I watched Sir Chris Hoy’s documentary last night ‘How to Win Gold’
See the video here for the next few days; http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p020v76d/sir-chris-hoy-how-to-win-gold
The best bit for me had nothing to with winning gold, but the point where he walks back into the London Velodrome, the scene of his final medal winning races. (56.30)
‘It just feels like an empty velodrome’ he says.
Which is exactly what it was of course.
He seems to struggle with the idea that this was the place where he delivered on his training and his talent.
He couldn’t feel the emotion of those days. Couldn’t summon it back.
I was thinking that most commercial spaces feel like this when they are empty.
Because its the people that bring a space to life and in his case it was the crowd, his team, his family and other fellow riders he shared it with.
So bringing this idea back to retail, or office space or whatever commercial space we can think of.
There is a danger with building design that we agonise over the layout, the building, the materials and the stuff inside.
When really this might not even be half the story.
Because after a space is built, we have to redesign again and again how we are going to use it to facilitate what we do.
Its designing interactions between people.
A choreography if you like.
So start with the act, the show or the experiences that people will remember and treasure.
And string them together into a program of events and happenings that make the space come to life.
Think at different scales from annual to hourly.
The aim, as Sir Chris notices is to avoid that empty, eerie feeling, when there are gaps in the programming.
Its OK in a velodrome, but its a feeling we see too much in other commercial spaces.
Think of the problem as a timeline. On one day a space hums with energy.
On another, it might be a calm reflective experience based around a message you want to communicate or a way you want people to feel.
Its easier to form an emotional connection with spaces like these.
Because they are interesting and engaging.
Everything else will flow from there.