DESIGN FORECAST® 2022

Design Strategies for the Human Experience
AT&T Discovery District, Dallas

After almost two years of pandemic-infused stops and starts, an enduring resilience is defining the built environment. We’re witnessing optimistic investments and plans that reflect the most influential issues we’re facing today in climate change, inclusion, and community. This optimism is happening in spite of the pandemic, not because we’ve gotten past it.

This year’s Design Forecast focuses on design strategies that will define the future of the human experience. You’ll find strategic advice, research, and projects from all 28 of Gensler’s practice areas. We hope these design trends and insights will help you prepare for a new era in which the most valued places are the ones that put people first.

Executive Summary
THE
FUTURE
OF

ENHANCING THE URBAN EXPERIENCE

Great neighborhoods, employment opportunities, affordability, and multimodal transportation are the foundations of a great city. But cities have their work cut out for them. The lasting impacts of COVID, and the health scare that came with the virus, have led people to question urban living. To position themselves as places where people want to live, cities must embrace design as a way to create better experiences.

Health and wellness will continue to be a priority. To attract talent, cities and urban developers must focus on affordability and racial and socioeconomic disparities. Concepts like the 20-minute neighborhood will continue to gain traction, as will new, more accessible modes of transportation.

Finally, as the effects of climate change cause larger and more damaging weather events, investments in weather mitigation strategies and sustainable building practices will continue to reshape the urban experience for the better.

01
A flexible public realm will deliver a more resilient future.
Cities have an opportunity to take the positive parts of our urban pandemic experience — open streets, outdoor dining, fewer cars — and bring them forward to create a more resilient future with people at the center.
02
20-minute neighborhoods will drive equity.
For the 20-minute neighborhood to be applied through a lens of equity, investment strategies from both the public and private sector need to be put in place. This investment will attract development to these neighborhoods in ways that residents can benefit from and participate in.
03
Climate action demands will advance the path to net zero.
In the face of pressure to reduce their carbon footprint, airports, academic campuses, and data centers will continue to embrace new carbon-neutral and sustainability goals that will allow them to set industry standards.
04
Cities and organizations will focus on regeneration and reuse.
To respond to climate change, cities and organizations must strive to create sustainable, regenerative environments that make more efficient use of existing spaces and materials, thereby reducing waste and carbon emissions.
05
Innovation districts will continue to thrive.
Campus planning used to be inward-focused; now, institutions are looking at how they interact with surrounding communities. To spur innovation and create new synergies, developments have expanded from single-use facilities to mixed-use ecosystems as innovation districts emerge.
Confidential Mixed-Use District
THE
FUTURE
OF

THE WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE

The workplace is changing at an unprecedented pace. Across the globe, we’ve seen a fundamental shift in how and where work happens. Amid these profound shifts, organizations, developers, and landlords want to know what they can do to optimize their real estate.

What will set them apart is the experience they design for tenants and employees. We know that workers around the world still place a great deal of value in the physical workplace for social interaction, mentorship, deep concentration, and collaborative work. We also know that to compete in a war for talent, companies must also support an ecosystem of workspaces — both in and out of the office — where talent can thrive.

This is an opportunity to rethink the physical workplace to offer a unique and fulfilling experience that can attract talent, whether that’s through new technologies or new types of spaces.

01
The workplace must become a compelling destination.
We’re seeing a shift to the new role of the workplace as a “destination” — creating experiences that employees can’t get working remotely. Top-performing companies understand the power of the physical workplace for their people to thrive, as well as drive creativity and innovation.
02
Experimentation, prototypes, and learning are the new normal.
We’re entering a phase of experimentation, piloting, and learning. The new workspaces must be driven by purpose and research to dig in and figure out what is working, what is not working, and analyze outcomes. A key piece of a successful pilot program is to test and measure.
03
The new workplace ecosystem will include third spaces.
Today’s workers want an ecosystem of places to work both in and out of the office. Third places and coworking spaces are increasingly preferred for a variety of work activities. Developers and landlords should create spaces such as working lobbies or outdoor workspaces.
04
The workplace will play a critical role in fostering equity and inclusion.
Companies should extend equity beyond race, gender, and generations to create equitable work experiences for employees who are working in-person and remotely to create a culture of inclusivity and belonging.
05
Investments in health and well-being will deliver value for employees.
Employers should focus not only on enhancing workers’ physical health through biophilia and wellness design but also on building personal and professional relationships for mental well-being.
Trilith Studios, Fayetteville, Ga.
THE
FUTURE
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CREATING AN AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE

Lifestyle brands have long taken pride in having a deep understanding of their consumers’ needs and expectations. Today, that’s as important as it’s ever been, especially because of the momentous shifts the world has experienced in the past two years due to the impacts of COVID, climate change, and social equity.

