Events of the past centuries, the past decades, and most recently in past weeks and days have painfully and plainly illuminated the disparities in our culture and society. We are at a pivotal moment where we must face great societal challenges that will not be repaired without great collective effort. Confronting racism, injustice, and a need for equity is critical to moving forward, and current events expose how much work needs to be done for us all to really “be in this together.” We know that design is but one small part of that larger equation—so why not start with the change we can most immediately affect?
Design illuminates disparity and helps close the gaps—from healthcare and education to public space and urban planning. Design in all its manifestations is a force for change.
Recently at IIDA, we’ve considered, like so many of you, what “re-entry” and a return to life in a post-pandemic world might be. Certainly, not the same world we left behind four months ago. And definitely not a so-called “new normal.” Frankly, the old normal wasn’t exactly working that well for us. For the environment. For people of color. For the LGBTQIA community. For so many.
So what will we come back to?
Quite simply, the spaces that encompass where our lives happen—the places where we heal, where we work, where we learn, where we gather, museums, theatres, playgrounds, schools, sports facilities, stadiums, civic centers, libraries, concert halls, outdoor festivals—all the places that perhaps we took for granted before, are now places filled with nostalgia. As we re-enter these spaces, let us mandate that they be healthier and safer, but importantly also more inclusive, more equitable—DESIGN FOR HUMANITY.
The power of our collective energy is more important than ever, and we should and will consider how we function as a global design community and how we hold strong to those foundational values. The spaces we envision and create, envelop and contain those values and this time requires a broadened vocabulary of collaboration. One where we are open to learning, expanding our societal and world views, and maintaining a through-line of equity and humanity in all the work we do.
Design and design strategies can develop the tools we need to create our safer spaces. As we head into the future and the inevitable aftermath of this global crisis, public and commercial interiors will be looked at through a new lens. Within interior design, there will be more of an emphasis on the way that people move within a space and how that enables them to interact.
Health, well-being, and wellness, must be at the forefront, and our interior spaces and the furniture, fabrics, and materials will be held to and regulated at much higher standards. It must be reinforced that no matter the neighborhood we live in, no matter where we exist socioeconomically, no matter our race, gender, or background, we all deserve to live with these fundamental design values and with DIGNITY.
Designers have always put humans first, and in a post pandemic world, humans and their safety and well-being are of paramount importance. And for now, for next, and for always, design will do what design does best, support and uplift humanity and culture. Design is indeed the business of life. Now more than ever, the world requires what design so abundantly endows—grace, civility, compassion, clarity, connection, common sense, empathy, well-being, comfort, healing, hope, and EQUITY.
We have to stand together as humans dedicated to the betterment of our society. Let us continue to be a force for good in this world and take responsibility individually and collectively for envisioning and enacting change, progress, and JUSTICE.
Design is forever an act of optimism, and we can little afford in our activism to not be optimistic about our collective future.
All my best wishes to you for peace, safety, good health, and well-being. Stay hopeful and stay strong.
In response to our rapidly changing world, IIDA brings you a design-focused dialogue on the effects of a global crisis. Watch the seventh webinar in the series today.
How are approaches to sustainability in design shifting? IIDA and a panel of industry experts address important issues around energy savings, waste reduction, and climate change. Explore the impact of this challenging moment and our responsibility to design for the health of people and the planet.
This webinar is registered for 1 IDCEC HSW CEU. To learn how to earn your CEU credit, visit IIDA.org for more information.
This post was contributed by Jen Levisen, communications director at Mortarr.
The second season of IIDA and AIA Chicago’s Designers + Architects Talk series continued March 10 with a conversation focused on three large-scale, transformative, structural and interior transformations and repositioning projects in Chicago: Willis Tower, Tribune Tower, and the Old Post Office.
The weeks following this event have been transformative in ways that have affected us personally, professionally, and collectively and have sent ripples through the industry. While we understand that projects across the globe may or may not be paused at this time, we hope this enlightening conversation and the innovative reimagining of iconic architectural spaces in Chicago inspires and encourages creativity.
