CULDESACWhere Moooi stand, Superstudio, Wednesday 16 AprilWho CuldeSac, design practiceLikes The best space was Rosanna Orlandi´s gallery where a true spirit of design and creativity could be felt: interesting exhibitions and interesting people in a relaxed ambience reminiscent of the early days of Superstudio Più. We also loved the Boffi exhibit within a great warehouse close to the Porta Genova station. More than the products, which are amazing, the entire feeling and experience was smooth, refreshing and welcoming. Another highlight of our tour was the Triennale with the museum collection of Cassina [pictured is the “Tramonto a New York” sofa]. The exhibition of Bernhardt Design was sleek and elegant (we showed a piece there... so, of course). Dislikes Overall we found that the level of design and innovation within the traditional spaces such as the Superstudio Più was not as high as in previous years. The weather and the lack of transportation options at night make it complicated to really enjoy and move around easily.
LIME STUDIO Where Satellite, Wednesday 16 AprilWho Lime Studio, design practiceLikes We had the chance to meet Giulio Cappellini [pictured], so let’s wait and see what happens there!Dislikes The parties finished too early, maybe because we had to be at our exhibition far too early. Lime StudioWhere Satellite, Wednesday 16 AprilWho Lime Studio, design practiceLikes We had the chance to meet Giulio Cappellini [pictured], so let’s wait and see what happens there!Dislikes The parties finished too early, maybe because we had to be at our exhibition far too early.GRANT GIBSONWhere Swarovski, Wednesday 16 AprilWho Grant Gibson, design criticLikes The thing I enjoyed most this year was Paul Cocksedge’s installation at the Swarovski Crystal Palace [pictured]. A simple-looking four-metre curtain of crystal at the back of the room, it took me a while to realise what the point of the piece actually was. It was only as I turned around that I noticed the image of the Mona Lisa it had created in a mirror behind me. Subtle and rather brilliant. RYAN FRANKWhere Established & Sons Party, Thursday 17 AprilWho Ryan Frank, furniture designerLikes The best venue for me was Maarten Baas’ gig [pictured is his Hey chair]. It was in an old garage where they would normally fix cars, change oil... dirty stuff like that. The part I liked most was the pin-up calendar girls that were still left hanging up (classic workshop accessory), along with old car tyres and brake pads. JONATHAN PRESTWICHWhere Modus, Wednesday 16 AprilWho Jonathan Prestwich, furniture designerLikes The best thing that I saw when I was out there by far was the Lexus Nendo exhibition showing a real SLS (selective laser sintering) product as they should be! Taking the structure of a diamond gave them a basic structure that could take compression and react in a 3 dimensional way, true innovation through this fantastic under explored production technique... brilliant! Not something that could be done with traditional plastic moulding. Very inspiring and beautiful too! ED CARPENTER & ANDRE KLAUSERWhere Icon party, Superstudio, Wednesday 16th April 2008Who Ed Carpenter and Andre Klauser, product designersEd likes For me the best product was still the Steelwood chair by the Bouroullecs for Magis. It was really interesting to see them expand the concept into other furniture items such as a table and shelving. The best show has to be Established & Sons, apart from a few projects, which aren’t up my street. In general I think the collection is getting stronger and stronger, and this year it was the best show by far.Ed dislikes As for the worst, I’m getting really tired of seeing bad design trying to masquerade itself as bad art - please move on and do something interesting, preferably not is some un-recyclable, petroleum based, highly toxic, carcinogenic resin or rubber!Andre likes I flew out early to visit the Castiglioni Studio Museum. Castiglioni’s work is a great inspiration to me and to be able to visit his studio is wonderful. The four room studio looks as if the master just popped out for a quick espresso and his wife and daughter show you around. If you haven't been yet, go and see it. Also, the presentation of the Myto chair (by Konstantin Grcic) - it's just a pleasure to be given such an insight into the devlopment of a product that pushes the boundaries of both design and engineering. OSCAR NARUD Where I Saloni, Wednesday 16th AprilWho Oscar Narud, product designerLikes I enjoyed E&S opening and thought Raw Edges’ stack drawers looked sharp. Dutch company Arco had a nice stand in the fair, as did Nigel Coates. Other than that I liked the Nilufar gallery and El Ultimo Grito for UNO.Also the last years I have enjoyed the exhibitions at the Prada Foundation, they offer a welcome break from an unavoidable overload of tables and chairs at the show KARIM RASHIDKerstin Zumstein managed to break through the fray and catch a bit of up-close time with the off-the-wall New York-based designer
