Tag Archives: Gensler

Living in a cloud: What nanotech means for architecture and the built environment

Could there come a time when buildings will become less about bricks and mortar and feel more like mists or fogs?

JULY 02, 2019 |

Last month, I wrote about how automation and AI are dramatically changing all four fundamental relationships between buildings and machines. For example, nanotechnology, which manipulates individual atoms and molecules to assemble things, could make the modernist metaphor of a “machine for living in” into reality, since the building would actually be composed of many tiny machines.

In fact, that’s not quite accurate. The definition of “machine” is “an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task.” 

So machines are made of distinct parts, cobbled together to fulfill a function. They are characterized by their composition, as assemblages of singular bits and pieces in which the whole is greater than the sum.


SEE ALSO: Assessing AI’s impact on the AEC profession and the built environment


But nanotech will completely change this. When entire buildings can be shaped from microscopic components, the visible distinction between the individual parts will evaporate. A structure built from invisible machines will not appear to be a machine at all, since it no longer will be perceived as an assembly of parts. An edifice made of congealed cybernetic butter will look to be all whole, no parts. The very concept of a “building” could become meaningless, since it will no longer be “built” in any traditional way. 

Remember “Terminator 2”? Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 is a machine: steel and servos wrapped in human skin. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 is made of liquid metal (“mimetic polyalloy”). He’s like sentient mercury, morphing into any shape he needs. A nanotech building (“nanotecture”?) would make conventional structures seem like Robby the Robot (of “Forbidden Planet” fame).

Buttery buildings could change everything we think and know about architecture. Frank Lloyd Wright felt that architectural form should stem from the inherent “nature” of its materials: “Each material speaks a language of its own.” In his mind, the proportions, heft, and texture of brick logically translated into structures such as the Robie House, which extends horizontally and hugs the land. But when the constituent parts of a building are too small to be seen with the naked eye, the relationships between form and materials will change. What is the “language” of a nanobot?

Because the character of a building could vary upon command—hard and opaque one minute, soft and transparent the next—the fabric of buildings could become fluid, fluctuating states from solid to liquid to gas and back. The notion of truth in materials will become irrelevant. In fact, the word material could go away. When the basic building blocks of architecture have no strict definition, structure and substance could separate. Matter may not matter.

Could there come a time when buildings will become less about bricks and mortar and feel more like mists or fogs, vaguely enveloping space in ways we can barely picture now? What will it be like to live in a cloud?

Lance Hosey, FAIA, LEED Fellow, is a Design Director with Gensler. His book, The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design, has been an Amazon #1 bestseller in the Sustainability & Green Design category.

Continue reading Living in a cloud: What nanotech means for architecture and the built environment

New in Brooklyn: 10 Hip Coffee Shops, Offices, Apartments, and More

With NYCxDESIGN and Brooklyn Designs at the Brooklyn Navy Yards about to get underway, we’ve rounded up the most recent projects in New York City’s buzziest borough, including warm cafés and reading rooms, fresh offices, and light-filled apartments.

1. The Center for Fiction by BKSK Architects Brings Books and Sustainability to Brooklyn

The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a new downtown Brooklyn building by BKSK Architects with sustainability in mind. Read more about the bookstore/library/café

2. StudiosC Creates Positive/Negative Volumes for L&R Distributors in Brooklyn

L&R distributes more cosmetics than any other American company—25 brands and 8,000 SKUs in all. Its new corporate headquarters in Brooklyn’s Industry City circulates something else: a wide variety of staff, each with their own spatial needs, within what StudiosC principal Stephen Conte calls “an industrial blank canvas.” Read more about the office

3. Gensler Fashions a New Brooklyn Showroom for Lafayette 148

Brooklyn’s Navy Yard is among the most fashionable new areas in the borough, but until Lafayette 148 decided to leave its seven-floor SoHo digs and venture across the water, there wasn’t a fashion brand that called the historic concrete warehouse home. Gensler made sure the 68,000-square-foot headquarters, comprised of 15 different departments and large community work cafes, was as rousing as the exterior landscapes. Read more about the showroom

4. Idan Naor Thinks Horizontally for a Brooklyn Brownstone

The archetypical Brooklyn brownstone is a study in verticality, with a few stories of narrow corridors and dark rooms piled atop each other. However, when the local Idan Naor Workshop got the chance to reprogram a gem from the 1920s into a 5-unit apartment building, they decided on a different direction: horizontal. This 2,350-square-foot apartment jettisons the piles of hallways and instead utilizes a gallery to connect public areas to the three bedrooms, while ample natural light floods the expansive open plan. Read more about the brownstone

5. Five Retail Wonderlands Subvert Reality

This retail environment at Gray Matters brings customers into a product-inspired wonderland. Riffing on the brand’s Mildred Egg mule, Bower Studios chose table bases that are ovoids of painted resin composite. See all five stores

6. The Wing Brings Custom-Designed Mother’s Rooms to Brooklyn Office Buildings

When thinking of comfortable and relaxing spaces for a mother to pump or otherwise care for an infant, the office is likely ranked dead last. Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan, cofounders of the women’s co-working space, The Wing, want to change that. Gelman and Kassan have mobilized The Wing’s internal design team to bring secure, private spaces for working moms into the close-knit community of offices in DUMBO, starting with office buildings under Two Trees Management. Read more about the rooms