Along with being famous for food, jazz, and world-class museums, Chicago is a city with an incredible architectural history, and the architects and designers leading the charge today play an important role in the reimagining of some of the city’s masterpieces. Projects like the rebirth of the city’s tallest skyscraper, the transformation of a neo-Gothic landmark, and the largest example of adaptive reuse in the country.
Moderated by Zurich Esposito, Hon. AIA, executive vice president of AIA Chicago, the panel featured Todd Heiser, IIDA, principal, Gensler; Sheryl Schulze, principal, Gensler; Meg Prendergast, IIDA, principal, The Gettys Group; and Lee Golub, managing principal, Golub & Company.
Originally designed by SOM and completed around 1974, at 110 stories, the Willis Tower is still the tallest building in Chicago and one of the three tallest in North America. “Once home to only one tenant, it is now home to 15,000 tenants, and thanks to Todd Heiser and team, it is being recreated and reopened by Gensler,” said Esposito.
Heiser, who is also co-managing director of Gensler’s Chicago office, grew up just outside of the city. He said working on a project like Willis Tower—”or Sears Tower as so many of us still call it,”—is a humbling experience and one that, for Gensler, has been a labor of love for the last five years.
As the tower went through a series of additions in the 1980s, a massive, almost impenetrable boundary was created around the base. “Much of our work was opening up the tower and allowing you to access the ground plate,” said Heiser. “We want to make it less of a fortress and create Chicago’s next plaza. This work, along with the updated lobby experience, celebrates the businesses that call the tower home.”
The public lobby repositioning features a food hall, meeting and events space, restaurants, entertainment, a rooftop park, and skylight supported by 75,000-pound beams that offer a view of the south side of the Tower, and still “the fastest elevators in North America.”
This new space is called Catalog, in honor of the building’s initial tenant, Sears, Roebuck & Co., and serves not only the building’s tenants, but it’s more than 1.7 million annual visitors.
“The new space opens up the building tremendously,” said Heiser, “and helps to position the area as Chicago’s next great neighborhood.”
Heiser’s work is part of a more than $500 million renovation, the most significant restorative transformation in the building’s 46-year history. In late 2019, the tower earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) Platinum designation.
Old Post Office
Designed by the same Chicago architects behind our other favorite buildings— the Wrigley Building and Merchandise Mart—Old Post Office was built in 1921 and, for quite a while, was the largest post office in the world. “By the mid-90s, however, it’s use was replaced, and the building was left vacant and neglected. But as Sheryl (Schulze, principal, Gensler) will tell us, ‘The wait was worth it,’” said Esposito.
An icon that needed life support. The awakening of a sleeping giant. “Or sleeping beauty as we affectionately call her,” said Schulze, “and we are very grateful for our developer, 601W Cos., who is her prince.”
Gensler, whose efforts were led by Schulze and principal Grant Uhlir came to the project officially with 601W Cos., in May of 2016, because of their in-depth knowledge of the building.
“We were involved with several developers over the years who were interested in the redevelopment of the building, and that ultimately led to us being the best fit for 601,” she said.
Set to be completed in 2020, the $800 million-plus redevelopment, and currently the largest example of adaptive reuse in the country, has modernized the massive structure, without sacrificing its historic character.
“This building is very unique in nature,” said Schulze. “It’s comprised of three buildings, with 250,000 square foot sweeping floor plates, 18-foot ceilings, and varying floor heights that create several loft-like spaces.”
The office floors also still contain the original spiral mail chutes and other items like vaults and scales that speak to the building’s history.
“We’ve been able to reinvent this building into a class A office with game-changing, robust amenities that activate this building and truly make it a destination,” Schulze said.
Building amenities include a bar with a bocce court, a gym that includes a boxing ring, a 450-seat auditorium, a 4.5-acre rooftop park, and a library, which Schulze added, “was an amenity in the original building as well for postal workers.”
“The product of a 1922 worldwide design competition to create the most beautiful building in the world may now become the world’s most beautiful condominium building,” said Esposito.
“There’s no maybe about it,” followed Prendergast, who leads The Gettys Group team overseeing phase one of the reimagined Tribune Tower. Solomon Cordwell Buenz is the architect of record on the project.
While the Tribune Tower’s exterior and lobby are landmarked, everything on the inside was gutted to make way for new, high-end spaces. “We’ve learned to love it, embrace it, and then help it move forward,” said Prendergast, whose designs honor the heritage and beauty of the building.