Suited and booted in pink, with big purple glasses on his nose and white varnish on his nails, Karim Rashid sails through the Milan furniture fair. At six foot four, towering above the usual Milan posse, he can’t be missed. Like a being from another planet, everyone’s eyes are on him. I’ve been waiting to interview him for an hour now, but when I finally see him coming, I’m struck dumb. As soon as we sit, people start running up to him, wanting to take pictures and trying to shake his hand. Rashid gets annoyed by the invasion of his space. “I’m in an interview,” he says. He seems tired of being polite. “The thing with Milan is people don’t respect the etiquette. I’m from New York, you don’t invade personal space.” Then he leans into me, so close his face becomes out of focus, and with a fuzzy smile, he says, “Ok, sorry, now I’m all yours!”Rashid is in fact half Egyptian, half British, raised in Canada, based in New York and known all over the world for his funky designs. More to the point, Karim Rashid is a design star. Come to think of it, he is like his designs: sleek, styled, high-impact, possibly injection moulded, an almost surreal experience. His famous signature adorns each of his products; he’s the ultimate “signature designer”.“My Zero desk for Della Rovere is my best product at the show. I wanted to break the vernacular of the office, it’s such a contrived world!” The white sculptural office table does indeed break with the straight lines and angular shapes in the office halls at Milan this year, but when Rashid says, “It’s not loud”, I can’t help but think in a standard office the desk would scream style. “My aim was to break down the uniform of the office. It’s like men still wearing ties or women still wearing high heels, although...” he trails off in thought, “I guess they’re keeping each other in bondage.”Rashid talks of a new frontier and Zero is a good example of that: “In this digital age the interface of physical product is losing importance – the technological world is where it’s happening.” He concludes that design should pick up where the physical world meets the virtual – fluid forms, futuristic visions. His other products at the show – such as the partitioning screens for Zerodisegno, wall panels for Offecct and a brand new reception desk for Frezza – show that Rashid will put his mind to anything, even less show-stopping commissions.“I believe in democratising design. I’m doing a chair for five dollars. The low-end segment of the design market has become so sophisticated, smart design doesn’t need to be expensive.” Rashid wants to see good design on every level – he has never been one to be retrospective or elitist, contrary to his appearance. What he really wants is to make the world a better place. This heroic statement has never been well received by European media, as the declamatory nature of such expression often diminishes the credibility. But what Rashid actually means to say is: let’s design where design is needed and not just for the cream of the crop. His advice for aspiring designers is to go and work for companies lacking quality design. “Why knock on Cappellini’s door when there are so many companies out there in desperate need of good design. It’s easy going for the big names, but it’s more effective to re-brand and change a company’s image through good design.”After all, that’s how Rashid went about it. He has never been too good to turn his talent to tiles or packaging for laundry detergents, for instance. “When I started in New York 15 years ago, no one knew my name. Now I’ll still work for anyone as long as there’s something to do. There is still so much design required, for example for light switches, door handles, bikes and cars.” Rashid gets all fired up about poor design, moving in even closer to me and saying, “Here’s something I’d like you to write: furniture is not design! It can be but it’s really about the entire built environment.” He sees a shift on the horizon, a design evolution that in itself will drive the democratisation of clever design. “Luxury goods will need to change their tune. Extra diamonds on a Rolex won’t do, they need to add value like a watch that is also a mobile phone or something.” Rashid himself wears the plastic Alessi watch he designed, in pink of course. His days of only wearing white (after handing all his black suits to charity at the turn of the century) are now tinted pink. “Aesthetics are not subjective – I don’t believe in taste.”Rashid rants about Milan and unnecessary designs to the point where he stops and asks: “Do I sounds bitter? It’s just that I believe design means making a better life. With the US population soon having 600 million retired folk, who is designing for these ageing people?” Rashid will – there’s nothing he wouldn’t do. But right now, he just needs a coffee.
