Storytelling in architectural design

Each building tells a story. Storytelling in the large-scale building construction process is becoming increasingly important. Architecture can be thought of as a space where each person who enters it has a story, a particular experience. Ole Scheeren is a German architect who lives and works in Asia.

As discussed in his latest TedTalk, Ole believes that, all too often, architectural design is often thought in terms of a building’s function. In 2002, while working on the construction of the largest radio office in Beijing, he exercised a different vision for its construction so that its different areas would be interconnected according to the office’s activities: news, production, broadcasting, administration, etc., where workers would meet to collaborate as best they could. The structure of this building was a hybrid: a mix of the technical and the social, the human and the high-performance. At 473,000 m2, the offices were designed to accommodate 10,000 people, making it one of the largest buildings ever built.

To understand the scale of the project, they reproduced this crowd with 10,000 small pieces of wood and also imagined five different “personae” and their typical day: where they would meet, where they would eat, etc. In this way, they could give the building a script, to understand social interactions and how best to design it. There’s also another human story behind this project: an adventure between 400 engineers and architects, which Ole guided for over 10 years. A long period in which they all contributed to the script of this behemoth.

Another of his challenges was to build a large-scale residence in Singapore: 1,000 apartments in 12 different towers. It was essential for him to design the building around the behavior of its future inhabitants and their respective private lives. During the iteration of the project, he destructured the entire model so as to observe surfaces horizontally, rather than vertically, in order to interconnect human beings and spaces.

According to Scheeren, architecture goes beyond the realm of physical matter, and also concerns the way in which humans wish to live their lives and interact with those of others. At Singerbird, we share this vision, and our architects make a point of designing places where comfort and functionality reign supreme.

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