Heightened Reality: Experiential Graphic Design in 2019
By Annelle Stotz, SEGD, AIGA | Senior Director of Experiential Graphic Design
Julie Maggos SEGD, LEED AP | Senior Director of Experiential Graphic Design
As designers, new technologies are changing the way we work and create the experiential impact of the built environment. Using new apps, AI, VR, building information modeling, and an ongoing stream of new and updated software and hardware, we visualize concepts and data that inspires us to shape dynamic, bespoke experiences that engage users on multiple levels: intellectual, informational, emotional, and through the senses—sight, sound, touch, etc.
Developing technologies offer new options for designing experiences within spaces. For instance, with modeling programs we have mastered the creation of anamorphic graphics—painted graphics that span across ceilings and floors and are meant to be viewed from a single vantage point where they resolve into a perfect image. From any other vantage point, they are seen as a group of skewed shapes that appear to be floating in space.
Translating sound into other mediums with the help of technology is another option. For identity authorization specialists Okta, the IA team recorded the tag line Okta Always On. Using software, IA translated the sound waves into a static pattern expressed by a graphic string art installation. Tim Huey, IA environmental graphic designer for the project says, “This installation was the perfect way to translate an abstract concept into something physical. Located in the meetup area of the floor, the art piece serves as a visual landmark for Okta employees that reinforces their culture and celebrates brand.”
We also use technology to create generative graphics that can be manipulated and implemented in more traditional ways within a space. For Jet.com, IA designed a dynamic visual pattern from re-rendering their logo and products and then printed it as a wallcovering. Applied to a flat wall as a design element it enlivens and references the brand.
More and more beyond their function as tools, new technologies inspire us to articulate new concepts that are integral to the final output. Examples include digital walls, motion graphics, and interactive and reactive installations, engaging experiences that will be more widely used in 2019. We expect to see more video arrays, projection mapping, augmented reality, and dynamic content now and going forward.
There are many benefits—flexibility, updatability, options for interaction—to designing a workplace using a variety of digital features and installations. Furthermore, these features have two very important purposes: facilitating in-person human interaction and providing relevant information.
A continued desire and need for balance between screen, tactile, and other visual experiences is anticipated. But much like the paradigm shift to open office design, we know that one size will not fit all. Today’s workspace houses a combination of spaces. Within those spaces a variety of tools and features when integrated thoughtfully and dynamically will exponentially increase an organization’s ability to be productive, happy, and connected.
Of course, having all these resources at our fingertips is like being the kid in a candy store who wants to try out everything. We continue to test the boundaries of what is possible to best meet our clients’ objectives with new and innovative solutions. Along with all these new tools, the solutions we provide are evaluated for functionality, relevancy, and most importantly, their human centric value.
We Put Our Hearts Into Our Work
We at IA Interior Architects consider ourselves lucky to be in a profession and part of an organization that gives us the opportunity to put our hearts into our work every day.
Confidential Client, Seattle. Photography © Alex Grummer.
We recognize that we couldn't do this without our clients, who often bring just as much heart and soul into our projects as we do.
Confidential Client, San Francisco. Photo © Sherman Takata
It is only with their trust in us that we are able to create effective spaces that celebrate their employees and brand story.
Twitter, London. Photography © Hufton+Crow.
And it is our trust in them and their efforts to lovingly cultivate work cultures to fit their brand and people that inspire us to design with authenticity.
Twitter, London. Photography © Hufton+Crow.
This mutual commitment is evident in all of the work that we do, even if only in subtle ways.
Sapient, Miami. Photography © Eric Laignel.
Sometimes that commitment is only evident in the extra thought we put into small touches.
Confidential Client, Seattle. Photography © Alex Grummer.
While other times it may be more of a grand gesture.
LinkedIn, Chicago. Photography © Eric Laignel.
And it's made all the more worthwhile when we know that this commitment is part of a much grander effort to better the world for clients, coworkers, vertical partners and friends.
Virgin Voyages Headquarters, Plantation, Fl. Photography © Robin Hill.
To all of those who enable us to be a part of their culture of openness, mutual respect, friendship, and love:
Confidential Client, Toronto. Photography © Amanda Large & Younes Bounhar.
(be they family, friends, coworkers, clients, partners, or one of the lives we touch every day through our work)
Match.com Headquarters, Dallas. Photography © Thomas McConnell.
(or even entire cities)
Confidential Client, New York. Photography © Jeff Cate.
Happy Valentine's Day.
Match.com Headquarters, Dallas. Photography © Thomas McConnell.
May your day be filled with beauty, warmth, and just the right amount of sugar.
IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists who create, design and build with love every day. We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community—and we couldn't do any of this without the people we work and interact with.
Design 2019: the Human Experience
By Sarah Brophy, IIDA, LEED AP | Design Director
February 8, 2019
As designers of work environments, our approach to planning over the last few years has centered on activity-based work. With this approach an organization’s cultural DNA is understood and their work patterns are mapped across the floorplate to offer a range of tailored work settings. While designing for activity-based work has been effective, its success is premised on the end-user’s desire and need for mobility. But what if we applied this approach on a more granular level and asked how individual users can optimally move and interact with their personal workspace?
User optimization at the personal level is readily becoming a key concept throughout all aspects of design and across vertical markets. Retail is a good example where shoppers are encouraged to co-create and cultivate their experience. Look at Converse and Reebok—you are invited into the store to become part of the process and can design your own unique shoes, an inclusive experience that highlights the power of personal engagement. Co-creation in the workspace, where users want to become part of the process driving their workplace experience and environments, is now a defining aspect of the optimum work environment. Certainly, through responsive technologies the possibilities for co-creation will be pushed even further. Will meeting rooms and other aspects of the workspace respond to your personal preference, possibly through an app?
Human Capital: Satisfaction Counts
For many of our consumer brand clients, intellectual capital is the prized commodity. Expensive, creative, and hard to retain it demands an exceptional human experience at the personal level where co-creation and satisfaction can be critical, sometimes out-weighing the attraction and wow factor of impressive amenity spaces.
From this perspective, as designers we are being pushed to create workstations that in effect become dynamic organisms, effortlessly responsive and sensitive to users’ changing needs and encouraging co-creation. Putting human comfort and ease at the forefront, we have concentrated our attention on the area where many staff spend much of the day: their desk.
The Bespoke Workstation
The craving for a bespoke workstation, for some users an absolute necessity, inspired IA’s creation of a kit-of-parts solution (you’ve heard that phrase before but in this context it is definitely something new) that individual users can arrange in countless radical ways without outside help, based on daily preferences, weekly deadlines, or monthly project workflows. For one high-tech client, a global developer of cutting-edge consumer electronics, individual workstations had to accommodate a significant array and quantity of materials—nuts, bolts, components, wires, actual hardware—at the fingertips of each genius-maker who was physically engaged with designing a range of products. This workplace had to be nimble in every respect, with workstations reconfigured and repositioned at an impressive pace to handle both individual and collaborative work. With absolute ease, the workstation design had to support how work happens, spontaneous or planned, in an environment of constant change intrinsically tied to product development. Had we failed, frustration at the user level would not only slow production and curtail creativity but undermine the morale of a talent pool that would be hard to duplicate. Empowerment was a strategic necessity in this setting, requiring desks that could be turned 360 degrees at will, with storage and tool boxes (that actually house tools for this client) easily repositioned.
The concept of user control can expand beyond the workstations to squad and team spaces. Through the use of demountable walls, video screens, and simple whiteboards these spaces can flex and contract as needed without requiring an infrastructure change.
Challenges: Thinking Outside the Box
Our approach has not been without challenges. Much like the client needs that drive us to think outside the box, we’re pushing systems manufacturers to consider what it means to have a workstation infinitely responsive to user-need ebb and flow without the intervention of facilities management. Standard systems components offer further challenges in terms of finish options. Often our solutions must be custom within standard product offerings and come at a cost. As users are customizing how their personal space works, they are also pushing for materials that are more evocative of home. Many manufacturers are not there yet.
Electricity is another challenge. Power is not wireless. I work in Boston where many buildings are old. Few have raised floors, an expensive option to retrofit, which can limit solutions and tie mobility to a workstation spine.
Retaining Human Capital
Inevitably, the question of how much customization is too much comes up. It’s true that creative workers are going to create regardless; it is who they are and what they do. But if the success of your enterprise depends on intellectual capital, you will want the best human capital working for you and eager to stay. In essence that concept is universal, businesses want to retain the optimum workforce and it is compellingly apparent that one way to attract the best and the brightest is to enhance the personal human experience at work.
A palette of spaces that accommodates all types of work patterns, a design that speaks to inclusiveness and inspires, areas for respite and decompression, and an emphasis on wellness are all factors that contribute to employees being their best and doing their best work. Without a doubt, a focus on the quality of the human experience at work at the individual level is a clear forecast for workspace design in 2019.
Inclusive Design Lessons: How Higher Ed Influences the Workplace
By Jacalyn Pollock | Senior Designer
Wednesday, February 6th, 2019
A tremendous milestone for inclusive design occurred 10 years ago that isn’t often associated with interior design itself. On August 14, 2008, a measure was passed that had wide-ranging implications for the world of education, encompassing everything from transparency requirements for the Department of Education to restrictions on textbook publishers and a range of provisions regarding federal grants and much more. While there is little in the document that discusses students with disabilities, a few lines therein carry much weight, including this one (as summarized by Congress.gov):
[The HEOA] Makes eligible for HE[O]A student aid any intellectually disabled students who have been accepted for enrollment and are maintaining satisfactory progress in an IHE comprehensive transition and postsecondary education program for such students.
In effect, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) altered the requirements for Title IV financial-aid dollars. The law waived certain restrictions—specifically that a student must have earned a high-school diploma and be matriculating toward a degree to qualify for federal money—and thereby increased the access and affordability of higher education for intellectually disabled students.
The immediate effect of this legislation, from an interiors perspective, was a mad dash to meet standards for ADA compliance, as colleges and universities created programs to meet the new demand. The ClemsonLIFE program at Clemson University is a good example. Unfortunately, we too often equate meeting accessibility codes with good design, rather than recognizing the codes for what they are—the minimum standards for inclusion. But in the 10 years since the passing of the HEOA, a few institutions have risen to the occasion and made spaces that are not just compliant, but truly inclusive.
Having designed for both workplaces and inclusivity-focused educational institutions, I believe there are a handful of design principles that many educational institutions have come to embrace that workplaces should adopt in 2019.
1. Accessibility is Very Different From Inclusivity
“In fact we have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities.”
– Professor Stephen Hawking.
Accessibility is truly the bottom rung of designing for inclusivity. While credit is due to those organizations that lead the charge, simply making spaces accessible to individuals of all abilities doesn’t ensure inclusivity. Workplaces are just now starting to recognize the difference between accessibility and inclusivity that several educational institutions have recognized for years, such as the necessity of bariatric seating, the need to avoid grouping individuals with disabilities, and designing for invisible disabilities. In all three of these examples individuals may have physical access to a space but their time in that space may be uncomfortable, isolating, or otherwise not allow them to experience the space as the design intends. This gap in a space’s functionality is an unfortunate side effect of diversity blindness in which users with certain disabilities are empowered while users with other types of disabilities are forgotten. It is only through embracing the ideology of universal design that workplaces and educational facilities can hope to make truly inclusive spaces.
