The architectural design process should be human centred.

As human centred designers, we (Surroundings) put people at the centre of our process. Custom designing environments to the experiences in which our clients want to live.

Houses are such personal places and it is important to we begin every design with an intimate understanding of the people we are designing for. For us, designing a house is really about designing a set of experiences and rituals which will unfold over the years. The space we design will profoundly influence our clients’ daily lives, shaping how they connect and how they feel the seasons across the years.

A traditional architecture brief for a house will list a set of rooms (scope), a budget, and a timeframe. We have added a phase before this. We call this our human insight phase. During this process we capture our client’s individual values, favourite experiences, and collective rituals. We also project forward, asking what transitions they will go through, to develop an understanding of how their lives might unfold over time. Then we begin to start to develop an understanding of the client’s spatial and stylistic preferences.

We do this because we want to celebrate each and every person in the house, including kids and pets. Everyone has different values. Some people like privacy, while others like openness. Some like order, others thrive in chaos. We believe that space should nurture the things that people enjoy doing, whether they are alone (people-watching from the verandah, tinkering with cars in the garage, or playing guitar in the lounge) or in a group (Sunday roast with family, Mum coming and visiting for a cup of tea, or friends coming round to watch the game).

We aim to design in a way that supports and nurtures both the individuals and the tribe they wish to create.

To do this we begin by designing the experiences they will have, and then design the space around this. Our intention is to create a space that will grow, transform, and unfold along with our clients.

At Surroundings, we believe that this process results in helps us create houses that are homes. The challenge we face is introducing an in depth process of human insight into the current architecture service model.

Surroundings has risen to are tackling this challenge by setting ourselves a goal: Design a new swag of tools and exercises that help define the perfect space for each individual, that explores and captures the immaterial, human aspects of a space, like personality, values, experiences, ritual and time.

Moving forward we need to ask ourselves “How can we maximise our understanding of our clients’ true desires when the brief and project is being defined?”

We encourage you to do the same!


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