7. Jessica Helgerson Interior Design Brews Up a Stumptown Café in a Brooklyn Firehouse

New York relies on coffee shops almost as much as municipal services. Now the two are merging—architecturally, at least—thanks to Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ first Brooklyn café, housed in an 1860’s former firehouse in leafy Cobble Hill. Jessica Helgerson Interior Design re-envisioned, along with the help of Structure NYC, the 1,875-square-foot space, most recently an indoor archery studio. Read more about the café

8. Coliving Goes Grand at a Restored Clinton Hill Mansion

A 6,200-square-foot row house on Grand Street in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn is the newest of Common’s coliving spaces. Built in 1901, Common restored the five-floor home to function for 23 people. Rather than keeping with the two-family tradition, Common densified the historic mansion in order to make the most of the much-desired square footage that Brooklyn has to offer. Read more about the house

9. LOT Office for Architecture Designs Oasis-Like Digs for Devoción in Downtown Brooklyn

When Devoción‘s first location opened in Williamsburg, Brooklynites delighted at the roastery’s oasis-like design and authentic Colombian brews. The beloved coffeehouse has returned for round two with a 1,700-square-foot space near the borough’s bustling downtown corridor. Greek-American firm LOT Office for Architecture spearheaded interiors that honor local traditions and mother nature in equal measure. Read more about the café

10. Inside Ample Hills Creamery’s Brand-New Exhibition Space in Brooklyn

As if the ice cream wasn’t draw enough. Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith, founders of Ample Hills Creamery, have just opened the largest ice-cream factory in all of New York City—and have included an interactive museum, like a cherry on top. A brick building, part of the former Beard Street Warehouses complex in Red Hook, contains 12,500 square feet of production space, plus 2,000 more for exhibits, party areas, and of course a retail shop by Danielle Galland Interior Design. Read more about the factory

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10 Things Not to Miss at NeoCon 2019

With more than 500 exhibitors from around the globe, NeoCon 2019(June 10-12) at Chicago’s theMART will present the newest and most innovative products and concepts in the commercial interior design industry, along with educational seminars and exciting events. Here are our picks for 10 things not to miss this year.

1. HiP Awards: Interior Design’s 6th annual HiP Awards ceremony, honoring industry people and innovative products, will take place Sunday, June 9 at 4:30pm at Marshall’s Landing in theMART—with a party to follow. Purchase tickets here.

2. The NeoCon Plaza: This outdoor space inspired by the idea of “The Urban Boardwalk” will debut this year at NeoCon as a new amenity for exhibitors and attendees. Spanning the length of the MART’s South Drive, NeoCon Plaza it’s designed as a collaborative gathering spot offering views of the Chicago River, Riverwalk and the city’s skyline. It will also be the site of product introductions and programming throughout NeoCon.

3. Material Bank Pop-up: Experience the design library of the future within this debut pop-up Material Bank showcase on the 1st floor of theMART. Suite 103.

4. Daily Keynotes: Gain insight into the ever-changing world of design at three keynotes in the NeoCon Theater: “The Familiar and Unusual: An Investigation of Balance and Experience in Design” by Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, founders of New York-based Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors (June 10 at 8:00am); “Stuff Matters: The Material World We Make” by Ilse Crawford, creative director and founder of London-based Studioilse (June 11 at 8:00am); and “Do No Harm: The Role of Design in Complicated Times” by Liz Ogbu, founder and principal of New York-based Studio O (June 12 at 11:00am).

5. Living Products Showcase: Tickets ($10, register here) are still available for this Tour of NeoCon’s Healthy and Sustainable Products designed to meet the Living Product Challenge. It will be led by a guide from the International Living Future Institute from 2:30pm-4:00pm on June 11.

6. ID Live: Join Interior Design Editor in Chief Cindy Allen as she chats with designers during two sessions of ID Live on the Grand Staricase at theMART. At 1:00pm on June 10, Cindy will be joined by Heather Bush from Carnegie, Erwan Bouroullec from Skyline Design, and Patricia Urquiola from Haworth; at 1:30 her guests will be Don Chadwick from Humanscale, Ed Barber ad Jay Osgerby from Vitra, and Alain Gilles from BuzziSpace; and at 2:00pm, she will chat with Martin Lesjak and Asastaia Su from Mohawk Group, Guilherme Wentz from Sossego, Aliki van der Krujis from Wolf-Gordon, and Sebastian Salvado and Rios Clemente Hale from Janus et Cie. At 1:30pm on June 11, ID Live will feature Mary Holt and Chase Taylor from Carnegie, Nina Etnier and Brad Sherman of Float Studio for Tarkett, David Allan Pesso of JSI, Todd Heiser of Gensler and Byron Morton of theMART; at 2:00pm, Cindy’s guest will be Jessica Ahlerhing and Casey Keasler of Hightower along with several other designers.

7. The 7thFloor Exhibit Hall:  Visit to see new-to-NeoCon exhibitors that include Pedrali from Italy, Cascando from the Netherlands, and Luxxbox from Australia.

8. Interactive Activations: There will be plenty of installations and experiences to enjoy on every floor of theMART—from Herman Miller’s “All Together Now” (Floor 1, South Lobby) to Snowsound Quiet Zones (Floor 7, Pass-Through).

