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The new hybrid spaces, the necessary non-places for mental health

The new hybrid spaces, the necessary non-places for mental health

MARCH 2023 | 5 minutes

We are living through a revolution of spaces. New ways of living, working, travelling and enjoying have changed, intensified by the pandemic and the human need to socialise. This yearning for hyperconnection has contributed to making these spaces increasingly indispensable, combining physical and digital elements that allow for a unique and integrated experience. Dynamic and personalised experiences that are generated from hybrid spaces.

For example, a shop can combine its physical presence with an online shopping platform and even allow the user to try on clothes virtually before visiting the shop. Or an office can combine a corporate design with a more typical of a coffee shop environment, creating a collaborative and flexible space that encourages creativity and innovation. Furniture is, in all of them, a key aspect that allows the construction of these spaces, thanks to its flexibility and capacity to adapt to different uses.

T-Mobile offices, ACTIU furniture by Capexus

Technology, mental health and new ways of living and meeting are some of the premises applied by design and architecture professionals who have learned to give up square metres to these non-places that encourage connection. All this was discussed at the meeting "Future Scenarios: Designing spaces with (and for) a new mentality" on Thursday 9 March at the Centre del Carme de Cultura Contemporània (CCCC), as part of the exhibition "Scenarios of a near future" organised by the CCCC and València World Design Capital 2022. The exhibition, curated by Tachy Mora, seeks to reflect the changes produced in lifestyle in recent years through spaces and furniture based on five concepts: flexibility, multifunctionality, nomadism, modularity and sustainability.

The installation 'Work From Anywhere Hub' by Actiu, designed by Eli Gutiérrez, represents an evolution of more human, relaxed and casual workspaces that go beyond the traditional office context to embrace other locations, both at home and in other hybrid environments. It was within this framework that different specialists were able to talk about their experience and projects in which hybrid spaces are protagonists and change the way in which users relate to each other.

The meeting allowed us to reflect on how these new spaces are experienced and used with very specific examples. This was done not only from the perspective of space and architecture, but also from the perspective of neuroarchitecture and the human mind, based on emotions and sensations.

Carmen Llinares, director of the Neuroarchitecture Laboratory at the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) explained how the design of spaces impacts on people's minds from a scientific perspective. "Neuroarchitecture is the science that measures the response of the human being in the architectural environment through the application of tools that come from neuroscience. Some places invite calm, others encourage concentration and others lift your spirits. Some may affect your sense of security or increase levels of stress and anxiety. Our job is to determine in a scientific way the most appropriate design guidelines to achieve a specific effect and improve people's lives in the spaces they use without them even being aware of it," she explained.

"There are specific nuances that can affect people very directly. For example, the presence of greenery in a hospital has been shown to speed up the patient's recovery process. In classrooms, we have seen that cold tones enhance the cognitive functions of attention and memory and physiologically activate the subject. In the work we have carried out in urban spaces, we have seen that, for example, artificial lighting with warm colours produces insecurity in people over 65 when crossing the street and increases their stress levels," explained the scientific coordinator of this research group with more than 20 years of experience and scientific research work.

Including the scientific results of this research group, which has been innovating for more than 20 years at the UPV, in architectural projects is one of the keys to facilitating the welfare results of the spaces of the future. Spaces such as those worked on by Arqueha, a Valencian architecture studio.

Ysabel Mora Offices, interiorism by Arqueha Estudio

"Rental housing is in a state of flux. With the evolution of mobility, connectivity and nomadism, more and more people are moving from city to city, and even country to country, for work. These people are looking for homes that combine housing with a wide range of common services aimed at improving their quality of life, enjoying an environment adapted to their nomadic lifestyle", explains Ricardo García, architect and head of Arqueha's Marketing Department.

This is a new building that combines rental housing with common areas with premium amenities similar to those provided by a hotel. Housing with common areas with concierge, high-speed wifi, gym, swimming pool with solarium, restaurant or coworking. All this fused from architecture, design and functionality to create an ecosystem of services that combine technology, wellbeing and sustainability, with the aim of creating a community. "This type of building is being very well received in other cities in Spain and we will soon have one in Valencia," added García.

Project Las Cigarreras Alicante, Anna Boscà (Ramón Esteve Estudio)

And how to design a space that will be constantly changing, whose different spaces will have different uses throughout the day, for very different audiences and with completely different actions? This is the challenge that Anna Boscà, director of the Health and Cultural Architecture Department at Ramón Esteve Estudio is facing with some of the latest social projects that the studio is tackling. These are heritage intervention projects of a social nature. Public buildings with a historical and industrial past but with a new multipurpose and social use, such as the Las Cigarreras space in Alicante.

The social, business and educational entities define, based on collaborative processes of citizen participation, the social, educational and leisure needs of the place and, with this information, a functional programme is configured that combines everything from a social centre for the elderly to a library, technological coworking spaces, exhibition halls or administrative offices.

"Hybrid spaces are key in public buildings with new social uses. They are places that require multi-purpose, flexible spaces that can be adapted to the different cultural needs of the place and that act as a link between fixed and defined spaces with the integration of the urban space", explained Anna Boscà in relation to one of her most recent projects, Las Cigarreras in Alicante.

Project Las Cigarreras Alicante, Anna Boscà (Ramón Esteve Estudio)

In all the projects, hybrid spaces, changes in the concept of life and the union with space and its uses were a constant, showing that design, architecture and furniture affecting the wellbeing and use of places must be conceived by professionals who focus on needs, but also on the way in which all the elements, even the most insignificant, can affect our emotional state without us even realising it.

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