As social media becomes more prevalent, our number of “friends” and “connections” grows exponentially, and our world grows ever flatter, yet the need for human contact has never been greater. Solutions to this conundrum have manifested themselves through the popularity of the development of communal spaces in almost all of our recent projects. The major goal for the recently completed Ames Hall at George Washington University was to become the new “heart” of their Mount Vernon campus; the completed building includes open stairs and gathering places for student interaction and collaboration. Two of the more popular spaces at the North Carolina History Center are the café and the community auditorium, both designed to promote community: the café as a gathering space overlooking the Trent River and the auditorium to support and promote community use. Recent office renovations of our own office in Washington, DC and for Arlington County Public Schools focused on providing collaborative spaces for various sized groups to work together. Perhaps the most noticeable change is that being quiet is no longer a requirement when visiting a library! Evidence of this trend is prevalent in the work of our newest principal, Alyce Riemenschneider, a nationally recognized expert in the design of libraries (see her article on libraries inside).  
The common denominator for each of these projects is that the design of spaces for human engagement is a critical programmatic element. Responding to this need for human interaction is crucial to each project’s success. Its importance in the built environment continues to accelerate, and our ability to provide these environments has grown ever sharper. Belonging to and being engaged with a community is vital to most of us and our sociological well being. As it is one of our firm’s core values, we take great pride in our ability to both work with and to design for community.  
Fifteen years ago when I saw my first Starbucks, I couldn’t understand how they would ever be successful when coffee could be purchased elsewhere for a third of the price. Not being an aficionado, I can’t speak to whether it has anything to do with the quality of the coffee, but I do know that they owe much of their success to their skill at designing community gathering places. Their prescience in understanding the importance of community has made their name ubiquitous when it comes to designing spaces for human interaction.