9. A Strong Hospitality Focus: In addition to two keynotes by executives from Roman & Williams and Studioilse—known for stellar hospitality projects around the globe—NeoCon 2019 will feature more than 300 exhibitors showing hospitality-minded products, among them Andreu World, Sossego Design, Arper, Bentley, and Sunbrella Contract.

10. SANDOW Innovation Lab: Stop by the first-ever SANDOW Innovation Lab to experience several compelling, industry-leading events in this multiuse space: lectures, roundtables, and product demonstrations.

> Check out Interior Design’s Annual Guide to NeoCon 2019

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Gensler Blends Corporate Space and Cocktail Bars at Campari’s New York Headquarters

FIRM Gensler
SQ. FT. 65,000 SQF

These days, workplaces often contain cafés, wellness rooms, and lounges galore. But a bar? Not as likely… let alone four of them. But such is the case at the North American headquarters of the Campari Group—the Milan-based company famous for its bright-red namesake aperitif—that now also counts more than 50 other beverage brands in its portfolio, some of them, including Wild Turkey and Skyy Vodka, Amer­ican. Mix them all together, and it makes Campari Group the sixth largest spirits company in the world—a feat worthy of celebrating. Gensler helped the group do so with its new two-story New York office.

For the stairway connecting the two floors of the Campari Group’s North America headquarters in New York, Gensler covered walls in a polyester-blend microfiber and the floor in quartz, all in the color of the Campari aperitif. Photography by James John Jetel.


But first, some background. When the U.S. became Campari’s biggest sales market, executives decided to move the company from its San Francisco headquarters east. New York would be closer to Milan and other parts of its empire and help recruit top talent. “It’s the center of the action,” Ugo Fiorenzo, Campari America managing director, says of the city. He and his team selected two upper floors in the landmarked W. R. Grace building, doubling work space to 65,000 square feet and affording views of neighboring Bryant Park. “We were looking for that wow effect,” Fiorenzo adds.

In a lounge, loveseats by MUT Design and a Warren Platner coffee table stand before an original 1921 advertising poster designed by Leonetto Cappiello for Campari. Photography by James John Jetel.

“Don’t think all anyone does is party around here—foremost, this is designed for work.”

To live up to the expectation, Gensler principal and design director Stefanie Shunk made a pilgrimage to Milan to steep herself in the company’s 159-year history and culture, which includes decades worth of art, among it posters commissioned in the early 1900s from Fortunato Depero and Leonetto Cappiello. Once back, she translated her inspirations into the design of the workplace, drawing on furnishings from such companies as Foscarini and Minotti and employing such luxe materials as Italian leather. “You gotta love it,” Shunk says as she trails her fingers over the hide covering the walls of the elevator lobby. She and her team specified it and much of the furniture upholstery in a deep blue similar to that in the Campari logo.

Brass arcs are inset in the poured-resin floor in reception, where a C-shape marble-topped bar serves as the concierge desk. Photography by James John Jetel.

Further in, not a typical reception desk but an espresso bar—with barista—greets visitors, looking like it could have been spirited from Corso Magenta in Milan. In the shape of the letter C, its counter is topped in marble, Italian, of course, and features a brass footrest. Just behind it is another wow element: Gensler carved a double-height atrium through the two floors and inserted a 16-foot-tall cerused-oak wall assemblage inspired by a Depero brick artwork on a building facade in Italy. The installation here serves as a backdrop to a full-scale bar, also C-shape but in buffed brass, on the floor below. Dubbed the Fortunato bar, the environment has the look and feel of an urban five-star hotel.

In the bar named after Fortunato Depero, the 16-foot-tall wall installation is composed of 1,500 pieces of cerused oak and inspired by a Depero artwork in Italy. Photography by James John Jetel.


The feeling changes to that of floating inside a bottle of Campari in the stairway connecting the floors. Walls, floor, and ceiling are drenched in carmine red, and LED strips along the coves and treads instill a nightlife vibe. A grid of steel-mesh lockers at the landing exhibits bottles of rare liquors produced by the Campari Group. Glimpsed through the lockers is an ornate crystal chandelier. Arrive there to find it suspended over yet another bar, this one inside a tall, slender jewel box. Intimate and hermetic, its walls are covered in an old-fashioned taupe damask pattern, and the bar proper is an elaborately carved mahogany antique. Inspired by a prohibition-era speakeasy, this Boulevardier Bar—named for the cocktail of sweet vermouth, bourbon, and, yes, Campari originating at Harry’s New York Bar in 1920’s Paris—is where top customers visiting the HQ are invited to sip special-edition whiskeys, rums, and liqueurs. It’s a wonder of a space.

Matteo Ragni’s telescopes and PearsonLloyd chairs in the viewing area. Photography by James John Jetel.


Making sure the Campari bars not only look exceptional but also function extremely well “was the thing that kept me up at night,” says Shunk, who watched GoPro videos of bartenders at work to learn exactly where the sink, ice, and other components needed to be. That knowledge was essential to designing the office’s lablike academy, where master mixologists concoct cocktails and bartenders come for training.  The café, which occupies a whole corner of a floor plate, functions as yet another bar, one that, with its brick wall, large windows, and Campari motto—”toasting life together,” rendered in neon—was intended to evoke and bring in the city.

