Space. It’s top of mind for almost everyone when we start to discuss the future of libraries. It’s very hard for us to think about the future of our collections, services, programs, partners, and communities without thinking about the spaces that our institutions will occupy.
So I was happy to run across “Building Tomorrow - Trends Driving the Future of Design” (free download with email registration), a report from PSFK and Architizer. For this report, the two firms collaborated around Architizer’s A+ Awards, an awards program juried by experts from fashion, politics, art, technology, and other fields. PSFK’s team of trend analysts looked cross the thousands of entries submitted for the awards to help identify some of the dominant trends that are shaping the most innovative spaces around the world.
The result is both insightful and accessible, leading us into a discussion of trends by focusing on the living and working spaces that we navigate each day. These trends don’t just help us think about spaces - they can inspire innovation in the experiences we create for users in any of our areas of service.
"Building Tomorrow" highlights three big, global changes that are shaping the future of design:
- Connected Lifestyles - Access to information provided by technologies has blurred the boundaries between life, work, and leisure and in-person and digital - and at the same time, there’s a counter trend that values privacy, focus, and time away from technology
- Empowered Citizenry - Citizens have a broader awareness of their world and their potential to shape it, driving greater interest in organizations' transparency, spurring movements for change, and prioritizing the greater good
- Urbanized Populations - The potential strain on resources brought on by population growth and urbanization has increased appreciation for environmentally friendly construction and the integration or re-purposing of existing buildings or materials
Where "Building Tomorrow" helps us think more deeply is by identifying nine architectural trends that align with and even advance these big changes. Seven of them have implications beyond designing space and can likely inspire our work in programming, instruction, customer service, or promotion. The final two — Passively Powered and Breakthrough Builds - are almost exclusively about space and architecture, but they provide some insights about the changing values of consumers.
- Communal Spirit. Community and connection have always been important, but innovative spaces are finding ways to foster unexpected conversations, collaborations, and encounters. Fostering serendipitous meet-ups, helping facilitate exchange across cultures, activating the spaces between buildings, or even offering services in new spaces or locations.
- Intentional Play. A nod to playfulness and whimsy can be achieved through design elements like color, texture, lighting, or interactivity. Communities are becoming more comfortable with a wide range of design and with the generally unexpected. Feeling free to make temporary changes to spaces or limited time installations can help users reconnect with once familiar spaces.
- Fluid States. Described by others as “bleisure”, it’s the blending of work, life, and leisure and the resulting blur of home, office/classroom, and public space. Attractive spaces will find ways to adapt throughout the day to changing users and needs, integrating moveable and interchangeable pieces and finding easy solutions to switch from collaborative to quiet spaces.
- Hidden Escapes. Spaces that help individuals achieve quiet and focus may be at a premium. This could mean quiet, but for some designs it is achieved through enclosed, un-staffed, or nature-infused spaces.
- Blended Landscapes. Bringing the outside in, design that takes inspiration from the local community or natural environment resonates with users. Engaging local artists to help reflect the community or commissioning projects that better integrate the existing or changing community could help foster connection and relevance.
- Exercised Restraint. Efficiency and minimalism can get users' attention while also creating spaces for experimentation and innovation. Gap spaces can be used for prototypes or to integrate or promote new partnerships or services. Every space doesn’t have to be filled - and smaller spaces, smartly designed, can have a big impact.
- Second Life. Creative re-use, recycling, and up-cycling demonstrate innovation and responsibility. This can connect with the sense of play referenced above or it can help promote the values the institution prioritizes in the face of scarce resources.
- Passively Powered. Buildings that can promote sustainable materials or solutions will earn the respect of users and align with their values.
- Breakthrough Builds. New methods of construction - drone assembly or 3D printed formats - are taking advantage of technological advances to create new forms and techniques unthought before.
As with some of the other consumer trend reports we've shared before, "Building Tomorrow" is a quick read. At just over forty pages, it probably takes longer to print than to read (better yet, just download and read from your screen). The report integrates plenty of pictures and charts, providing at least three building projects to illustrate each of the nine trends. The authors have also done a great job integrating some statistics we may not have encountered before (67% of cell phone users say they check for messages and alerts even when they don't notice ringing or vibrations; crime fell 15% within a 1/4 mile radius when the city of Topeka commissioned public art), but that help make the case that our communities are changing. Reports like this are a great way to explore a new industry and to think about it through our professional lens - it’s probably an even better tool to tackle with a group to help share insights across colleagues and determine what resonates with your team and where to be inspired for your next space, service, or program.