What Architecture Can Adopt from User Experience Design
Specific end users are traditionally removed from the architectural design process, while users are at the heart of designing new digital technologies. We explore how the architecture industry can learn from UX design to broaden its horizons, largely by integrating tech into their field of practice.
For the last decade, technology start-ups have sought to revolutionize nearly every working sector. Ambitious, growing tech companies are racing to find opportunities for what they call ‘disruption’ of the remaining traditional industries, from agriculture to medicine. It comes as no surprise that the building industry is ripe for disruption. For the most part it has been practiced in the same way for centuries, and as a result it is renowned for being slow to adopt to new technologies. However, as public attention builds on the future of our built environment and its integration with new tech, architects have a responsibility to innovate. In the midst of this Digital Revolution, how can architects incorporate new ideas from the tech sector to better design progressive buildings and smarter, more sustainable cities?
Let’s first take a look at the guardians of design processes within the tech world. The user experience designer (UX) controls the design processes of products, apps and websites. There are several stories of professionals with architectural backgrounds transitioning to the field of UX design and working for startups to design their digital products and websites. This suggests that architectural thinking is transferrable and that there may be parallels within the design processes of both fields.
What are the similarities between user experience design and architectural design? Perhaps the best example can be found in the cross-appropriation of architectural and technological language in recent years. More and more often architects incorporate tech buzzwords like dynamic, hub, agile, incubator and scalable to communicate their intentions for contemporary design. For years, the rapidly growing tech industry has created expressions and digital specializations like digital infrastructure, software architecture or architecture frameworks, perhaps to make computer engineering skills feel more concrete, relatable and connected to traditional industry practices. CO-Office, an emerging architecture firm based in New York City brands itself as “UX Designers for Space”. In Amsterdam, esteemed architect Ben van Berkel of UNStudio launched a new company called UNSense, an ArchTech company which explores sensorial technologies for cities. KPF from New York City has launched a division called UI (Urban Interface for Cities), which uses urban data analytics for informed decision making in the design of buildings and cities.
It is interesting to see architecture companies using an interdisciplinary approach to explore these new fields and that they are also expanding their business models to incorporate new practice. To better understand the potential for architectural and UX design industry growth in this context, let’s take a closer look at UX design processes today.
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