As we near the end of the decade, we look back and understand that the confluence of hospitality and workplace has been the most significant movement in commercial interior design—a decade defined by the breakdown of barriers of design typologies in commercial interiors. And this convergence will likely continue and become more pronounced in the coming years. That was the premise to begin a November panel discussion that I moderated, hosted by Room & Board at its New York showroom.
More than 125 design professionals attended the lively event, with panelists Tim Duffy, Ind. IIDA, national key accounts manager for Room & Board; Annie Lee, IIDA, principal at ENV, and current IIDA New York Chapter president; Krista Ninivaggi, IIDA, founder of K+Co; and Barry Richards, IIDA, principal at Rockwell Group.
From left to right: Panelists Tim Duffy, Krista Ninivaggi, Annie Lee, John Czarnecki, and Barry Richards. Photo by: Josh Wong Photography
The panelists explored the influence of hospitality design in creating welcoming workplace interiors, whether for established clients or co-working spaces—a work setting that, in many ways, supplies an “amenity base” for employees. With a client’s brand expressed in the interior, workplaces are designed for community and face-to-face interactions as well as productivity and employee wellness. This evolution has changed how designers specify contract furniture, with ancillary furnishings now representing the majority of furniture for a workplace interior.
“In the past, workstations and office desks were considered the main portion of the furniture order defining the overall office mood and character,” Lee said. “More and more, specialized social hubs for eating, meeting, and brainstorming have become the cultural focus, similar to what is found in hotels and restaurants. What was once called ancillary spaces are just as important, if not the main feature.”
“This influence of hospitality is infiltrating the workplace and challenging the notion of how we work,” Ninivaggi says. “Can we improve our relationship with ‘work’ by orchestrating the day-to-day through the built environment?”
More than 125 design professionals filled the Room & Board New York showroom for the event. Photo by: Josh Wong Photography
With a labor market that is still highly competitive, the design of the workplace matters to attract and retain employees—just one important element for building employee loyalty. And somewhat similarly, in hospitality design, a savvy interior that responds to today’s needs helps to build guest loyalty. As technology and travel enable work to be anywhere at any time, the panelists discussed how the design of hospitality interiors is allowing for collaboration and casual productivity within hotels.
“With the help of improved mobility in technology, the workplace can be anywhere,” Ninivaggi said. “Now, the lobbies of hip hotels shift the paradigm from ‘out-of-office social places,’ to the new yet familiar feel of informal ‘collab rooms.’ The business hotel as we knew it is gone, and it has been replaced by the warmly entertaining hotel.”
How is this change influencing furniture specifications for hotels? “Tables are the new sofas. We cannot put enough tables in our projects across the board,” Ninivaggi said. “People tote their technology everywhere and can easily be immersed in their occupations so long as they find a well-placed seat and table to perch.”
Featured image: Speakers listen as Annie Lee, IIDA, describes the influence of hospitality on her workplace projects. Photo by: Josh Wong Photography
The 2019 IIDA Industry Roundtable, held in January in Chicago, culminated in a lively, facilitated discussion with designers and industry representatives on the topic of communication best practices. Drawing on a few of the hot topics from the broader Industry Roundtable conversation, including learnability, flexibility, and artificial intelligence, the following are key takeaways and excerpts of the discussion.
Of-the-Moment Versus Enduring
With the transference of “fast fashion” consumer expectations into our own industry, clients are questioning why furniture needs to last 20 years. While designers work hard to educate clients about responsible product specification and the advantages of well-made, warrantied furniture designed specifically for the workplace, this wisdom can sometimes fall on deaf ears. Designers are navigating this challenge by specifying a balance of timeless and timely product in interiors—but often feel conflicted in so doing. Here are some key thoughts from designers on the topic:
“The ‘fast-fashion’ product model doesn’t stand up, but there is a market for it, unfortunately. It’s more of a startup mentality: How long is something going to last relative to things needing to change?”
“We are responsible for considering the embodied energy of the products we are huge consumers of. A very finite life span isn’t helping the world. Products that are flexible, reconfigurable, and that offer multiple solutions will become more important.”
“In Scandinavia, companies make furniture with parts that disconnect and can be sent back for reupholstery. In fact, the government mandates buying furniture that can be updated. Will our country one day move in that direction?”
“In the environments we are creating, we treat some furniture elements as more permanent and infrastructural, and specify others that can be changed out in response to needs or trends.”
The 2019 IIDA Industry Roundtable brought together a multi-disciplinary roster of designers, manufacturers, and marketing executives to look at the future of work through the lenses of people, place, and practice.