Having hovered in an innocuous-looking doorway that leads up to Hooper Galton’s offices, it’s not until later that I discover its true cultural significance.Look closely at the sleeve artwork for David Bowie’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and you’ll see the pop icon posed in this bit of Heddon St, located just off Regent Street. It’s now home to a variety of places to eat, drink and be merry, from the sophistication of the Absolut Icebar and Momo to the post-work drinks heaven (or hell depending on your point of view) of Strawberry Moons. Nicely secluded off the tourist trail by day, I certainly wouldn’t want to try and get any work done around here late on a Friday night. Up a couple of flights of stairs, myself and architect Sam Cooper are surveying the results of his work under his own practice, E2 Architecture + Interiors. “The brief was to come in and touch the existing fabric as little as possible,” he explains. “The building is in a conservation area, part of Crown Estates, and they are very stringent in their requirements.” To stay within the boundaries of what this particular landowner wanted for the late 19th-century building, a bespoke system of perimeter trunking was installed along the walls of the project. This then negated the need for a raised floor, and while not as aesthetically enthralling as a large statement reception desk or a set of designer bar stools, it is nonetheless an integral piece of interior architecture, of which Cooper is rightly proud. The vertical surfaces are a combination of timber panelling and exposed brickwork, the result of removing the original panelling from some areas to make good others and cleaning up the brickwork left behind. This is undoubtedly workplace design on a budget, but the architect has been clever enough to disguise structural necessity as a contemporary-cum-industrial feel. The large light that fits perfectly in the break-out area of the main space, for instance, was not in fact specified for the project but instead was part of the fixtures and fittings that Hooper Galton brought with them, providing an area with an air of semi-domestic calm, where the creatives can retreat to. The lighting suspended over the workstations is also both functional and part of the aesthetic. “Being open plan, the interior is quite dominated by the structure of the building,” says Cooper. “The fit out has to then break down that rhythm without implying a grid.”About a third of the sash windows in the project were released so they could provide natural ventilation. To supplement this, a new air source heating system provides cooling as well as heat for the office; replacing the old gas-fired system with something that is far more energy efficient. “One of the things they wanted was to be as sustainable as possible in terms of energy use, and use natural and renewable materials,” Cooper adds. More furniture brought from their previous offices, this time with a retro feel, fills a break-out area on the upper floor, reached via a spiral staircase at one end of the space. Cooper designed the table in the adjoining meeting room himself – impressively big enough for team meetings or client presentations. Elsewhere, he is also responsible for the design of the bright red desking on the lower floor. These are composed of extremely thick MDF with the pigment running all the way through, and over time it is hoped that the desks will develop an attractive patina. Flooring materials also keep to the green ethos, including recycled tyre underlay and a sisal carpet.Hooper Galton has such strong branding that Cooper, who spent several years at architecture firm Jestico + Whiles before deciding to go solo, has wisely decided not to challenge it with what has been achieved in terms of workplace design. Even before you walk through the door, you are greeted by the first in a series of “delicious monsters” – the firm’s logo and also its philosophy. “Original ideas – monstrous, in that they’re big enough to be unmissable” goes their corporate blurb. A large monster artwork dominates the wall on the upper floor adjacent to the stairs and prints from various campaigns, including Spanish wine brand Campo Viejo, New Covent Garden Food Company and National Express, adorn the walls all around the office. If not a blank canvas, then Cooper’s interior interventions are hardly the architectural equivalent of the look-at-me work of a Young British Artist. Tellingly, there’s a tongue-in-cheek client compatibility test on Hooper Galton’s website, and the first question suggests that if you’re looking for a Damien Hirst sheep’s head floating in a tank of formaldehyde as a reception centerpiece, then this agency isn’t for you. If it’s energetic ambience, however, “the words ‘heaven’, ‘made’, ‘marriage’ and ‘in’ spring to mind. Your place or ours?” Location-wise, I would have thought there’s no contest.
