Ilse Crawford designed Cathay Pacific’s newest lounge The Pier as a way to find comfort in between a life of transit. With an aspiration to create a human-centric space, The Pier was carefully designed to take into account every aspect, from shared to individual experiences, even down to the scent of the place— a special mix of lavender, bamboo, green tea, and jasmine.
A space comes alive in the realm of our senses, exactly because we experience everything through them— how we see, hear, smell, taste, touch. When we talk about senses, we’re talking about an aspect only unique to humans. And when all five are considered in design, a space becomes effective and elevated.
While some spaces are designed based either on function or on aesthetic, they almost never hit both. That’s when experience falls short, when utility and aesthetic are seen as black and white, a myth of commodities. The power of the environment lies beyond its latent function. Its true power is how it persists in the mind, transcending the physical confines of existence. In other words, when you enjoy your experience in a certain space, it is most likely because it knows how to delight. The goal of effective design is to be the bridge that connects utility and positive feeling, and that’s when brands give spaces meaning.
Now, a new breed of entrepreneurs has been reclaiming what it means to be a brand. Rather than banking on association alone, brands have been more mindful about connection as proof of effective communication, presenting a whole identity that people can resonate with.
A space is an opportunity to resonate with consumers. It allows them to interact with a brand in tangible ways that serve as marks and as an extension of its identity. Some brands have turned to interiors to complete iconic statements for them. In the simplest case, even one branch can ultimately dictate the space and how it will benefit a brand as a whole.
Aesop redefines hyperlocalization by bringing a vignette of locality inspired in the most intentional yet poetic way possible—the history of the street it is on, a pop culture reference originating from that city and even traditional craftsmanship.
A space can also facilitate how brands interact with each other. One that thrives on profit alone could create an environment of unhealthy competition, solely offering brands as commodities or as choices to the distracted. On the other hand, an intentionally designed space for a community could not only cater to what a certain niche needs but also curate an experience based on the nuances of its people. It is no surprise then, that these spaces are increasingly popping up across the globe, mostly in cities that seek to develop creative communities. Whatever the pursuit of these establishments is, may it be local art, retail or produce, it’s clear that there is a demand to make spaces more community-based. Spaces have become the marker for the collective identity, and people are looking for things that matter to them and enrich their lives, rather than clout and clutter.
The Commons is a pocket of creativity in the bustling city of Bangkok. The pursuit of community is built on 5,000 square meters in Thonglor, and rather than designing it to become a mall, it has become a catalyst for forming a community. The first floor offers a myriad of food options that are unique in their categories. Step outside and you’ll find the open-air lounge, occupying more than half of the place with different seating options adaptable enough for a specific use—a short conversation, a place to read, or even a quaint celebration with friends. It has become the main connection between the other areas like retail and creative stores. Did I also mention that there’s a parking for dogs?
A reaction to marginalization—women have taken a step to create spaces for them. Cheekily dubbed as “no man’s land,” The Wing is a space catered to the growing demand of a safe network for women. Designed to answer women’s woes in the workplaces, The Wing offers a room for breastfeeding (and even rooms for kids!) and a beauty room, among other features—activities neglected and often frowned upon by a professional environment. But more than that, this space is an ode to women and their potential. They host events that could be considered taboo like ‘Prenup 101.’
We exist in spaces, but spaces also exist because of us. We have the power to shape what a space should be, pretty much how a space can shape us. And when there’s a communal synergy within these spaces, the experience it brings becomes as functional and delightful, one that’s not all about innovation or design but makes us happy as people and quite possibly even improve quality of life.
Order the limited print collectible of The Serious Review Vol. 001: Outliers and/or download the online copy for free.