2. There is No Inclusivity Without Information Accessibility
At the most basic level, college classrooms are designed to allow for the transmission of information from one point to a larger group of individuals. The same cannot be said of workspaces, although there are many spaces within an office setting that do have similar functions.
Since the transmission of information is the core function of a significant percentage of spaces on a given college campus, it is not surprising that methods for ensuring information accessibility are more advanced there than you might find in a workplace. In the educational environment, I personally have seen to the implementation of specialty lighting to ensure that a speaker’s face is well-lit, monitors that allow for closed captioning, specialty video screens to aid those with visual impairments, auxiliary audio systems, and more. Yet this sort of information infrastructure is often overlooked in the workplace. Luckily, there’s hope. With design firms like IA ever on the lookout for more opportunities to design inclusive spaces, and businesses now hyper-vigilant to identify opportunities that make the transmission and collection of information more efficient, the stage is set for workplaces to embrace the technology and methodology with which educational institutions are familiar.
3. Create Wayfinding Independence
Accessibility empowers users with the ability to utilize a space, but this means nothing if people are unable to find the space. As inclusive design becomes more widely understood, the definition of successful wayfinding is beginning to change along with it.
In the education sector, college campuses are used to accommodating individuals with a variety of backgrounds and abilities, and the sprawling nature of many college campuses mean that many institutions have had to make navigable spaces a top priority. As workplaces move towards incorporating a wider variety of spaces and a more globalized workforce, 2019 should see the prioritization of many elements that are synonymous with inclusive wayfinding, such as:
- Highly visible and universally understood signage
- Signage with raised lettering and/or braille
- Audio cues and transitional flooring
- Inclusive restroom signage
- Increased reliance on ramps and wider hallway
- Reflective surfaces and entryways that utilize more transparent materials
Amanda Eggleston, an Experiential Graphics Designer with IA had this to say on the subject of inclusive wayfinding:
"Inclusive wayfinding design should strengthen intuition to create an experience with the flexibility to accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities, where everyone navigating the space feels immediately welcome and oriented without having to question what to do or where to go next."
4. Flexible Spaces Will Enable Inclusivity
We’ll give the educational sector credit for implementing flexible spaces in small group learning areas, but there is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to implementing that scale of flexibility in large learning environments.
Unlike other principles of inclusive design, the use of the modular group learning environment can’t be credited to HEOA. In large part, this change in how learning environments are designed is the result of an evolving understanding of how students learn best, regardless of their varying backgrounds or skillsets. Rearrangeable, flexible classrooms have found champions in the fields of deafspace and special needs, and these lessons can be applied in the workplace to some degree. This year, 2019, should see more organizations than ever relying on modular, customizable workspaces that allow users to create their own “learning environment.” Moreover, businesses will embrace customizable lighting and temperature controls that can help those with unique needs get the most out of their workspace, while operable walls and advanced audio/visual solutions will bolster the utility of group work areas. It is pivotal that users be allowed to create individual experiences within a larger space to facilitate people working differently, but together. Ultimately, when end-users are empowered to modify their environment, they are empowered to ensure it meets their needs.
5. Inclusivity Will Be a Part of a Larger Plan
As the world of education discovered years ago, simply creating an inclusive space is but one step in a very complicated process. Ultimately, inclusive design centers around unique individuals and how they interact with space. All change should be a result of user feedback. Higher education generally excels at understanding their users’ needs, and I predict that 2019 will see the workplace gaining ground when it comes to understanding needs, as well as an increased reliance on the principles of universal design implementation that many schools have known and used for quite some time. More than ever, workplaces will rely on the input of experts and user groups that can inform design decisions and provide feedback on a regular basis. They will implement communications strategies that ensure that all stakeholders are kept abreast of relevant changes, and capitalize on their investments by incorporating inclusivity into recruitment and retention messaging.
What Are the Principles of Universal Design Implementation?
Understand existing needs and identify experts
Organizations will need to not only fully understand the needs of their staff, but also prospective employees and other visitors. Relying on the guidance of universal design experts and receiving feedback from real users will be instrumental in effecting change.
Keep stakeholders informed
Users of the space including managers, facilities management, and human resources will more than likely have to accommodate for these changes and how they work. Allow stakeholders time to plan for these changes; give them opportunities to provide feedback or ask for help or seek clarification in how they can amplify messaging.
Implement the space
Here, the design strategy is put into action.
Create a feedback system
As with any human-centric system, relying on user feedback is of primary importance. This might include identifying test groups, creating lines of communications, and inviting new users to experience the space, followed by revision and more testing.
Creating an inclusive space will certainly help the users who inhabit it, but this effect can only be maximized by seeking out those who stand to benefit the most from such spaces. Universities are generally excellent at communicating the accessibility they offer to a wider audience, and businesses stand to benefit just as much from mentioning such offerings in their Human Resources and Public Relations communications.
Foster systemic change
As the physical space is developed, large scale operational changes will occur. Ultimately, inclusive design should be celebrated, and plans should be made to ensure these changes are echoed in other activities occurring within the building.
When we design for disabilities, we all benefit. I predict that 2019 will be the year that designers of the future will identify as the time when workplaces started separating “designing for disabilities” from “designing to meet standards,” and aiming for the former. As inclusion becomes a more accepted part of culture, the reflection of that ideal in the physical spaces we inhabit will become second nature and benefit millions, thanks in large part to a charge led by higher education.
Project Files: Amegy Bank, Fort Worth
Creating a Client-facing Venue for a Savvy Fort Worth Clientele
Founded in 1990, Amegy Bank of Texas is committed to serving Texas families and businesses with a client-based banking experience tailored to local taste and a dedication to community service that includes providing professional expertise to non-profit organizations. For a refresh of Amegy’s wealth management offices in Fort Worth, and with a nod to IA’s recent design of the bank’s wealth management and consumer banking facilities in Houston, the IA team delivered a work environment that is wholly on point for Fort Worth clients.
Challenge: No Natural Light
The absence of natural light in the reception area, a result of the building’s architecture, was a challenge early in the project. IA countered with an innovative and compelling custom designed focal point — a painted aluminum-frame grillwork based on the capital letter A (taken from the bank’s name) and configured to resemble and reiterate an iconic cattle brand— that covers the entire back wall of the reception area, extending across the ceiling to the entrance. Lights embedded in the configuration at the ceiling, along with light coming from the reception desk area behind a free-standing wall, create a bright, airy feel, reinforced by immaculate surfaces and white walls throughout. Rocking chairs, long-standing features of Southern and Southwestern hospitality, now sleek and modern yet still welcoming, suggest comfort and Texan cordiality in the reception seating area.
To the left of the entrance is the leisure area. Above the hospitality bar (a modern version of a white Parsons-style table), copper lights suspended from the ceiling echo the use of gold and copper in the Houston wealth management office design. Geodes, furthering the jewel-like effect, and mementos, including a football helmet from TCU (Texas Christian University), of local fame and dating back to 1873, enhance white open shelving.
A Resimercial Touch
A living room area for relaxation offers an inviting, lit window nook painted a subtle shade of blue. Comfortable furniture and an art installation of seasoned wood on the wall, part of the bank’s curated art collection featured throughout the suite, play against a hair-on-hide rug.
“The rug was a bit of a literal reference to Fort Worth’s rich history of ranching and the Fort Worth Stock Yards. Fort Worth chic is what we deemed the style of the project,” says Designer Clara Mechelle Karni, at IA’s Houston office.
A Kaleidoscopic, Rorschach-type Pattern
In the break area, for an intriguing twist, IA-designed a full-wall graphic that uses a map of Fort Worth and, through reversed imaging, creates a kaleidoscopic, Rorschach-type pattern rendered in shades of Amegy blue, the bank’s brand color.
In contrast to the reception area, all private offices do benefit from natural light. Use of the bank’s existing furniture in offices and in the support staff area complements the sleek aesthetic of the design. Natural woods add warmth and authenticity contributing to the understated sense of lux and ease at the new office.
IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists. We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community.
IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists. We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community.
4 Times Texture Defined a Workspace
The use of texture as a design element can easily be overlooked; few of us regularly run our hands along the surface of walls in buildings we occupy. But just as sound can go unnoticed until you're confronted with silence, the absence of interesting textures can create almost as great a void. Furthermore, whether a branding element, a reflection of company culture, a design requirement, or for practical purposes, texture has the potential to be a defining aspect of a well-designed environment.
With this in mind, we took a look at IA's portfolio for instances where texture was not just an element of design, but ultimately helped to define the space.
Confidential Client (Barcelona )
Yes, this confidential IA client has a reputation for embracing bold, interesting, highly-customized office spaces. And when it came time for them to establish a presence in the home of Antoni Gaudí, the use of textures was taken to the next level.
Ultimately, it was an appreciation of Barcelona's past that most impacted the design. The tactile aspects of black, Gaudí-patterned tiles delight the sense of touch, while the use of tiling in the reception area echo Gaudi’s Park Güell and Casa Vicens. Other, styles of tile in the Barcelona tradition are seen throughout, along with nods to native sons Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. When you combine these influences with an appreciation for biophilia and different textiles, this location becomes a veritable tour de force of texture.
Many LinkedIn offices feature an impressive use of texture, and their Toronto presence is one of the most notable examples. Moving through the space, the use of wood is a prime vehicle for incorporating texture. The design includes smooth polished wood surfaces in the reception area, with a punch card-motif seen in floor to ceiling wood features at the elevator lobby. In the café, aged wood panels name unique Toronto food offerings, adding to the variety of wood treatments.
Walls covered in felt leaves, wicker chairs, and the inclusion of different sizes and types of stone make the LinkedIn Toronto location one of the most highly textured spaces designed by the IA team.
When Twitter decided to double the size of its Seattle engineering office, the primary goal was to create an ideal environment for their programming team. When designing space for programmers the incorporation of a variety of textures paired with calm, natural colors is key. If users are bombarded by blue light and bright colors very near to their face, they often find a brightly colored, shiny office environment to be a painful experience. For those who spend many hours working in front of screens and relatively little time in alternative work spaces, more neutral, subtle colors can provide the ideal work environment. Marrying this approach with an homage to Seattle's history of timber usage allowed the design team to incorporate wood, paper, live plants, and a variety of textures.
Confidential Client (Milan)
Moving into an iconic 188,000-square-foot complex, a well-known example of 1970's Milanese architecture, was a challenge for this global tech company for many reasons —but a range of textures provided convenient solutions. The design team filled this landmark building in "the Milanese Silicon Valley" with a variety of acoustic panels to combat noise concerns, employed a selection of biophilia elements to help make the space feel more open (and aid in employee wellness initiatives), and incorporated many different surfaces to support wayfinding and accomplish aesthetic goals. Furniture selection and flooring choices add to the diversity of textures.
IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists. We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community.
By Mary Lee Duff, LEED AP, Associate IIDA | Senior Director of Strategy
January 24th, 2019.
This is the first in a two-part series that considers some of the topics presented at the 2018 Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture attended by IA Director of Strategy Mary Lee Duff, Assoc. IIDA, LEED AP, and IA Senior Strategist Diane Rogers, AIA, WELL AP, which support IA’s position that the human experience will be a central design focus in 2019.
Neuroscientists and Architects Discuss the Brain's Response to Stimuli and the Structured Environment.