For lifestyle brands to succeed and deliver better experiences, they must understand this new context and be better at anticipating what’s next. At the top of the list for brands looking to attract and keep consumers’ attention: community, belonging, and cultural relevancy.

Lifestyle companies will increasingly look to design spaces that can be flexible and multipurpose in order to serve multiple functions for the people and communities they’re in.

01
Belonging and placemaking will bring people together.
Holistic design strategies that incorporate brand, culture, and place are a means to draw people from diverse backgrounds to come together. In an increasingly distributed world, brands and companies should cultivate a strong sense of belonging for everyone and meet them wherever they are.
02
Amenities that drive community will be highly valued.
The amenities race is back, but the focal point has changed to prioritize space types that drive collaboration, community, and health and well-being — from gathering hubs and food & beverage services, to inclusive wellness spaces, such as prayer and meditation rooms.
03
Flexibility will become a critical investment.
Flexible spaces that allow different uses and events are a huge asset. Developers should build in flexibility and sustainability so they can pivot and adapt to market needs — converting aging office stock to housing, or programming outdoor space. Spaces need to be agile to accommodate different groups of people.
04
Digital and physical will blend to deliver connected experiences.
Clients are clamoring for technology infrastructure and strategic planning to bring a much nimbler, equitable, and more connected ecosystem of experiences to their end users. Integrating technology on-site can provide more seamless, self-service, and personalized experiences.
05
Places for gathering will become neighborhood catalysts.
Places that bring people together while making them feel safe — from museums to libraries — are becoming neighborhood catalysts and anchors for revitalization. Developers have an opportunity to reimagine single-use spaces as multiuse destinations that serve diverse communities.
Far Eastern Group A13 Department Store, Taipei
THE
FUTURE
OF

DESIGNING A HEALTHIER HUMAN EXPERIENCE

Awareness of how the built environment impacts human health is at an all-time high. As humanity continues to face several formidable challenges directly related to health, this awareness gives us hope. Environments can be a tool with which to make people healthier, a fact that forward-thinking healthcare providers, science organizations, and mission-driven companies are recognizing.

In the coming years, wellness practices will grow to become the touchstones of successful cultures. Investment in resilient design solutions will spike as organizations look to shore up operations against external shocks and accommodate new technologies to future-proof their operations. As digital and physical worlds blend, it will be crucial for design to emphasize our common humanity and shared purpose.

The context for these trends is one unignorable demographic shift: the aging of the population that will soon place unprecedented demands on all sectors to support a healthy and intergenerational future.

01
Design for resilience and design that elevates human health are one and the same.
Increases in extreme weather events due to climate change are already straining healthcare systems. Facilities must integrate resilient and sustainable strategies in order to expand crisis response capacity as they think about their overall environmental impact.
02
More of the population will be over 65 than under 18 for the first time in human history — this changes everything.
As lifespans increase, spaces must support active, meaningful lifestyles for older adults. Work, travel, hospitality, and housing will require designs that empower all individuals.
03
Science organizations will set the tone for how we act on climate change and health.
As organizations seek to create positive change, they will look to the sciences, brought front and center by the pandemic, for best practices and inspiration, both in how they support their workforces and maximize the impact of their space portfolios.
04
Existing, aging building stock cannot be ignored.
These industries — health and sciences in particular — occupy a disproportionate share of the world’s inventory. A solution to repurpose (rather than discard) this building stock is essential and will create new potential sources of return on investment.
05
Designing “to the edges” will create more welcoming and supportive environments.
Inclusionary design that addresses the edges of society, embracing formerly ignored and misunderstood populations, will be a hallmark of organizations looking to match their missions to their real estate.
ShanghaiTech University, Shanghai

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