A break-out area’s MUT Design sofas and Platner tables. Photography by James John Jetel.


Lest anyone think all anyone does is party around here, “Foremost, this is designed for work,” Shunk states. The office areas for the 135 employees composing the Campari Group and Campari America are spread across both floors. They are 100 percent open-plan with sit/stand workstations and tailored to hot-desking, meaning no assigned seats, so employees clear off desktops and stow belongings in lockers at the end of the day. Should staffers choose to sit, they do so in task chairs powder-coated red or blue. Hoteling stations give colleagues in from Milan or elsewhere places to touch down. Phone, meeting, and conference rooms are peppered throughout. There are no offices. There is a very executive boardroom, however, but Shunk situated it away from reception, “So it doesn’t shut down the main space when a meeting is on,” she explains.

Brass and glass ceiling fixtures in the elevator lobby. Photography by James John Jetel.


For all the workplace savvy Gensler brought to the table, Campari Group contributed sophistication of its own. It was the management team’s idea to set up what it calls “viewing stands” near the office’s south-facing windows, where enormous red telescopes are pointed in the direction of the Empire State Building. Architect Matteo Ragni originally designed them  to mimic oversize Campari soda bottles for a 2010 exhibition at La Triennale di Milano, but they also resemble megaphones. They seem to proclaim: Hey, Big Apple, Campari has arrived. Saluti! 

Keep scrolling to view more images of the project >

Each liquor locker in the stairwell has its own LED-lit cove. Photography by James John Jetel.
A vintage crystal chandelier hangs in the Boulevardier Bar, clad in vinyl wall covering. Photography by James John Jetel.
In the café, upholstered chairs by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance serve the Wolfgang C.R. Mezger square tables. Photography by James John Jetel.
LED strips also light the quartz stair treads. Photography by James John Jetel.
Mezger’s sectional sofa joins Rodolfo Dordoni side tables, Ludovica + Roberto Palomba pendant orbs, and Travis Clifton barstools. Photography by James John Jetel.
Task chairs in an office area are by Studio 7.5. Photography by James John Jetel.
In the board­room, a custom brass and glass fixture displays LED-illuminated Campari bottles above chairs by Piergiorgio Cazzaniga. Photography by James John Jetel.
Mixologists creating cocktails in the academy. Photography by James John Jetel.
Lacquered shelving in an office area. Photography by James John Jetel.
The café’s walnut-veneered bar with laser-cut wenge letters. Photography by James John Jetel.
Cedar and Moss sconces and ceramic tile in the women’s restroom. Photography by James John Jetel.
Brass signage against the elevator lobby’s leather-covered walls. Photography by James John Jetel.

Project Team: Amanda Carroll; Megan Dobstaff; Stephanie Lan; Amanda Langweil; Andrew Stern; Laura Moran; Laura Bishop; Arielle Levy; Audrey Strom; Carly Klaire; Kathryn Morse: Gensler. Lighting Workshop: Lighting Consultant. Gilsanz Murray Steficek: Structural Engineer. WB Engineers + Con­sultants: MEP. A05 Studio: Fabrication Workshop. Island Architectural Woodwork: Woodwork. Mistral Architec­tural Metal + Glass: Metalwork, Glasswork. J.T. Magen & Company: General Contractor.

Product Sources: From Top: Banker Wire: Custom Lockers (Stairway). Cosmo­politan Glass: Partition. Silestone: Treads. Knoll Textiles: Wall Covering. Knoll: Coffee Table (Lounge), Workstations (Office Area). The Rug Company: Rug (Lounge). Missana: Love­seats (Lounge, Break-Out Area), Chairs (Viewing Area). Fosca­rini: Pendant Fixtures (Reception). Bendheim: Backsplash. Minotti: Benches, Side Tables. Élitis: Wall Covering (Ele­Vator Lobby). Drive 21: Custom Signage. Coalesse: Red Chairs (Viewing Area). Tech Lighting: Ceiling Fixture (Elevator Lobby). Keleen Leathers: Door Upholstery. Cascade Coil Dra­Pery: Metal Drapery (Fortunato Bar). Stone Source: Back Bar Top. Cumberland: Barstools. Viccarbe: Side Table. Davis Furniture: Benches, Ottoman (Fortunato Bar), Tables (Café). RH: Sconces (Boulevardier Bar). MDC Wallcoverings: Wall Covering. Dykes Lumber: Moldings, Paneling. Armstrong: Ceiling System (Café). Rejuvenation: Ceiling Fixtures (Café), Shelving (Office Area), Sinks (Restroom). Bernhardt Furni­ture Company: Wood Chairs (Café). Bernhardt Design: Uphol­stered Chairs. Desiron: Barstools. Herman Miller: Chairs (Office Area). Ege: Carpet. Andreu World: Chairs (Boardroom). Halcon: Table. Masland Contract: Rug. Emeco: Chairs (Aca­Demy). Ann Sacks: Floor Tile (Café). Ceramica Bardelli: Patterned Tile (Restroom). Daltile: White Tile. Creative Materials Corporation: Floor Tile. Lovair: Sink Fittings. Cedar And Moss: Sconces. Throughout: Optic Arts; Ecosense; Usai Lighting: Lighting. Liquid Elements: Flooring. Amuneal Manufacturing Corp.: Custom Shelving. Benjamin Moore & Co.: Paint.