At the 2018 Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA), held every two years in La Jolla California, attendees participate and listen to two and a half days of speakers representing two realms: neuroscience and architecture. The conference focuses on how the neuroscience behind architecture impacts humans’ behaviors, moods, and productivity, with the understanding that as professionals architects focus on creating inspiring, aesthetic, and structured environments, and neuroscientists focus on how the brain responds to stimuli and the structure of the environment.
To start things off and as an extreme example of the brain’s response to environment, keynote speaker and renowned neuroscientist Hudo Akil, Ph.D., co-director of the Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan, discussed her study and interviews with prisoners who had experienced varied lengths of solitary confinement. Her findings showed that the impact of isolation on the brain resulted in diminished eyesight, cognitive function, memory, and sense of place. She shared that one former prisoner was unable to find his way through a hotel or down a street or to recall where he was going and had lost a significant amount of recall.
Not surprisingly, each of the speakers touched on some aspect of the fourteen principles of biophilia within the context of neuroscience and their ramifications for architecture, design, and the human experience, which goes far beyond today’s trend of greening the workplace, the allure of greenwalls, and the irony of the popularity of preserved moss.
The Science of a Visual Connection to Nature
In his presentation, Does View to Nature and Design of Spaces Matter? A Pain Stress Experiment, architect Lars Brorson Fich, who is conducting a four year research project on how the design of space influences the effects of stress, discussed his research’s support of the first principle of biophilia, the visual connection to nature. Bottom line, we are wired to respond to elements of nature, living systems, and natural processes. Our response to the presence of nature results in a measurable reduction of stress, blood pressure and heart rate. Our cognition improves too because we are spurred to be more engaged and attentive by nature’s influence, which also positively affects our emotions, moods, attitudes, and overall happiness.
In effect, nature supports us and has from our beginning. Seeing, hearing, and sensing water in our environment assures us that we have access to the resources we need to survive and thrive.
Visual access to water sources; views of vegetation, soil, and terrain; as well as constructed views (greenwalls, aquariums, designed landscapes, etc.); and even art that depicts nature are beneficial. Gardening (especially edible plants) and animals, including domesticated animals and pets provide great satisfaction and positive cognition.
Non-Visual Connections to Nature
The same benefits to stress levels, cognition, and emotions can occur through non-visual connections to nature. Just as we benefit from seeing nature, similar positive results occur from connecting to nature through smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Architects and designers understand that haptics (the use of technology that stimulates the senses of touch and motion) are an option for creating an optimum human experience in the work environment. One speaker, David Kirsh, Ph.D., focused his talk on this area, emphasizing that we respond positively to experiences of touch that remind us of aspects of nature.
A non-visual connection to nature can be experienced through naturally occurring fragrance; the sound of songbirds, flowing water, and weather; natural ventilation; textured materials that mimic nature; and crackling fires, patches of sunlight, and warm or cool surfaces. The options are legion and they can be man-made. Digitized sounds from nature, mechanically released plant oils, and music with fractal (exhibiting similar patterns at an increasingly small scales, also referred to as expanding symmetry or unfolding symmetry) qualities are all possibilities. For strategists, designers, and architects, this can translate into the environment in a number of ways that include but go beyond the introduction of specific features and address the careful planning of air circulation and floorplans that are sensitive to the warmth of the sun, cool shade, indirect daylight, and circadian rhythm.
In her talk, Well built for Well Being: Using sensors and surveys to explore the indoor environment and health, design researcher Casey Lindberg highlighted the value of designing for subtle changes in air temperature, relative humidity, airflow across the skin, and surface temperatures that mimic natural environments. Her study supports the findings of others that thermal conditions impact comfort, productivity, and concentration.
Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli is another of the 14 principles of bioplilia that has a fascinating impact on people and their response, which explains a phenomenon that most of us are aware of—our innate fascination with things that don’t move in a structured or predictable way. Think about how we get lost and delighted in watching random flickering flames, cascading water, and leaves drifting in the breeze. This is referred to as a stochastic (having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely) and ephemeral connection to nature and positively impacts heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and sympathetic nervous system activity. Plus, it increases attention span, which can be documented and quantified through behavioral measurement.
For designers the use of babbling water features, random cloud or shadow simulations, and fabrics, mobiles, or screen materials that move with breezes or produce natural sounds at unpredictable intervals are positive design elements.
The Science of Prospect
Three very intriguing principles of biophilia are the concepts of prospect, refuge, and mystery. Prospect refers to an unimpeded view over a distance for surveillance and planning. When on a nature hike we decide to stop at a ridgeline to catch our breath and discover an opportunely placed bench or a well-worn rock, we know that many others have stopped here in a similar fashion for the same reason, the view. As a species, our instincts guide us to similar situations because we have evolved successfully by those instincts. Listening to the whisper of our ancestors, we find that we have common desires for safety and comfort. Design is at its best when it rewards us with an environment that meets those needs and provides, in this case, focal lengths for prospective within the work environment—places with viewpoints such as balconies, staircases, or mezzanines, or sightlines from various work settings. The results of good planning that incorporates this principle can be statistically monitored through the reduction of stress, boredom, irritation, and the increase of a sense of perceived safety.
The Science of Refuge
Refuge may seem more intuitive in terms of its benefits. We often seek a place to withdraw that is protected from behind and overhead and away from the main flow of activity. We seek this for concentration, reflection, and peace, and science tells us that it improves cognition. Similar to the science of prospect, we crave space that protects us as well as keeps us in tune with the larger environment. In a world of over-stimulation, it is more important than ever to create spaces where people can step aside for a brief time and take a breath or two without feeling completely isolated, which we know brings its own kind of vulnerability.
Left and right, entrance to speakeasy at Confidential Client, San Francisco. Photography © Jasper Sanidad.
The Promise of Mystery
Our final principle for this discussion is mystery. This is the promise of more information to be achieved through partially obscured views or other sensory devices that entice us to travel deeper into the environment. The science behind mystery is based on our emotional response to the pleasure of discovery. Curious by nature, people feel dull and uninspired by environments that are too predictable. Having a sense that there is more to a space than initially meets the eye can enliven us and make us feel more engaged with our surroundings. At IA, we know this is true. In several recent projects we have incorporated a hidden speakeasy as a mystery spot that waits to be discovered and accessed—and the positive response has been unanimous.
Want to know more? Look for part two of this series, which will soon to be posted.
Project Files: Compete and Retreat
Focused on work and decompression, IA designs new offices for a multinational high-tech conglomerate.
For over 10 years, IA has partnered with the local teams of this confidential client, a global leader in networking and high-tech services, to create high-performance work environments. The redesign of its 51,000-square-foot sales office, spanning over two floors at North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, was no exception. The local team engaged IA’s Raleigh office, and the redesign was approached as three separate but related projects that would house and transition the company’s hard working and energetic sales teams from semi-private offices to collaborative, open-office environments. To ease the transition and attract staff to the new workplaces, an iconic design feature was planned for each project, and the sales teams themselves requested an ambiance that would be playful but grownup.
Community Gathering Spaces: Options for Decompression
Following focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders, the overriding notion of community gathering spaces emerged as an engaging concept to support and inspire the sales-team culture of collaboration and spirited competition, as well as provide options for relaxation and decompression. With the idea of designing spaces that both enable competition and offer venues for retreat adopted, the exploration of possible iconic elements finalized and focused on a treehouse, a park, and a city center, with an emphasis on the appeal and health-engendering aspects of nature.
Balance: Dynamic Energy vs. Treehouse Retreat
For all three projects the interior core was the focal point of the design. For the fourth-floor project, bright colors and wall-size graphics at the core emphasize the dynamics of powerful energy on the move in contrast to an iconic treehouse, a retreat and popular gathering spot, the communal heart of the space. Here, a subtle, neutral palette calms and rejuvenates. Light-colored wood panels, punctuated by pockets of moss, cover the angular walls; delicate white and transparent pendant lights hang from the ceiling. All contrive to set a scene of relaxed leisure in a treehouse on a starry night.
Walk away from the treehouse towards the exterior and a variety of collaboration areas are available from glass-fronted huddle rooms to audio privacy rooms, with some spaces separated by partitions of natural linen. The most private spaces are conference rooms, each named for an outdoor activity called out by an engaging full-wall graphic.
The Park Pavilion
For the third-floor project, a park is represented as a venue that nurtures, energizes, and rewards, concepts that apply to all three projects. Floor-to-ceiling black and white photos capture the essence of a variety of park features, and the central communal café area is designed as an iconic pavilion. A moss-covered wall runs the full length of the structure, and trees, custom-cut from flat panels of honey-colored wood, stand floor to ceiling at both entrances.
Shades of green and blue (a reference to client brand colors) at the core dissipate as you move towards the building exterior. Conference and meeting rooms are named after parks in areas where the sales teams are represented worldwide.
An overarching architectural feature—a series of trellises rising from the floor and continuing along the ceiling above groups of tables and chairs—extends the architectural details of the pavilion and offers more space types for collaboration and work. On the other side of the trellises, tables with swings for seats, hanging from the ceiling but anchored at the floor, are a playful and clever alternative to chairs or benches. A version of this same structure, similar but different, is seen in the fourth-floor project, where a series of wood panels creates an angled canopy over open furniture groupings in the collaborative area adjacent to the treehouse.
The Immersive City Center
The approach to the second-floor project, although smaller in size, is consistent with the other two and creates a visually energetic zone along the internal core. An immersive city center environment generates an up-beat, fun ambiance that references the company’s wide range of clients and connection to the communities it supports. Walls are designed to replicate a city streetscape, with faux storefronts directly outside of meeting rooms and graphics depicting city-scape skylines. The interior of each enclosed room, from meeting and conference rooms to training rooms, features a typical city environment, (i.e., a library, cinema, brewery, stadium, deli, etc.); some displaying related 3D art, carpet, lighting, or furniture, others a full-wall graphic or framed artwork. Continuing the theme, the carpet design in open areas reveals visual patterns that mimic sidewalks and busy streets.
Approaching the elevator lobby in the core area, black-painted brick at the ceiling and faux arches add more texture to the façade. The effect suggests a dimly lit alley between buildings that gives way to a wall of painted
Close to the Bistro/E-Café in the open office area, a small city plaza offers outdoor tables, chairs, and tree-like lighting elements. The nearby amphitheater, includes moveable ottomans on a cobblestone and moss- patterned carpet with walls of green acoustical materials for a biophilic touch.
A variety of venues and creative iconic features successfully ensure a range of options for relaxation and decompression as well as work, vivifying the overall theme of a balanced compete and retreat for this technology leader’s high-energy, highly-competitive sales teams.
Office Customization and Multinational Branding: Competing Forces
An office space is an extension of a company’s culture, a place to reinforce its brand values, and support its employees’ work. But how do you strike that balance for multinational firms that require both a consistent look as well as the flexibility to accommodate a vast array of cultural norms? Furthermore, how do you adjust accordingly if the space must also host clients from different market sectors, each with its own defined etiquette and decorum?
We posed these questions to IA principals, project managers, and designers working on accounts around the globe. We asked if and how they tailored a corporate space to a local market as well as the advantages—and challenges—that this provided. We expected to find that these approaches varied along industry lines, but what we found was that, with some exceptions, these decisions were ultimately a question of preference, branding, and the fine balancing act that occurs when working with both local and regional/national teams.
