What is a Spatial Experience?

Why experience design creates meaningful built environments

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A spatial experience is a multi-sensorial and simultaneous experience that involves built environments, people, context and purposes and is capable of enhancing emotional connection within space. A spatial experience condenses a complex assessment of atmosphere, feeling and ambience, together with a set of specific personal evaluations, that are then translated into a judgment concerning the nature and character of the space being experienced. In fact, people are able to grasp the atmosphere in a built environment before consciously identifying the elements that create that atmosphere, which highlights the power of positive spatial experiences. When entering a new space, one can be emotionally and mentally impacted by the architecture, art work and all of its elements even before understanding the architect's or artist’ intention, for example.

It is possible to intuit emotive and experiential elements of spaces and their components when creating a built environment. From interior design to signage, a real estate project can create spatial experiences with sensory and atmospheric qualities that not only communicates a brand personality and feeling, but fosters emotional connections between users and space. In this sense, creating purposeful spatial experiences brings the utmost value for all stakeholders involved in real estate development.

The business of experiences

Western societies have been living a shift from a superficial, consumerist culture to an experience driven culture, a change that has been driven mainly by millennials since the beginning of the last decade. Studies have shown that experiential purchases bring more happiness to consumers than material ones and that people are increasingly focused on experiencing rather than owning. As people continuously seek for personal improvement and to try things they never did before, we see ourselves living in a post-materialistic society that is affecting the foundation of the global business offerings by placing experiences at a higher level.

The experience economy requires businesses to reflect on how their services and products create value and support their consumer in achieving their goals. The intangible character of experiences creates a challenge for most industries as it is often hard to grasp what are the necessary requirements to design a product or service that provokes or enables a desirable experience. To attend to this new demand, disciplines such as “Experience Design”, “User Experience Design” and “Service Design” have emerged.

Why experience design makes good business sense

A captivating spatial experience created by mindful design is not only good for users; it is good for business as well. Incorporating experience design into real estate developments generates engaging spaces where people would like to live and spend time, and such developments turn into financially successful spaces that help placemaking within cities and reduce living challenges.

A vast majority of our time is spent in built environments, which highlights the need to understand how humans respond to purposefully designed spaces. Experience design seeks to understand the end users to anticipate their needs when designing spaces, therefore enabling occupants to achieve their purpose. Enhancing the quality of spatial experiences is at the core of real estate experience design.

To understand the value of experiences to real estate - or any other industry - it is important to distinguish between the concepts of company and brand. A company is an organisation that fabricates products or services, whilst a  brand is the expression of a company’s personality and image that is translated into its products and services; a brand is built through consumer perceptions and expectations. Therefore, experiences are not created by companies, but by brands. Smart brands add the value of experience to every step of the consumer journey and ensure ROI: strong brand recognition, emotional binding with consumers and overall LTV (long time value).

The role of developers

Creating meaningful spatial experiences should be one of the top goals of every real estate developer. Real estate is essentially a tangible asset with a specific location that is capable of creating and defining the spaces within its surroundings. Every real estate development serves a functional purpose in the geographical context where it is placed. When a new building is added to that context, it has an incremental and powerful effect on the purpose of existing environments. Since a real estate asset defines not only the space within the space, but also the one around it, creating built environments that generate purposeful spatial experiences must be considered among the list of responsibilities of all developers.

In today's society real estate only has value when it serves a purpose. The planning, design and development of built environments requires a demand for a particular use that considers the context of that space. This planning needs to take into consideration that real estate has a crucial connecting role within its community. As real estate also reflects societal changes, nowadays it has even more power (and therefore responsibility) to help build integrated and happy communities, when compared to the past.

With the shift of consumer behaviour, built environments have to offer more than functionality to their users. Developers now need to think of real estate in terms of efficiency, appeal, beauty, meaning and uniqueness, without forgetting the contribution that they bring to the community to which they belong. Building financially feasible and competitive real estate demands thoroughly designed spaces that are sustainable, in constant evolution and desirable to an experience driven audience. Design has a fundamental role to turn built environments into meaningful experiences both for the end users and the broader community.

In the current market, contextual planning and experience design are essential aspects to consider to develop a successful real estate project and enable people to prosper and be engaged with the neighbourhood. Well developed areas within a city are locations that empower communities to grow resilient, making experience driven built environments a source of sustainable profit.

Experience design should be at the core of Shared Living

The emerging shared living industry creates a variety of mixed-use spaces that can be used for working, living, socialising, relaxing. These concepts are designed to provide additional value to the residents and every area is serving a purpose. Shared living spaces are almost always created through an inherently user-experience driven design. As remote work and shared living become more popular globally, innovative spaces blending working and living are developed to provide comfort, amenities and social opportunities to occupants.

Developers in the shared living industry are already trying to understand the ultimate value of such spaces to users, becoming aware of what it means to create beyond function and to provide attractive spatial experiences. Another aspect that developers need to take into consideration is to give prominence to the brand behind the building, by making it experienceable through spatial branding. Curious to learn how? Read how to apply the vision and identity of a company within buildings through spatial branding.

The online space

The concept of space is most commonly perceived as a physical, tactile environment, but as Internet users now surpass 4 billion people worldwide, the online space has already become an established dimension of human life. A spatial experience should be always created considering both the online and offline world. Digital space should be thought out to enhance and strengthen the physical experience, so that both spatial experiences can complement one another. Digital technology is already being implemented to expand the real environment within the digital environment, providing an extension to the user that serves a purpose that is beyond the possibilities of the physical space by offering new forms of interaction. The mirroring and enhancing of physical space by the digital environment is a trend set to change consumers' purchase experience.

An already recurring example of how to mirror physical spatial experience through digital tools is represented by AR and VR tools that translate the spatial perception of a room into a virtual tour that can be accessed by anyone in the world. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, check out how real estate businesses can benefit from AR and VR.

Key Takeaway

As consumers shift to an experience based economy, understanding the importance of spatial experiences is critical for real estate success. A spatial experience is the result of a purposefully built environment, one that is thought to attend to the user's needs and interests and their community. As built spaces have an incremental effect within their neighbourhood, it is fundamental to consider its purpose in the context where it is located. Experience design is a precious tool for developers as it creates purposeful spaces that are engaging and user oriented.

Designing spatial experiences holds great value for multiple stakeholders because they are crucial to create built environments that enable users to achieve their goals and engage with their neighbourhood. Strong and well developed neighbourhoods encourage placemaking, increasing real estate value and profits for businesses within the community.

Curious about how your business can benefit from the creation of meaningful spatial experiences? Get in touch now and stay updated about our upcoming projects by subscribing to our newsletter.

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