Orgatec Highlights the Flexible, Adaptable Nature of Today’s Office

With the fall season of trade shows and industry events well underway, I was pleased to be among a contingent of IIDA headquarters leadership and select international board members last week at Orgatec in Cologne, Germany.

Below, I offer Orgatec highlights, as well as a few images from the nearby independent exhibition Design Post. For American designers that are accustomed to NeoCon and other U.S. trade shows, the distinction at Orgatec is the broad international scope, including many companies that we rarely see stateside. With a theme of New Visions of Work, the biennial European trade show attracted more than 63,000 visitors from 142 countries for a week dedicated to commercial interior design. In total, Orgatec reports that 753 companies from 39 countries exhibited, three quarters of which were from outside of Germany.

While difficult to summarize the range of furnishings shown at Orgatec, we did see an attention to materiality and tactile qualities. One could describe it as a “softening” of the hard edges and surfaces associated with office interiors. While this was a trade show focused on workplace design, the number of desks and desking solutions were far outnumbered by soft seating, whether it is a lounge chair, bench, or sofa.

Designers are more aware of the need for privacy options in workplace interiors, and Orgatec exhibitors showcased a range of privacy solutions—some more savvy, elegant, and cognizant of scale than others. Privacy alternatives included fully enclosed booths, high-backed seating, and the integration of soft materials, such as fabrics and felt, as an acoustical buffer.

The desire for a more relaxed, flexible, adaptable, and hospitable workplace was evident throughout Orgatec. Here’s a glimpse of the show:

01Camira

With a lattice of its own fabric forming enclosures, Camira has a distinctive stand.

02AnatoleKoleksiyon

The Turkish company Koleksiyon displayed the Anatole Desk by Jean-Michel Wilmotte.

03Andreu

The Spanish company Andreu World featured its latest furnishings at its stand, including Dado for Work by Alfredo Häberli. Dado is a collection of modular sofas and chairs.

04CovePoltronaFrauFoster

Poltrona Frau introduced the Cove chair. Designed by Foster + Partners, the Cove chair provides privacy as well as a built-in desk surface.

05Halle

The Danish company +Halle introduced Easy Nest Sofa designed by the firm Form Us With Love.

06Hallechairs

The Easy Nest chair, designed by Form Us With Love, was displayed by +Halle.

07Haworth

A variety of options for well-designed workplace privacy were exhibited by Haworth.

08Infiniti

The Italian company Infiniti showcased its furnishings at its stand.

09Kvadrat

Beautiful Kvadrat fabrics were displayed at Orgatec.

10MDD

The design of the stand for the Polish company MDD had a Postmodern influence.

11Ophelis

With a whimsical design, the stand for the German company Ophelis stood out.

12VitraAC5

The AC 5 Group chair by Antonio Citterio was displayed by Vitra.

13VitraSoftWorkTwo

Soft Work, designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, was introduced by Vitra.

14VitraSoftWorkOne

A closer detail of Soft Work, designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby for Vitra.

15VitraArtek

Artek chairs were displayed within the Vitra hall at Orgatec.

16zDesignPost

Near Orgatec, the independent show Design Post included a number of exhibiting companies.

17zMagis

At Design Post, Magis exhibited a wall of its chairs.

18zMorosoChairs

Armada, a sculptural seating collection by Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien, was displayed at the Moroso stand at Design Post.

19zMorosoLounge

Inspired by Scandinavian design, the Lilo chaise lounge by Patricia Urquiola was prominently exhibited at the Moroso stand at Design Post.


John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, is the deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA. He is the former editor in chief of Contract magazine.

Diversity in Architecture: A Promise for the Future

It is 2018 and only 36 percent of newly licensed architects in the U.S. are women and only two percent are Black. But those numbers are changing. With the benefits and necessities of diversity in the workplace undeniable, firms big and small are setting new goals for themselves and having active, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations about diversifying the field.

But what does “workplace diversity” really mean when the leaders of these discussions are often not the ones who directly face discrimination? The 46th Annual NOMA Conference attempted to pose, answer, and challenge the questions around diversity from the personal perspectives of people of color. Through a series of events, lectures, and panels, “NOMA UNBOUNDED – The Convergence of a Legacy” was a weekend devoted to celebrating and defining diversity within the architecture and design fields.

