In today’s world we are being presented with the responsibility and challenge of how to live a healthylife, both physically and mentally. Research has shown that five foundations to wellbeing are nutrition, movement, sleep, rest and connection. Connection can be experienced in many ways - in relationships, within ourselves (on an intellectual, cultural or personal level) and with the present moment, by experiencing our senses and the world around us. Our wellbeing is closely connected to how well we address each of these five factors in our lives.
In parallel with this, as architects and designers, we are also responsible for examining what makes a healthy building. Sustainability can be designing energy-positive buildings (both in construction and in use), design-life longevity, reducing demolition by re-using existing buildings (and thus reducing the waste of embodied energy), specifying low-embodied carbon building materials, the use of renewable energy and re-thinking a building program that is not vulnerable to under-use or redundancy.
Like many businesses and relationships during the Covid-19 Pandemic where people creativity re-thought new ways of productivity and connectivity, the same can now be said for many buildings andthe creation of innovative architectural programs or the ‘unplanned’. Navigating our way through the pandemic has presented the unusual conflict of communities trying to connect distantly. The virtual world platform has been a lifesaver to many as people have quickly discovered online learning and remote working. And whilst the benefits of this new normal has been indisputable, connection with the present and the tangible remains a foundation of our wellbeing.
So, what does a healthy civic building for a healthy community look like? This is the challenge of thebrief. You will need to re-think typology and program, you will need to consider how spaces can facilitate much needed social engagement, inclusivity and wellbeing, provide flexibility of usage and adopt principles of sustainability all without losing sight of the experience of the place or the phenomenology. There is no magic recipe for this, but in the cross-over of two or three programs, unintended consequences of public space can occur if you leave room for the unplanned. The unplanned can also be found in architecture where space, material, light and shadow are consideredand the impact this has on human senses. When architecture evokes a person to engage with the human senses, and the present moment, a sense of wellbeing is created. The brief is to design a Community House. This is to be a hybrid of typologies relating to that of a community centre/ wellbeing/ recreational/ pastoral centre – a generous place of social inclusion where any member of the community or city can access the building and surrounding public space in order to eat, move, rest or connect.