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How a changing culture affects architecture

Architects must participate in, and adapt to, a changing society that embraces different values and technologies.

23 July 2010

The way cultural change influences architecture was a key theme that emerged from the National Architecture Conference held in Adelaide recently.

Rebecca Egglesfield, a member of Peddle Thorp's healthcare design team, attended the 3 days of presentations and site visits and described the event as ‘thought-provoking’. Drawing on her conference experience, Rebecca identified three important ways that cultural change will impact architectural practice:

Community is being redefined

“It was interesting to hear speakers address the way that changes impact our society, and how the speed of that change is demanding different responses from architects,” Rebecca said. “For instance, the rapid uptake of technology and increased urbanisation is shaping an always-connected, city-centric society—architects need to both participate in the creation of that society and adapt to it.” Rebecca said evolving demographics and expectations about technology use would also require new approaches to community engagement.

Technology must be used thoughtfully

“A more adaptive approach was reinforced by a tour of the New Royal Adelaide Hospital, which features the use of robotic trolleys to deliver medical supplies, food and linen to the wards.” Rebecca said making the most of technological advances requires forward planning and change management to ensure people are empowered. “Integrating technology has the potential to drastically change the way hospitals work: on one hand it reduces manual tasks for staff, but it also increases power demands and IT support needs within the workplace.”

More connection and respect for heritage

Although society has become more technologically savvy, Rebecca says it's clear that people crave more collaborative, creative and culturally rich experiences from buildings. “We toured a project at Seppeltsfield Winery where heritage buildings were redeveloped to create a ‘village’ environment within the winery, including artisan studios and workshops, Jam Factory gallery and retail outlet; Fino restaurant, private wine appreciation lounge and cellar door tasting. They also incorporated the area’s heritage into the design by using existing materials found on site.”