Gerardine and I are lucky to be working on a large project, Calderwood in Scotland, with Swedish urban designer and architect, Klas Tham. Klas is the man responsible for overall control of design and implementation of the masterplan the Western Harbour development at Malmo. When we first visited Western Harbour during the during the BO 01 expo in 2001 we had no idea who was behind this development that filled us with hope that new developments could be great places to live, work, play and visit .
Malmo isn’t about “architectural porn”. It could have so easily been that way. A team of internationally respected architects was pulled in from around the world and the result has been some visually stimulating houses and apartment blocks. There is something much less tangible than architecture going on at Western Harbour. It feels like home, it feels inclusive, its got serendipity, it begs to be explored, its not the least bit sanitised and challenges all age groups, it begs a return visit and that’s exactly what we do. We have since returned to Malmo 4 times and we can always pick up inspiration there.
Klas came over to our summer party last week and left a synopsis of a paper he wrote during the run up to BO 01 “Man in Architecture – Mans Sensory and Emotional Needs in the Physical Environment” for us and our eldest daughter (who taking a degree in Urban Design) to read. In this paper Klas questions the impact of architectural functionalism and laments the resulting “disgraceful examples” of 60’s and 70’s housing developments and talks about a human beings sensory, emotional, cultural.
Klas’s paper goes into some detail about mans brain and “the limbic system”, about the brains split between the left frontal lobe and its logical and verbal thinking and the rights perception of shape, space, colour, texture and pattern. I’m not going to go into detail but the man and his works definitely worth tracking down.
Reading and listening to Klas Tham reinforces Gerardine and my conviction that our job is to add “Design” to the work of the architects who we work with in our built environment work. Klas talks about human beings needs “preventing us being satisfied with bare rooms, bare buildings and bare urban planning”. And yet architectural photography still, in the main, celebrates the bare, the minimal, and the absence of human intervention. Corbusier may have a lot to answer for, but he’s long dead. More blameworthy are the architects who play into the hands of developers by their acceptance, if not insistence on “bare”.
So at HemingwayDesign we will continue to add human elements and consider how our sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and our kids live. Understanding peoples tastes have stood us in good stead from our Red or Dead years to the products we now sell in B & Q and Topps Tiles.
Without the academic investigation that Klas Tham has undertaken we understand the human beings needs for change and stimulation, colour, texture, sound, smell …in Klas’s words a human beings “needs to receive and undiminishing wealth of sensory impressions”. That’s exactly what you get at Western Harbour, Malmo .There’s the smell of the café’s, there’s the timber jetties that beg us to jump in the sea, there are the wooden walkways and street furniture that encourage us to sit near a stranger. There’s the serendipity of a seemingly unplanned jumble of alleyways and cut throughs.
In our own small way we will make sure that all our developments are serendipitous, that senses are stimulated. We will work hard on ensuring that streetscapes provide harmonious colour schemes where the flora “clashes” and “compliments” with the colour of the render, where the purity of material is broken, tastefully! We won’t plan for the worst elements of society and we will give people chance to experience the unexpected. We wont pander to the mantra that your car should be right outside your house or in full view from your front window, nor to the belief that everyone must have a wheelie bin outside their front door, when we understand an inquisitive human beings desire for chance encounters, you never know you might meet your future partner on the way to the recycling store.
Great design stems from understanding the nature in man. I’m glad I majored in Geography at University!