Looking back, to look forward
Krokfors says that the answer is to design flexibility into buildings from the outset. For an example of success in this regard, she looks to the old merchant houses of Amsterdam (some of which date from the 17th century), the Victorian town houses of London, and even the apartments in older parts of Helsinki.
From an architectural perspective, the spatial configuration of Amsterdam's merchant houses is well designed. Their inner passage feeds easily into different parts of the building, and room spaces are big enough to be multi-usable and dividable. The houses are also adaptable both vertically and horizontally, which has led to them being converted into hotels, offices, family dwellings, and single-room apartments. Victorian town houses in the United Kingdom offer similar flexibility.
'We need to design building typology that promotes this kind of multi-usability, and that inspires us mentally as these buildings have done over the years,' says Krokfors. 'In Helsinki too, some of the buildings are more than 100 years old, with qualities that are still inspiring people today. They are beautiful and flexible, often because the dwellings have two entrances so you can easily divide and combine them into different sizes as needs change. There are also plenty of services nearby.'
'I'm not advocating a return to the form and function of the past, but I think we need to talk more about the quality of the built environment. We need to bring back that feeling of inspiration, and offer people buildings that can be adapted easily over time to meet our changing needs.'
Putting people first
Krokfors says that people's well-being and actual needs often take a back seat in building esign, whereas they should be at the core. With more and more people working from home, and older people living in their homes for longer, she believes buildings should be designed to accommodate the flexibility that people require in their lives, while also giving them the opportunity to interact with others.
'Promoting health and well-being is a big topic in urban design at the moment,' says Krokfors. 'The more we promote the well-being of people, the better societies we have. Inclusiveness has a big role to play here; people want to feel that they're part of something, and the way we design buildings needs to promote this sense of togetherness.'
'It's very hard to predict how our building needs will change over the next 50 years or 100 years,' she says. 'So we should not get attached to a single idea that may not work in the future; we need an ecosystem of several kinds of approaches. If we pilot different ways of doing things, then something may emerge that works for the longer term.'
'We need to encourage the self-organizing potential that we see in nature, and we should understand buildings as evolving organisms, so that people can organize their space in different ways for different aspirations.'
Finland presents its exhibition Everyday Experiments at the XXII Triennale di Milano, featuring twelve experimental projects people are already doing to make their lives more sustainable and equitable. La Triennale di Milano will take place from 1 March to 1 September 2019 and is curated by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design and Director of Research & Development at The Museum of Modern Art. Broken Nature will reflect on the relationship between humans and environments at all scales—from the microbiome to the cosmos—including social, cultural, and natural ecosystems.
Learn more about all 12 Everyday Experiments: everdayexperiments.aalto.fi
The XXII Triennale, Broken Nature: http://www.brokennature.org/