When social distancing became a priority, outdoor venues provided critical opportunities to safely gather in small groups. At RLPS Architects, we have been pleased to see communities taking a more deliberate approach to activating and extending the use of outdoor spaces--for dining, gathering, and wellness.

Even when we are not in the midst of a pandemic, biophilic design principles reinforce the value of spaces that meet our innate need for connecting with nature. This includes incorporating those design elements not only into interior settings, but also into porches, patios, courtyards, dining terraces, pavilions, and rooftop venues, which encourage residents to get outdoors.

Taking it to the rooftop

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Rooftop venues were initially associated with large cities where ground-level space is at a premium. But these scenic outdoor venues can also offer a unique experience with an air of exclusivity tin more rural settings as well. Rooftop venues are well suited for a bar/lounge, dining venue, sustainable garden, or even a game room/activity area. If you really want the wow factor, a rooftop pool is another option. Of course, extending the use of this area can also be accomplished just by covering at least a portion of the rooftop space to provide shade and rain protection.

Spending days and nights outdoors
Good lighting is a must for basic safety and security. It also adds another layer of ambience and visual interest. Outdoor-rated string lights are popular, with many styles and LED options readily available. Make sure the space is bright enough for people to safely navigate. It's especially important to consider the transition between a patio area and the interior setting to avoid blind spots. Don't forget to include task lighting for an outdoor bar or kitchen, too. To make the space usable at different times of day, add umbrellas for a flexible shading option. For cooler weather, consider incorporating outdoor heaters, and outdoor fireplace, or fire pits.

Blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor spaces
Removing barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces and using consistent detailing and finishes strengthens nature connections from interior areas. Garage doors, retractable walls, and even patio doors that can bee opened in favorable weather help to blur the lines and increase the perceived visual expanse of space, encouraging people to go outdoors.

Providing outdoor options for employees
The pandemic has emphasized the critical role of staff members. As communities seek ways to attract and retain staff, outdoor venues can be a benefit. Consider offering staff appropriate and adequate spaces to recharge, such as break rooms with natural light, patios, outdoor dining opportunities, meditation gardens, and walking pathways.

Attention to details for outdoor spaces

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Nature is typically the main attraction, but final touches in design can have a big impact. Take into account opportunities to reinforce your organizational brand or create a sense of place through color selections and unique accessories. Accessories can be as simple as hanging or potted plants, or an exterior art installation. Other possibilities include decorative lighting, sculptural elements, water features, or colorful fabric shades.

The objective for outdoor venues is to be as intentionally designed as your interior spaces in both form and function. This requires high-performance materials that can stand up to the elements as well as comfortable, accessible spaces that people of all ages and abilities can safely enjoy. Outdoor spaces may be getting more attention right now due to the pandemic, but they should be an integral part of every community.