All Things Being Equal

By Emma MacLeod

While the ‘kids’ were enjoying themselves in Clerkenwell last month, Emma Macleod, Associate Director at Hurley Palmer Flatt, was part of the industry elite who headed out to Berlin for this year’s BCO Conference.

Emma MacLeod

We live in a world that requires a much more holistic approach to design – and quite rightly so! Gone are the days when our buildings were constructed to suit the narrow demographic of the middle aged, white male, with more of a ‘one size fits all approach’. In the UK we are fortunate to live in a society that recognises equal rights and opportunities but probably still has some way to go to reach its final destination. Incorporating this into our buildings is just one of the many steps towards this accomplishment.

Our working lives are shifting towards a much more flexible arrangement, with more and more people working at home and pushing the boundaries of the 9 to 5 ‘norm’. This change needs to be reflected in our buildings to facilitate alternative working arrangements and promote equality and diversity in our workplace. This shift in our working life was very much a common theme throughout various presentations at the recent BCO Conference in Berlin; Michael Kaufman discussed various aspects of the work/life balance, Araceli Camargo considered the experience of different building users and their perceptions in her work and Rajdeep Gahir spoke of the many ways the internet and technology are changing the way we work…to name just a few of the excellent speakers.

User-centric design is very much a focus in today’s built environment. This is enabled by a wealth of design tools and software, some of which were also discussed at the conference. There are various virtual reality software and modelling programmes, such as VU City, which allow us to view our designs and interrogate them without the need to imagine how it could look – and recent research from Northumbria University shows the different ways we can improve designs for the users to help them navigate buildings.

Diversity was another prevalent subject at the BCO Conference. As discussed, it is not to be confused with targeting and excluding the majorities, but instead about making changes to include minorities. This should be taken as a positive, as one of the key outcomes should be improving the conditions and opportunities for everyone.

The various subjects discussed at the conference moved away from a strictly technical content, which reflects the importance and influence topics such as politics and diversity have on our industry. It is impossible to ignore the debate on how Brexit may influence not just our industry but the future in general – and this was discussed through various speakers at the conference, including Lyse Doucet, Janan Ganesh and Frank Gardner.

Will we be able to attract the best talent? Will we even be aware of or able to measure the possible negative affect it has on our economy? Not everyone may agree with the points raised – but that can’t prevent us from having these debates and preparing for whatever the future may hold.

Author Karl Scheffler famously said: ‘Berlin is a city condemned forever to becoming and never to being.’ Regine Leibinger’s view on the famous quote was quite positive and defined it as being the evolving and adapting nature of the city, parallels which can be drawn across our industry in many respects – and hopefully in the same positive manner.

First published by Mix Interiors – June 2018. Original article here.