Buildings Speak - What does yours say?

Our most cherished spaces are those that speak to us on an emotional level. People travel from all over the world to see unique or historic architecture because these buildings often fill us with a sense of awe. From the grand Napoleonic Palais Garnier in Paris to the everyday educational institutions and offices, we are drawn to places that inspire us. Buildings tell our stories – our history, purpose, and existence are wrapped into the places we dwell, and finishes are the first aspects of a building we see.

Walking into the Palais Garnier, the amount of detail, history, and grandeur is astounding. What is immediately noticeable are the ornate murals, marble cladding, and metallic detailing that adorn every wall and reveal. Now, obviously every building cannot be designed like a magnificent Parisian opera house, but they can include signature finishes that enhance the requirements and purpose of the space rather than incorporating finishes that detract from its value.

Finishes display the character and style of a space. On one hand they can make us feel welcome, important, and inspired, but they also have the capacity to make us feel apathetic, dull, and lifeless. There are appropriate applications for finishes like polished concrete, but they do not include settings where people crave an atmosphere of inspiration and motivation. We want our communities of students, customers, and employees to feel valued, but feeling valued and welcome is predominantly derived from the atmosphere and environment we provide for them.

Winston Churchill famously stated, “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.” How are we shaping ourselves, and what story are we telling future generations? Our most cherished places should not be awash with uninspired finishes that require replacement every few years. Our cherished places should last, tell our history, and make us feel valued. Buildings speak, but finishes are an important part of that voice, and they should tell a story worth hearing.