Designed specifically for public buildings and commercial applications, Booster from Deltalight is made for large spaces. Extremely powerful, manoeuvrable and versatile, Booster is fitted either on ceilings or as an adaptor for three-circuit track systems, giving flexibility to changing retail space. The fitting remains compact thanks to its active cooling technology, and ensures disruption-free operation with little maintenance due to an intelligent connection between the LED module and control gear. Available with LEDs or high intensity discharge lamps, Booster is economical and efficient.
For stand-out projects that demand performance and beautiful aesthetics, Arturo super tough PU2060 self-levelling flooring resin uses the RAL colour system to give designers and specifiers a huge variety of colours, which can be used to create stunning floor designs. As intricate or as abstract as you like, Arturo PU2060 self-levelling flooring resin can be used across a wide variety of commercial or public use locations including schools, healthcare, retail and public areas. Chemical and wear resistant, impermeable and easy to clean, Arturo PU2060 makes a great choice for busy environments.
Crown Seating is a piece of urban furniture designed for crime prevention. Submerged fixings on all four legs make it theft proof, a low wide design and strong construction allow it to stand up to physical damage and the segmented surface makes it less susceptible to graffiti. Crown Seating also features modular capabilities and a unique aesthetic, which differentiate it from other public seating.
PAD is a new range of informal public seating by Ryan, designed to make it easier for people to mingle in public spaces. Moving away from the usual closed group arrangement of public seating, such as chairs around a table, with PAD the tables are arranged around the seats. More seats create open links to other tables, forming chains or clusters; these arrangements avoid people becoming isolated by formal seating layouts. Ryan has been manufacturing furniture since 1987.
We meet by a sculpture of Ozymandias in the atrium of Kings Place, best known as the new home of the Guardian newspaper in Kings Cross. But unlike the protagonist of the Shelley poem, which is concerned with the hubris of mankind, this office building’s architects and developer have something more philanthropic and inclusive in mind.
The concepts of “access” and “inclusive design” have become doctrine in the industry. Pauline Hadaway, director of Belfast Exposed Photography gallery, and Geoff McCormick, product designer for design consultancy Alloy, present public and private perspectives on these thorny terms, moderated by Michael WilloughbyPauline Hadaway: What I would like to talk about is the way that the public sector now demands as much access as possible and starts from the presumption that we are trying to exclude people.Geoff McCormick: For me, as a product designer, I actually think inclusive design hasn’t gone far enough. I think the principle is a very good and strong one, but it’s just terribly misinterpreted by many people. PH: Coming from a different background, my impression is that inclusive design has to do with functionality and what the purpose of a thing, activity or object is. Because our organisation has an outreach programme, I’ve seen the foregrounding of access. This is fine when it’s separated from everything else. But we’re not allowed to just design the best programme we can on our terms and then go to the “access people” and say: “Right, get that out to the public, get as many people in as you can”. GM: ... Make sure that anybody who wants to come in can come in.PH: What is happening as part of a deliberate policy – and much of our resources comes from public funding – is a demand to integrate into our programming the ambition of accessibility. What they’re actually saying is, “Will you design your programming with as wide a group of people as possible?” and not, “Will you design in terms of what is important in terms of your artistic direction?”. GM: Art and design are different. Art is about self-expression and is about the artist’s take on the world. We designers have to create something around a particular brief. That’s still an expression, but it’s on behalf of someone else and, in our business, usually with a commercial imperative. But regulators shouldn’t determine the type of content. How can the government or regulatory body influence what you show and what’s their reasoning behind that? PH: They no longer say, “Fine, you get on with it,” but they want an integrated programme that is not just good quality, but that is also of interest to a group of people that they designate, be it “early years”, “young people” or “disabled people” or whatever is the target for that year. If we want to get 100% of our funding, we are expected to put together programming that will include these segments in a commercial way. GM: As a product design agency, we create artefacts for people to use– things like the touch, feel or form factor – and inclusive design has been a big element of our business for quite a while now. This is where I think it’s been misinterpreted, because inclusive design is not just designing for the elderly or disabled. I think this is the worst way of looking at it. It’s designing for the widest possible audience. On the other hand, inclusive design as a trend only has to get bigger. The ageing population of the UK means you have to consider this new group who are quite young in their minds but are ageing physically. It’s something that we are going to hang our hat on quite strongly for the next ten years because we think it’s going to be a big thing. PH: I think in the public sector you are much more vulnerable. In the private sector, a lot of the ideas about good design are to do with function. That’s unassailable. You know people want something because they go out, buy and use it. You can establish a connection between good design and value. It’s