There was never any doubt. Team Echo stood out as the clear winner on every level: space planning, design, visual presentation and team effort. The eclectic mix of the team members – Polish, Hungarian, Lithuanian and British – ensured an international approach to designing the press working area and a strong group dynamic, especially after having two laptops stolen just days before the deadline.“We decided to integrate the context of the building – the Olympic Village – into the interior by encouraging the visitors to look out of the windows,” says Olga Jaszewska. This “bringing the outside in” theme echoes throughout the floorplate – hence the team name. What won the judges over more than anything was the high level of consistency that shone through the design as well as the presentation. The colour coding created clarity and when Jaszewska walked the judges though the space it really came alive. Peter Williams says: ‘‘We simply kept asking, ‘How would we like to deal with the space?’ If we all like and get it, then it will work.”The break-out areas and cafes are tranquil and soft, while the office areas have various flexible desking solutions. The use of touchscreen technology lends the sophisticated design a 2012 feeling. The students told us about how Enrico Caruso, one of Gensler’s principals and a tutor/ judge on the competition, helped by taking their initial ideas to another level. All in all it’s a stylish, user-friendly space.
IDThe close second was team ID, which evidently put a lot of hard work into its project – but its ambitions somewhat diluted its presentation’s transparency. The team’s concept idea, however, was strong. The theme was photosynthesis, incorporating the current buzzwords associated with the Olympic project – environmental issues and the regeneration of east London – into the mission statement. The space plan is broken down into the studio space, the press work area and relaxation spaces, and each room is highly designed. Adopting aesthetics from clubs, the break-out areas have a loungey feel. The colours and fabrics suggest luxury, with deep purple, bright reds and pinks. Details such as guidance for the visually impaired and disabled access demonstrate how well thought through the entire project is. Clever design solutions like soundproof pods and fibre optic chambers present an innovative approach to working realities. The studio space from where the interviews with the athletes would be broadcast includes a make-up room and wardrobe. The most striking feature of ID’s design is the bold, powerful use of light. Different coloured beams add ambience while a wide range of lighting solutions make the space a visual experience. We’re not sure how that ties in with the environmental mission, as it would surely use a lot of energy! Anyhow, the detail is outstanding and while the space feels more like a club then a workplace, we don’t think we’d mind mingling there with our journo pals.
Vision Design If rhetoric is anything to go by, this group’s presentation had the eloquence and flow of a professional pitch. The judges were taken on a journey through the space that focused on tackling possible challenges of the future workplace. Creating a space that incorporates a healthy work/life balance was key to the concept. The sources quoted as inspiration for the project suggested an unparalleled level of research, which made every element an educated choice supported by industry facts and figures.Vision Design were one of the few groups that presented possible product specifications and with that connected this virtual brief to the real-life industry. In addition, the students themselves had a go at designing furniture, developing two curved screens that could be arranged into private spaces for one-to-one meetings. Even less attractive aspects (to aspiring design students at least) such as flooring were addressed and solved with sustainable and acoustic benefits in mind.The convincing aspect from a workplace perspective was that the Vision Design group developed different kinds of working environments catering for the international press – facilitating the cultural differences by designing both working booths, open-plan hot-desking space and leisurely break-out areas. But what impressed the judges most was the fact that the floorplan was broken down into the macro and micro levels, which is exactly what architects do.
Design Direction Both the architects on the judging panel, Tom Jones from HOK Sports and Enrico Caruso from Gensler, fought for the inclusion of this project among the winning teams because Design Direction was the only group that built an actual model indicating what its plans were with the space. It showed how the team took the building’s features, such as the many columns, into account when fitting out the space. “Our main aim was to create a futuristic space with futuristic furniture solutions,” says Narmin Shawais. “That is why we have touchscreens everywhere because we don’t believe there will be a person manning the reception desk in 2012. And technology will facilitate the multilingual needs of the journalists.” The team went to the BBC broadcasting station and found that even filming the news no longer required a cameraman – the presenter also operates the machine. Other inspirational sources for the project included the sculptural architecture of Zaha Hadid and Will Alsop.The strongest visual element was the incorporation of the much-scrutinised London Olympic 2012 logo. The team decided to interpret the 2012 logo inside the space to visually connect the journalists to the event. The individual elements of the logo would be made into freestanding transparent pieces with spotlight colour shining through them. The bathrooms have a sculptural unisex washbasin designed to be a unifying feature. The spherical form has the coloured Olympic rings running around it and would work as a centralised social hub.