IIDA hosted NOMA participants and members at IIDA Headquarters on Saturday, October 20, for the panel discussion “Because…Design,” sponsored by Mohawk and moderated by IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl S. Durst, FIIDA and IIDA International Board President Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA. The panelists present were George Bandy, vice president of sustainability and commercial marketing at Mohawk Group; and Dina Griffin, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, owner of Interactive Design Architects (IDEA).

The event positioned itself as less a formal discussion and more an intimate exchange among four people on racism, equity, culture, and loving their jobs. “We’re not going to have images, you’re not going to look at a PowerPoint,” Durst announced to the audience members. “We’re just going to have a conversation. The power of conversation is underrated and we need it now more than ever.”

Bandy began the discussion with how he perceived a growing importance of sustainability and well-being going hand-in-hand with a push for diversity within design, architecture, and manufacturing. Communities of color often bare the brunt of unsustainable, cost-cutting development practices, and now the conversations around helping those communities are being led by a diverse crowd. “There has been an influx of people being able to express themselves more freely as it relates to the importance of design,” Bandy said.

Bullock echoed the notion that diversifying the workplace is critical for bettering the lives of diverse communities. “I wanted to become an architect because I wanted to improve how people live,” she said.

Architects are thinking about the environment on a personal, micro level, and in turn, discovering how important a diverse workplace is for generating and maintaining sustainable practices. It seems that the A&D industry is actively rediscovering the workplace as a microcosm for society, and as Durst noted, “You can’t design for the world if you are not of the world.”

“I’ve had clients that have given us work because we are diverse,” expressed Bullock, “and that’s been happening more and more.” Many Perkins+Will projects focus on communities; this necessitates diversifying those working on community projects and helping improve the quality of life for a broad range of people. Diversity is a “spoken strategy” in the Perkins+Will offices.

The panelists also described the ways in which their firms are taking the initiative to ensure diverse hires, which range from overhauling the hiring process to having ongoing dialogues about racism and inclusion. 

“Because…Design” concluded with the question “Does architecture still excite you?” (an unequivocal ‘yes’), along with advice from the panelists: “Bring the voice of your culture and your ancestors to work with you every day, ” Bandy stressed. “Don’t leave your street sense at home; bring it to work with you. Bring your true self to the table.”


Visit NOMA Unbounded for more information about the conference.

*An earlier version of this post cited that only 36 percent of licensed architects in the U.S. are women and only two percent are Black. It should be only 36 percent of newly licensed architects in the U.S. are women and only two percent are Black (as of 2016). 

A Visit to the Dynamic New Gensler San Francisco Workplace

For interior designers and architects, designing a firm’s own workspace is a heady task. And when it is the flagship office for the largest firm in the country, with a practice in a city of limited commercial real estate inventory and increasing leasing costs, the assignment is even more arduous. But the Gensler design team in San Francisco took on the complicated challenge, and essentially reinvented its own office with a move to a new workplace. Earlier this month, I enjoyed a tour of the new Gensler San Francisco office with two of the firm’s design leaders, Collin Burry, FIIDA, and Kelly Dubisar, IIDA. An internal team of Gensler management, operations, and design leaders had input on the relocation process and the interior design, which was overseen by Dubisar.

Gensler_GenslerSF_415

Seating areas, defined by shelves and a red lattice structure overhead, allow for casual conversations. The furniture can be easily moved or swapped out to essentially give new seating a test run in a real setting. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

For 15 years, Gensler was located at 2 Harrison Street, with views of San Francisco Bay. But as the city’s real estate market and demand for tech office space evolved—in particular, Google’s footprint increased within that address—Gensler needed to find a new San Francisco home. After an extensive search in a city where the amount of available large-scale office space has decreased, Gensler selected three floors within the 34-floor 45 Fremont Street tower downtown. Burry points out that this office is a short-term solution, likely no more than a few years, and the firm will then select a more permanent home.

