Behavior-based Architecture and Design

Josh Owen has designed and developed a portable Stoop Bench for use in varied urban environments. He writes, “Philadelphia is a city of stoop dwellers. Stoops entered into the vernacular of American architecture during the colonial times…The Philadelphia stoop functions as a fundamental social meeting place.” He goes on to point out that the stoop is a place of transitions and of pause, serving as a social anchor for friends and neighborhoods. This project frees the stoop from the front door to other urban areas will be an interesting experiment. Many modern public areas are designed without the human scale in mind; without spaces and places to sit, relax, talk and watch. The stoop gives an opportunity for social behavior and interaction in urban locals that are currently devoid of such design features.

View at Piazza della Signoria from the front b...

Image via Wikipedia

I like this project for several reasons. First, at the core, it is attuned to human behavior and serves to assist as a device for social interaction. Second, it does not copy the vernacular verbatim, but updates it to current times, technology and trends. The stoop has clean lines and is wholly constructed from a single modern material. While our tastes in materials and aesthetics have changed, our behavioral roots have not. Vernacular architecture does not have to be archaic or boring, and can blend behavior with modern design to produce highly interesting and successful projects.

“I wondered if it would be possible to capture the essence of that indigenous behavior, so entwined with its site-specific nature, in order to have more flexibility to invite similar social behavior in other contexts than the entry to the home, on a block of homes on the grid.”

Josh Owen

Can this line of exploration and design be translated into other projects? I believe that it can and that doing so can rejuvenate public space and enhance the social life and quality of living of many people. All too often we see design that uses the latest technology and exceeds many precedents of scale and ambition, but fail to adequately address the user and their experiences and behavior.

Paying attention to our own tendencies and behaviors can lead to the most successful and resonating designs.

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