Teach, Don’t Preach
Look beyond box lunches, 15-minute cookie breaks, and PowerPoint presentations when creating CEUs and education materials targeted at younger designers. Or any-age designer, for that matter:
“Ditch the PowerPoint and create video stories that seduce and inspire emotions—stories that showcase the beauty, simplicity, and sustainability of your design in simple ways.”
“It’s a myth that millennials only want two- to three-minute sound bites. If the information is pertinent and I’m engaged, I can sit rapt for an hour.”
“Consider restructuring how you’re putting together and synthesizing information. Tech rewired out brains: Once I get a point, I don’t want to hear it for 10 more minutes; I got it!
“I read recently that brands are not telling their stories in a linear manner because of their customers’ experience on the internet. The example given outlined that people don’t just watch one video or read one blog post but jump to various channels when exploring a brand or product.”
As technology automates the design process and frees up time for more conceptual thinking, practitioners are recasting themselves as “creators of emotional experience.” Manufacturers can support this phenomenon by promoting their product’ experiential side:
“Our premise is about elevating the human experience; we lead with that in every presentation and external communication vehicle. A client talk starts with a discussion about the ability of space to elevate the human experience—and to do the opposite if it’s not carefully calibrated and catered to the intended end user. Space is not a resource or a consumable or an overhead expense; it’s a strategic tool that can influence how we feel.”
“The workplace has done a 180-degree turn, customized to the DNA of the company. It doesn’t matter what we as designers think; it’s about how we are crafting an experience for this client specifically. That’s a shift in our critical thinking.”
Corporate Culture Trumps Cool Café
Millennials are more interested in a transparent, communicative, and egalitarian office culture than they are in gimmicky furniture or amenities:
“I don’t need beanbag chairs; I want to work at a place with a leadership team that is reflective of the industry and the broader populace.”
“At my firm, we don’t have amenity spaces—but we do have an open door policy. I’d rather have a good office environment and easy access to leadership than a fancy cafeteria.”
Emotions are the New Ergonomics
Yesterday, it was all about height-adjustability; today, designers and their clients want products that promote mindfulness and support emotional well-being. Furniture that’s responsive, context-aware, and environment-adaptive will play a starring role in the future:
“Could our furniture be collecting different kinds of data than just occupancy and movement? For instance, information about a user’s state of mind?”
“The psychology of space and neurological considerations will become more primary to how we design interiors. Systems will be able to ‘read’ who we are—and what our needs are—based on smarter architectural infrastructures.”
“Several emerging technologies in the smart building arena—including smart materials, displays, and surfaces—have the potential to fundamentally alter our approach to the design of workspaces.”
Words to Live and Work By
In what was a very buzzword-heavy conversation, the following terms were mentioned repeatedly in reference to the design of furniture and product; take them to heart:
Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA, Huntsman Architectural Group
Members at Large
Christine Dumich, Gensler
Mike Johnson II, IIDA, AIA, Perkins+Will
Kelie Mayfield, IIDA, MaRS
Patricia Rotondo, IIDA, Antunovich Associates
Smita Sahoo, IIDA, bKL Architecture LLC
Neil Schneider, Assoc. IIDA, IA Interior Architects
Learn more about the IIDA Industry Roundtable, an invaluable “brain trust” session for manufacturers and a quality opportunity for designers to exchange dialogue on issues addressing the built environment.
I am excited to welcome the design and architecture community of Chicago to the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) headquarters this spring for a superb series of talks.
IIDA, together with AIA Chicago in a first-ever collaboration, will present a series of Wednesday evening talks called “Designers and Architects Talk: A Series About Design and its Impact on Client Success,” that will address commercial interior architecture and design. Both architects and commercial interior designers will learn from the provocative discussions about projects, firm leadership, and design strategy.
March 20 – McDonald’s Headquarters: Impact on a Company, a City, and a Neighborhood
Speakers are Tish Kruse, principal, IA Interior Architects; Primo Orpilla, FIIDA, principal, Studio O+A; Scott Phillips, director of workplace management, McDonald’s; Neil Schneider, Assoc. IIDA, principal IA Interior Architects; and Grant Uhlir, FAIA, co-regional managing principal, Gensler. I will be moderating.
April 17 – New, Bold, and Entrepreneurial: Design Firms Changing the Face of Chicago
Speakers are Jason Hall, principal, Charlie Greene Studio; Ami Kahalekulu, partner, Twofold Studio; Sarah Kuchar, IIDA, creative director, Sarah Kuchar Studio; and Deon Lucas, AIA, NOMA, director, Beehyyve, E.G. Woode. The moderator is Chicago-based architect and AIA national board member Peter Exley, FAIA.