> See more from the May 2019 issue of Interior Design

Continue reading Gensler Blends Corporate Space and Cocktail Bars at Campari’s New York Headquarters

25 Sustainable Projects to Celebrate Earth Day


Happy Earth Day! Sustainability is becoming a standard in architecture, and LEED certification is only the beginning. These projects prove that green design is the new frontier.

1. Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos Strikes All the Right Notes With Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia

Spanish firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos won a two-phase competition to design this center with their thesis that links music and architecture. Considering the ratio of glass to metal also became essential because of the layers of thermal insulation needed to create a sustainable and easily heated structure. But first Nieto Sobejano decided what the project shouldn’t have: right angles, a main facade, and a discernable front or back. Instead, what emerged was a pattern of “continuous links echoing the trees,” Sobejano says. Read more

2. Sustainably Designed and Architecturally Significant Buildings in Singapore

Not only is the entire 27-floor external facade wrapped in a natural vine covered sunscreen, but the Oasia Hotel Downtown also has four lush sky terraces, 1,793 large planter boxes, and four large structural cores that allow for good cross ventilation reducing the overall energy cost. Designed by WOHA and completed in 2016, the hotel is home to over 33 species of plants and 21 species of creepers. In addition, the 314-room property is notable for its striking interior design by Patricia UrquiolaRead about 7 more sustainable buildings in Singapore

3. Warmth and Modernism Are at the Heart of 3XN’s Design for Olympic House

Two of the most poignant concepts International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach wanted the design to articulate were sustainability and transparency. 3XN certainly delivered; the build is LEED platinum-certified, and has reused 90 percent of the concrete from the previous headquarters that was demolished to make way for the new build. Read more

4. ACDF Architecture Partners With Architecture49 for Mega Project Parq Vancouver

Six stories high, capped with a 30,000-square-foot roof garden, this contemporary structure “is an urban oasis,”ACDF Architecture CEO Maxime-Alexis Frappier says. ACDF partnered with Architecture49 and their response was not a looming hulk but rather a curving, low-rise presence wrapped in a mirrored facade that reflects its surroundings. Aluminum louvers, capturing sunlight, reflect pixelated images of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. The daylight resulting from abundant glazing contributes to the project’s LEED Gold status, proving Parq fits into the global environment, too. Read more

5. Annapolis Residence by Bates Masi + Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Waterfront House

When a prospective client in Annapolis, Maryland, told Bates Masi + Architects‘ principal Paul Masi that he and his wife had recently purchased a house on the water, he really meant it: The residence’s second-floor deck literally hung right over a cove in the Chesapeake Bay. However, the 1970s structure was sorely outdated, located in the flood plain, and didn’t meet current energy codes. Masi’s solution yielded a new, flat-roofed house, raised three feet higher than its predecessor—and LEED-certified to boot. Read more

6. TPG Architecture Makes Headlines With Its Office for the Associated Press in New York

The AP staffers have had a chance to settle into their new digs by TPG Architecture, which have since been awarded LEED Gold certification. As you might expect, good news travels fast. As Carmel says, the office “compliments who we are as an organization.” That includes a bit of spirit, as seen at the perimeter of the café. There the white floor tile bursts into a confetti of colors, as if celebrating the much-decorated news agency. Read more

7. Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Green

For Neri & Hu, this project entailed repurposing and renovating existing structures—including a former warehouse that now hosts a restaurant, a theater, and an exhibition space—as well as erecting new ones, among them a lakeside pavilion containing four of the 20 suites. “The rustic materiality and layered spaces redefine tradition via a modern architectural language,” says Neri. Read more

8. Studio Rianknop Creates Flexible, Sustainable Space for Amsterdam Tech Company

When an Amsterdam company that manages a file-sharing platform decided to move from the city center to a warehouse near the city limits, it shared a few tasks with local design firm Studio Rianknop: Create a flexible space for the company’s staff; make it sustainable; and take advantage of the industrial space in a relaxing, inviting way. In a clever nod to the wires funneling data across the globe, a “cable tree” grows from the lower level with branches powering first-floor public spaces and a tubular chandelier. Read more

9. The Center for Fiction by BKSK Architects Brings Books and Sustainability to Brooklyn

The Center for Fiction started out as the Mercantile Library in 1821 and moved locations throughout Manhattan over the years. In 2008, it was rebranded, and more than 10 years later, the Center has a permanent home in a LEED Silver-certified building in downtown Brooklyn by BKSK Architects. In the writers’ studio, locally-made custom wool felt panels are perforated with the Center’s logo, an open book. Read more

10. ASID Headquarters Becomes World’s First Space to Earn LEED and WELL Platinum Certification

The Washington, DC office, designed by Perkins + Will, is brimming with features that support health and wellness. One is a circadian lighting system that mimics natural daylight, paired with automated shades that follow the sun’s movement to help eliminate eye strain. The design team also implemented biophilic design strategies, for instance by using a range of natural materials and patterns. Read more