probably less easy to measure the value of a painting or a programme. GM: It’s subjective!PH: So what is the “design for all” concept? Does it apply to everything? GM: Everything that we design has to have an aesthetic consideration which comes from understanding the lifestyles, concerns, worries and needs of a particular niche. And although you are a public body, you need to generate some form of money, and that’s the problem. I mean what are you actually on this planet for? That is tied into where you get your money. That’s where you have a tricky path to tread. PH: I think the gallery’s purpose is to provide a public space for private use and contemplation. It sounds grand. But in a city where there is not much quiet space for people to go and look at things and think and be left in peace, the public gallery serves a valuable purpose. Trying to design for every eventuality misses out what people bring to a situation. It’s a failure of imagination, in a way. If you want to have total design, you are saying, “nothing else can happen”. Museums are a nightmare now because everything is predetermined. GM: Yes, the voyage of discovery is important. The audio commentaries make you passive. A space where there are no accepted norms can be quite comforting or quite scary: “There’s no path, just have a look.”Moderator: What about the death of the Routemaster double-decker bus in 2005 and the rise of the bendy bus design disaster? GM: Well, first of all, they were hard to get pushchairs in, so I always ended up taking a taxi. But I think the bendy bus is a relatively good idea because it accommodates more people per square foot. PH: But why is it that we hung on to the design of the Routemaster for so long? And how come what’s replaced it all these years later is so obviously inferior? Why, when we are so aware now, are things not getting better? GM: I think it’s a dilution of purpose. There’s a complexity in terms of engineering. But because you are including design principles that have to appeal to a broader section of the community, you are going to have some dilution of purpose. The answer is that nothing is as simple as it used to be. That’s not necessarily a good thing. That’s just the way things are. PH: Is there a sense that there has to be a compromise between functionality and access and if you go all out for access or the greatest number of people you may have to compromise on the functionality of the object? GM: Quite simply, yes. But in terms of the gallery and of access, I honestly don’t see the harm in having a gallery as a place to go – not just to look at art. I think that provides greater meaning. That would be my ideal situation.PH: Going back to the Routemaster – it was popular because you used to be able to jump on and off it. You had freedom. Moderator: You used to feel so alive. You’d think: “Here I am taking a controlled risk. Wow!” GM: Well, you are fit, active and male. That’s maybe seven percent of the population. So that’s good for you. I mean a lot of the rest of the population would do it, too. Moderator: More than seven percent of the population jumped on and off Routemaster buses! PH: I think even I could manage it. But isn’t there a connection between accessibility and social progress? These buses were designed to produce cheap transport for the masses. Why didn’t anyone think of adapting the Routemaster? GM: Well, we’ve moved on. In Japan inclusive design is much more popular because they have more elderly people and more respect for them. The have tools that are designed so you don’t have to apply brute force to them. B&Q do a range of them. They are lighter and they perform their function better than they did before. They support inclusive design principles but they are not designed for old people. It just so happens that since they are easy to use, then older people will buy them. PH: That makes a great deal of sense to me. Firstly, the product will be commercially successful. The problems seem to arise more in the public sector, which often “creates” the publics the policy makers want. Progress is not being driven by the real users but by the people who set themselves as representatives of the public. GM: They try to give themselves goals so that they can then be judged against a determined set of criteria – for instance, more young people, but there is no commercial benefit apart from their pay rise next year. PH: In that case, the purpose of art – that it has its own purpose – is not valued. It becomes a tool for something else – for cohering society, for example – so if you’ve got young people drinking on street corners, if we could only get that lot in, we would be fulfilling a target. GM: It seems that policy makers are not speaking to your users and they haven’t tried to speak to them.PH: We know very well what we need to do and would just like to get on with it.
Words by Indigo ClarkeMelbourne-based architecture practice Six Degrees has a reputation for inventively recycling materials. The firm’s new office is an innovative adaptation of derelict boat sheds beside the Yarra River A series of derelict bluestone boat sheds known as the Vaults are tucked beneath Federation Square, the large-scale cultural centre in the heart of Melbourne. Over 100 years old, the Vaults are quirky, cavernous spaces that overlook the Yarra River – a prestigious water view. From street level, the spaces are below ground, but at the riverbank, the resurrected Vaults appear as a series of glass-fronted, fishbowl-like spaces on display to passers-by.
“It’s a great space,” says Six Degrees director Craig Allchin of the Vaults. “Particularly for Melbourne where there is only one true waterfront place – Southbank. The Vaults look out to this river view as well as to the Arts Centre Spire – Melbourne’s postcard image – while also taking in a view of the public gardens around the city. The decked outdoor area of our offices is pretty large, so the table-tennis table comes out every lunch time so people can play by the river.”
