Interpreting the abstract: UX issues in Architecture

I’m doing a lot of reading, conversing and thinking to pull together the aspects of UX in Architecture, as I see them. It’s vast. I’m excited to be having these discussions.

I thought a quick post is due about where I’m at in the problem-defining-hypothesis-composing stage. Here’s the soaring high-level overview of what’s in my head:

Aspects for investing the UX problem within Architecture.

Broadly speaking, there’s a few keystone discussions about UX that need to happen in the AEC industry. These keystone discussions address, in the context of architecture and architectural practice: research; communication; business strategy; community; legislation; clients; technology; and culture. Particular attention needs to be assigned to the business strategy, clients and community aspects – as the intricacies of these are affected by the other keystones due to the active, central role humans have within them.

These discussions are already starting to happen in some areas – and that’s great! I’m planning upcoming posts on what I find and am always happy to receive recommended research or ideas (hint, hint). Off the top of my head, here’s my loosely-defined, formative thoughts about each of these keystones in the realm of UX and Architecture:

Research

What UX research already exists in Architecture? What doesn’t exist, but needs to? How is it compiled and received by the practicing architect? How can architectural practices better integrate this research into their designs? How can they conduct this research themselves?

Communication

UX is a talking job. In an IT development team, the UXer is often the translator between user, programmer, project manager, designer, marketer, CEO, Board – any stakeholder. In AEC, how does this translate into the communication flow of the design/build process? What kind of language do architects need to adopt to get away from ‘ineffable spheres of knowing‘ or achieve better accessibility?

Business strategy

Or People management. What is the best way to structure a company or team to maximise the benefits of integrating UX? As an architect, how does UX work as a strategy? And why should we even bother?

Community

Or the end-user. So far I’ve found and have been recommended some great ‘UX’ research (quotes because it is not always formally called UX research, but it sure looks like it), so this keystone discussion is already happening and gathering momentum rapidly. Communities can also be quite vocal and offer their own sources; deciphering what is anecdotal from what is true and useful data. How then, can community be better involved through UX in Architecture?

Legislation

Legislation is often slow to adapt to new technology and research. UX is part of that new stuff. To be honest, I don’t know how to tackle this one yet, but leaving it out could render the rest of the project inconsequential.

Clients

Or Client management. This could be easy – in the case of a small, boutique residential project the client would have high expectations that the UX of the finished building is at the forefront of the architect’s mind. What kind of research does the architect need for that? But what’s not as straight-forward is the case of the developer-client: how do we prove the commercial benefit of UX for buildings?

Technology

The most obvious question here, to me anyway, is how are architects using the software and technology available to them? What kind of changes need to be made to the design process and workflow from a UX perspective? What’s this new thing about human-building interfaces? (more on that later!)

Culture

This is an inkling of an idea at the moment. I know about design culture, or studio culture, and its polarising effects on a designer’s health: it’s an issue not constrained to the architect-designer-type. Through the lens of UX in Architecture, I want to think about how a UX-focused practice would operate.

So there it is, an incomplete round-up of my ideas at the moment, but all steps in the right direction I think. I’m keen to gather and investigate the UX research that’s happening now around how we use our buildings, but I don’t want be restricted to that – as my interest is also taking shape around architectural process and the sociology of UX in practice. There will be some cross-over of practicality (the P word!), phenomenology and psychology, I’m sure, somehow.

As always, I’m interested to hear different perspectives on these ideas. What do you think I’ve missed?

About Leonie Csanki

I am Leonie Csanki, a UX Designer based in Melbourne, Australia. I’m completing the Master of Architecture programme at the University of Melbourne, and hope to be running my own practice in the not-too-distant future.

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