11. Mohawk Group’s New NYC Showroom Embraces Wellness

Located in a former textile factory in historic Chelsea, Mohawk Group‘s 13,000-square-foot showroom was designed by Gensler and incorporates LEED and WELL Building Standard qualifications, fully expressing Mohawk’s company ethos: Believe in better. Read more

12. Huntsman Architectural Group Downsizes McKesson for Maximum Efficiency

For McKesson’s San Francisco office, Huntsman Architectural Group went with undeniably contemporary furnishings. Sui generis, however, is a break room’s custom bench, a repurposed conveyor belt hinting at McKesson’s core business. Which brings us to the fact that the premises are going for Well Building certification as well as LEED Gold. Read more

13. Perkins + Will Creates a Contemporary Office for Nixon Peabody in New York

Perkins + Will designed this space to be easily reconfigured as needs change. A feature stair connects the office’s three levels with show-stopping views of the city, and floor-to-ceiling glass walls help foster synergy between practice areas. It was also awarded LEED Gold certification. In all, the office is a balance of functionality and design statement. Read more

14. Five Global Green Projects Pay it Forward

For Park + Associates‘s own office, minimal intervention transformed a 1960’s former school into a showcase of clean-lined design, thanks to vintage furnishings, a black-and-white palette, and painted-steel arches highlighting the reinforced-concrete barrel vaults. Read about all 5 global green projects

15. SKB Architects Creates Lively Lobby for Key Center Office Tower

No longer merely pass-through places, lobbies have become hotel-esque settings. They entice potential tenants to lease, and existing tenants get a perk that might entice them to stay. Such is the case at the Key Center office tower across the water from Seattle. After purchasing the 23-story building, Kilroy Realty Corporation opted to implement changes resulting in LEED Platinum certification and to transform the immense lobby into a “people place,” SKB Architects senior principal Shannon Gaffney recounts. “That’s our thing.” Read more

16. Mosa Tiles Enliven Venetian Villa by JM Architecture

Italian studio JM Architecture outlined a sustainable agenda to maximize the home’s energy-efficiency. Mosa’s LEED-contributing ceramic tiles, which received Cradle-to-Cradle® Silver certification, join the multitude of eco-friendly features that distinguish the villa, including inlaid photovoltaic panels and radiant floor heating. Read more

17. Venable by Alliance Architecture Wins 2017 Best of Year Award for Large Law Office

Moving to a gleaming LEED Platinum palace in the booming East End, this 117-year-old law firm left behind the endless dreary silos of its former headquarters and embraced a cultural shift toward wellness and ergonomics. Thanks to Alliance Architecture, sunlight penetrates offices with clear glass enclosures, every employee has a motorized standing desk, and the café opens onto a terrace complete with barbecue grills, a fire pit, a bar, and a bocce court. Read more

18. 1 Hotel’s Miami Beach Debut by Meyer Davis Studio

Meyer Davis Studio was charged with transforming the lower eight stories of a 1968 building into 1 Hotel Miami. “We paid homage to the natural landscape of south Florida,” Meyer notes—versus the art deco razzle-dazzle typically associated with the area. Moves large and small rack up points in the quest for LEED Silver certification. Uses of reclaimed wood represent a virtual forest preserved. Dialing down to details, Meyer andDavis specified organic bed linens, hemp mattresses, and clothes hangers molded from recycled paper, while bedside note pads have disappeared in favor of chalkboards. Read more

19. Lotus Square Art Center by Shenzhen Dae Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Outdoor

It’s basically common knowledge these days that installing a green roof on a building helps reduce its energy use, absorb stormwater, and combat air pollution. This practice has become increasingly mainstream in hotter developed land masses known as urban heat islands. One such is Hengqin island, overlooking Macau. That’s where this sculptural verdant roof tops an art exhibition hall. Read more

20. Six Futuristic Projects Sprouting Green Roofs

From reducing storm water runoff and city dust to energy-efficient cooling, the benefits of green roofing go beyond beautification. As costs lower and technology makes installation easier, this environmentally conscious trend is increasingly defining the facades of both existing and new buildings. A 660-foot-long undulating wave of verdant green grass forms a rooftop park at Université Paris-Est’s technology and science center, the Espace Bienvenüe designed by Jean-Philippe Pargade. Read about all six green roofs

21. Kimpton Travels to the Caribbean

Amid the sea blues and sandy whites of this resort, there’s a good amount of green, too: A solar array generates electricity, rainwater is harvested for maintaining the landscape, and air-conditioning is geothermal. Read more

22. Mortenhals House by Stinessen Arkitektur Wins 2017 Best of Year Award for Green

The unusual configuration of this family compound by Snorre Stinessen, comprising multiple cabins, plays with the way that the visitor slowly discovers what’s hidden behind the wooden doors. Even the outdoor areas remain private, with only waterscapes or trees as neighbors. In addition to the aesthetic appeal of the design, it checks off all the eco-conscious boxes: The forest was protected during the building process, all wood was sourced locally, water is used with restraint, and electricity is primarily hydropower. Read more

23. HKS’s Loretta Fulvio Decodes U.S. Bank Stadium, Site of Super Bowl LII

When designing for a Super Bowl–sized audience, there’s no greater expert than Loretta Fulvio, lead interior designer for architecture firm HKS’s Sports sector. When tasked with designing the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Fulvio and her team sought to create experiences that extend far beyond Super Bowl Sunday. In the stands, visitors can feel good about making a positive impact: 91 percent of waste is recycled, composted, or donated, due to the concession stands using compostable packaging. And the entire venue is run on wind power. Read more

