It’s a simple question but the answer can sometimes be complicated. Firstly, I define a public building as anything that is used by the public for public services. Examples of this are train stations, hospitals and any other services that are for public use. So the question remains, is it important for these public businesses’ to give a friendly atmosphere? I’d argue that it is important, but it does depend on the particular architecture, location and what its intended use is for. Here’s a quick run down on my thoughts on this subject.
Firstly, train and tube stations are used daily for commuters in busy cities and although they are heavily used, the atmosphere generated by the architecture and building really doesn’t matter. Commuters generally don’t notice or don’t care about the colour and build of the foundations and materials. Yes, if the interior and the exterior looks amazing, there’s a photo opportunity perhaps for the public, but it wouldn’t affect the overall mood of the people who travel through it on a regular basis. Stations like Paddington in London are beautiful pieces of architecture, but they won’t be fully appreciated by the travelling public. The general public enters a train station to get from A to B, no thinking is done and everything is usually completed as fast as possible.
So what kind of public architecture does need to create a friendly atmosphere? Hospitals and healthcare buildings are the main public buildings that for me have to at least create a neutral atmosphere and where possible, create a friendly one. The exterior is less important when it comes to atmosphere, although granted a hospital should not look imposing like something out of a Harry Potter book. What’s more important is the interior and the impression it gives people who enter the building. Usually, people are entering hospitals and such because of their health, so the tone and atmosphere of the interior needs to be neutral and not negative. Layout and colour of the interior is important and it’s common for healthcare buildings to have the same theme throughout the country. Corbridge health centre and the UCLH in London are great examples of impressive but not intimidating exterior with calm and neutral tones in the interior. This is very important in health care buildings.
My thoughts on this subject overall are that each building will have its own personality and atmosphere, however, with public buildings such as health care centre’s and hospitals, the atmosphere needs to convey a sense of calmness and this can be reached through interior colours and layout. This doesn’t matter so much with train and tube stations because keeping the atmosphere calm and neutral is not part of the brief. The exteriors of these buildings, whilst still impressive, aren’t as important.