Tag Archives: Design

Great Places Award.

What kinds of spaces foster happiness is what (the) happy spaces project is hoping to understand more deeply. Here are some non-user space that have been given the “Great Places Award” by the Environmental Design and Research Association (EDRA) for demonstartion  “that an understanding of human interaction with place has generated the design.”

The EDRA award submissions that have shown “how research and/or citizen participation is linked to or part of practice”

Here are a few awardees:

Great Places Award, 2011

Steel Yard. Providence RI

Great Places Award, 2009

The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. Oslo, Norway

Great Places Award, 2008

Olympic Sculpture Park. Seattle, WA

Great Places Award, 2007

The Ferry Building. San Francisco, CA


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Design slowly.

In thinking about the spaces that make me happy I have had to slow down substantially in order to observe what about a space contributes to my happiness.  Most are familiar with the “Slow Food Movement,” begun in 1986 by Carlo Petrini a Culinary Journalist. However, there are a plethora of “slow movements” that stem from Slow Money to Slow Fashion and even Slow Design and Slow Architecture. I have been exploring the world of “Slow Movements” and feel it speaks quite nicely to some of the ideas being explored in (the) happy spaces project.

“Daily life has become a cacophony of experiences that disable our senses, disconnect us from one another and damage the environment. But deep experience of the world — meaningful and revealing relationships with the people, places and things we interact with — requires many speeds of engagement, and especially the slower ones,” explain the designers from slowLab. SlowLab, a non-profit based in NY, works  “to promote slowness or what we call Slow-Design as a positive catalyst of individual, socio-cultural and environmental well-being.”

The idea of Slow Design, slowLab explains, does not refer to the duration of something but rather the thought process behind the design and design development. Slow Design refers to “an expanded state of awareness, accountability for daily actions, and the potential for a richer spectrum of experience for individuals and communities.”

The focus of Slow Design is not to design for the commercial market place but for the well-being of people and nature. Essentially through the process of Slow Design designers and consumers are supposed to benefit from a higher quality of life. In many of the conversations I have been having with contributors to (the) happy spaces project the idea of “quality of life” has come up.  However the focus is not on the material objects which improve our quality of life but rather the spaces we engage in and how they affect us emotionally. Some of the spaces we curate  ourselves to foster happiness and well-being (such as our homes), others are spaces we seek for how they foster happiness and well-being in us, some have been curated (such as a restaurant) others have not (such as nature).

In 2004 and 2005 a sustainable design facilitator, consultant, trainer, educator, and writer participating in the Slow Design conversation, Alastair Fuad-Luke, maintained a website devoted to facilitating the Slow Design conversation. On the site he outlined the philosophy and principles, process, and outcomes of Slow Design.

Philosophy and Principles
• Design to slow human, economic and resource use metabolisms
• Repositioning the focus of design on individual, socio-cultural and environmental well-being
• Design to celebrate slowness, diversity and pluralism
• Design encouraging a long view
• Design dealing with the ‘continuous present’ (a term coined in the 1950s by Bruce Goff, the American architect who noted that history is past and the future hasn’t arrived but that the ‘continuous present’ is always with us)
• ‘Design as a counterbalance to the ‘fastness’ (speed) of the current (industrial and consumer) design paradigm’

slow design is manifest in any object, space or image that encourages
a reduction in human, economic, industrial and urban resource flow metabolisms by:

• Designing for space to think, react, dream, and muse
• Designing for people first, commercialisation second
• Designing for local first, global second
• Designing for socio-cultural benefits and well-being
• Designing for regenerative environmental benefits and well-being
• Democratizing design by encouraging self-initiated design
• Catalyzing behavioural change and socio-cultural transformation
• Creating new economic and business models and opportunities

(the) Happy Spaces Project is asking users to acknowledge and document those spaces that facilitate happiness in themselves, their friends, their families. In a sense participants are Slow Designers, taking time to acknowledge, think about, and document that which brings them happiness, one aspect of emotional well-being.


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What I’m Reading Now.

Just the other day  I was at the South Yarra Library and saw Naomi Cleaver’s book, The Joy of Home. I was intrigued by her introduction to the book for she talked about how happiness can be fostered through design, and so I read more and ended up answering 25 questions that she suggests might help people design their homes.

