If you’ve ever hung out at a bar with me for more than 30 seconds, the conversation will invariably turn to one of two topics…or even both simultaneously – politics and architecture. Being passionate about both my country and my profession I spend a great deal of my day engrossed in these two subjects almost exclusively. And obviously I’m loud, opinionated and like to talk to people.
And one of the themes that has surged in architectural design in the last decade or so is the idea of scale, and more specifically human scale. While this is not a new topic or concept in architecture, it has been overlooked and sometimes outright ignored in some architectural styles over the years. Modernism and Post-Modernism are two good examples of this. Think about every commercial structure built during the 80s. Eck! :-\
Lately however this concept has come back almost in the background, as an unconscious principle of architecture. But what is “scale”? And more importantly what is “human scale” and how does it relate to architecture? We’re all familiar with Le Corbusier’s Modular Man. If not, you better recognize! 😛
The genius of what Le Corbusier did was to systematically break down the human form as a scalable figure and then apply those measurements to everyday items from buildings to forks to furniture, etc. And now, as the McMansion Mania has ended and we’re moving to quality over quantity, this notion of “scale” has snuck its way back into design, especially in residential architecture. Take a look at the image below. Top and bottom I’ve placed your typical modern suburban monstrosity and a modern modular home. Which do you think was designed with the human scale in mind?
And now ask yourself, which would you feel more comfortable living in? The bottom line here is that human scale, human comfort, is an extremely important factor in architectural design – if not the most important. And while this trend has, as I said, snuck back into modern design, it is becoming more and more obviously stated as we move towards the notion of “aging in place” and universal design. How the human body functions at all stages of life is becoming a more central focus in architecture, rather than just how we move and function in our prime.
So the next time you’re sitting around looking at those plan books contemplating your next home or addition, take a second to think about talking with someone that will design a space that will work for you and your family on a human level.