Rottet Studio – 2016 Design Is…Award Market Winner

Shaw Contract conducted interviews with all firms of all Market Award winning projects from the 2016 Design Is…Award program. As part of this process, we always like to share a portion of the response on our blog for readers to learn about the winning projects. These are their stories.

Kyle Rottet of Rottet Studio spoke with us about the design intent and process for this project.

Describe this project in one word.


How does this project demonstrate design impact?

The progression from elevator lobby to reception to conference rooms and beyond is enhanced by a series of articulated details to push and pull you from one point to another. Within these details are metaphors to reflect the great city of Chicago. Viewed as a composition, the project is representative of a vernacular both personal and aesthetically pleasing.

Each project is a process. Explain your journey with this space.

Conceptually, the space needed to represent the community and its inhabitants. Chicago’s history is steeped in public art and architecture and we wanted our project design to reflect this. Meeting the client’s needs for a functional program required thoughtful planning to include elements which are typically configured in rectangular spaces. The building is elliptical which presents a design challenge but ultimately we blurred the lines between rectilinear and circular shapes. Our clients always take the design journey with us and we are fortunate this client has a passion for design and maintains trust in the work we do.

Tell us about any challenges or lessons learned from working on this project.

From a design perspective, it’s a challenge to work in an elliptical -shaped building – especially when most of your world runs parallel and perpendicular. However, we found a way to break up the floor plate, which allowed for a functional client program and maintained the integrity of the buildings shape. We installed light fixtures and carpet patterns that are non directional to de-emphasize the corridors, which run in a circular geometry. This allows a seamless finish transition between corridor to private office.
From a construction perspective, the challenge is always keeping all consultants and trades on the same page with you. This project team is one of the best that I have ever worked with. Everyone involved provided their personal contributions to make the project successful. We simply had a great team that worked very well together. Communication and recognition of contribution is key!

On trends: Is there anything in particular with this project that is reflective of current culture/society?

This project brings the Chicago skyline into a 360 degree panorama for all end-users to enjoy. It tears down the drywall barrier between attorneys who sit in perimeter offices and those who sit within the inner core areas and it is replaced with a continuous glazing partition. Natural light spills through the office corridors and allows for visual integration and communication among junior attorneys and staff which fosters a more collaborative and productive environment for everyone. Client Service Specialist (a more progressive catch phrase for “Secretaries”) anchor the space at the two short ends of the ellipse and create hubs for attorney assistance. These hubs foster more productive, centralized work environments thanks to technology and the way we communicate today.

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Celebrating Great Design and Sporting Excellence

Built in the district of Barra de Tijuca, southwest of the Brasilian megalopolis, the Rio Olympic Park is almost finished with less than 100 days to go until the games begin. The 2016 Olympic Park will boast 34 sports venues in August, which will host 15 Olympic and 11 Paralympic sports.

UK-based AECOM – who also designed the London 2012 Park – won an international architectural competition back in 2011 to design the Rio Games.

AECOM said “The masterplan design naturally makes a virtue of this dramatic setting, to create a global stage for the Games. But in the longer term our work has played a role in contributing to the long term evolution of the city.”

See more of AECOM’s Rio Olympic Park Masterplan on their website.

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Shaw Contract Neocon Reveal


Connect to the sensory. Low tech, exaggerated textures and natural elements provoke the sense of touch. New landscapes emerge, wild and nomadic . Creating a tactile atmosphere to enhance the senses. Expanded plank format, 48 x 122 cm (12”x48”), provides a new sensory experience underfoot. See. Touch. Feel.

Modern Edit

Connecting to the past. Re-framing the concept of heritage. Tactile materials are disrupted by elements with an industrial edge, and textile craft is emboldened with unconventional scales and imperfect finishes. Modern Edit introduces three new 23 x 91 cm (18”x36”) carpet tile designs and two broadlooms, thoughtfully designed to reveal opulence.


Spend the day in a vibrant metropolis. Explore the shores of a coastline. In your travels, slow down. Take in the moment. Glimpse the changing landscape. City to sea, local to global, collaborative
workspace to quiet retreat.


Interact with hexagonal shapes, asymmetric patterns and deconstructed designs. Engage with bold colour and modular form. Create spontaneous spaces. Configure is a new shape of thinking.

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2016 Design Is…Awards Event Recap

After 10 years of recognizing design leadership, this was arguably our most inspiring pool of projects yet. We received 450 entries from 32 countries this year. All entries were judged against projects in their respective market segments by an esteemed group of leaders in commercial design. All entries were judged against projects in their respective market segments. After hours of passionate deliberation, 38 Market Award winners were selected. The last day of the judging event, the panel reconvened to determine a select few projects worthy of Global Award recognition.