It was a big downgrade in physical size for Six Degrees, which has previously inhabited expansive open-plan spaces, but the rare opportunity to exist alongside the riverbank was the motivating factor in the relocation. “The Vaults posed a unique opportunity to be as close to the river as you can get, without being on a boat,” explains Six Degrees director and head of the Vaults project, Mark Healy. “It’s a bit like being inside a submarine, with a lot of linked volumes in a single line. Maximising the river aspect also drove most of the plan decisions – there is an interesting crossover of private and communal spaces.”
Included in the precinct is an adjacent cafe/bar located in one of the Vaults, owned by Six Degrees and open to the public all year round. This somewhat unorthodox extension is a tradition for the 15-year-old practice, beginning with the opening of its Meyers Place bar in 1994. Owned and designed by the six company directors, Meyers Place was the first of a new breed of Melbourne bars that effectively revived forgotten laneways – inspiring the city’s alleyways and backstreets to come alive at night.
This unobtrusive, out of the way, European-style bar not only spawned a series of similar laneway hotspots, but helped define a Melbourne typology. Characterised by Six Degrees’ many commercial fit-outs in the city, this aesthetic is a successful merging of old and new, with vintage materials juxtaposed with modernist design to provide a new residence with a sense of instant history. The partners’ idiosyncratic fusing of myriad found materials and objects was born out of necessity (the practice began at the height of an economic recession), but soon became its trademark style.
The first Six Degrees office was conveniently located next to the Melbourne Theatre Company, from which it would acquire discarded stage sets and props. “This became a way of working both innovatively and ethically, gathering interesting materials and employing them to get the right results,” explains Allchin. “It also developed into a way to get texture and history into places so that there was a blurring between new and old.” Through Meyers Place and following small-scale commercial work, Six Degrees gained the reputation of the “cool bar” architect who could build things cheaply and sustainably out of recycled materials, garnering something of a cult status among students, artists, designers and other architects. Meyers Place also won the team the inaugural Melbourne Prize (as part of the Institute of Architects Awards), an award recognising architectural projects that have made a significant contribution to the city.
Six Degrees’ current workplace, while extraordinary to most, is in keeping with the company’s aims and culture and in practice is not as unusual as its former work environs, Public Office. Situated in a dilapidated warehouse space in West Melbourne overlooking the docklands, Public Office was a concept space developed in 1998 that catered to new ways of working. Featuring an interior bar, cafe and lounge, the space was open to anyone to use a computer, store files, grab a drink or have a work meeting. It encouraged collaboration between creatives and was often a site for bustling art and design events.
Beginning with its 1991 manifesto that proposed “To work as equal partners on ideas-driven projects and to avoid the stereotypical ego-maniac architect attitude”, Six Degrees has continued to break the mould with non-formulaic projects and democratic workspaces. The opportunity to take over the Vaults came through the management of Federation Square not knowing what to do with the river’s edge. Businesses were reluctant to take up the challenge of working in the historic capsules that were dank, relatively small and off the main strip. Six Degrees happily took up the challenge, and developed the project into a small precinct with a cafe and bar as well as an outdoor servery inspired by the Indonesian beachside eateries. A lot of outdoor space, where staff can sit with their laptops and work outdoors, was pushed onto the riverbank to catch the sun. Because of the delicacy required when restoring the heritage-listed Vaults, Six Degrees enlisted the services of conservationist architect Michael Taylor.“Deciding on how to restore the Vaults, which were in a really sorry state, was greatly assisted by our locating original City of Melbourne drawings from 1890. These provided a vision to direct restorative works,” Taylor explains. “I remember the Vaults when part of them was used as an awful nightclub in the early 1980s. It was a terrible venue, mainly due to the form and linear arrangement. It was very satisfying to have it all ripped out as part of the new project.”
An unanticipated factor, says Taylor, “was how much of a fishbowl the offices would be. Visibility is high to the passer-by, with no chance of avoiding clients, trade reps or builders who turn up at the door unannounced.” The offices are spread across six vaults: four of the spaces sit three people each, while the final two house the kitchen and dining areas, and the bathrooms.
The Six Degrees workspaces in the Vaults precinct offer an environment that allows for a lot of informal sharing of information, crucial for the growth of ideas and skills in the company, as well as “games of table-tennis on the Yarra, and lunch on the green banks taking in the view,” says office manager Sarah Bennett. “We provide lunch here for our staff every day, so the new office had to feature a kitchen to suit our needs – making sandwiches and eating around a table together. It’s a very alive and stimulating work environment.”
The Vaults offices have not only proven impressive spaces from a client perspective and showcased Six Degrees’ ability to undertake difficult projects with a unique vision, but, perhaps most importantly, they have provided staff with an inspiring work environment.
“Ever since moving here in April this year, we haven’t been able to take the smile off people’s faces,” says Bennett. “There is a great feeling of community and cosiness in the office.”