Article: Spatial Planning in Architecture & Design

Article: Spatial Planning in Architecture & Design

After two years of distancing, it is safe to say that, socially at least, we are more aware than ever of our proximity to other people. Effective space planning in architectural design is a basic given. Post pandemic, we at Whitespace Architects expect to see even further need for the ‘safety of space’

Space planning is not just about the ability to move around with ease. Functional designs that flow deliberately to work with the needs of end-users are a core part of any architectural design thinking.

Space is planned function first, fully optimised for purpose. The form of a building is usually secondary to how it will be used. This includes considering the goal of the space, the number of occupants, essential inclusions such as furniture, any required separate areas (mainly in office, educational or commercial usage), and of course for privacy and security.

Spatial planning will differ depending on the end usage, and for different sectors. In educational environments, we would need both flexibility in space alongside a high level of visual interest. Predicting ‘flow’ across a space full of many people, and often small children at that is always a challenge to efficiency within the design - a RIBA study classing only 5% of almost 60,000 schools in the UK as operating successfully for circulation management.

Separation and ease of access are vital in the learning environment for both collaborative and private areas of study and activity. Ease of filtering large groups of people, alongside safety, is the key consideration in the design process. With a heightened need for both stimulating and therapeutic environments in an educational setting, we will see more awareness of such spaces within the design process going forward for modern establishments to fit the needs of their students.

Space planning in retail presents a differing issue of circulation and occupancy. The variation in visitor numbers at any one time means that it is harder to consider potential bottleneck opportunities on shop floors and in malls. Whilst the consumer may have become used to the enforced ‘one way’ system recently - this is not conducive to the trend for experiential retail and shopping experiences. Larger units and brands may operate via ‘grid selling’ in their design, however, boutiques and more design-led concepts are looking for a more organic layout, seeking a ‘high end’ experience for their customers - usually in smaller units and with lower footfall.

Have the days of the open-plan office disappeared? If not entirely, the new world of work has certainly changed the day-to-day purpose of the typical office space. With hybrid and flexible working models on the rise, the more conventional space planning of an office  - with a typically grid-style layout to accommodate desks or cubicles and basic utilities is no longer necessary. Much like retail, as the modern office is becoming more experiential, with a rise in consideration for employee wellbeing and balance, we see more need for social spaces, that are not the traditional meeting or board room style. The function of the office space has changed and the design process must evolve with the new work culture.

Implementing societal change into a design brief for architects is pivotal to understanding their new function and purpose. Interestingly - the perfectly planned space is not about separation as much as it is now about collaboration - bringing people together, rather than apart. This is where the focus after function becomes more about the form. Welcoming spaces have replaced anything deemed too ‘corporate’ or sterile, and by designing appropriate ‘zones’ fit for purpose, we can utilise creativity whilst incorporating new and important standards of sustainability and technology that enable ease of use and productivity too.