We’re featuring COVID Survival Stories of businesses in our Fiore3 Mentor Group that have overcome, pivoted, and hung on for dear life during the pandemic.
I learned about the importance of my surroundings at a very early age. As the saying goes: “you are who you surround yourself with.” I believe this also applies to your physical space. As a very shy kid growing up in LA, it was very important to me to be in spaces and with people who made me feel comfortable. I was exposed to both quality spaces and spaces that made me uncomfortable, so I became very in tune with how space could be uplifting and create a sense of hope, as well as how it could depress. I became fascinated with learning how to create positive environments for myself, as well as for others, and this drove me to become an architect. In practicing architecture, I love how much our surroundings shape who we are and how we live our lives. Design impacts all aspects of our lives. It is the foundation of our interactions, our experiences, and our connections. I love it because we get to choose how we design our environments, so we have the power to determine how our surroundings impact us. There is nothing more empowering than knowing that we have the choice to positively influence our own lives. Being a part of the process of working with others to create and build spaces that create a positive impact, for themselves and their communities, is what I love about being an architect. It really gives me hope.
In regards to COVID, it goes without saying that this pandemic has affected a lot of people, in every way imaginable, but it also is starting to shed light on the importance of creating healthy spaces. COVID, and the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement, have forced people to become aware of their surroundings, and how their surroundings affect the health and wellbeing of not only themselves but of their communities as well. These critical conversations are starting to get architects, and others in the design and construction industries, to re-evaluate how the industry has approached designing for others, and how our built environment can contribute, or hurt, the public. These conversations, however, are not new. Architects and other building professionals have been discussing the impacts of our surroundings on the human body for decades. COVID and BLM are bringing the conversation into the public realm, and shedding more light on the topic, from both a physical health standpoint, as well as a societal health standpoint. Both are critical to the overall health and wellbeing of our cities.
Initiating these conversations is a positive step to creating change. The response from the architecture community regarding both COVID and the BLM movement is a great representation of how architecture tries to “fix” issues without really taking much time to study and understand exactly how this will impact our spaces. We are too quick to offer up “solutions” to problems that we don’t fully understand. We really do not know how COVID will change the way we design and experience space, because we really do not know how long this situation will last, or the extent of its impact. The solutions that other architects are proposing at this point are all just conjecture.
It is similar with BLM — the profession of architecture is mostly comprised of white males, who do not know, understand, or in many cases do not try to learn about the injustices, inequalities, and blatant racism that Black and other people of color experience, and how our built environment contributes to the inequalities that our population experiences. This lack of awareness, unintentional or otherwise, is a disservice to the profession and to the public. I think it is also interesting and important to note that both COVID and the fight for racial equality are in the spotlight at the same time. There is an interesting correlation between COVID and the BLM movement, especially seeing that COVID has disproportionately affected the BIPOC population, I am sure that the lack of care of creating inclusive, just, and healthy environments have contributed to that.
Once we are aware of these realities, we can then approach design from a different perspective. The design of spaces becomes about active learning and engaging with the context of space, and not just the physical or environmental contexts, but the social and cultural ones as well. You have to gain an understanding of what people actually want and need, not what you think they need. The only way to successfully do this is by asking questions — of the client, of the end-user, of yourself as a designer. Determining the who, what, when, where, why, and how of every site and every project is critical if you want to create healthy and just spaces. This approach to design is the foundation of my architecture practice, called THE5WH. The struggles of this year solidified my desire, and the need, to approach design from a different standpoint, and the best way to do that was to start my own firm. This practice focuses on creating quality space for people through an intentional approach to design. We ask questions — of the client, of the end-user, of yourself as a designer — and instead of projecting our thoughts and opinions onto others and calling it a design solution, we listen to those answers and create a design solution that is authentic to the needs and desires of our clients.
I want everyone to feel included, connected, and comfortable within every space and every building they enter. I want every space you experience to support your wellbeing, creates a place of calm and allows you to achieve your goals. I want your surroundings to reflect who you are.
If you want to connect Kaci Taylor contact her here.