24. San Vicente 935 by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects Wins 2018 Best of Year Award for Rental Apartment Building

All apartments in this building have balconies overlooking the central courtyard. Its accessibility eliminates the need for interior, climate-controlled hallways, saving on energy consumption. For the solid faces, Lorcan O’Herlihy employed two materials that contrast each other for visual interest and also help to reduce scale. Siding is fiber cement made of recycled content. Screens, which act as a rain-shield system, are slats of ipe harvested from a local, sustainably managed forest. Read more

25. A Bamboo Kitchen Dominates This Super-Green House by Minarc

Built with prefab panels, this 2,500-square-foot structure by Minarc is sustainable to the max. Bathrooms overflow with eco consciousness. In the powder room, wood scraps stack up to form a vanity supporting a sink in recycled rubber. For a truly back-to-nature experience, right next to the soaking tub in the master bathroom, there’s a lush plant wall. Read more

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APR 4, 2019

Pity the executives of luxury appliance brands: In 2019, it’s not enough to have a great product anymore. Beautiful ads, hooky marketing? Everyone has that. And it’s certainly not enough to open a regular showroom—you need an experience center.

Fisher & Paykel

Fisher & PaykelCourtesy of Fisher & Paykel

The term “experience center” comes from the world of consumer retail strategy, and like most neologisms, an exact definition is hard to come by. Broadly speaking, it’s a retail environment where customers are encouraged to have an interaction with the product—which could mean anything from a racetrack-adjacent Porsche showroom to an Aveda shop where customers can get personalized skin-care advice.

While it’s tricky to pin down exactly what counts as an “experience,” experts agree why it’s important: In the wake of the internet’s continued assault on brick-and-mortar retail, presentation counts. “Just telling someone isn’t good enough anymore,” says Amberlee Isabella, a retail designer and strategist at Gensler. “You need to show them. And the most ‘sticky’ experiences are those that connect users to a larger purpose.”

Brands have taken note. In 2017, Kohler opened nine experience centers across the globe where designers and their clients can try out products (even showers, if they wish) and spec them directly from the store. It’s kitchen appliance companies, however, that have made the most of the concept. The opportunity is obvious—would you rather buy a range in a showroom that smells like a showroom and offers free mints, or one that smells like a bistro and serves French toast? The potential goes a long way toward explaining why an experience center has become de rigueur for a luxury brand looking to introduce (or reintroduce) itself to the trade.

Dacor is a case in point. Founded in 1965, the high-end appliance brand has a storied history but fell on hard times after the 2008 recession. In 2016, an acquisition by Samsung brought an infusion of cash and some new technology into the mix. The first step in introducing customers to the company’s new look? A 2019 rollout of three experiential showrooms that the company is calling “kitchen theaters.”

Signature Kitchen Suite

Signature Kitchen SuiteCourtesy Signature Kitchen Suite

Dacor’s New York location (Chicago and Los Angeles are forthcoming) is, in many regards, a standard showroom, with rows of gleaming ranges, refrigerators and wine cellars on the sixth floor of the Architects & Designers Building. However, the brand has added a high-tech functioning kitchen into the mix, where it will host a variety of classes. Company president Randy Warner says the new space is part of an attempt to cater the brand’s product to modern entertainers: “From partnering with sommeliers to floral styling sessions and lessons on how to plate and plan courses, we feel this approach will set us apart from our competitors.”

Fisher & Paykel, a premium appliance brand based in New Zealand, is already on its second experience center in North America. In 2016, the company opened an experiential showroom in New York, also in the A&D Building; last year, it attached a new 6,500-square-foot location to its U.S. headquarters in Costa Mesa, California. The center has all of the expected amenities—artfully designed vignettes, a demonstration kitchen, classes and events—but has taken pains to add touches of its brand DNA wherever possible. Customers are offered Kawakawa tea (a New Zealand specialty) as soon as they walk in.

Signature Kitchen Suite, backed by South Korean electronics giant LG, is hoping to up the ante by creating an experience that extends beyond the showroom walls. Its new 23,000-square-foot center is located in Napa, the heart of Northern California’s wine country. The idea is that, instead of squeezing in an appointment in the middle of a stressful after- noon at a design center, trade professionals will experience the brand as part of a leisurely day of wine tasting, good food and balmy West Coast weather.

But the location, 50 miles from the nearest major airport, is a little off the beaten path. Company general manager Zach Elkin notes the challenge, saying that it took “about six months of dialogue” with higher-ups at LGto greenlight the Napa location. However, given the story that he’s trying to tell—the brand targets its products at a tech-native, food- and wine-savvy, affluent consumer demographic it calls “Technicurean”—Napa was too good an opportunity to resist. “Nowhere else on earth do you have the convergence of technology, food and wine,” he says. “Anything else would have been settling.”

The fact that a major company would prioritize an immersive experience over easy access demonstrates how crucial the experiential side of the equation has become, and how far the experience arms race has progressed.

