1. feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others
Compassion is an easily understood emotion as it relates to other humans but how can compassion be linked with design?
Compassionate design is about ensuring that the users of a building have a space that is properly suited to them in more ways than just functionality and esthetics. It has to support the users in an emotional way. It is about bringing compassion into the design process and ensuring that it is a driving force.
Compassionate design is about including the users throughout the design process. It puts a focus on collaboration in order to create the most efficient and appropriate designs that serve functional, as well as emotional needs.
The traditional design process relies on the architect, as the professional, to do the research and develop an appropriate design for the user. Compassionate design relies on collaboration between the user and the designer to generate the best functional and emotional solution that addresses an infrastructural problem.
Although compassionate design could apply to anyone, it takes on a special significance when the user is an individual or community in need. Marginalized communities rarely have a chance to have their voices heard, which makes compassionate design much more than a few meetings to discuss desires. It is a coveted opportunity to have a lasting impact on their own community.
There are many examples of this as designers and architects look to users as a resource rather than a hinderance. University of Saskatchewan, in Canada, recently built an aboriginal center specifically to accommodate native practices and customs. The architect spent time listening to what aboriginal students said they needed in a space to make them feel comfortable and included these elements in the building. The result is a beautiful structure that celebrates native culture in a modern unique way.
Compassionate design takes it one step further by ensuring that people in marginalized, impoverished, and in many cases remote and isolated communities have their voices heard in a way that creates a sense of identity and pride throughout the community. Compassionate design is about giving a voice to individuals and communities whose voices have been muffled and muted, or who never knew they had a voice to begin with. Infrastructure is lasting, and compassionate design and designers hope that the lasting nature of the projects will be a constant reminder to community members of what their input can create.