As the Lines Between Architecture and Technology Blur, Learn How to Maintain Focus

Audiovisual and architecture

Communications and digital technology are advancing at a dizzying pace—so much so that the average life span of a smartphone is now 12 months or less. As technology continues to accelerate, it is changing the environments in which we live and work.

A digital gallery with six “Magic Mirror” interactive screens allows visitors to see iconic Tiffany & Co. jewelry and try pieces on virtually. Photo: Tiffany & Co.

A digital gallery with six “Magic Mirror” interactive screens allows visitors to see iconic Tiffany & Co. jewelry and try pieces on virtually. Photo: Tiffany & Co.

We’re not simply talking about the proliferation of hand-held devices or the changing work habits of the next generation as a result of these new gadgets either. Advancements in technology are tangibly reshaping our buildings as forward-thinking architects and designers create immersive, interactive interiors that bridge the gaps between the digital and physical worlds—in some cases, opening up a very real dialogue between interiors and their occupants.

In its “Design Forecast 2013” report, global architecture, design and planning firm Gensler affirms that virtual and physical connection and engagement are emerging as common threads of real estate, including office space, across the country. “This has a technological aspect, mixing real and virtual in ways that are likely to reshape work and other settings,” the report states. It goes on to say that despite steadily improving technology, bridging the virtual and real divide can still be a challenge in new construction and renovation projects.

The report’s authors note engagement with customers is a key focus for many companies, including retailers and banks, which are “pulling out the stops to connect with their customers. Many offer tailored content such as in-store navigation, social apps, interactive environments, and digital wallets to keep the focus on personal service and engagement.”

Go Beyond Surface Appeal

As property owners look to modernize their existing building stock, it may be tempting to retrofit those interiors with the latest technological upgrades to attract prospective tenants, employees or customers. However, a surface-level approach is a misguided one, and a new perspective on technology solutions for architecture is needed.

“I think [incorporating] technology for the sake of technology—having big screens in your space just to show you are kind of digitally savvy—is not a good approach,” says Georgiana Stout, founding partner and creative director at global design consultancy 2×4 in New York. “So, to me, it comes down a little bit more to the content you’re displaying.”

In other words, technology and infrastructure aren’t separate entities, but rather integrated components that exist harmoniously and blend seamlessly within an interior environment to articulate a particular design or brand narrative.

About the Author

Robert Nieminen
Robert Nieminen is a freelance writer; the former editor of Interiors & Sources magazine; and retrofit’s editor at large, specializing in interiors. Under his direction, Interiors & Sources was the recipient of several publishing awards, as well as a pioneer of sustainability reporting.

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