CIM Group and Chicago-based Golub & Company acquired the 35-story, 740,000 square-foot structure in 2016, and is in the process of developing it into 162 luxury condominiums.
“Each unit has a unique floor plan given the variables of the building,” said Golub. For example, the newspaper’s old executive dining room will be a single-family dwelling.
The tower’s amenities will include a spa, fitness center, indoor pool looking over the iconic Chicago Tribune sign, a co-working lounge, meeting rooms, entertainment areas, and an event space featuring a bar and prep kitchen. A terrace on the 25th floor of the crown is framed by the building’s flying buttresses and offers 360-degree views of the city.
“It’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen,” said Golub. “If we could bring people to the brown, we’d sell out in one second.”
“This is an iconic and dramatic piece of history,” Prendergast said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
An icon begets an icon.
IIDA and AIA Chicago are committed to keeping our community healthy and safe, and in the interest of public health, and in accordance with state-issued mandates, have postponed the April and May Designers & Architects Talk events.
Tickets purchased for these events will be honored for the rescheduled dates. Ticket holders will have the opportunity to request a refund after the new dates are announced if they are unable to attend. IIDA and AIA Chicago will provide updates as they become available, and information will be posted to IIDA’s Events Calendar.
A special thanks to our 2020 Designers & Architects Talk sponsors:
In response to our rapidly changing world, IIDA brings you a design-focused dialogue on the effects of a global crisis. Watch the sixth webinar in the series today.
What will the workplace of the future look like?
Watch IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon FIIDA, and a panel of design experts discuss the changing landscape of workplace design as they examine health and wellness concerns, shifting floorplans and floorplates, collaborative spaces, workplace arrangement, remote working, and shifting culture. This thoughtful group shares their insight in an open dialogue on adaptability and new possibilities for creative expression in the workplace.
This webinar is registered for 1 IDCEC HSW CEU. To learn how to earn your CEU credit, visit IIDA.org for more information.
On April 9, IIDA hosted Design Online: The Education Community Responds to Change, the third episode in our Collective (D)esign webinar series of interactive community discussions. This conversation, hosted by IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon FIIDA, and moderated by Ryan Ben, IIDA’s student engagement and advancement manager, featured a panel of educators and students centering on the changing education and employment landscape.
Panelists fielded questions from our audience covering everything from internships and altering educational programs to balancing an increased need for mental and physical health and contributing to community aid. This webinar was attended by close to 1,000 members of the international interior design community who submitted dozens of questions, many of which could not be addressed due to time constraints.
In an effort to expand the conversation, we’ve compiled answers to additional questions, alongside highlights from this discussion from panelists Tyler Hatton, Student IIDA, The Ohio State University campus center co-leader, Ohio/Kentucky Chapter; Rebekah Matheny, IIDA, assistant professor of interior design, Department of Design, The Ohio State University; Jon Otis, IIDA, founder and principal, Object Agency (OlA), professor, Pratt Institute; and Meghan Webster, AIA, principal and global education practice area leader, Gensler.
What can firms do right now to help engage students?
Jon Otis: Firms must try and consider how to engage graduates or interns and allow them to do something—paid or unpaid. Provide them an experience of some type so that they learn and grow and will be better prepared for eventual employment. Perhaps there is a new model,which refers to the past ‘atelier’ concept; or a new ‘virtual’ model of engagement.
Tyler Hatton: Take the time to view the senior showcase work from schools in your region, reach out to the students and ask questions if you are curious, or maybe offer opportunities for insight and critique. Many schools will probably switch to digital exhibitions as The Ohio State Department of Design has, but the students are not getting the professional connections and feedback as they normally would from the experience.
You can set up virtual coffee chats with students so they can build interview and communication skills, as well as build their firm and industry professional networks, to prepare for opportunities that may arise in the future.
How do we maintain community at our schools and campus centers?
Tyler Hatton: Through social media channels or other virtual platforms, offer a summer design competition after the semesters’ work is finished that would be either open to all students or be specific in nature to recent graduates. You can also host a virtual book club related to design or put on mini design skill challenges like hand sketching or rendering.
