this community – healthy living, sustainable community and shared discovery.
The values of Tavira Eco-village are currently being echoed around the world; but the way they are realised and how these interventions work together within the community context is where the magic lies. Within the Tavira masterplan, the local architectural vernacular has shaped the physical through the creation of a central ‘praça’ – the activated heart with restaurant and café spill out and a place for community gatherings and events, and a network of ‘Lagos’ – sheltered micro plazas shaded by the dappled light of local species, they are quiet spaces to read or safe places for children to play. Beyond the delicious, regional food offering, the local café is also a hub for cycle hires and pit-stops, guided nature walks and a showcase for local craft; the community gardens and allotments are ‘green gyms’ – integrated spaces for exercise, nature and nutrition, and local university students have access to research and co-working spaces connected to the medical clinic and rehabilitation centre. These integrated experiences are the result of the research, engagement and thoughtful design based on the shared values of the people interacting with the project.
Over the coming months, as we reflect and move towards a post-covid world, the responses from communities will be incredibly influential. The importance of health, mobility, local amenity and community resilience will continue to inform place; it is the way we respond to these considerations in partnership with the communities we’re designing for that will be crucial to their evolution and success.
Heta Architects has a developed a unique process to urban design, involving our design advisory leading crucial activities in stage 0 such as, strategic briefing, user analysis, community engagement and wellness benchmarking. Find out more about us on our website or get in touch – we would love to hear from you!