Words by Indigo ClarkeMarket research company Research International relocated to Foster’s riverside development, creating an open, dynamic and democratic new workspace conceived by BDGworkfuturesWhen Research International decided to make a change, it did more than just move offices – it restructured the way the company functions and interacts with clients and, more importantly, the way the staff interact with each other.Research International is now situated across two expansive floors at 6 More London Place, in the prominent Norman Foster-designed More London development overlooking Tower Bridge. The project is based around a communication-based concept. Taking a democratic approach to space allocation alongside bold interior design and colour schemes, this light-filled office offers myriad innovative features aimed at fostering staff productivity and interaction.
The company relocated from Grosvenor Place near Hyde Park Corner, where its workspaces had been split between two buildings, one a Victorian house. This division of over 500 staff impeded knowledge sharing and interaction. To facilitate an improved working environment with communication across teams and disciplines, the company chose a double-tiered open-plan space that reflected the company’s purpose and culture to staff as well as clients.
“The design of this space was absolutely focused on the people that work here,” explains Lucy Davison, director of marketing and communications for Research lnternational. “Our goals from the outset were firstly to provide an excellent working environment, secondly to implement a new way of working, and lastly to create inspiring and confident client-facing spaces.”
London-based design consultancy BDGworkfutures worked closely alongside the marketing team at Research International on the concept for the space. Reinforcing the company’s core visual identity with a design based around natural imagery and strong colour, the space was divided into unique areas, each a distinct hue. “There is a simple footprint to the space,” explained Scott Compton, senior designer with BDG. “It is easily navigable through our use of colour and the way we adapted it. It’s a diverse office and the charm of it is you have four very different areas, each with their own personality.”
A base palette of neutral colours provides the foundation for all the shared areas, punctuated with the bold company colours – red, green, blue and yellow – that become progressively brighter and more frequent towards the four corners of the dual office space. Large prints and block colours on glass and walls provide a jewel-like glow to the interiors of the break-out spaces and meeting rooms. Organic motifs such as flowers, grass, water and leaves appear as mural-like prints on interior and exterior meeting-room walls. “Some of the prints are like wallpaper,” says Compton. “This gives the office a home-like, relaxing quality.” Other spaces employ block colours to break up the monotony of a large-scale, open-plan design. “Simple colours and organic forms don’t date”, says Davison, “and they also relate to the firm’s ongoing visual integration of technology and nature.”
As well as its interest in aesthetic organic approaches, Research International is also dedicated to being green in practice. To reuse its former furniture – including generic desk chairs in an array of hues, cabinets, tables and some diaphanous red Phillipe Starck chairs – without interrupting the new scheme, it employed neutral base colours such as olive on the walls and a deep blue to link the desking panels throughout the floors.
The prime interior spaces have eye-catching views over Tower Bridge, and Research International has made these popular spaces into open plan and shared break-out areas rather than reserving them for the executive level. “Equality was at the fore of the design for Research International’s new office space,” says Compton. “Prime space that would once have been given to the company heads as private offices has instead become everybody’s space, where they can interact and work together as a team.”
A number of the areas in the office are multipurpose. Two of the break-out spaces function as dynamic cafe-like zones with televisions and kitchenettes for lunch or casual meetings, while a following two are designated quiet zones, ideal spaces for mobile working or enjoying a coffee break.
Being a market research company, sharing knowledge is of the utmost importance for Research International, so it was crucial that the workspace promotes staff communication as much as possible. To this end, the office was designed allowing maximum space for people to converse with one another and to work together in a multiplicity of shared environments. The built elements are focused in the centre of both levels, with less break up of space towards the glass walls, allowing daylight to permeate the entire space. The break-out areas at the corners of each level make the most of their setting, with bar stools lining the windows and comfortable diner-style booths toward the back. A variety of settings are provided for different work styles – numerous mini meeting rooms cannot be reserved in advance, allowing staff to sporadically utilise spaces when they need privacy, quietude or a simple break from their routine seating. The vibrant creative areas feature comfort-driven soft furnishings, including a giant beanbag and a floor-to-ceiling blackboard to map brainstorming and idea generation.
Despite the mood of democracy that pervades Research International, some senior employees were insistent on private offices. They were allocated their own space, but are forced to keep their areas tidy at all times and open them to staff as extra meeting rooms and workspaces when they are away from the office.
This large-scale multidisciplinary office, servicing over 500 staff, does not only offer a new way of working but enables Research International to become a more democratic and dynamic company. But ultimately, of course, it’s the staff that will really make the concept work.