As you can see from the pictures below, there were plenty of memorable moments at Barnsley Gardens during the three day event. Whether it was dining under the twilight of the historic ruins, sneaking a stunning first look at this year’s upcoming collections or unwinding after a long day of deliberation, there’s no doubt everyone involved wishes it lasted just a few days longer.

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Design Thinking Is…A Field Trip!!

Last October, Shaw Commercial VP of Marketing Brenda Knowles and Shaw Contract Group designer John Crews traveled to Dalton, GA to speak with a precocious group of fourth and fifth graders at Westwood Elementary School about “design thinking.” The students sought extra inspiration for their ambitious yet imaginative mission — redesign the school media center.

design thinking

What Is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a formal method for practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with the intent of an improved future result. In this regard it is a form of solution-based, or solution-focused thinking – starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. By considering both present and future conditions and parameters of the problem, alternative solutions may be explored simultaneously. – Nigel Cross, “Designerly Ways of Knowing”

Design thinking is all about creating holistic, ideal solutions for the future, instead of solving immediate problems. This solution-first approach is accomplished through an iterative process of divergent thinking that yields as many “out-of-the-box” ideas as possible and refine down to the most feasible options. That “a-ha moment” will happen as long as you adhere to Meinel and Leifel’s four principles of design thinking:

    The human rule – all design activity is ultimately social in nature
    The ambiguity rule – design thinkers must preserve ambiguity
    The re-design rule – all design is re-design
    The tangibility rule – making ideas tangible always facilitates communication

This group of gifted and talented students truly exemplified these principles, because they not only absorbed design thinking theory, but wanted to get up close and personal with design thinking in practice. Fortunately, Shaw Commercial’s headquarters at Plant 94 are only a 45 minute bus trip away!


Design Thinking in Action

“I’m used to organizing mill tours, not field trips”, exclaimed Custom Studio Senior Design Manager Brandy Sutherland, “but I’ve never had more fun planning an event in my 12 years at Shaw!!”

Sutherland had plenty of help from Shaw Contract Group’s best and brightest to plan a full day of engaging activities to make design thinking tangible, social and most importantly, fun. First, the students revved up their imaginations with Shaw Hospitality Group designer Omoleye Adeyemi. First, Adeyemi handed each student a piece of paper with a few squiggly lines drawn across it in no particular order. She then instructed them to grab a crayon and connect the lines to draw shapes or figures that fit into whatever narrative they could imagine. Needless to say, many entertaining tales of dragons, dinosaurs and stick figures unfolded across each piece of colorful scratch paper. The creative juices flowed more freely once Adeyemi showed them how to magically swirl pigment on top of water and transfer it to paper. Check out the Noble Materials video and see if you can do any better!


After an eventful and productive morning, the children were treated to a little lunch-and-learn in the form of pizza and our very own ColorSense video. Shaw Contract Group designer Ashley Olsen then guided her captive audience on a sensory journey through the Altered and Studio Painting collections and how they were inspired from cultural artifacts across the globe. By this point, the students were practically giddy to go on a tour of our design studio to see, feel and hear all of this design thinking happening in real time and gain a better understanding of how ideas become tangible.

The wide-eyed pupils were then handed off to Sutherland and West Coast Custom Design Manager Trish Hagedon to learn how our Custom Design Studios customize any design to fit a variety of floor plans. Like any group of 21st century youngsters, they had the most fun with our interactive Foundry Tool which enabled them to plug and play with the ideas already percolating in their young minds with a few clicks of a mouse. Senior Estimating Manager Tony Gentry even showed them how a carpet-to-fit, or seamless design concept flowing between rooms, might look on their own media center floor plan via AutoCAD. Now knowing the capabilities of our custom design team, Sutherland handed each child a paper version of their floor plan and let their imaginations fly, as long as they colored within the lines.

design thinking-3

“Some students came up with very colorful carpet-to-fit concepts, while others decided to assign certain patterns and color palettes to individual rooms,” said Sutherland.

What’s Next?

After a long day of design thinking, doing, drawing, coloring and playing, the Westwood students returned to Dalton with a veritable treasure chest of creative ideas to unleash upon their media center. They have already designed the furniture and dreamed up a new maker space, and keep a close eye on design trends, so the sky is the limit for bringing their collective vision to life. We’ll keep you posted on the unveiling of their media center makeover later this year!

“We are very thankful to everyone at Plant 94 for creating a very meaningful learning experience for my challenge classes!,” said Challenge Class Coordinator Martha Thomason.

design thinking-4

Education, innovation and community engagement are bedrock principles here at Shaw Contract Group. These events are just as much a learning experience for us, as they are for the students. Who knows, maybe one of these bright pupils will join our team in a few years and teach us a thing or two!

To find out more about our education market and how we invest in sustainable development of healthy learning environments, please visit our education page.To read more about design thinking and education visit Stanford University’s REDLab Group,Hasso Plattner Institute or Tools at Schools.

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