The social media life of buildings
How healthy is this place? How does it make you feel? In what ways does the design affect social interaction?
As we move through our daily lives, what elements in our habitat come together to feed our psyches—or starve our spirits?
Social media encourages people to instantly communicate their feelings about a place. We can now be part of an ongoing, multi-directional, open conversation, rather than being confined to formal design theories and official architectural criticism.
As we participate in these conversations, we build awareness for how design affects our state of mind. Social media also shows us global examples of what’s possible, thus exposing gaps in our own built environment.
For instance, recent visitors to Credit Valley Hospital (designed by Farrow) took photos and commented on the design’s impact:
One of these tweets was posted by Robert Wakulat, a partner with Wakulat Dhirani LLP at the Centre for Social Innovation, who reports he has always had some sense of how places affect his state of mind, having lived in Europe and Japan to contrast with Toronto. He says, “Twitter provided an outlet to express those feelings…If anything Twitter has accelerated that awareness…After seeing what I liked or made sense in foreign contexts, it became more frustrating to see the ways in which Toronto was lacking.”
He further reflects, “I do think social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) creates more instances of being wistful for the progressive ideas or heritage-honouring choices that other cities make. It also allows a conversation to take place between Torontonians following each other on what we like/dislike.”
Robert also believes that “following people on Twitter who contribute to publications such as Spacing Magazine (e.g. Shawn Micallef) keeps him in touch with the positives and negatives of what exists in our city.”
Indeed these exchanges also serve to highlight spaces that lack human qualities, such as:
Some designers have expressed concern that greater public participation will ultimately lead to “crowdsourcing design to the lowest level of taste.” However, we believe greater powers of observation and wider engagement in design issues are prerequisites for social, economic, psychological and physical health, as explained in our recent SAB magazine article.