2014 Market Winner: TenneT Headquarters by Studio Groen+Schild

As the winners of the 2014 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 40 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Sanne Langenhof, interior designer on the project, talked with us about connecting employees, using pure & honest materials, and planning for the future.

Describe the project in one word.
Cradle2Cradle

7.SG+S - TenneT MCE restaurant 2

How does this project demonstrate the power of design to impact users in a space?
TenneT, a utility company for electricity transmission has evolved from a company with a technical identity to a people oriented organisation. The interior of its head office in Arnhem seamlessly matches its new identity. The open and transparency of the interior is designed to improve the mutual connection between all the employees working within this building. Pure and honest materials ensure a timeless base. Meeting places have been given their own look & feel based on three themes: people, nature and technology. This is expressed in colours, materials and signing. The diversity within the themes, brings more diversity within the users minds. The interior is extremely sustainable, even circular: the complete interior package can be dismantled. No glue, silicone kits or other toxic substances were used. The users understand that the whole interior design is specifically chosen for their health being, not only on the short turn, but also on the long run. The end result is a healthy interior that energises the employees of TenneT.

15.SG+S - TenneT MCE meeting office 1

Design is a process, explain your journey.
Disassembling is key within this project. It was our journey to design and connect the whole interior by keeping with this base, easy possibility for future disassembling, with 100% recycling possibilities. We feel that we only are part of the journey. What will be the journey of the selected products? They are here now, in which building will they be 20 years from now. How excited is that! Nothing needs to go to landfills, the selected interiors has many lives.

3.SG+S - TenneT MCE coffeebar

What are the most important lessons that you’d want to share with the designers of tomorrow?
Design with the future in mind.

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A Simple Design Fix to that Awkward Public Bathroom Moment

One of the worst things about public bathroom stalls is how hard it is to tell when someone’s in them. A lot of people end up resorting to that not-at-all awkward practice of peeking under the door, looking for feet.

A company called Tooshlights is promising a way to end this embarrassment and make that line of desperate people move more quickly, too. Its simple LED light sensors turn green when a stall is free and red when it’s occupied.

tooshlight 1

The company just installed its technology at The Hollywood Bowl, which claims the lights have “improved the flow of traffic.” The company says its lights are appropriate for basically any venue where bathroom queues often form. According to Tooshlights, more than 66% of the time, facilities do have vacant stalls, but guests are not aware of them or are not moving to them quickly enough. Could an idea so simple be the future of public bathroom design?

tooshlight 2

Images: Fast Company

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2014 Market Winner: Jones Lang LaSalle by H.Hendy Associates

As the winners of the 2014 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 40 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Shaw Contract Group spoke with Julie Laurin IIDA CID LEED AP – Design Director, Kerry Wilson, AIA, LEED AP – Principal/Architect, and Heidi Hendy, CID, LEED AP – Principal about high expectations, encouraging new interactions, and future success.

Describe this project in one word.
United

JLL (2)

How does this project demonstrate the power of design to impact users in a space?
When these two companies—one from a more progressive open environment and one traditional office layout—merged into a single corporate entity, everyone had heightened expectations that something was going to change. Maximizing this opportunity of expectations, we were able to design a space based on how the employees migrated through the space, unlike typical office layout norms.  The hub, great room, and casual conferencing were all placed directly adjacent to the main lobby.  This location supported a “first place to stop” behavior that encourages cross-cultural and team-centric connections between the newly merged companies.

The strategic  placement of these spaces for employee  engagement , individual focus and telecommuting  touchdown stations has proven to encourage new interactions with all and is quickly uniting the organizational cultures into one. When the managing principle was asked , “what element of design has had the most positive impact on the organization?” He quickly replied,  “ The Great Room. If I’m ever looking for an individual that the first place I go. It is always in use!”

JLL (6)

Design is a process. Explain your journey.
A new workplace strategy can change only as fast as its organizational threshold and leadership expands their views, which at times can be a painfully slow process. This design had to support new ways of working into a team-oriented space without diminishing the positive qualities of either corporate culture.  The project  was polarized between the traditional and  open layout norms , each  had to buy in first, and each carefully considered step forward seemed to be followed by a step back. After several open-plan iterations followed by complete conceptual reversals, the client saw the advantages of leaning toward an environment  that would connect and engage the staff.

JLL (5)

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through this project that you’d want to share with the designers of tomorrow?
Today, there is too much focus on design trends and not enough on sound business principles. The designed space should be a tool for the client’s future success. This is possible only when you understand the client’s current and future goals, organizational process, culture, and leadership dynamics.

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How Chinese Urbanism Is Transforming African Cities

This article from Metropolis explores China’s urban development of many African cities, and the effect this has had on the architectural quality of those cities. Chinese contractors and architects are able to propel a city’s growth at lower cost and on schedule, but in doing so, they out-compete local companies and ignore cultural context. Is this an acceptable trade-off? Read the full article and decide for yourself.

