There is a mounting body of research that suggests experiences lead to greater happiness than material goods.
People are increasingly prioritising experiences over material possessions, with an upwards trend in consumer spending on items such as travel, restaurants and concerts. The ‘share economy’ is now well established, with companies such as Uber and Airbnb transforming their respective markets.
But when property is integrally a material thing, how is this affecting the way we design and create new residential-led developments?
Meeting rental demand
Renting rather than buying a property affiliates with the fundamentals of experientialism.
In the first instance, experientialists would rather spend their money on entertainment and leisure than on restricting their lifestyle to save for a deposit. Being a tenant rather than a homeowner also removes tedious maintenance responsibilities and offers the freedom of changing location and property type as requirements or aspirations evolve.
Even the product itself can play a role in fostering and enhancing an experientialist lifestyle. New build-to-rent schemes are targeting the experientialist demographic by offering tenants a comprehensive product and lifestyle offer which extends beyond their 50 sq m of rented floorspace. Amenities such as games rooms, private dining rooms and roof terraces equipped with pizza ovens provide the setting for social interaction and communal experiences.
Some have taken this concept even further, with co-living providers such as The Collective and Roam offering communities prioritising shared space and communal experiences over private floorspace.
Embracing the right technology
While purist experientialists may reject the constant arms race for the latest gadget, certain technologies have their place in an experientialist lifestyle.
Perhaps the most attractive technologies are those that improve efficiency and convenience, saving the user time which can be better spent elsewhere. These range from the now well-established wireless thermostats to newer technologies such as robotic vacuums and smart washing machines and ovens that can be operated remotely.
Smart home technology can also allow residents to customise their experience of their home according to their changing needs. For example, Hue wireless lighting which allows the user to alter the tone, brightness and colour of their lights to create the right ambience, or Sonos wireless sound systems that can play different songs in different rooms at the same time. These technologies can make being at home an experience in itself, as well as enhance experiences taking place within it.
Interaction through public space
Designing experientialist developments should also extend beyond the individual building, no matter what use or tenure.
The public spaces between buildings perhaps have the greatest capacity to create an experientialist development, with a total number of users far in excess of the buildings themselves. These spaces should be designed to allow for a range of experiences, from small scale initiatives that temporarily engage those simply passing through to larger scale ‘destination’ fixtures or events. The overriding objective should be to foster interaction between people and the place.
Take King's Cross's Granary Square (above) as an example, which has been enlivened with 1,080 water jets which users of the square can control through a smartphone app. This creates an experience for those who are in the square for only a few minutes, but can engage others for longer. It also provides a space for temporary ‘destination’ events such as food markets, musical performances and outdoor fitness classes.
Creating vibrant public spaces is crucial for attracting footfall, establishing a place identity, and helping knit a new development into the local community. This in turn contributes to the value of that place whether by increasing demand for residential properties or improving the viability of ground floor uses.
It is an exciting era for designing and delivering new neighbourhoods, new homes and new experiences. Embracing experientialism can help us create places where people will want to live, places that people will enjoy, and that will last.
Here’s to the experiential future.