One Brand to Rule Them All
In the case of one software provider (a client who chooses to remain confidential) its offices are “like McDonald’s hamburgers in that they need to be exactly the same, no matter what, with no exceptions,” says Pietro Silva, IA principal and global design director on the account. The company’s product is highly customizable, and that’s part of what drives the decision to make its offices—which frequently host customer training sessions—so similar. “There is no room for local flavor,” explains Silva, who has completed tenant improvement projects on five continents for the client, “because the company wants visitors to concentrate on the brand, not the office space.”
The standardization creates a consistent customer and employee experience. It also results in few if any surprises for the core design team. But difficulties arise when local employees ask to deviate from the road map.
When that happens, the IA team strives to broker a compromise, working with the provider’s corporate team to see if they can honor the request without impacting the office’s overall design. It is a dance, Silva admits, requiring “time, education, and lots of meetings” with both parties. Rarely are even the smallest changes granted, aside from the occasional market-driven concession, such as a change in furniture because a supplier can’t deliver to that territory.
One notable exception took place at a location in India, where changes to this brand standard were deemed necessary to account for the cultural importance of the lunchtime meal. Ultimately, very few brand standards are above long-valued cultural traditions, and in India, the second meal of the day more closely resembles dinner than it might in the west. As a result, tech employees in this region have slightly higher expectations for mealtime accommodations than our client had seen in other countries.
Upon review of the space that had been set aside for employee meals, it was decided that, instead, a fully-functioning cafeteria would be better-suited to meeting employees’ expectations. IA was asked to create a new space for a longstanding brand that met (as closely as possible) existing brand standards.
Customization is Key
On the opposite side of the client coin is another confidential client that is an online retailer, for whom IA develops a local theme for each office. “Placemaking is very important to them,” says Lynn Vandeberg, IA principal and leader on the global account. "Each design is [created] to express that particular city and its team while still being identifiable as the brand."
All three of the above flexible meeting/cafe spaces were designed for the same client, for whom IA designs spaces spanning three continents. Incorporating the feel of the local area, its people, and its design aesthetic is an important part of the organization's brand.
IA accomplishes the latter by following a few company design standards, including room types and available technologies, but executing a sense of place in the remaining spaces is fair game. The retailer’s Austin office, for example, features a reclaimed-wood roof, neon roadside sign with the company’s mascot, and an eating space that emulates being outdoors.
The designers utilize everything from local artworks and materials to custom architecture and experiential graphics to achieve their vision, honed through meetings with the space’s business leaders and users. The result is an office that is tailor-made for those users’ needs and preferences, optimizes performance, and empowers employees.
But IA also considers the client’s customers. At the retailer’s Washington, DC branch, some employees have large private offices, despite that being anathema to company culture. The reason? Its government clientele have come to expect such accommodations. In Houston, the office’s tenor is upscale and corporate, an atmosphere preferable to its oil industry-heavy audience.
The designers utilize everything from local artworks and materials to custom architecture and experiential graphics to achieve their vision, honed through meetings with the space’s business leaders and users.
Tailoring a workplace to employees generates buy-in and a sense of loyalty; tailoring it to clients signals that you understand them and can meet their needs. Says Jim Brown, senior designer on the account: “That’s a great advantage for both parties, to know you are sitting across the table from people who share your values.”
Finding a Branding Balance
The optimal balance between customization and standardization has undergone continual calibration for an IA client specializing in networking services and information technology. Over the past decade, the firm has shifted from offices that were extremely standardized—where “we had 36 binders full of guidelines to follow,” says IA Senior Associate/Senior Project Manager Courtney Harms—to individual offices that embraced a broad variation of custom solutions.
Harms ascribes the change to the client’s acquisition spree. The firm “used to acquire a company, gut its offices, and remake them to [fit its own] guidelines,” she explains. But eventually management realized that approach was doing more harm than good. “By transforming [those workplaces and cultures],” she continues, “[the company] started to lose what it had purchased: the people who generated the ideas and technology.” Realizing the importance of being sensitive to users’ preferences, the company slowly began allowing employees—from acquired companies and otherwise—a greater role in defining their workspaces.
Harms and the design team still employ a set kit of parts, but their “look and feel change depending upon what the end users want to communicate,” she says. Color, materiality, and architectural components help achieve the differentiations, as do experiential graphics. The customization helps retain employees, critical for collaborative workplaces like this tech leader’s. The shared kit of parts offsets some of the cost; it also provides the company’s highly mobile workforce with common visual touchpoints at each office.
Working with multinational teams as they attempt to find this balance is a specialty unto itself. The approach speaks to the reality of today’s multinationals, where agility means survival, and efficiencies of scope can mean millions of dollars. In this fray, office design (and successfully expressing company values) can play an important role, acting as a bonding agent that brings together several distinct parts.
Spirits maker Bacardi exemplifies this. The company has been a patron of Latin arts and architecture since its founding more than 150 years ago in Cuba, with activities that include building a museum in Santiago de Cuba—where its first distillery was located—to commissioning one of the greatest commercial architects, Mies van der Rohe, to design office buildings, to sponsoring musical performances by salsa queen Celia Cruz.
To unite under one roof the brand and its primary holdings—which include Martini, Grey Goose, Dewar's and Bombay Sapphire—the IA team has expounded on that broader history of arts patronage. In each office, alongside logos of those spirit brands, the team incorporates references to famous local musicians and artists into their designs.
An embodiment of this ideal is in Barcelona where the IA design team “incorporated Gaudí tiles into the bar area of our new office and selected lighting fixtures by a young local firm that were inspired by Joan Miró to reflect the local history and culture”, says Louise Matthews, Bacardi’s vice president of global real estate. It also led the designers to recommend that Bacardi commission local artist Xavi Ceere to paint a mural paying homage to the coastal cities of Barcelona and Havana (both considered founding cities of the company), as well as an abstract interpretation of the famous bat logo. In doing so, a narrative was created surrounding the community and the brand.
What Is the Right Narrative for Your Multinational?
When it comes to designing for multinational companies, to localize or not to localize is a matter of identifying whether community optics, customer expectations, or employee engagement is the primary driver. From there the rest is a matter of degrees, creativity, and how the individual facility chooses to engage with other aspects of the company. At the end of the day, working with a team that has a track record of successfully and diplomatically navigating this process is a significant advantage. It may take a village to fill an office but it can take several countries to design one.
Designing for a multinational brings with it some unique challenges.
What is Fitwel and Why Should We Care?
Creating wellness in the work environment has a new champion – Fitwel. Launched for universal use in 2016, this system, developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA), has joined LEED and WELL in evaluating and rating the health-affecting aspects of the built environment to improve occupant wellbeing—while concomitantly benefiting employee performance, retention, and recruitment. After years of research and beta testing across portions of its portfolio, the GSA sought a third party to administer and implement the rating system for building types and organizations outside the federal government. The Center for Active Design (CfAD) was selected and today administers the Fitwel system in over 35 countries. With staff accounting for approximately 90 percent of business operating costs and each day more than 120 million employees in the US averaging 8.1 hours at work in a building, it is no wonder that the wellbeing of building occupants continues to be a major concern.
How Does Fitwel Work?
The system addresses built environments of every type, from offices to schools to health clinics to residential facilities and is accessed through a carefully-designed and easy to use digital portal. Once registered, using a scorecard developed over 5 years by the CDC, Fitwel rates an environment’s performance across 12 categories and offers 63 design and operational strategies to improve a building’s Fitwel performance. The categories include location; building access; outdoor spaces; entrances and ground floor; stairwells, indoor environments; workspaces; shared space; water supply; cafeterias and prepared food retail; vending machines and snack bars; and emergency procedures. Users can treat the scorecard as a benchmark without seeking certification, or they can shore up their performance and submit evidence-based documentation and images to support certification.
Scorecard objectives are intended to be within reasonable reach of all certification seekers who are committed to creating wellness in any environment. For the most part, the objectives are fairly simple, but taken together they deliver a significant and proven impact, covering a range of criteria from sustainable purchasing policies to onsite gardens, opportunities for fitness, healthy food and beverage standards, commuter access, and the availability of farmers’ market produce, to name a few.
The Fitwel Certification Process
A double-blind process is used to evaluate each submission and assign a numerical score. For certification 90 to 104 points is required for a single star rating; 105 to 124 points earns two stars; and 125 to a maximum of 144 points garners three. Once a project is registered and the documentation uploaded, Fitwel will issue a report for comments, clarification, and additional requests. The total process and final certification with a star rating can take up to 12 weeks. Neither preconditions nor on-site verification is required, and a certification is good for three years. Like WELL, the program is dynamic; as new research findings are released, they will be incorporated into new versions of Fitwel. Certification not only contributes to ensuring more healthy work environments and emphasizing a concern for employee wellbeing, but when undertaken by building management or a property developer increases the property’s market value.
Fitwel vs. LEED and WELL
While LEED focuses mainly on building infrastructure, both the Fitwel and WELL systems focus on the user experience and facility environment. Although not as rigorous as WELL, which drives a higher level of performance and competitive differentiation through a more complex process at a higher price point (which can be an obstacle for some projects), the Fitwel process is faster, less expensive, accessible, intuitive, and intensely practical. This is good news for clients with extensive portfolios or those who may not have the budget or time for a full WELL certification process but want to create more healthy work environments.
Fitwel fees per project are clear and transparent: $500 for registration with an additional $6,000 for certification, and, unlike WELL, the process is designed to allow building owners, corporate users, or occupants to achieve certification without engaging a consultant. WELL registration fees range from $1,500 to $10,000, depending on the size of the project with additional fees assessed on a per-square-foot basis that range from $0.42 to $0.58. The engagement of a required WELL external consultant factors in an additional cost.
The Fitwel Ambassador designation is applied to those who have taken a Fitwel course, passed a required exam, and are knowledgeable in promoting the healthy workplace movement through the application and propagation of Fitwel strategies. With work in progress, IA’s ambassadors are recognized and enthusiastic about the benefits of Fitwel, as well as LEED and WELL, to incentivize clients to pursue wellness programs and achieve measurable results.
“Fitwel is rapidly becoming an essential sustainability program amongst designers, property developers, and portfolio managers. We look forward to sharing and implementing its human-centric approach to the built environment amongst our clients in 2019,” says Senior Designer Robert Atkinson. A Fitwel ambassador at IA’s London office, Atkinson co-chairs IA’s Sustainable Wellness Committee with Senior Strategist and WELL AP Diane Rogers, who is based at IA’s San Francisco location.
One size never fits all, and the choice of a program to create a work environment for wellness and health remains project or portfolio specific. The important factor is to ensure healthy outcomes driven by the work environment for all employees. Different options allow for opportunities to achieve the best solutions for staff and community wellbeing. Using LEED, WELL, or Fitwel, the IA team remains expert and focused on achieving client goals, priorities, and optimum wellbeing, while also being responsible stewards of our planet.
Q&A With Managing Director Kelly Funk (Philadelphia)
At IA’s newest office, we catch up with Managing Director Kelly Funk for a Q & A.
1. What does being part of an organization where 75 percent of the senior leadership are female mean to you?
I am honored to be part of an organization that not only recognizes and supports female leadership but is proud to promote it. From my first day with IA over six years ago, I have felt empowered to take on leadership roles. It is a testament to IA’s inclusive and entrepreneurial culture. Companies that demonstrate diversity across all roles—especially leadership roles—possess a wider spectrum of experience, perspectives, and problem-solving techniques. I am thrilled to belong to a network of female leaders who support each other and from whom I can learn.
2. Based on your organizational experience and design strategy background, what cross-industry influences have you observed and how have they impacted design and ultimately the businesses of our clients.