The first chapter of Cleaver’s book is titled First Things First. She writes, “The more questions you ask, the more successful your design will be. In designing a home you first need to define your goals, your principle needs and desires, and the context in which those goals are to be realized.” There are a series of 25 questions that she suggests that one should complete in order to better organize their approach in designing a  “home.” I have listed my answers to some of the questions below as well as the full list of 25 questions.

Cleaver calls the answers a “design brief” that will, “act as a kind of road map to the perfect home for you.” Though I am not currently redesigning a space and still don’t have a space of my own, I approached the questions as though I did have a space to work with. I also approached the questions as an opportunity to better understand my own relationship to what kinds of spaces make me happy. I answered them about residential spaces, so, for example when asked, “How do you like to relax?” I answered the question, “How do you like to relax at home?”

Through the questions I certainly learned more, or perhaps acknowledged more: basically I enjoy spaces that I feel comfy in; spaces that don’t feel too stiff, or too fragile; spaces that feel like they want to be lived in and loved.

There is nothing magical about this set of questions, and while answering some of the questions I felt like I was answering a self-help questionnaire as opposed to a questionnaire about space. But  what I realized is that those questions that felt irrelevant to space asked me to search more deeply into my personal needs and desired in order to really understand my relationship to spaces that work and spaces that don’t.

In choosing images to compliment this post I found that the images of spaces that I am aesthetically attracted to don’t always correlate to my practical interests in a space (a comfy space that I feel like I can live in). When I do get to design my own space, I will have to approach it from the perspective of practicality rather than aesthetics. This is not to say that those spaces that satisfy the practical aspect of happiness for me are aesthetically unappealing, but rather, spaces that I appreciate visually may not be spaces I care to spend time in from a practical point of being comfy and welcome.

What is your favorite room, and why?

Any room with good light, comfy surfaces, a place where I can sit in multiple configurations (formal, cuddled up with a book, work on my computer), and engage in many kinds of activities (art projects, cooking projects, long conversations, dance parties, movie watching).

What is your least favorite room, and why?

I very seldom enjoy home offices, I find that the importance of light and design is often bypassed in favor of organization and generic office supplies with little inherent character. I think offices should still be cozy, light, and organized and should be careful that they don’t get too cluttered with scattered paper and receipts.

How do you relax, and how do you like to relax?

Taking time to cook something yummy, looking at beautiful images in a book, listening to my favorite music, watching a good movie with family and a homemade pizza.

What are your interests, and what would you like to be interested in?

I am interested in wellbeing and design. I see happiness, health, fitness, family, friends as a few of the elements of wellbeing. I see space, objects, starting my own book collection, organization, art, movies, music, and systemization as a few of the elements of design. I also am interested in Koalas and natural bodies of water.

Do you enjoy entertaining, at home? If so, how formal or informal?

I love entertaining at home, and love most of all when my guests are contributors to the event. I like when they bring dishes, the love and traditions, and when they help clean up and do the dishes at the end of the night. I feel that it brings a wonderful sense of collaboration as opposed to showmanship, though I do love to decorate and prepare yummy food for parties.

What is your favorite hotel/restaurant, and why?

My favorite restaurant is the Pelican Inn pub in Marin, CA. It is so cozy inside, and you can stay for hours without being asked to vacate your seat for other patrons, it is one of the few places you can just hang out with friends as if it was your own intimate dinner party (and you can play darts, competition always adds quite the flare to any dinner party).

The Full List of 25:

What is your favorite room, and why?

What is your least favorite room, and why?

How do you relax, and how do you like to relax?

What are your interests, and what would you like to be interested in?

Do you enjoy entertaining, at home? If so, how formal or informal?

Do you have friends or family to stay? If not, would you like to?

If your house were on fire, what three possessions would you grab before escaping?

Would you describe yourself as tidy or untidy?

What are you good at?

What do you wish you were better at?

What is your favorite hotel/restaurant, and why?

What is the best thing you remember about your childhood home?

What is your favorite place in the world, and why?

How would you live if you were not living the way you do now?

What is your favorite color?

What is your least favorite color?

Do you work from home?

Who do you live with and what are there needs?

Who will you live with and what might their needs be?

Do you live in the country or a more urban environment?

Do you work night shifts?

What is your favorite climate or season?

What is your least favorite climate or season?

Is there a crush for the bathroom in the morning?

Do you have difficulty sleeping?

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