Sep 30 2020

Spatial Design: New study course in Lucerne

How must rooms be designed so that we find them pleasant? This is one of the key questions that spatial designers deal with. The new design direction is changing the way rooms can be planned. In the winter semester 2020/2021, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts will offer the new course for the first time.

We spoke to Klaus Marek, head of the Bachelor's programme, about the course of studies, the field of work of future designers and how the Corona crisis has changed the use of public spaces in a lasting way. 

The degree course Spatial Design will be introduced at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in the winter semester 2020/2021. How is the programme structured? What can your students expect? 

Students can expect a very varied and practice-oriented education. The Spatial Design course of study combines spatial design with experience design and digital media and thus focuses on the communicative aspects of space. We understand space as a medium, i.e. as something that ideally arises from what is to be experienced in it.

During their studies, students therefore learn appropriate methods as well as design and media basics that can be used to consciously design experiences. We create practical relevance through realistic projects which the students work on with partners from business or the public sector.

On the other hand, the connection to practice is established by the lecturers, who come from nationally and internationally active and appropriately networked design offices and agencies and bring a great deal of practical experience with them.

Spatial Design focuses on the relationship between architecture, design and people, with the interior as the starting point. Spatial designers work across disciplines. In which fields of activity can your students be creative after their studies? Where are the possible limits of future designers? 

The course of study refers to three spatial concepts and the corresponding fields of activity: Firstly, "Space for Services" refers to spaces that are created or designed from the interactions and actions that take place in them. Here we work in fields of activity such as Workplace Design, Wayfinding (orientation in coherent spatial complexes), Space for Public Services, Space for Education or Space for Healthcare.

Secondly, "Space for Communication", i.e. spaces for conveying content: from space as an information carrier to virtual space that itself arises from information, i.e. exhibition space, museum space, retail & trade fair design, event design and, of course, virtual reality.

And thirdly, we deal with "Acting Spaces", where we consider space as a stage - as an environment in which an action is embedded - but which does not necessarily have to refer to theatre stages. Here we work on projects from the fields of stage design or public space.

On this basis and in connection with a distinct spatial-media competence, spatial designers will also be able to take leading roles in design teams for the above-mentioned fields of activity. Today, such mediation skills are often lacking - with the consequence that the experts involved in the project retreat to their traditional discipline and overarching aspects are often ignored.  

When staging rooms from the point of view of spatial design, great importance is attached to experience design and digital media. What possibilities does the new design orientation offer? How can companies benefit from it at trade fairs, exhibitions or events? 

By orienting the range of courses on offer towards the linking of spatial design with experience design and digital media, we focus on the one hand on people with their needs, expectations and experiences, and on the other hand on future-oriented technologies that can be effective in space.

Spatial Design therefore does not focus on the design of the architectural space boundary, but rather on the user experience in space and deals with the perceptions, actions and interactions taking place within it as well as the experiences when passing through a room.

Based on the insights gained from this, the design of the space can be tailored to the users, so to speak - whether in physical or digital space. We regard the digital as something that can support the experiences in the room or even create them. 

In spatial design, the dimension of human action plays just as important a role as memories and rituals. Despite the high degree of digitalisation, how does the design orientation ensure that the human factor does not fall by the wayside, but is placed at the centre of action? 

As described above, the inclusion of human needs, experiences, experiences and expectations in the design process is an important aspect - if not the most important. And we have the advantage that every person already has a wide range of experience in relation to space - we always move in spaces and constantly experience them, we live, rejoice or celebrate in them, we even have a sense that allows us to physically orient and locate ourselves in space.

The direct knowledge that we ideally gain from dealing with real people (users) forms something like a compass for designing spaces. In addition to the design of physical and digital spaces, the programme teaches design processes and methods that can be used to determine these basic principles and apply them to the design of space.

Thus, we always implement designs as prototypes on a scale of 1:1 if possible, in order to be able to test them in reality with real people. In this way, there is a high degree of probability that the design corresponds to what the users expect. The creative element in the design process is the linking and integration of the knowledge gained from this user-centred approach into innovative spatial concepts and productions. 

The Corona crisis has changed the way we use public spaces. The spacing and hygiene measures are putting the otherwise normal way of dealing with each other in public space to the test. Do you see Spatial Design as an opportunity here to use spaces differently in the future with the help of Experience Design and digital media?  

Yes, quite clearly. I even think that the approach of Spatial Design is central here. There is something like a new normality. But physical spaces have inevitably not kept pace with this new normality. A lot of things are improvised and could easily be rebuilt - probably in the hope that we can soon return to the quasi old normality.

It is precisely by linking spatial design with experience design that the needs, expectations and experiences of people could be brought more into focus in order to develop solutions for spaces that translate the demands of the new reality into meaningful, liveable and designed spatial solutions.

Some situations in public space were already problematic before the Corona crisis, e.g. where at certain times many people who do not know each other have to share a limited space. Nobody will say that she or he enjoys bathing in a crowd of commuters at the station. Yet we take it for granted.

The corona crisis has now made us even more aware of this, even though, due to the corona crisis, there are fewer commuters. Here, new solutions could be sought that relate to people's behaviour.  

Klaus Marek studied product design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd and architecture at the University of Stuttgart. In his own design office, he designed new writing instruments for the company Stabilo or a Somfy switch range with a focus on user guidance within the framework of various cooperations. As an architect, he worked in the Basel architectural office Herzog & de Meuron as well as in his own studio. He taught as a lecturer for product and process design in the bachelor's programme at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd. At the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts he is head of the Bachelor Spatial Design and lecturer in Master Design.

Author: Bernadette Trepte

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