How do I find a job or internship?
Rebekah Matheny: I would first start by reaching out to your undergraduate advisor, they are often the main point person for companies interested in an internship. Our advisor posts all inquiries to our Slack channel. I would then email your professor mentor, who often have professional contacts that they can reach out to for a more targeted search. I also think your local manufacturer’s reps are a great resource, they know all the design firms and often have a pulse on who’s searching. Also check your IIDA chapter’s website, most sites have an internship or job search section.
What skills do I need as a graduating interior designer for this virtual world?
Rebekah Matheny: Communication is key! Both verbal and visual. As professionals, we often send presentation decks to clients before walking them through the information over a conference call. Making sure that you have clear graphic communication that uses a combination of the written word, drawings, diagrams, or tags explaining the conceptual ideas or design strategy is important. Think of this as storytelling and the more you can visually narrate in a clear sequence the easier it is to digest and comprehend. Through telecommuting, you will be able to connect with people all over the world who are in different time zones and speak different languages, so you should allow people to see and even translate the information prior to the verbal presentation over the call becomes more important.
Working to develop your visual storytelling and communication is a much-needed skill and can be demonstrated through your portfolio as well as your studio project presentations. With that, verbal communication is also critical. So practice your speaking ability as you want to come across as comfortable, confident, and knowledgeable. Presenting virtually is a bit different since you are unable to “read the room” as you typically would, make sure to leave time to pause to let people catch up and also check in with them to make sure they don’t have any questions throughout the conversation.
What educational experiences should I seek out to supplement my education?
Rebekah Matheny: Competitions—look at competitions, current or past, as these will help expand your portfolio and give you a chance to keep your mind and skills sharp. IIDA, IDEC, Steelcase, RDI, PAVE—there are many options to choose from. You can also use this time to work on your portfolio, either in creating it or expanding it. You can go back and add to or improve past projects. Or you can give yourself a weekly challenge, like doing one new rendering a week. This not only helps improve and expand your skills, but could become a feature in your portfolio. There are a lot of YouTube skill tutorial videos that you could use to help with this. You could also create your own project assignment, maybe fill the gap of an area you’ve not worked on. For example, maybe you’ve not done a restaurant or a hospitality project, but are interested in doing that professionally. You can create your own prompt and give yourself a time frame to complete it.
What educational experiences should I seek out to supplement my education?
Rebekah Matheny: Seek out continuing education as well. Many manufacturers are offering CEU’s, which is a great way to extend your education beyond the classroom, learning the same information as many professionals. I know the IIDA Ohio/Kentucky Chapter is also doing a series of benefactor CEU’s, this is a great way to get connected to your local professions and manufacturers while also extending your education.
I also recommend reading, this situation affords you the opportunity to read books that you might not otherwise have the time for. For example, if you want to expand your understanding of sustainability you might like Cradle to Cradle by McDonough and Braungart, Biomimicry by Benyus, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance also by McDonough, or Fashion and Sustainability by Fletcher and Grose. You could also look and see what classes are offered at your university this summer.
What resources are available to students and educators from associations, firms, vendors, manufacturers, etc.?
Meghan Webster: Rebekah’s point that the global situation has amplified the disparity across the socio-economic and cultural backgrounds of students was spot-on and seemed to resonate deeply with the audience. The Learning from Home component of our Education Engagement Index Survey that we’ve developed is based on this research around diverse learning styles and contexts, underscoring that if we design for all learners (instead of a mythical average), we design for everyone in between.
The conversation posed some salient questions around what we can apply to future design for learning and working environments based on this abrupt transition to the virtual world. In the wake of the global pandemic, we released this piece that examined this topic as we’re currently experiencing it, and this piece poses a similar question as we look at the much longer term. The immediate situation is forcing us to learn tools and new forms of behavior quickly, and the more we all can gain literacy in this arena, the faster we will be ready for what comes next.
What is the best advice for new graduates looking for employment with incredible uncertainty?