It has been incredible to witness over the years the influences industries have had on each other; it is a testament to the ever-increasing blending of industries to remain competitive and expand their talent pool to include more diverse set of skills and expertise. While larger forces in our economies and meta-trends have influenced this immensely, we as strategists and designers have been in a unique position to witness it unfold. From hearing firsthand in leadership visioning sessions about new business strategies to come and shifting perceptions around brand, to working with human resources and operations teams that have utilized their broad experience to design new organizational constructs, I have been fortunate to be a part of so many companies’ changing business dynamics, cultures, and environments. Beyond being a part of the change driven from within, I have also acted as a catalyst for shifts and as an influencer, infusing what I learn from one industry or market to elevate and differentiate another. Seeing the “wider field” across several industries has allowed me to create new models of working and design, further cultivating the influences industries are having on each other.
3. How do outside interests influence your approach to projects?
I have always said that what I learned from being an athlete involved in several sports has been a large contributor to how I lead teams and projects—and now an office. As team leader, I learned that clear communication is key; setting team goals orients everyone around the same mission, and making everyone a part of the strategy and process are critical to success. Building team chemistry is paramount. Ensuring that the team “practices” together often to connect and to solve challenges is mutually beneficial to both the team and to the client’s project. I have taken these lessons learned in sports culture and applied them to my interactions with colleagues, partners, consultants, and clients. As we grow the IA Philadelphia office, we will continue to hire team players who possess the traits necessary for building a team-oriented culture, those who are “in it to win it” and those who have the vision to elevate the dialogue surrounding the built environment.
4. How do you see the space making industry evolving?
The future of space making is certainly moving more and more towards a cross-disciplinary approach. We are increasingly co-innovating, co-designing, and co-building with disciplines that have not traditionally been connected to the real estate and design industry. Some may see this as diluting our services; I see it as advancing our interiors practice and the design process at large and evolving how we engage with collaborators and clients. We are doing more than just designing spaces, we are designing experiences and supporting organizational change. It’s more than “space making” and it’s an exciting time to be a designer with advancements in technology and shifts in how, when, where, and what drives people to work. For the Philadelphia office, we aim to build a lab-like environment where various skillsets, disciplines, local institutions, bodies of research, and consultancies come together to create great work. This confluence will be infused into the fiber of our culture and will enhance our design solutions.
Project Files: The John Buck Company
The Story Behind 155 N. Wacker Drive
Like many of the buildings they’ve developed and managed, The John Buck Company (JBC) is a Chicago giant. Known for many properties along the beautiful Chicago waterfront, their reputation is synonymous with their work on Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue, where they have transformed entire neighborhoods. Over the past 30+ years, their portfolio has since grown to also include projects in San Francisco, Washington DC, and everywhere in between.
As managers of 155 North Wacker (a building opened nine years ago), they came to IA with the goal of capitalizing on the amenity space within the facility. Familiar with a tenant conference center as part of a larger repositioning project in another facility, they knew they had an opportunity to provide a more high-end amenity for their tenants in this Class-A building. As IA Designer Bridget Schmitt, (charged with helping them realize their vision) recalls, “We had established a relationship with The John Buck Company. They saw IA as trusted advisors and experts in the area of creating great third spaces for tenants—they knew us as a building repositioning expert. ”
The existing space had functioned as a training area for 155 North Wacker Drive’s anchor tenant, who utilized the space 90 percent of the year. What was lacking, however, was the additional functionality that potential tenants sought. For example, based on feedback, JBC knew that social spaces which could be utilized outside of the typical work environment were in high demand. They also knew that such spaces would have to be usable for group meetings and individual ad hoc workspace, while still having use as a training facility. This would mean combining what had previously been two distinct spaces, while still allowing the areas to be used independently. Part of that process would include converting existing training space into a work lounge. Also, knowing that the anchor tenant had high expectations for the space, luxury was a must.
The Design of 155 North Wacker
Those familiar with the Chicago waterfront will likely recognize the exterior of 155 North Wacker Drive. On the corner of West Randolph and North (Upper) Wacker, it is hard not to notice the cutaway southwest corner of the building, sporting a cable-supported wall of massive glass panels. The tower (designed by Goettsch Partners and developed by JBC), has a distinctive aesthetic, and it was determined by the IA design team that the renovated space should respond to the existing design of the building exterior.
The Hospitality Inspiration
With luxury in mind, much of the client’s vision for the interior of the project was inspired largely by the hospitality sector, in particular from projects with historical base buildings— which is not how one would describe 155 North Wacker. Marrying the signature, modern, angular geometry of the building exterior with a vision of classic, luxe hospitality would be the primary challenge of this project.
Taking inspiration from client feedback, the IA design team was able to incorporate several, seemingly conflicting concepts into the overall design.
Upon rollover: photography from the completed project. Images are copyrighted by Tom Harris.
All other images above are reflective of JBC’s hospitality-inspired focus and are courtesy of Unsplash.
While many of the more modern space treatments in hospitality (especially those local to the Chicago area) feature bright pops of color with playful nods to street art or modern sculpture, this style of approach wouldn’t be right for the building’s anchor tenant, or JBC’s vision. Instead, branding and business needs demanded a more luxurious, classic, and clean look.
Careful to incorporate cues from the building exterior, the design team started with the herringbone flooring, which seemed the ideal way to unite the sharp, angular, building exterior with the luxurious, more traditional feel of hardwood floors.
Similarly, the team found the two aesthetics to be in agreement when it came to their reliance on marble. The lobby featured rich white marble, so that element was brought into the concierge space, continued along the floor, and incorporated into the concierge desk.
Moving through the space, there are more references to the materiality of the exterior. A marble-topped half-height partition, the color palette of the carpeting of the event space, and the furniture selection all echo an appreciation for smooth surfaces and sharp angles, creating additional ties to the desired more traditional, hotel lobby-like aesthetic.
The lobby area most readily illustrates the juxtaposition of a modern business tower and hospitality space. The angles in the concierge space tie into the building’s exterior design, and the choice of light fixture and some furniture selections eschew any influence of a historical hospitality space. At the same time, the use of luxe materials—eucalyptus, water-jet stone, and polished brass—refer back to an earlier age of Chicago luxury hotels.
The Shape of the Space
It was apparent that the shape of the space would not easily lend itself to a multi-purpose environment. The plan in question featured a concave pentagon (as the diagram below shows); working around its tight angles meant that some creative solutions would have to be custom-built.
Fig. 1. – a diagram showing how the space was utilized prior to the renovation.
In addition, the angles and the absence of natural light made the area dark and hampered the team’s ability to create a desirable social space. Interestingly, the opposite side of the building didn’t suffer from this problem as it was built with floor-to-ceiling windows. The building exterior had been, in effect, asymmetrical.
Because the exterior wall (the left side of figure 2) was so detrimental to the goal of creating an inviting environment, the decision was made to replace it with a curtain wall, which not only added to the feeling of brightness but also created an illusion of height.
To further establish the social area as a bright and open space, IA’s in-house lighting design team created a custom stretch-fabric LED-backlit “skylight” in the ceiling that helped to exaggerate the amount of natural light the space actually receives.
Seen above are two views of the Southeast corner of the tenant work lounge. Interior "after" photo © Tom Harris.
The lobby and reception area feature a high volume of traffic. From the north side comes a steady flow of foot traffic from the nearby parking deck, while escalator traffic from the west brings visitors and tenants directly from the front doors. This traffic would prove very important, especially if the redesigned space in area C (reference figure 1) would serve as a standalone work or event zone (in which case a high amount of foot traffic and noise would render the space virtually unusable). IA had to carefully balance security and acoustic separation between the public area and the conference center.
It was this traffic and that of the projected increased occupancy that contributed to the city permit office’s desire to wall off the proposed work lounge. A matter of safe egress, the city thought it safest to direct traffic around a fixed barrier (a full-length wall) in the event of an emergency. Without such a barrier, they feared a potentially dangerous bottleneck would be created.
But such a physical barrier would defeat the ultimate goal of the project to create a flexible, combinable space. However, the team was able to identify this concern early on in the design process, and a dialogue was begun with the city permit office well in advance.
Fig. 3 – Foot traffic would form a natural bottleneck outside of the operable walls in the case of an emergency.
IA reviewed the project in depth with the city and created an innovative solution that met both safety requirements and the client’s vision.
Without compromising the option to combine conference rooms, a 25-foot-long low wall paired with a custom decorative light fixture would serve as the solution. It would allow the space to maintain its desired flexibility yet delineate a clear egress path. This visual barrier would also be the perfect opportunity to bring some of the lobby’s angularity into the newly-designed space.
The renovated amenity suite is now a signature space that distinguishes 155 N Wacker Drive as a leading Class-A+ building focused on providing outstanding service to its tenants. The anchor tenant (who inhabits the training areas A and B for the majority of the year) now finds their training spaces much more useful and visually appealing. The new individual work area is regularly in use—brighter, more comfortable, and more luxurious than ever before.
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APAC: The Human Dimension and Emerging Technologies
This is the third in a series of three posts that reflect on the plethora of large and small factors—revealed during a casual panel discussion at the 2018 IA Global Summit—that should be considered when working across borders in Asia-Pacific. Here we focus on Revit and Artificial Intelligence; the human dimension; emerging technologies, and identify the one thing outsiders fail to grasp about the culture when working in each geography represented at the summit.
Background: In Seattle earlier this year, IA hosted four of its ASIA PACIFIC (APAC) IA Global partners at the 2018 IA Global Summit. With a network of partner affiliates in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia and Australia, Canada, and Latin America, IA Global leverages IA’s 30+ years of working worldwide with proven local expertise that understands cultural differences, local compliance requirements, and can easily navigate the unique aspects of regional architecture and construction. We work directly with our global partners to fine-tune best practices and communication as well as cross-border collaboration, and global summits allow us to maintain a high-performing, international project capability.
On day one of the 2018 summit, IA Director of Strategy James Truhan joined with alliance members from India, Australia, Singapore and Japan to identify the risks, focuses, and potential challenges that should be understood when working across APAC regions.
In this, the final post in the series, we look at the human dimension, emerging technologies in APAC, a design technology round-up, and key concepts worth remembering.
The Human Dimension
In Asia, much of the communication is non-verbal and primarily face-to-face. To add value, a practical knowledge of the culture and norms are critical, especially for those coming from outside of APAC. As a result, creating a highly effective, bespoke workplace solution for an APAC-based organization can’t be done remotely—especially when iteration and direct collaboration are required.
In India face-to-face collaboration is expected and a fundamental element of the culture. Dialogue and discussion is more to the point. Listening and responding forthrightly to feedback are valued more than the North American predilection for one way presentations. The process is iterative and relies on the expectation that finding a solution is rooted in the push/pull of design development through revision. Investing time in face-to-face engagement actually shortens the process as opposed to emailing back and forth, where there is a higher potential for misunderstanding.
Likewise, in Japan, meetings with clients generally rely on face-to-face engagement. While video conferencing supports dialogue when a face-to-face presence is impractical, for local clients, designer and client almost always meet face-to-face.