Gensler_GenslerSF_784

With a variety of places to sit, designers have options for individual work or conversations without the need for booking more formal meeting rooms. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

With that in mind, the interior design is agile and adaptable, enabling the Gensler architects and designers to have a workplace that also reflects the changing nature of office design. In San Francisco specifically, where startups and established tech companies alike are flourishing, this workplace demonstrates how a large creative company with a half-century history can be nimble and dynamic. After all, Gensler is designing many of the tech company offices, so the firm orchestrated its own space to echo the way work is accomplished today across both tech and creative industries.

Gensler_GenslerSF_1477

The firm implemented a system of display boards hung on pegs, allowing for presentations to easily be moved around the office. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

The majority of employees work on the upper and lower of the three floors. The workplace floors are conceived as design labs—workshop-like environments in which teams are seated at a variety of desks adjacent to meeting rooms. With a mix of programming on the middle floor, Dubisar aptly draws an analogy to an Oreo cookie when describing the office. Amenities on the middle floor (all photos shown here) include a well-equipped kitchen and a number of soft seating arrangements that allow for casual conversations.

Gensler_GenslerSF_063

A well-designed kitchen is a central hub for staff. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

The adaptable seating spaces serve double duty—designers can place new and different seating and tables here, essentially giving the furniture a test run before specifying in a design project. Near the seating areas, a number of large boards displaying design work and concepts can be hung on pegs. The boards are easily movable from a design studio to this display area for presentations, whether it be internal discussions or meetings with clients.

Gensler_GenslerSF_1577

A model-making area adjacent to the resource library enables the workspace to be akin to a maker space for designers. Photographer: Rafael Gamo.

“The entire office could be considered a continuously running lab,” Dubisar says, “We love to try new things in order to better understand the challenges our clients face. We’re testing things that don’t exist in any other Gensler office, and it’s great to see the impact of our ideas.”


John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, is the deputy director and senior vice president of IIDA. He is the former editor in chief of Contract magazine.

Capital One 2017 Work Environment Survey

This post was contributed by Richard N. Pollack, FIIDA, FAIA, past president of the IIDA International Board.

A very interesting thing happened recently. Capital One decided to spend some serious time, attention, and dollars to develop a workplace initiative focused on office professionals’ “preferences and priorities when it comes to their workplace design, environment, and benefits.” The 2017 Work Environment survey, initiated by Capital One’s Workplace Solutions Group, approached 2,500 subjects—not Capital One employees—with the goal of learning how to provide the best work environment so that their associates can thrive.

Designers and architects have been looking for the holy grail of workplace design for as long as I’ve been in the profession, and it’s refreshing to see a corporate client pick up the charge based on their own agenda. Capital One surveyed 500 office workers in Chicago, Dallas, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and the results are not surprising and rather encouraging:

Office Design Inspires Innovation

Throughout the survey, a significant majority of professionals reported that more design-forward workplaces help them be more creative and innovative.

Employees Want Flexibility & Collaboration

Professionals, and especially Millennials, crave flexible workspaces that enable social interactions and accommodate all kinds of work styles.

Heightened Interest in Benefits & Environmentally Friendly Initiatives

Professionals have clear preferences on what they want, need, and expect from their employers when it comes to workplace design and on-site benefits.

More granularity shows that 82 percent of respondents believe that companies cannot encourage innovation unless their workplace design and environment is innovative, and 60 percent noted that their current environment does not encourage innovation and a majority find their workplace uninspiring.

The design elements that workers want to see in their workplace are ranked as follows:

62%      Natural light

44%      Artwork and creative imagery

43%      Easily reconfigurable furniture and spaces

37%      Collaborative spaces

26%      Bold colors

25%      Spaces for rest and relaxation

One missing element that has traditionally been a critical component is acoustics.

When considering a new job, two-thirds felt that workplace design is equally or more important than office location with 71 percent of Millennials more likely to believe this compared to 56 percent of Boomers. Eighty-five percent of respondents felt that they have their best ideas when they are able to use flexible workspace options, i.e., an environment that has options for employees to choose how and where they work. I found it surprising, but good, that 62 percent have options outside of a standard desk set-up where they can work throughout the office.

