Sometimes the best design solution to a problem is less about what a building or landscape looks like and more about its purpose. In architecture, we call that purpose program. Think about all the things you do in a day! There is undoubtedly an architect out there somewhere who thought about how or where you'd be doing what you're doing (or even not doing) as part of the design process long before that space was there to inhabit.
Some buildings imply program by virtue of what they are — for instance, a museum or courthouse. But program also can describe activities like rollerskating, grocery shopping, office work, and eating.
Program is social too, which means some spaces feel inviting, inclusive, while others don't. Many places require that the people there be part of a community. This can occur through general commerce (buying a ticket to see a movie at a theater, ordering a meal in a restaurant), through custom (using either the men's or women's restroom), or through organization or affiliation (attending a particular church). But social aspects of program also can be more subtle — some spaces just feel more welcoming than others, a common experience while traveling.
Many communal spaces we call public are actually owned by private entities — for example, malls — which adds complexity to program. Real estate developers often make deals with city agencies to create "public" urban space in exchange for, say, variances in zoning laws. Real public space is owned by federal, state, or local municipalities and offers different protections, including free speech. Think about the 2010 Tea Party protests or the 2011 Occupy Movement. How do architects account for such activities within the program for a given space?
Look around you and ask yourself where you're allowed to be and under what conditions. Also consider where you feel comfortable and where you don't. Then take a look here at some of the ways architecture students and faculty are thinking about how people might inhabit their projects...
Image 1 > Through an intense exploration of parallax, this thesis inquires into the relationship between architecture (as both a static and dynamic object) and its experiential augmentation through movement.
Image 2 & 3 > A proposal for a portion of the cleared area above the Capitol Hill Light Rail station, next to Cal Anderson Park in Seattle, Washington. This design includes one of the station entries and a community center.
Image 4 > The Re-Ligare Institute focuses on integrating its spaces into the existing urban choreography of downtown Charlottesville. By retrofitting unused and underused parts of Charlottesville’s urban center, the Re-Ligare Institute gives back to the city and reduces the use of new materials while knitting into existing patterns of movement and use downtown.
Image 5 > An Eco-destination, Prairie Moon Intentional Community strives to encompass growth for members centered on music, art, and agriculture while providing Ames with a leading example of land stewardship within a regional park setting.
Image 6 > charmory.icon is a "charm bracelet" designed to celebrate the memories of Asbury Park. A ring form is created to be a reminiscent of a loop of memory. It is shaped by the immediate site conditions, wrapping around a space in the plaza for many different events to happen.