These face-to-face meetings bring with them several intricacies that might be confusing to those unfamiliar with Japanese business customs. For example, North American businesses will sometimes find themselves believing that they have reached a formal agreement with a Japanese counterpart, only to find out shortly afterwards that the feeling was not mutual. Often attributed to a desire to preserve harmony within a business relationship, it is not uncommon for Japanese business teams to put off discussion of concerns (or even outright rejections) until a later time so as to avoid creating tension, which can leave Western organizations feeling perplexed or even deceived, even though both teams may have had purely honest intentions. Like India, the process relies on an iterative approach and an acceptance of custom and culture to get to the right outcomes.
Emerging Technology in APAC
In India, with implementation costs decreasing, the Internet of Things is gaining momentum. Suddenly, individualized workplaces are within reach, where lighting, air conditioning, acoustics, and seat reservations are directly controllable by staff via mobile devices.
In Australia, privacy concerns are delaying adoption of digital workplace personalization, even though those concerns evaporate when using digital applications for personal purpose. That will change over time as generational expectations for frictionless on-the-fly workplace experiences override privacy concerns.
While the most prevalent technologies in Australia are collaborative tools like SharePoint, face-to face communication and collaboration are still primary success factors. As a result, whiteboards and scrum/collaboration tools are prevalent.
In Singapore, enhanced collaboration is the primary objective of most clients, and here too whiteboards and surfaces to write on are popular. AV solutions are part of the collaboration scenario, and there is a strong emphasis on the collaborative aspects of technology.
In Japan writable screens/monitors have been popular as well as going back to basic—whiteboards and writable surfaces that are easy to reuse.
Design Technology Round-Up
In North America, the ability to design in three dimensions and share dimensionally accurate 3D representations (example below) with both clients and contractors is a leading industry best practice. This has made Revit a powerful collaboration platform.
Although Japan is widely viewed as highly tech-oriented, Revit use is still in the early adoption phase. This in large part, is due to the fact that general contractors, vendors, and consultants are still heavily invested in legacy CAD-based platforms and have not yet transitioned.
By contrast, in Singapore, a geography with heavy investment in centrally funded large-scale infrastructure projects, the government mandates the use of Revit, which has accelerated broader industry adoption.
In India, global clients have embraced Revit based on an appreciation for its potential to shorten project durations. As a result, firms that are committed to Revit have an advantage on competitors. Paradoxically, subcontractors are not using the platform, so almost all project coordination is done via CAD. This introduces extra steps and complexity when conversions to and from CAD become necessary.
Finally, in APAC overall, the value of Revit is in achieving alignment and a unified view; making sure that the client understands the outcome in the same way that the designer and contractors understand it to avoid costly surprises further into the project.
Meanwhile, in North America, IA Interior Architects is moving forward to develop tools that extract and compile data from Revit to be viewed in a real time dashboard, like the one below, and provide vital information regarding the project’s progress, forecast outcomes, and support continuous improvement.
IA Interior Architects is also in the early evaluation stages of AI Design-Assist Platforms. While these offer the potential to accelerate portions of the design process (notably programming and test fits), they are not a replacement or substitute for the designer’s intuition and applied knowledge.
Key Concepts to Remember
People from Europe and North America understand Japan as part of the APAC geography, but Japan stands alone as a business culture with distinct practices, expectations, and economic and design/construction conditions. In particular, projects in Japan are very costly – driven by its import-reliant economy and high expectations for fit, finish, and process.
Designing for co-working, by contrast, is generalized design based on an assumption about what the market is looking for. In Japan, many co-working offices are being established around Tokyo, but because Japan is very company-based, the idea of co-working is still difficult to embrace and not yet that in high demand.
Distinguished by respect for hierarchy, Singaporeans may not express a view contrary to leader direction. While a divergence of viewpoints may be easy to discern, an airing of those viewpoints may be unlikely, even if they are the best ideas or what everyone is thinking. Small focus groups can be helpful in coalescing decisions.
Australians have historically low respect for hierarchy; ideas, not rank win the day. All have an equal voice and what is said is what is meant.
In India hierarchy is very important, and it is sometimes hard to discern meaning from what is said. An additional issue is the business status associated with assigned desks. Global trends toward unassigned seating are at odds with a business culture that conflates position and status with an assigned desk.
This concludes our three-part series on the 2018 IA Global Summit. We hope you’ve enjoyed the read and found the content interesting. If you have any questions or comments, we invite you to contact IA Director of Strategy James Truhan (firstname.lastname@example.org), summit moderator.
Are You Caught Up?
This article was part 3 of a 3 part series. To start from the beginning, please click the link below.
More reflections on the IA | Interior Architects APAC Summit.
How Far Can IA Reach?
How Far Can IA Reach?
During the holiday season we naturally think of giving, not just to our friends and family but giving-back to the community and the non-profit agendas that we support. But beyond the monetary value of our time or contributions, giving also benefits the giver in unexpected ways. For most of us who spend hours every day staring at a screen, volunteer work can be a great way to connect face-to-face and interact with colleagues, clients, the community, or even communities in other countries. And there is a wellness factor; research shows that strong social connections are linked to lower rates of anxiety and depression, a more resilient immune system, and higher self-esteem.
Giving back to the community through volunteer work has been a part of IA Interior Architects’ culture for years. As an architecture and design firm, we are focused on creating inspiring and innovative spaces. Expert in anticipating and meeting client’s needs through the built environment, we know that our work significantly shapes the human experience and that allows us a special connection to the community.
As a global firm we’ve grown—21 offices with more to come—and our will to reach out and volunteer has strengthened, bolstered by a passion and drive for community service brought to the firm by the young talent joining our ranks. For instance, two years ago, Boston Designer Mallory Schoendorf suggested we bring all our volunteer and philanthropic efforts under one umbrella to emphasize our philosophy and unified way of working as OneIA. The concept was enthusiastically adopted, branded, and dubbed IA Reach, with signature t-shirts issued to all staff, proudly donned for volunteer engagements.
A monthly committee meeting across all offices was established for information and idea sharing. Each IA office would continue to manage its own plan for local community service, and a search for a company-wide initiative was begun. To that end, IA is currently engaged with United Way, whose global platform allows full participation by all of our US offices as well as London and Toronto.
This year, the volunteer calendar was packed with firm-wide and local projects.
Literacy kits for children in need, an effort in conjunction with United Way, had every office donating new or pristine copies of their favorite children’s books and packing them into bags and backpacks along with other items (crayons, pencils, and more) to inspire young recipients’ creativity.
In the fall, IA offices collected donations and hosted fun events, including a game night with vendors, a back to the 80s party, and even a yoga class, to raise money for United Way. With all proceeds matched by corporate, IA was able to present a check to United Way for $100,000.
And at the local level, IA staff continued to volunteer in the community at food banks, We Care events, environmental programs, urban farms serving local shelters, and a variety of events throughout the year.
During the holiday season our opportunities for community service increase with joy and celebration.
Sometimes an effort is extraordinary and closer to home. When a young designer with our Washington, DC office experienced a catastrophic and life altering accident, her peers sprang to action, gathering donations company-wide, capped by an auction with clients and vendors, culminating in over $46,000 dollars to assist with her on-going care. “The passion of the IA family resulted in an event that exceeded everyone’s expectations. Not only did we support our friend and colleague, we came together with colleagues across IA offices, the DC corporate real estate community, clients, consultants, friends, and family,” says IA Designer Esther Nunes.
IA’s spirit of giving back includes a commitment to the future of interior architecture and design. The International Interior Design Association, (IIDA), is the commercial association that supports interior design professionals, industry affiliates, educators, students, firms, and their clients through a network of over 15,000 members across 58 countries. The IIDA Foundation’s IA Interior Architects Diversity in Design Scholarship program, established by IA’s initial $50,000 donation, promotes diversity in design, which we believe is paramount to making the industry more inclusive and innovative. In this the inaugural year of IA’s five-year commitment, the first awards ranging from $500 to $5000 in financial aid were recently made to six students. Their winning essays on the topic of the world of design seen through different lenses and how diversity and innovation are interrelated earned our attention and respect.
Though the year may be ending, our efforts and our fulfillment through volunteer work and giving will continue to grow as we strive to create a brighter future for those we aspire to help, those we work with, and our industry.
Want to Learn More About IA Philanthropic Efforts?
Our IA Reach program recently culminated in a check presentation to the United Way. Learn about our IA Reach program and our partners at the United Way.
More great IA Thought Leadership -
Geometry: the Angle
Clean, sharp, and definitive, angles formed by lighting elements, glass, veneers, and other mediums define space, direct focus, spark interest, add a dynamic, enhance aesthetics, and provide a service in IA designs.
A narrow light embedded in the ceiling and reflected in the finish of the floor runs from reception to the servery, makes a right angle, continues to the wall, and descends to the floor.
A quadrilateral-shaped light fixture suspended from the ceiling adds interest.
Inspired by the lines and angles of a ship and accented with embedded light, the reception desk at Virgin Cruises Headquarters extends the length of the floor then turns and continues into the café.
Thin embedded lights running the length of the ceiling echo the multiple angles of the striking reception desk and glass fins on the left.
A triangular stretch-fabric LED backlit “skylight” enhances the atmosphere at The John Buck Company Conference Center.
The conference center design uses high-end finishes and furniture to reflect the signature, angular geometry of the building lobby.
A slanted glass wall, with a custom pattern inspired by the slant of the CNA logo, creates a striking floor-to-ceiling quadrilateral.
Descending into triangles, canopies provide shade for an outdoor amenity at Red Hat.
Want to see more?
Glass and hard angles seem to go hand-in-hand. Take a look at the gallery of images we like to call "Glass: Beyond the Obvious."
View this gallery of images that illustrate how angles can be used to make a statement in the workplace.
The WEIRD Aspects of Artificial Intelligence
By Mary Lee Duff, LEED AP, Associate IIDA | Senior Director of Strategy
December 11, 2018
Stanford University has a multi-disciplinary program called mediaX which explores topics on how technology intersects with entertainment, learning, and wellness. The goal of the program, part of the Stanford Graduate School of Education, connects across disciplines to research and innovate on how people will collaborate, communicate, and interact with information, products, and the industries of tomorrow.
A part of this program is the annual mediaX conference where speakers are invited to share topics that relate to an overall theme. The 2018 theme this past fall was entitled "AI for Culturally Relevant Interactions Forum." IA Interior Architects has been attending this annual conference for the last several years to gain insights that are relevant to our work in strategically understanding our clients’ goals, and to identify opportunities for developing highly productive and emotionally engaging workplaces. We’ve gained insights into neuroscience, human performance, and the issues around truth and transparency in the world of digital media and bots.
The topic of artificial intelligence is definitely abuzz in news and businesses and very much on the minds of design firms. In the workplace we generally think about artificial intelligence within the context of sensors and machine learning to better understand utilization and use patterns. There are numerous technology consulting companies developing systems that draw from utilization statistics and are beginning to move towards a built environment that monitors and anticipates habits, settings, and room usage. This has been a future vision which is coming closer to the reality of a room or environment that anticipates your individual needs at your specific location as well as collaboration spaces, based on data being collected on how we use, change, and occupy space types.
We are learning that there is much more to these future opportunities as well as some interesting warning signs around machine learning and AI. At the mediaX conference there were several engaging presentations that echoed concerns over the issue that many of these advances are largely being developed in WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) cultures, and that inherent biases will be built into the technology.
Being aware of those cultural biases and designing to be more culturally inclusive as well as ethical is a stated goal as we move forward. This was best explained by Rama Akkiraju, a Director, Distinguished Engineer, and Master Inventor at IBM’s Watson Division, where she leads the AI mission of enabling natural, personalized, and compassionate conversations between computers and humans.
