Designing in a Post-Pandemic World with Carlo Castelli 2nd June 2022 | IN DESIGN ADVICE | BY SBID

In this week’s interview with SBID Awards Interior Design judge, Head of Cities Solutions Europe at Jacobs and Co-Chair of the ULI UK Infrastructure and Urban Development Council, Carlo Castelli discusses the change in development of post-pandemic cities, highlights the benefits of holistic approach to design, and shares valuable insight for designing workplaces that attract employees to come back to the office.

holistic design, Designing in a Post-Pandemic World with Carlo Castelli

What is the importance of holistic and collaborative design thinking? How does it generate value for its users, customers and wider communities?

Thinking holistically about design ensures social, environmental and cultural considerations are embedded into solutions. We have a great opportunity to blur the boundaries between inside and outside, public and private by creating hybrid spaces. For example, in Union Street, Aberdeen, we created a flexible urban space capable of supporting on-street activities and allowing ground floor activities to spill out on streets, all while considering inclusive design. We see the street being multi-functional, resilient and contributing to the wider transformational change in Aberdeen.

Taking an integrated design approach means all these considerations are used to create a space which is flexible for those using it on a daily basis and is a sustainable addition to the community. It also means that we can create and measure wellbeing and quality of life value substantially changing the way we look at projects and programmes.

holistic design, Designing in a Post-Pandemic World with Carlo Castelli

When thinking about the future of the built environment, how can we expect our cities to develop? What are the post-pandemic considerations?

Cities have existed for millennia and consistently maintain a fundamental role in our society. They will become more resilient, with the influence of the changing climate and increasing technological innovation.

Successful cities in the future will celebrate social, environmental and cultural differences. We don’t have to choose between a ‘working from home’ or ‘15 minutes city’ model. We can embrace complexity and recognise individual lifestyle choices within inclusive societal progress.

holistic design, Designing in a Post-Pandemic World with Carlo Castelli

The way we live, work and play has fundamentally changed. How do you think new lifestyle trends will continue to impact on the design industry? What are the opportunities?

Live, work and play conditions have changed globally. The pandemic and environmental concerns have seen a significant change in how people view work-life balance and commuting. As we come out of the last two years there’s a significant appetite for flexibility in our spaces. For example, unused shipping containers units are being converted into retail units, and workshop space, rooftops into urban farm, and ground floor spaces into housing. This allows for creativity and flexibility in our designs, as well as optimising space usage and future proofing our cities. It is critical to imbed generosity into our buildings and places.

The opportunity for designers is to use their innovative thinking to create solutions that contribute to the challenges we are facing. They are often uniquely placed to work from ideation all the way to delivery so they can meaningfully work with the entire value chain to create better cities and places, integrating nature-based solutions and circularity early into their designs.  With nature at the forefront of design, we can plan and develop climate-smart, nature-positive building and infrastructure solutions which enhance quality of life and make our future more resilient.

holistic design, Designing in a Post-Pandemic World with Carlo Castelli

How has your approach to the design of workspaces evolved? Why is the role of interior design so important when it comes to bringing employees back into the office?

During the past two years, workers have become used to working away from the traditional office, so there needs to be a draw to bring them back. Quality, variety and generosity are now key. Workplaces need to provide enhanced environmental quality and a greater variety of spaces. Improvement in interior design can also allow for a boost in employees’ health and wellbeing.

Design of workplace should include elements of nature, natural lighting, diverse spaces, and areas for employees to relax and manage anxiety about their return to the office. There should now be heavier emphasis on the type of spaces needed for collaboration. Offices should offer a broader range of experiences than sitting at a desk all day, something people could easily do from home. Workplace design should also facilitate work-life balance and promote a sense of community to encourage employees to return.

Finally, what advice can you give to designers entering the SBID Awards?

For me, what really matters is to work with stakeholders and communities and that designers are true to themselves, values and passions. Passion goes a long way in my mind and that needs to be communicated to our changing audiences.

Questions answered by Carlo Castelli, Head of Cities Solutions Europe, Jacobs and Co-Chair, ULI UK Infrastructure and Urban Development Council.

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