Personal Space: Have We Crossed the Line?

This article is originally from Properties Magazine, written by Dave Robar, November 2022.

I have had the pleasure of serving with national interior architecture specialists as leaders of the AIA National Interior Architecture Knowledge Community. This past summer, we presented a thought-provoking session at the AIA National Conference in Chicago (A’22) entitled “Personal Space: Have We Crossed the Line?” I had the opportunity to moderate this program, where we explored the fact that interaction and collaboration, as we knew them, have forever changed.

At A’22, Vocon’s Megan Spinos posed the questions that drive the design of personal space, whether that space is interior, exterior or somewhere in between. We must ask ourselves, what is The Why behind the spaces we create? How does The Why connect us? What role does The Why play in our experience?

The pandemic has taught us that the idea of one-size-fits-all design is a thing of the past. We’re all going through this together, so, for the first time, architects and designers are taking their own lived experiences into account when advising clients. Those experiences can inform the creation of custom-designed personal spaces.

Architecture and design are, by nature, inherently optimistic professions – working with our clients and colleagues in the community of the built environment, we create spaces, literally, out of thin air. These spaces need to reflect the hopes and dreams of clients in an increasingly uncertain world. What better opportunity to bring forward solutions that welcome employees back to the workplace for all the right reasons?

But what if we (likely) never get everyone back into the office? At least not in the physical sense. Again, at A’22, world-renowned designer Eva Maddox of Chicago challenged everyone to think about what the future of digital design holds when creating personal space. The Metaverse has not only become a hot topic, but investment in digital real estate has grown hand over fist for the past few years. Example: Snoop Dogg built a digital mansion on a plot of land in the digital world known as Sandbox, and someone paid $4.5 million to be his neighbor. Maybe that new neighbor did it for the Coronas… so you start to get the picture.

It follows the expansion of the digital universe and places like Sandbox, Horizon and Decentraland, provide business opportunities for architects and designers as people and companies look to interact, conduct business, or purchase goods and services in an environment, not unlike a real-time multiplayer video game. The Metaverse is still being developed. Like the adage of flying the plane while you’re building it, time will quickly tell whether these investments pay off and if the cost-of-entry can drop to allow more adopters to play in the sandbox.

Using these methodologies, architects and designers need to partner with clients to create spaces, whether they be physical or digital, that reflect an organization’s true self.