In her talk she explained that data is the fuel, and the algorithm is the engine in creating an AI model. A problem statement or key objective is identified and then a series of steps are taken: data collection, data analysis, data packaging, testing and benchmarking, deployment, learning, and a continuous cycle of refining and improving. If the data or model is biased, the bias will carry through those steps. In order to mitigate the bias, one needs to evaluate where it is embedded. The source of bias could be in the data—either the training data that determines how AI learns to aggregate data, or in the test data used for evaluating the aggregated data.
This leads me to think again about our strategy process. How do we monitor our bias in how we collect data and make an unbiased analysis of our client’s needs? The machine learning model creation is very similar to the design thinking model of how we engage with a client to collect information about the client’s current state; analyze the data collected; package that information into challenges and opportunities for change; test and evaluate the design direction with benchmarking; deploy or implement the design solution; and learn about the success of the design model. We think of our process, as we do about AI, as being rational, objective, and efficient. But are we embedding our own biases into our process? That is an interesting question to ask as we develop workspaces for our diverse array of clients in very different locations around the world.
For more dialogue around this topic...
Consider viewing a panel discussion on AI recently hosted by IA in San Francisco.
Reflections on mediaX by Mary Lee Duff of IA's workplace strategy team.
Workplace Strategy Week – AI in the Workplace
IA's Kristoffer Tendall holds a panel discussion with Regan Donoghue (Newmark Knight Frank), Robert Kiely (Analog Devices), Alex Serriere (Teecom), and Dr. Aymee Coget (Happiness for HumanKIND) to discuss AI and its impact on the workplace, those who work there, and our industry.
Activity-based Working in APAC
This is the second in a series of three posts that reflect on the plethora of large and small factors—revealed during a casual panel discussion at the 2018 IA Global Summit—that should be considered when working across borders in Asia-Pacific. Here we focus on Activity-based Working.
Background: In Seattle earlier this year, IA hosted four of its ASIA PACIFIC (APAC) IA Global partners at the 2018 IA Global Summit. With a network of partner affiliates in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia and Australia, Canada, and Latin America, IA Global leverages IA’s 30+ years of working worldwide with proven local expertise that understands cultural differences, local compliance requirements, and can easily navigate the unique aspects of regional architecture and construction. We work directly with our global partners, to fine-tune best practices and communication as well as cross-border collaboration, and global summits allow us to maintain a high-performing, international project capability.
On day one of the 2018 summit, IA Director of Strategy James Truhan joined with alliance members from India, Australia, Singapore and Japan to identify the risks, focuses, and potential challenges that should be understood when working across APAC regions. Here we look at alternative work styles across APAC.
Activity-based Working Explained: Activity-based Working, (ABW), is a workplace model that provides a curated range of settings to accommodate a range of workstyles. Properly implemented and supported, ABW allows staff the discretion to choose the work environment that best works for them based on their needs at the moment. Used in conjunction with free-address polices and mobile technology, significantly higher building capacities can be achieved, driven by higher staff per seat ratios than the traditional one person/one seat model. Thus, for a given staff population, less building area is required, making it attractive as a cost savings platform.
While ABW and desk sharing can work for many organizations, those seeking to adopt it purely for cost reduction and efficiency measures will be missing an important opportunity to promote employee experience and engagement.
Notwithstanding the benefits, adopting ABW requires a substantial shift by staff to adjust to less “me” space and much more “we” space in the workplace. For management, traditional “line of sight” management practices have to give way to managing by output and deliverables, since the organization’s people might now be distributed throughout one or more floors or buildings.
Finally, ABW and desk sharing can have secondary but critical infrastructure implications. As a case in point, if the building’s elevator capacity is 300 people, based on a one seat to one employee scenario, but the building now serves 500-600 staff, wait times can significantly increase.
ABW in APAC
Although there is growing interest and movement toward ABW, traditional one person/one seat allocation models are still dominant. However, ABW adoption is accelerating at tech companies as a means of obtaining more capacity without adding more workstations in buildings where workstation densities are already quite high. Given the very large floor plates common in areas such as Bangalore, tech companies are increasingly leveraging reservation systems to streamline staff’s ability to locate open seats. With these systems, users simply swipe a card and are directed to a seat. Once logged-in, phone and any additional ancillary tools are ready to use.
India has emerged as a growing market enjoying a construction boom that extends to all sectors of the economy, although demand is exceeding supply. Builders are not able to build fast enough and businesses occupy the space even before construction is complete.
With more large companies from Europe and the West competing for talent in India, there is a greater understanding than ever before of the power of design and the workplace experience to retain and recruit staff. Interestingly, Japanese companies in India, once reluctant to spend on design, have seen what European and American based corporations are demanding for their facilities and the impact it has had on recruiting. As a result, they now want to use the design firms that are doing work for western companies.
In Asia, the culture retains the traditional expectation that seniority conveys entitlement to a window or corner office. Breaking free of that thinking is a challenge, and there is resistance, bolstered by the belief that if you don’t have an assigned desk, your job is potentially at risk. Nevertheless, there is substantial interest in ABW and desk sharing as a platform to increase building capacity and thereby reduce costs.
In addition, there is significant competition for talent and a increasing awareness that things need to be done differently. The concept of wellbeing is growing in importance, although the Well standard used in North America is not widely known in Asia. There is a concern to mitigate the consumption of electricity as well as lead, but they don’t know how to do it, and strategy and change management is a service few can provide in Asia. There is obviously opportunity here.
When considering wellbeing, the idea of work-life balance, which is really just about balance, is gaining ground. The assumption that the workplace only has to support productivity and provide a few amenities is no longer valid; a workplace can actually improve quality of life. Think about the air quality in China; because it is so poor, a workplace with a highly thought out indoor air quality is actually a respite for employees.
Limited transition to ABW is underway, but if it is to work for more companies, employees have to feel that they have a “home base” somewhere in the office. Re-thinking hierarchy and robust change management support are essential in Japan’s tradition-bound business culture.
ABW and desk sharing models have been in use in Australia for the last 15 years, and today it is the default approach to the workplace. Inasmuch as Australia and North America are similar culturally, Australian ABW practices can be used as reasonable test cases for our market.
Australia, by virtue of its willingness to push the practice envelope has become a giant workplace laboratory. For example, one of the large Australian banks, an early adopter of ABW, continues to pursue new, innovative models. Currently it is considering a “tribal” model, wherein over 150 groups, consisting of about 2,000 of its 12,000 employees, will be divided into tribes of 15 staff each.
The intent is to foster agility and innovation at a small group scale and encourage the tribes to work together. Is this a bit of a flip from an ABW model? Yes, but it’s absolutely in line with the Australian willingness to innovate at scale, which is propelled by the country’s culture that minimizes hierarchy. Here, the corner office is not an object of entitlement and workers are much more tolerant. As a result, different models and opportunities can be pursued in a very progressive environment.
As well as being an early adopter of alternative work models, Australia has embraced wellness in a big way, partially driven by its heavily regulated design and construction market.
With increased globalization, culture-specific work preferences, traditions, and workplace models in APAC are converging on a universal workplace language, driven by tech and demographic disruptions that are being felt everywhere. This convergence, while occurring at relatively different speeds, is moving in pursuit of the same goals regardless of geography: efficiency, combined with the imperative to attract and retain talent.
Want to know more? The next post will discuss, augmented reality, Revit, artificial intelligence, one-on-one communication, and other topics related to creating innovative work environments across boundaries in APAC.
More great IA Thought Leadership from the Asia Pacific region.
Why It’s So Easy To Love Neon Lights
In some sense, an appreciation for neon lighting is comparable to the sentiment that pinball machine, vinyl record, and high-wheel bicycle fanatics all share, although none of these passions are the most efficient technologically, nor the most practical. They just feel better.
This is a feeling that Gary Bouthilette, IA Senior Director of Lighting Design, can relate to. “Similar to genuine incandescent filament lamp “light bulbs”, there is no fully satisfying replacement for real neon lighting, even with advances in LED technology,” he says. “The 360-degree light it emits is simultaneously intense, yet soft, and somehow never fails to draw the eye.”
While often tasked with supporting IA design teams with the latest in lighting technology, the IA lighting design team appreciates the opportunity to embrace a previous generation’s method of attracting attention. As Bouthilette explains, the methods of the past can’t be 100% adopted.
“It can be rare to run into an older neon artist or fabricator. In the old days, the neon shops would, of course, save the patterns they hand drew for use in other projects. The patterns would hang on racks or sit on shelves, sometimes for years, until they were needed. An artist would retrieve the required pattern, and generally the first thing he’d do is shake the dust off before laying it down and getting to work. Unfortunately, to make the patterns fire-resistant (hot glass was going to be placed on them), they were made partly from asbestos, and the dust flying off was partly airborne asbestos particles. And so, sadly, that’s one reason you won’t run into many artists who have worked with neon for thirty or forty years.”
For a technology that is over a century old, the science behind the neon lamp can be surprisingly difficult to grasp for someone without a degree in chemistry, which might come as a surprise when you consider that its invention predates that of the battery, phonograph, and many other simpler technologies.
How Does Neon Lighting Work?
The invention of the neon lamp was the result of another, perhaps more impactful innovation, George Claude’s process of air liquefaction. Developing a process whereby gasses could be converted to liquid via cooling and reheating allowed him to create large quantities of pure neon. This noble gas had been discovered several years earlier and demonstrated unique qualities when exposed to electricity. However, because of the difficulty in obtaining pure neon, the neon lamp wouldn't be patented until more than a decade later.
Once purified neon was obtained (via the capture of runoff gasses emitted from the liquefaction of air), Claude placed it inside enormous glass vacuum tubes not unlike today’s fluorescent bulbs. He then ran an electric current through both ends of the tubes. Later iterations of the tubes run the current through only one end but the result is the same – a bright orange/red light.
While most people associate a host of colors with neon lighting, in actuality, pure neon discharges only an orange-red light. When electrons in atoms like neon get excited, they discharge light energy in fixed-size bunches called quanta. The size of the light wave correlates to how the human eye experiences a given color; a larger light wave might appear as blue, while a smaller wave might appear red. In most neon lights, any other colors (e.g., purple, yellow, etc.) can be obtained by mixing gasses.
If this is difficult to envision, consider how fireworks are made. When particular metal salts are burned in a firework, they give off a different color. Red fireworks come from strontium or lithium salts, blue comes from copper, orange from calcium, etc. Neon lighting relies on a similar process.
As designers quick to explore the newest lighting technology, we still appreciate the neon light. It’s not that efficient when it comes to energy consumption, and it’s not the most practical way to light a room. But neon has many characteristics that make it easy to love. For example, it is uniquely durable, and can burn for 50+ years if left on.
In some ways, neon signs are a uniquely American experience. After WWII, no other nation embraced neon signs quite the same way as the U.S. Ultimately, it’s probably neon’s aesthetic qualities and a sense of nostalgia that most endear neon light fans and IA designers to this century-old tech, and help create small moments of escape in workspace and retail environments around the world.
Care to Learn More About Our Lighting Philosophy?
Then you'll enjoy this blog called "Expertly Designed Lighting: Essential to Successful Interiors."
We look at images from past IA projects, talk with our in-house lighting design team, and open some science textbooks to investigate neon lights. We look into how they work, why they're still around, and why they're so easy to love.
