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Back to the streets

Opinion
30 Apr 2015
By : Lead8

A person’s memory of a place often consists of their personal encounters through experiences and sometimes fate. We find ourselves better at remembering and recognising a place because we have lived or worked there before. A desire to return is sometimes driven by need, coincidence, or simply to enjoy being there.

Our lifestyles are often directed by the cities we live in. The way we commute, the places we eat, time out with our families and friends. How businesses are conducted is all dependent on how places are structured and designed. “Place making” our communities.

There is a greater desire to get out of our limited spaces around us as cities become increasingly dense, transport networks expand and people today find themselves working in urban hubs in highly populated cities. These hubs consist of retail centers, malls, hotels and offices, with accommodation either built on top or closely knitted with public transport integrated just below.

With the rise of e-commerce, it opens up an entirely new scale of consumption and convenience, which has also been gradually shaping our lifestyle. The desire to buy something is now just clicks away on our phones or computers. The shopping experience is reinventing itself and maturing into a new trend. This key difference results in less need for physical contact with the malls and frees up time to spend on other activities like going to a park to catch up on emails or meeting others at cafes around the neighborhood block instead. It’s a good thing to be heading back to the streets to interact with real people.

What if we re-create our streets and bring back the joy of spending time outside, dining in a park, looking at terraces of activities beyond, simply bringing people together into our projects? Fusing exterior and interior spaces and enriching the people experience. Unlike conventional malls where everything is tightly engineered for results and gain, we create quality spaces for the enjoyment of our emotions and importantly, creating memories so that we come back, again and again. We believe this is the right step to take into the future – creation of community spaces.

“Paths are where your feet actually trod, so what happens along the way becomes the important thing “Charles Moore, Chambers of a Memory Palace, MIT Press, 1994.

Reflecting on the many schemes and projects we have worked on for the past few years, there is a rising element of bringing back ‘the outside space’. We can see interesting trends in Chinese cities today like grannies dancing in neighborhood parks and plazas; the transformation of city spaces and redefining public spaces.  China also currently has the world’s largest growing coffee market with a more than six fold increase in the number of Starbucks outlets alone over the past ten years. People enjoy being out there. It’s a reflection on a rising new lifestyle where boundaries between work and living are flexible and mobility becomes the new convenience and priority.

With over 200 million people forecast to be moving into cities in the next 10 years, there is a good opportunity for architects and designers to rethink and transform new neighborhoods for working and living.

We find ourselves often at the crossroads of many debates and discussions with our clients and collaborators when envisioning projects, positioning and designing them. A new path seems to have opened up before us and we are heading along a familiar route – heading back to the streets again….

Images:

1.  A new neighborhood in Shenzhen surrounded by parklands – live, work and play

2.  A prominent new lifestyle hub in Shenzhen – integrated public transport station below

3.  Pedestrian access and routes becomes the new retail

By: Simon Chua (Lead8 Co Founder & Executive Director)

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