It is truly inspiring for a large corporation such as Capital One to exhibit this “leaning forward” approach – kudos!


Richard N. Pollack, FIIDA, FAIA, is the past president of the IIDA International Board and founder of Pollack Consulting. He can be contacted at richard@richardnpollack.com.

Design for the Future of Healthcare: Keeping the Conversation Going

This post was contributed by DLR Group.

In November 2016, IIDA hosted a “Power Lunch” at the Healthcare Design Conference. The 90-minute event, sponsored by Herman Miller Healthcare, featured small group discussions facilitated by healthcare design experts who covered the latest and greatest trends influencing healthcare design. Virtual visits, bed-less hospitals, mindfulness, the patient experience, and safe workplaces were among the topics of conversation at this well-attended event for design professionals.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Design Philosophies and Approaches

Edwin Beltran, IIDA, Associate AIA, Design Principal of NBBJ, Vice President of IIDA

Over the last two decades, a well-documented body of knowledge has begun to propel the discussion of design within healthcare environments as an influential factor aiding the healing process. The philosophies discussed covered a wide spectrum from lean design as a design-thinking approach to inform and influence organizational and operational models, to approaches that seek to enhance the patient experience and the humanization of what would otherwise be an institutional environment.

Alternative medicine and healthy eating programs were also discussed as influential elements that can inform design thinking in more holistic, comprehensive, and inclusive ways, particularly in an era where healthcare is trying to tip the scale from a heightened focus on diagnostic medicine to a more rebalanced emphasis on both preventive and diagnostic care.

The lessons from alternative design paradigms such as hospitality and retail were also addressed, especially because of their keen understanding of and adaptable responsiveness to the markets’ shifting demographic forces. “In an environment where experience is highly valued, understanding the needs, wants, and priorities of those consumers will allow healthcare systems and their environments to remain relevant and attract a loyal customer base,” said Beltran.

Sustainability, Mindfulness and Wellness

Amy Corneliussen Sickeler, IIDA, CHID, LEED AP BD+C, Design Principal, Perkins + Will

We can’t talk about designing what’s next in healthcare without covering sustainability, mindfulness, and wellness. “Our discussion centered on designers improving mindfulness within project environments,” said Sickeler. Listening to understand and empathizing with clients and patients puts designers in the right frame of mind to deliver solutions that elevate the environments. Incorporating wellness into spaces instead of designing them outside of a project includes lighting, acoustics, visibility, air quality, and views to nature.

A Safe and Humanizing Workplace

Aneetha McLellan, IIDA, NCIDA, LEED AP BD+C, Healthcare Leader, Principal, DLR Group

The opportunities for design solutions to impact both lean operational processes and the patients’, caregivers’, and families’ experiences must be a priority. “The human aspect of healthcare has to remain at the forefront of design that responds to the rapidly changing healthcare model we are facing today,” said McLellan. The small group reached consensus that collaboration from the top down and the bottom up is the key to producing innovative solutions that offer the adaptability and flexibility to ensure all users have safe, efficient, and inspiring environments for healthcare.

The Experience Equation

Phyllis Goetz, EDAC, National Director, A&D Healthcare, Herman Miller Healthcare

What is the primary source of design impact? Is it technology? Personalized medicine? Or, is it an organization’s culture that stands out? “We all felt strongly that technology upgrades, operational adjustments, and organizational culture changes are three ways to leap frog the patient experience and build trust,” explained Goetz. “Technology has changed the nature of healthcare interactions and now the space needs to adapt to accommodate new and changing technologies.”

Planning and Care Models

Tatiana Guimaraes, Assoc. AIA, Senior Associate, Perkins+Will

With a better understanding of population health, owners are relocating healthcare environments to serve patients conveniently. Dealing with serious medical cases in an outpatient setting was at the heart of this discussion about micro-hospitals, bed-less hospitals, and free-standing emergency departments. This group was in agreement about one thing: The model for healthcare is changing – and it is changing rapidly. “Do designers have a role in helping healthcare providers educate their customers about the levels of acuity for emergency departments or the appropriate care for the ever-growing behavioral health needs?” asked Guimaraes. It is crucial to provide clarity of what level of care these new centers are providing. Designers have an important role in this discussion as trusted advisors who can help balance the operational needs of efficiency with patient and staff experience.