May 22 – Women Leading Hospitality Design in Chicago
Karen Herold, principal, Studio K; Jackie Koo, AIA, IIDA, principal, KOO; Laurie Miller, AIA, principal, Anderson/Miller; Meg Prendergast, principal, Gettys Group; and Patricia Rotondo, Assoc. AIA, IIDA, senior principal, Antunovich Associates. IIDA EVP/CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, will be the moderator.
Ticket sales have begun for all sessions, and advance purchase is necessary to reserve a seat. Members of IIDA or AIA have a special ticket price of $10/session or $25 for a seat to all three sessions. The public is welcome at $20 per session. Student members of IIDA, AIAS, or AIA Chicago are free.
Sessions allow for 1 IDCEC-approved CEU for interior designers and 1 AIA-approved LU for architects.
Airport design is reaching new heights. With hundreds of millions of travelers passing through these spaces every year, designers are tasked with delivering a seamless and comfortable experience to regular business commuters and first-time fliers alike. So what makes a great traveler experience? Aviation designers Wilson Rayfield, AIA, LEED AP, executive vice president at Gresham, Smith and Partners, Richmond, Virginia, USA, and Derrick Choi, AIA, LEED AP, principal and senior architect at Populous, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, check in to chat on this topic.
Perspective: What elements do the most to improve traveler experience?
Wilson Rayfield: We’re looking at things that improve the passenger experience in terms of efficiency, wayfinding, and access. Often, it’s that intuitive wayfinding—trying to create as few decision points as possible and provide visual cues to your destination. For example, in the international terminal in Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the ticket counters, the floor pattern, the ceiling pattern, and the lighting are angled and lead visually toward your direction of travel. All the lines lead your eye toward the direction that you need to be moving in.
Derrick Choi: I’m a big advocate of a passenger-centric design approach based on three basic principles: convenience, control, and connectivity. Passengers, no matter how seasoned they are, just need to be in control of where they are. They’ve got to be connected physically, mentally, and, these days, technologically. Once all these elements are achieved, a passenger can actually begin to engage and experience the terminal facilities and start to make decisions as to what they like and what they don’t like.
Wilson Rayfield, AIA, LEED AP, Executive Vice President, Smith and Partners
Perspective: Elaborate features — such as the world’s largest indoor waterfall at Singapore’s Changi Airport — have become a mainstay of modern airport design. Are today’s airports too focused on flash?
Rayfield: I think that has a lot to do with the context and with the community. What’s appropriate in Changi, Singapore is probably not appropriate in Nashville, Tennessee, [USA]. It’s a matter of finding things that make the airport represent the region it serves. We did a modernization project in Norfolk, Virginia, [USA] recently. With the design of the terrazzo flooring, integrating some of the nautical elements there, we refer back to the history of the region without being overwhelming. It’s part of the fabric of the design and the finishes, so it’s something that is recognizable if you find it. But it doesn’t stand out and scream at you.
Passengers, no matter how seasoned they are, just need to be in control of where they are.
Choi: I think every community has a unique story that they’d like to tell, like the Victorian-era train stations in Europe. But ultimately, financial viability is key for these public gateways. This emphasis on revenue — and the reality that passenger travel patterns have dramatically shifted in the past 15 years — has really put the emphasis on customer convenience, amenities, and concessions. Because of that, there’s a bit of a misperception that it’s all about these elaborate elements, particularly in the global context. These airports are pulling out all the stops — not only to make their operations highly affordable and attractive to airlines, but to attract passengers from all over the world.
Perspective: What future trends will shape airports?
Rayfield: I think security is going to drive airport design more than anything. Instead of having a secure side and a non-secure side with a single security checkpoint in the center, the entire airport environment will be a secure environment where they’re identifying passengers through facial recognition and other technologies. Security is going to become ubiquitous throughout the entire facility, and I think it’s going to start to become more invisible. After security, another driver is the movement toward a greater reliance on self-service passenger processing for check-in, bag check, and similar tasks, which gives passengers more control over their travel experiences and has significant repercussions for terminal design.
Derrick Choi, AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Senior Architect, Populous
Choi: I think technology will continue to be a huge driver of change in several aspects. It’ll radically transform the way we think about the building. Many traditional passenger processes and physical touchpoints are being transformed, repurposed, and even blurred — creating what will hopefully be a more frictionless user environment. For example, in many airports, they’re ripping out your traditional hold room seating and creating more user-friendly spaces that are served by iPads and food service vendors that let you tap and order. Being able to have that technology will change the way you use a facility and spend money.