All that experience doesn’t come cheap. Most companies don’t share exact figures for the cost of their experiential locations, but they’re unquestionably more expensive than a run-of-the-mill showroom. Is it worth it? It depends on how you think of the expense.

“They’re looking at it as a marketing and advertising cost more than a profit center unto itself,” says retail expert Warren Shoulberg. “I don’t think these guys expect these stores to make any money—or if they do, they’re in for a rude awakening.”

There’s history there. Pirch, a multi-line home appliance and plumbing showroom, opened doors in 2009 and quickly earned rapturous applause from industry pros and media alike for its “Try before you buy” experience-on-steroids approach. Customers could take a shower on-site; Pirch chefs were constantly cooking on the in-store ranges. Ten locations were opened nationwide, awards were won, and investors came running. But by 2017, Pirch began to unravel, eventually closing all but its four California locations. The model, though innovative, wasn’t profitable at scale. The exact cause of Pirch’s contraction is complicated—Shoulberg attributes it to a combination of high real estate costs and a clunky product mix—but the takeaway was simple: Experiential retail is a powerful tool, not a silver bullet.

Executives from luxury kitchen brands have taken the hint, and most aren’t thinking of their experience centers as cash cows. Fisher & Paykel won’t even sell directly out of their Costa Mesa location. “It’s a brand pillar within the selling experience,” says Pierre Martin, the company’s vice president of marketing. “But depending on the audience, it could be the tool that makes the sale come through.”

Elkin is of a similar mindset—the Napa center is not a traditional, foot traffic–driven “Hey, honey, let’s go buy a stove” location. Instead, it’s a way to provide a total brand immersion to his company’s most valuable customers: the trade. “I look at the design community as multipliers,” he explains. “Individual homeowners may only do one kitchen in their entire life, but designers may do a dozen each year. We spent a lot of time understanding and investigating their pain points.”

The brands’ courting of trade organizations—the National Kitchen + Bath Association holds events at Fisher & Paykel’s center, and the American Society of Interior Designers is set to have its annual board meeting at Signature Kitchen Suite’s Napa location—drives home the point that even though consumers are savvier than ever, designers still have enormous sway over appliance purchases.

Is this the crest of the wave, or just the beginning? (What’s next, brands inviting customers to spend the night and be served goat cheese omelets by their CFOs?) Only time will tell. But if the trend line is any indication, experience centers are here to stay. Dacor still has two more to build, and Fisher & Paykel is hoping to add another in North America. Sit back and enjoy the experience.

This article originally appeared in Spring 2019 issue of Business of Home, Issue 11. Subscribe for more.
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Sound health: How tranquility rooms can heal caregivers

Sound can also be healing. It promotes a culture of quietness and enhances environments, not just for patients but also for caretakers.

Continue reading Sound health: How tranquility rooms can heal caregivers

The rise of the in-office art gallery

Inside the glass-paneled windows, of MRA Associates’ offices at the Biltmore Financial Center it looks like an art gallery – framed paintings hang against a bright green wall and stand next to ornate sculptures.  

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Hyatt Global Headquarters by Gensler: 2017 Best of Year Winner for Large Corporate Office

Checking into the new global headquarters for the first time, this hotel giant’s employees got the shock of the new. For starters, they’re now all together. Not only the hometown staff but also their colleagues from the 700 properties worldwide converge in one 260,000-square-foot location instead of several dispersed across the city. That’s not the only novelty either. To rethink the workplace model, principal Randy Howder‘s team drew on hospitality cues. Experiential was the keyword, as in how guests experience a hotel. Think: arrival and departure, food and beverage, meetings and events, and guest rooms.

Hyatt Global Headquarters by Gensler in Chicago. Photography by Rafael Gamo/Gensler.

In that order, Howder started by focusing on the reception area, also a multipurpose hub for those far-flung “hoteling” colleagues to congregate as well as for company events. The office proper, planned as “customized work suites,” he says, combines the attributes of private offices with the flexibility of an open plan. Everyone has a designated seat in addition to the numerous iterations of collaborative areas, semiprivate nooks, and neighborhood-anchoring amenities. Each staffer can experience them all, according to how each works best. “Standouts were the client’s progressive values and willingness to push the boundaries of workplace strategy, paired with respect and admiration for design,” he adds. “It’s Hyatt’s new, hospitality-infused front door.”

Project Team: Craig Pierson; Kelly Dubisar; Terry Walker; Samantha Lewis; Scott Lay; Ian Young; Susan Harrington; Lisa Hsiao; Melissa Garcia Mazariegos; Nicole Covarrubias; Sue Lee.

Hyatt Global Headquarters by Gensler in Chicago. Photography by Rafael Gamo/Gensler.
Hyatt Global Headquarters by Gensler in Chicago. Photography by Rafael Gamo/Gensler.

> See more from the December 2017 issue of Interior Design

> See all 2017 Best of Year winners and honorees

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Gensler Goes Bold With a New Office in NYC’s Theater District

The marquee lights shine brightly. And not just from the Ed Sullivan Theater across Broadway. Gensler’s relocated New York office has its own blazing display right inside. Marquee lettering, inspired by theater signage and rising through three of the five levels, sizzles with lights that spell out a quotation attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in translation: “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” That conviction finds apt expression in the office overall, orchestrated by principal and design director Mark Morton.

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