Designing for Performance and Resilience

Jocelyn Stroupe, IIDA, ASID, CHID, EDAC, Principal, Cannon Design

Whose responsibility is it to know the science behind the cleaning products and their effect on the furniture and finishes throughout the building? “More importantly, how can the design community help owners with this costly problem?” asked Stroupe. Solutions shared in this lively discussion included the importance of understanding and sharing the science behind cleaning products’ effects on materials; knowledge of the specific cleaning products used by a facility; using mock-ups for maintenance testing, training and procedures; and using modular products that provide flexibility and lower replacement cost.


DLR Group is an integrated design firm delivering architecture, engineering, interiors, planning, and building optimization for new construction, renovation, and adaptive reuse. Their promise is to elevate the human experience through design. This promise inspires sustainable design for a diverse group of public and private sector clients; local communities; and our planet.

Featured image: 2016 Healthcare Interior Design Competition winner in Ambulatory Care Centers – Medical Office Building Public Spaces Swedish Edmonds Ambulatory Care Center, Edmonds, Washington, by the firm NBBJ, Seattle, Washington.

Envisioning the Future of the Interior Design Industry

What were you doing 20 years ago? IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, opened Industry Roundtable 20, held January 6-8, 2017, with that simple question.

“Twenty years ago, commercial interior design was experiencing a transformative shift,” said Durst, who moderated the annual roundtable. “We began asking, ‘How do people work?’ instead of, ‘Where do people sit?’ We started to think beyond the job title and consider how people relate to one another in the workplace. We saw that work and life were overlapping in new ways. And, we recognized that good design is the solution for optimizing work and productivity in this new era.”

It was a fitting question to kick off the event: For two decades, Industry Roundtable has welcomed distinguished design leaders for a two-day, thought-provoking discussion about topics relevant to the Interior Design industry. This year’s topic, “Design Then, Design Now, Design Next: A 20-year Retrospective,” offered participants the rare opportunity to reflect on the history of the profession and assess the emerging economic, cultural, and social trends that are shaping the next generation of commercial interior design.

Eileen Jones, IIDA, SEGD, AIGA, LEED AP, principal and global practice leader, Perkins+Will, opened the event with her keynote presentation, “A 20-year Retrospective of the Commercial Interior Design Industry,” which provided an overview of how technology, sustainability, and the evolving purview of design have shaped the profession.

Her message was forward-looking, setting the tone for the remainder of the event. “Standing here at the end of the Information Age, we are in a unique position to figure out what is next and how we can change the world with design,” said Jones.

The group of 30 interior designers, manufacturer representatives, and thought leaders then participated in sessions focused on the future of people, place, and work, featuring speakers Julie B. Cummings, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, director of human resources, BKD, LLP; Jim Young, co-founder, Realcomm Conference Group; and Jim Ware, Ph.D., founder and executive director, Future of Work….unlimited. Much of the conversation focused on the multi-generational workforce and how to transition design leadership to younger generations.

“When I first started, I never would have imagined that human resources would be sitting at the table with design teams to talk about space,” mused Cummings who presented on The Future of People, “We need designers to guide us, consult with us on how space can meet the needs as the Boomers transition out and Millennials become even more of a force in the workplace. This is something all of my peers are wrestling with.”

Young and Ware, who spoke on the Future of Place and the Future of Work, respectively, echoed this sentiment during their presentations: Designing for the future will mean accommodating five generations, a growing population, and rising life expectancies while reckoning with a decrease in available space, a critical need for sustainable building practices, and ever-evolving technology.

“Design has the unique ability to bring together allied professions, solve problems from multiple points of view, and put society’s well-being at the forefront. This notion of the convergence of people, place, and work, and how we think about design in the context of these things is critical to what’s next for our industry,” said Durst.

An executive report, to be released in March 2017, will provide a summary of key insights from IIDA Industry Roundtable 20.


Read past Industry Roundtable executive reports online at iida.org.