As a commercial interiors dealership with 65 years of experience in the industry, we’re always interested in seeing how design is evolving. Especially in our home state of Texas.
That’s why we decided to invite principals from some of the best architecture and design firms in the city to sit down together to dive into some of the questions surrounding design in Houston, what the current trends are, and where future trends are going.
In this video from a recent Houston AIA Power Hour hosted by McCoy Rockford, seven of the most prominent experts from Houston’s design scene weigh in on the question:
''Bring us [IT] in when you start to think about the project…we’ll make it better, we’ll make it work.''
Filo Castore, Prinicpal for the DLR Group kicked off the discussion.
“Several months ago, I was on a panel with some clients and some vendors. There was an IT guy on the panel…And he made a very good point: How many times do you walk into a conference room, and you don’t know where to start, to put your presentation on screen?”
“His point was, ‘Bring us in when you start to think about the project…we’ll make it better, we’ll make it work.’ So as you enter, there’s almost this seamless transition to technology, which is absolutely possible nowadays,” Castore stated.
“That for me was a big wake-up call about how to approach the design process. Not to put IT at the end as a connect-the-dots [exercise].”
However, Kathrin Brunner, Senior VP of HOK, acknowledged the barriers that come with designing around technology.
“The one interesting aspect that we need to understand when we discuss technology is… a building is a 40-year investment. A work space, sort of a ten-year [investment]. Because of reshuffling, work force today I think is at five years. And when you look at technology, that’s 18 months. And our clients really understand that.”
“When we work with clients, they will involve their IT with us, but they will make no commitments until the last, last second. And I think that’s actually really the right approach.” Brunner said. “I think all of us are recognizing, you can’t really plan for it… but you can leave the choices and flexibility. That’s what I think we are being asked,” Brunner concluded, “To leave the flexibility, the infrastructure, and the choices open.”
“I think the whole activity-based design concept is enabled by technology completely” said Brian Malarkey, Interior Architecture Team Leader at Kirksey Architecture. “It’s gonna be weird to have your own desk five or ten years from now. That’s just gonna seem like a foreign idea.”
“I think there is a serious recognition about focus and privacy now. Because we are collaborating all the time and… sometimes that not the way we want to work, or need to work. So I think technology is allowing us to design more flexible environments.”
Prinicpal Director of Interior Architechture, Marrissa Yu, agreed. “The thing that we’ve done now at our office is to provide the spaces based on activity… rather than put all of that at your desk. A long time ago, our desks were the place that we did the focus work, and we met with people, and we read line drawings.”
“The thing about technology is… we do design the spaces for it, but it’s also about the education of people learning how to use the technology,” Yu continued. “It’s actually more of something that you have to nudge people, like, ‘Well, use this space, that’s how it’s intended’ and then re-enforce that… because a lot of people are not used to it yet, and you have to bring them along.
“That’s a huge thing with clients” Marc Bellamy, Associate Principal, Design and Architecture at PDR jumped in to say. “I think everyone remembers smart boards. We put them in everyone offices, and then no one ever use them, because no one was ever taught how to use them.”
“One thing I want to talk about was what I called the hardware-hump. Probably just five years ago… hardware was such a burden on all these great ideas that we had that we wanted technology to help us with. But you had to have a credenza full of equipment or a bunch of junk under you table with wires everywhere.”
“But I really think we’re over that hump now,” Bellamy went on, “Most of that is gone now, and it really opens up the possibilities for using technology, and it opens up it being integrated into the architecture.”
“I think it removes a lot of design handcuffs that we had in the past,” Stephanie Burritt, Managing Director and Principal at Gensler added. “I see some of the products that are being delivered to market now, and because battery life is so improved… We got past the piece that needed wiring because of the information that was coming in. But we didn’t get past the need for wires for power.”
“With the extended battery life of a lot of the equipment that we tote around in our backpacks and things like that, I’ve seen just great handcuffs removed from design,” Burritt said. “You get really excited about what you can see and how you can use it, and how you can manipulate it and put it into some of our workspaces or healthcare.”
Kristin Ledet, Principal and Director of Interiors at FKP Architects finished with a few last thoughts on the question.
“I think what’s really interesting on the higher education side, especially in science, technology engineering, math buildings: the students are the ones driving how they are interacting together.”
“By the time they get to the workplace, they’re used to that. They’re used to that connectivity,” Ledet said. “When they get to the workplace, it’s their norm already. So, we’re trying to plan for the kindergarteners of today, and how they’re going to use their buildings.”
“I think one of the biggest challenges we have in the healthcare and higher [education] side, is the budgets for the IT and the infrastructure are so underestimated,” she continued. “They are using budgetary numbers of today for the needs for tomorrow. They’re really having a challenge in allocating the funds correctly for IT. Because that’s the first need, and therefore sometimes the designs get somewhat sacrificed.”
1) Bring [IT] in as you start to think about the project.
2) A building is a 40 year investment. Technology changes every 18 months. So we are being asked to leave the flexibility, the infrastructure and the choices open.
3) The whole; activities-base design concept is enabled by technology. It’s going to be weird to have your own desk five or ten years from now.
4) The thing about technology… you have to nudge people and reinforce its use. You have to bring them along.
5) Most of that [older hardware] is gone now and it really opens up the possibilities for using technology and it opens it up for being integrated into the architecture.
6) It [technology] removes a lot of design handcuffs that we had in the past.
7) The students are the ones driving how they’re interacting together. By the time they get to the workplace, it’s their norm already.
8) They (clients) are using budgetary numbers of today for the needs of tomorrow. They’re having a challenge allocating funds correctly for IT… We’re pushing clients to overestimate IT needs.