The factory of the world has a new export: urbanism. More and more Chinese-made buildings, infrastructure, and urban districts are sprouting up across , and this development is changing the face of the continent’s cities.

Or so says Dutch research studio Go West Project , who have been tracking this phenomenon for their on-going project about the export of the Chinese urban model to Africa. Since 2012, the group, made up of Shanghai-based architect Daan Roggeveen and Amsterdam-based journalist Michiel Hulshof, have visited six African cities to do research. Roggeveen and Hulshof recently released their preliminary report in an issue of Urban Chinaa magazine focusing on Chinese urban development.

According to the duo, ’s growing economic and political might have made them a significant player in the continent. Not only is it Africa’s single largest trading partner today,’s practical investment diplomacy—offering buildings, roads, railways, power plants and other infrastructure—has emerged as a powerful alternative to Western development aid that is geared towards reducing poverty instead. This has led to Chinese companies successfully funding and building many new developments in African cities ranging from the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Lekki Free Zone (LFZ), a collaboration between a Chinese company and the Lagos government. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

While many Africans appreciate this much-needed development, it is not without its problems, says Roggeven. Many of them fail to relate to the local context, such as the Great Wall Apartments, a residential development in Nairobi, Kenya, consisting of residential blocks that look exactly like housing units found across China. Through interviews with inhabitants and journalists from each city, the team also found that the Chinese urban model presents a paradox for its people.

“On the one hand, China is able to deliver projects, within budget and on time and propels urban development forward. On the other hand, Chinese companies are able to undercut all other competitors, including locals,” Roggeven explains. “This means African companies are unable to compete. This leads to loss of local jobs and businesses—not only in construction but also in low level jobs like street sellers and construction workers.”

The LFZ, currently beginning construction, was planned in China.. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

And the impact of Chinese development in Africa is only growing bigger. While Chinese companies used to be involved mainly in construction work, Go West found that they have an increasing say in actual city development today.

“More and more the Chinese are moving up the value chain, where they also design and even develop buildings and parts of cities. These interventions are very often not aligned with the local context, but rather planned top down,” says Roggeven. “Constructing a building is one thing, but the one initiating the building and designing it is decisive in how a city develops.”

Lagos youth playing soccer along the new Blue Line, the light rail built by a Chinese contractor. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

It is not a one-way street for Chinese development in Africa, however. Not only does China face competition from the firms of other countries such as India, Brazil, and Turkey, its influence is also curbed by the political and economic strength of each African country. Roggeveen and Hulshof note that the Chinese have only been able to pull off bigger projects in centrally led countries that are less democratic thus far.

Phase III of the Great Wall Apartments is currently under construction.. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

But even as the influence of the Chinese in African cities grows, Roggeven is hopeful that such developments will become more sensitive to the needs of the continent.

“It seems the Chinese way of operating will change through time to be able to connect more to local political, economical, social and cultural conditions,” he says, “We have an educated guess this will be essential for the Chinese interventions to be able to survive in Africa in the long run.”

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2014 Market Winner: XPrize Foundation by Wolcott Architecture | Interiors

As the winners of the 2014 Design is … Award Market Award, Shaw Contract Group winning firms interviewed as part of a section of Shaw Contract Group blog which will last a year. Throughout the year, readers can learn more about the 40 winning projects and the individuals who perform them. These are their stories.

Tim Gajewski, AIA . IIDA . LEED®AP, Design Director at Wolcott, talked with us about the idea of a “blank canvas,” making a statement, and sticking to your guns.

Describe this project in one word.
Catalyst. 

XPrize 1 Lobby (Shaw Carpet)

How does this project demonstrate the power of design to impact users in a space?
Our design for the project supported the idea of a “blank canvas,” allowing our client’s teams to project their individual personalities, culture, and history of experiences directly into the space, without being locked into any single ethos. Understanding that a blank canvas requires that the space can be wiped and changed frequently, the majority of the space features an open plan, and any workstations and semi-private offices are composed of completely demountable wall and furniture systems. This flexibility provides the catalyst and ultimate opportunity for self-reflection and regeneration.

XPrize 4 Open Work Area (Carpet Tile)

Design is a process. Explain your journey.
The key is identifying a strong Design Statement. It will dictate every decision regarding development elevations, details, or the floor pattern. In the case of X Prize, the spaceship was an iconic piece in their history, their first prize. In displaying the spaceship, the carpet in the seating pit was selected to enhance the effect of the ship taking off into space. This is one small example of our design process.

XPrize 7 View From Conference Room (Shaw Carpet)

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through this project that you’d want to share with the designers of tomorrow?
The most important lesson learned from this project is to listen to your client and design for their vision. They may not always be be able to articulate the vision in your terminology. Other consultants may have agendas that may not promote the client’s vision. So the challenge is to listen, decipher, create, and stick to your guns during construction.

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