Project Files: A Celebration of Swiss Style and Design
Founded in Switzerland in 1863 and still headquartered there, this global confidential client has a deep sense of Swiss style and design, celebrated and codified in its beautifully detailed global brand standards. IA’s challenge was to deftly realize those standards, which play a significant part in underscoring the firm’s spirit and sense of place, with an innovative and fresh design that would ensure an unusually high level of security.
From the Helvetica font to art and architecture, Swiss design is minimalistic, defined by simplicity, function, and the beauty of natural materials. For this client stone and wood are just that—within a defined range of grain and tone—and color is pure and pattern-free to create an aesthetic and visual consistency that associates color with function and type of work across all offices.
At the reception, the palette is refined and soothing. A laminated wall of textured glass separates the white, fluted reception desk from the guest pantry behind it. An inviting niche to the left (pictured at top of post) is an ideal waiting area for visitors.
Throughout, the palette is calming and subtle, moving from soft hues of yellow to orange as the level of work becomes more dynamic. Colors are never mixed within zones and synthetic fabrics are never used, but textures add interest and edges are always rounded. This overall approach is thought to minimize chaos, organize space, and provide a warm and familiar office layout that staff can recognize worldwide.
For years, the firm has curated an impressive art collection and provides framed works for each office. “All of their spaces have impressive art collections and they believe that’s part of stimulating and inspiring their workforce,” says IA Design Director Neil Schneider.
With this new space, staff transitioned to a free address work environment; employees choose where and how they work. Seating along the window line encourages interaction, and a variety of settings for collaboration include work cafés, lounge spaces, booths, and shared offices as needed.
A bank of lockers, one for each staff, is discretely woven into the open office design with minimal impact. Well-received, this new way of working helps attract and retain talent and inspires staff to come to the office, although working remotely is still an option.
Protecting their clients’ information is paramount for this firm and requires unusually high security. Realizing that requirement challenged the design team and drove the construction of a data wall, a raised floor, and a series of chases to separate the suite from its neighbors, since all cableing had to remain within the firm’s suite.
Acoustic privacy was another key factor. Defined by the client’s brand standards, meeting areas must meet National Reduction Coefficient levels per space type, which required a variety of features, including glazed double glass, sealed doors, acoustic drapes, double panel acoustic wall treatments, and an assortment of baffles for complete soundproofing.
The elegance and simplicity of this welcoming work environment belies the underlying complexity of its security and acoustic requirements through a sensitive and timeless design.
When this 155 year-old Swiss firm came to us with a unique set of security requirements and a beautifully detailed set of global brand standards, IA's challenge was to meet both with a sensitivity to Swiss style and design.
Glass: Beyond the Obvious
For windows, walls, and even stairs, glass plays a significant role in design. In the built environment, it is also an effective way to literally and symbolically underscore the cultural and organizational transparency that many of our clients nurture. Glass celebrates light, something innately understood by medieval architects in their use of stained glass, a fact not lost on Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Playing off the magic of stained glass, a two-story, multi-pane glass feature adds interest, color, and livens a stair and adjacent areas for this client.
Taking inspiration from nature, IA created space for this tech giant that was on brand and thought-provoking.
IA Interior Architects Announces Winners of the 2018 IAct Awards Program
IA Interior Architects is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 IAct Awards, a program honoring individuals within the firm who achieve excellence in one of four categories: Leadership, Innovation, Service, and Rising Star. Celebrated every November, the IAct program is a peer-nominated award that recognizes and gives thanks to our professionals, the heart and soul of IA. These individuals exemplify the firms’ traits and values, people who are dedicated and invested in the continued growth of IA, their peers at the firm, and the evolution of the practice of interior design and architecture.
“2018 is our third year of celebrating our exceptionally talented people through the IAct Awards. This year, we were impressed by the record number of nominations from across the firm. The recognition for each person’s unique individual talents from their co-workers shows the true spirit of IA and that teamwork is truly valued,” shares Brenda Plechaty, IA’s Director of Human Resources. “I am sincerely proud to be a part of this incredible group of professionals at IA.”
This year, the IAct Award for Service is being presented to the LoveForLivi (L4L) committee, for their inspiring efforts in raising funds to assist a colleague, Livi Pejo, after she was injured in a life-altering accident. The committee organized and executed a fundraising event that raised over $47,000 to benefit the Pejo family. The team was led by eight members of IA’s DC office including Jackie Jenzen, Julia Dane, Mary Heapy, Steve Owens, Allison Kramer, Esther Nunes, Shannon O'Toole, and Caroline Powers.
“The LoveForLivi Committee is a great example of how people that are passionate, talented, focused and determined can come together to inspire others to action and make anything happen,” shares David Bourke, Co President & CEO of IA. For more information on Livi and her recovery, visit www.love4livi.com.
The IAct Award for Innovation was presented to Tom Scott, Director of Operations Systems. Tom has set a high bar for achievement in his 17 years at IA; he started as a CAD Technician with the firm, and after spending many years as a vital part of IA’s IT team, was recently promoted to Director of Operations Systems. Tom is well known as a multifaceted problem-solver, frequently developing inventive, resourceful solutions to any challenges he might face, all with grace under fire. His work contributes to all areas of the practice.
“Tom’s long tenure and diverse range of experience at IA has provided him a unique perspective in his current role in Operations. These roles, past and present, have allowed him to define and illustrate IA’s workflows, implement helpful new technologies and suggest high-impact systems improvements,” Mick McCullough, Managing Principal and IA’s Chief Operating Officer, commented. “More importantly, he is a firm believer in our OneIA program and always strives to bring educational experience and creative solutions to our firm. Nobody is more deserving of the IAct Innovation Award than Tom.”
The IAct Award for Leadership was presented to Amanda Badgley, a Senior Experiential Graphic Designer in IA’s Boston office. Amanda has been a leading voice within the EGD team for several years, and has a similar role within the Boston office. She is an advocate for the firm’s EGD practice both internally and externally, serving as an ambassador in the community. Amanda was an instrumental part of the team that conceived of IA’s EGD Week and consistently takes on other new initiatives; she enjoys mentoring young designers both in her home office and across the firm.
“Amanda is the definition of the next generation of leadership at IA. She is invested, unpretentious, dedicated and has become a major player in our Experiential Graphic Design service line,” shares Tom Powers, Co President & CEO of IA. “Amanda is passionate about the practice and is a stellar representative of the firm’s client-focused nature. She exemplifies our OneIA approach by seamlessly working across multiple offices in the firm. The future is bright with individuals like Amanda showing us the way.”
The IAct Rising Star Award was presented to Rebecca Van Lue, an Intermediate Designer in IA’s Silicon Valley office, who is being recognized for outstanding professional growth and development. Rebecca is known for going above and beyond in the face of challenging project work, consistently meeting each new challenge with good humor and curiosity. Having started as an intern with the firm, Rebecca has flourished in her design work, tackling new responsibilities enthusiastically and without hesitation. She always puts clients’ needs in clear focus, and has become an invaluable team member juggling multiple projects and committee work – all with high quality results.
“Since joining IA, Rebecca has been a phenomenal addition to the firm,” noted Colin O’Malley, Managing Director, IA Silicon Valley. “Her growth has been fantastic to watch, both in how she approaches projects and how she works with IA service lines and teammates. Seeing how her confidence has grown in the profession and the respect she has earned from her co-workers has been inspiring to watch. The firm and her clients are both the fortunate beneficiaries of her commitment to excellence.”
The awards were presented on Wednesday, November 14, during a live-stream event.
Hidden in Plain Sight
The new space for the Silicon Valley innovation center of a confidential client that focuses on web services has a central stair leading to a second floor slated for future use. No point in removing a stair that will be needed in the near future, but what to do with it in the meantime?
As an analogy, the collaborative work style and intensity of this client’s high-energy staff can be compared to a beehive. Intelligent mathematicians, honeybees create perfect hexagonal structures and work diligently with precision as if alums of the best schools of engineering. Since this client attracts some of the best talent in Silicon Valley to work on highly complex projects, IA adopted a beehive-inspired design theme that extends to elegantly cladding and obscuring the stair as a design feature.
Blackened steel laser-cut in a repetitive honeycomb pattern hides the stair and is LED backlit to change colors, controlled manually or by a timer.
Taking inspiration from nature, IA created space for this tech giant that was on brand and thought-provoking.
A Nuanced Look at Working Across Boundaries in Asia Pacific
This is the first in a series of three posts that reflect on the plethora of factors—revealed during a casual panel discussion at the 2018 IA Global Summit—that should be considered when working across borders in the Asia-Pacific region. Here we focus on basics, including space, contractors, approvals, and the availability of materials in a variety of locations.
In Seattle, earlier this year, IA hosted four of its Asia Pacific (APAC) IA Global partners at the 2018 IA Global Summit. With a network of partner affiliates in 6 continents, IA Global leverages IA’s 30+ years of working worldwide with proven local expertise that understands cultural differences, local compliance requirements, and can easily navigate the unique aspects of regional architecture and construction. We work directly with our global partners to fine-tune best practices and communication as well as cross-border collaboration.
On day one of the 2018 summit, IA Director of Strategy James Truhan joined with alliance members from India, Australia, Singapore and Japan to identify the risks and potential challenges that should be understood when working across APAC regions. Insights included differences in construction means and methods, entitlement processes, cultural expectations, and risk management.
Australia has a very sophisticated office design market, with a complex range of stakeholders, a high degree of complexity, and extensive rigor around entitlements and approvals. In fact, entitlements processes reveal that local governments are highly risk-averse. As a result, design and execution timeframes need to be adjusted.
Given its location, Australia’s extended supply chain is another key scheduling issue. Overly-optimistic lead times and costs to accelerate them are a common challenge in this market. Bottom line, in the Australian market, plan for more time than anticipated, budgets that reflect importing costs, and out-of-sequence work to adjust for late materials.
In contrast to Australia, within India permits and entitlements are not critical path issues. However, shell and core conditions can sometimes be incomplete or lag tenant improvement progress. For example, elevators and stairs may not be fully in place, a factor that can slow the delivery of materials to the floors being built out.
At the other end of the project delivery process, translating a project’s net available area can occasionally be a challenge to define. For example, the 10,000 square feet that were leased may actually be significantly smaller, maybe 7,000 or 7,500 square feet as a result of a range of situational and market factors. When the target space is up to a third smaller than projected, owners and designers need to make tough decisions regarding which elements in the program are the most critical.
Further, in India, as in North America, there are separate contractors for each trade, but the concept of a general contractor as an entity that coordinates and sequences work does not exist. This places the burden on third-party owner representatives, such as construction managers.
Finally, skilled labor is specialized and limited. Your design should be developed in consideration of the materials and skilled labor that are available to the project. For example, freight elevator lobbies are often clad floor to ceiling in beautiful stone. This seems extravagant, but in India stone is inexpensive and there is abundant skilled labor for installation.
In Tokyo the contractor market is narrow and highly prescriptive; building owners have very strict criteria for the selection of building contractors. Generally, specific buildings are serviced by one contractor on a continuing basis for the life of the building.
Furthermore, building owners are quite powerful with preferences rooted in precedent; when a designer requests something outside the owner's comfort level, the answer will most likely be “no.”
Singapore and the Vicinity
In Singapore, the process for obtaining permits for buildings as well as control of occupancy load changes is stringent, and contractors need to meet high government standards in order to obtain proper licenses. This is part of a larger effort (known