Rebekah Matheny: First, know that this is temporary, this too shall pass, and we will bounce back. Secondly, know that every experience contributes towards your career development and your personal development. You may have an ideal career path that you had charted out, and right now you may have to take a detour, take a position in an area of practice that wasn’t your first choice, but that experience can be a great stepping stone, add to your skill and knowledge set, and it will lead you back to where you wanted to head. Or maybe it will reveal something new about yourself and set you on a new, and possibly better trajectory. As designers, experiences are cumulative, and every experience is valuable—even if it’s not a “designer” experience — after all, we are designers for and with people.
So let’s say you find a temporary job at a grocery store since that’s in high demand during this pandemic. This will allow you to understand what it’s like to be a worker in that environment, and could lead you to be a more empathetic retail designer in the future. It’s all about how you look at the experiences you are gaining.
Should students still look for fall internships, or wait until the pandemic clears?
Rebekah Matheny: It never hurts to inquire, so I would certainly be reaching out to firms that you are interested in. It’s a great opportunity to establish a connection and to keep the line of communication going. You can express your concern for how the pandemic is impacting the industry and the world, and use this as an opportunity to ask specific questions about how it is impacting their work, their area of practice, and how designers are tackling this issue.
How do you deal with the multiple hand drawn iterations of ideas when learning online?
Jon Otis: My graduate design studio has been more challenging, and no matter what we resolve, it is unlikely to change my belief that working on paper—marking-up, designing, sketching, pin-ups and seeing design at a larger scale off-screen—is better. Then of course there are maquettes, models, materials, textiles and those tactile elements that exponentially enhance the design learning process. That is a vitally missing part of what we do.
Do you think universities will be open starting in the fall?
Rebekah Matheny: I am hopeful that they will! But with all things, I like to hope for the best but plan for the contingency. I, and I’m sure many professors, will be using the summer to develop a plan for teaching on-ground and on-line. It’s a possibility that we may start the semester and then have to shift to virtual later if a second wave of the pandemic hits before there is a vaccine. No matter what, I will be evaluating what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved from this past experience and looking for ways to bring the best of the experience into my on-ground instruction and seeing innovative ways to bring on-ground experiences into the virtual world.
What do I do about anxiety?
Rebekah Matheny: Mental health is an important issue we are all facing right now. This situation is causing a lot of new stressors we didn’t face before. The stress from the pandemic itself is compounded for many students by the stress of displacement, new working environments, loss of income, removal from their support system of peers and professors, etc. I would begin by looking into what resources your university offers. They may have online tools to help manage stress and anxiety, hotlines that you can call, and/or virtual workshops to help guide students through this. Personally, I would establish a routine that balances your workload with your mental health. This might mean carving out time for yoga or on-line workout classes, taking a nature walk, meditation and breathing exercises, or even just ensuring you get up from your desk every hour or two to stretch and briefly get a change of scenery. Working these actions into your day will also help with the mental and physical toll that being at your desk and in front of your computer all day causes. Having these moments at a dedicated time each day will help you have a rhythm, give you something to look forward to, and also make your mental and physical health a priority.
In response to our rapidly changing world, IIDA brings you a design-focused dialogue on the effects of a global crisis. Watch the fifth webinar in the series today.
Leaders in hospitality design whose clients include major global brands and renowned restaurateurs address challenges in overseeing a practice during this time. Join moderator John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA, and a panel of design experts based in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, as they discuss the re-emergence of the hospitality industry, design for the human experience, and the future of interiors of hotels, restaurants, and places to gather.
The conversation, while focused on hospitality—the design of hotels, restaurants, and the hospitality industry overall—touched on topics of interest for the entire commercial interior design industry. The designers shared how their firms are supporting their employees, the status of their projects in the U.S. and globally, and how the business of their clients—hoteliers and restaurateurs—are impacted. They also shared expertise on how this moment will influence hospitality interior design in the immediate term and post-pandemic future, reflecting on how lessons from this moment could affect restaurants and hotel communal spaces.
As Czarnecki noted in the session’s opening remarks, “Even if you are not a designer in the hospitality sector, you enjoy going to restaurants, you travel, and you’re certainly interested in the future of the hospitality industry as an important sector of the economy. The designers in this session also offer lessons that can be applicable to the design of other projects as well.”
This webinar is registered for 1 IDCEC HSW CEU. To learn more about earning your CEU credit, visit IIDA.org for more information.