At McCoy Rockford we’re always interested in seeing how design is evolving. Especially in our home town of Houston, Texas.
We decided to invite some of the best designers and architects in the city to sit down together to delve into questions about design in Houston, what the current trends are, and where future trends are going.
In this video from McCoy Rockford’s Houston AIA Power Hour, seven experts from Houston’s design scene weigh in on the question:
“Something we talk about every single day internally is that you cannot be global, unless you're local first,” said Stephanie Burritt, Managing Director and Principal at Gensler. “You have to understand the market that you're in. You need to understand the cultural nuances….If you expect that that local market is going to engage you just because you're big and you know how to do things, and you've done them in one country, you're wrong.”
“They want to know that you are invested in their neighborhood. That you are the good neighbor, and that you're there for the long haul, and that you truly understand them as a culture.” Burritt went on. “There’s no single ethnic background that has that. So, we need to learn to live with each other and understand those differences.”
“If we're going to go into a new market, you just don't go in and plant your foot, and your flag…You need to understand and really engage with the people that are there, and learn what drives them culturally and what's important to them. Because the way that we design a coffee bar in Tokyo, I can assure you, is very different from the way we would do one in London.”
Brian Malarkey, Interior Architecture Team Leader at Kirksey Architecture brought up a great example of trying to bridge that gap. “This firm had streamed another location in their breakroom, and they would stream the opposite location.”
“And they would change it, every day, so you were seeing people from Jakarta. And people were talking to each other in the break room…as a way to humanize the experience of having these other global offices.”
Kristin Ledet, Principal and Director of Interiors at FKP Architects had some first-hand experiences of the challenges that come with working globally.
“We're doing a lot on the healthcare side, particularly now, with Texas Children's. They do a lot of outreach over in Africa,” she said. “We're having to adapt western practices and medicine to African design-culture standards, which can sometimes be a challenge. But we're also looking at how to select air handling units, and different things that aren't necessarily based on the best price, but what's the easiest to maintain over there.”
“There was one example that something quit working,” Ledet continued, “It sat dormant, not working for probably like 8 months. Because they just didn't know how to fix something. So, they started to work with technology and facilities directors over here in the states, saying ‘Take a picture of what the problem is, send it to me, I'll take a picture of what something looks like here, send it back to them’. And that communication of how to maintain facilities globally under a system that has a standard of how they want to still deliver care has been quite a really interesting trait.”
Filo Castore, Principal for the DLR Group on the other hand, had experience in hiring globally. “I think across the portfolio of firms we work with, the fortune 1000, there is expectation to us to understand the local environment. Especially on a recruitment point of view, because they say, ‘We can have all these global standards of design’, but then in the end we have to hire, retain in that locale.”
Kathrin Brunner, Senior VP of HOK spoke up to say, “If you look at the work we are tasked to do, which is often with global companies, what I've seen, there is really a shift.”
“The world standard isn't really of use anymore…It's a guideline. I see this with most companies, they start to understand that the cultural nuances of where-ever we are, are so much stronger that we don't apply a standard that works in Houston Texas, where we have a little more space than we have in most other places, to a much different environment both culturally and in terms of density.”
“That’s what wrote in my notes too,” Marc Bellamy, Associate Principal, Design and Architecture at PDR, agreed.
“The modularity of how you design something has to be flexible enough to be able to be implemented in lots of different cultures. That's kind of how we approach doing global projects...You have to develop what we would normally call 'a standard'. But it's more of…a flexible modular way of thinking about how to bring the systems to a different place, but still have room to adapt it for that culture.”
Marrissa Yu, Prinicpal Director of Interior Architecture at PAGE finished with her thoughts on maintaining a company’s mission, no matter the location. “I think that the image in culture and brand of a company has to carry through. It's what provides the continuity. It's what makes Gensler work as Gensler over…forty-nine offices.”
“I do think there is an understanding we have to have as American architects when we are working in those remote, especially remote countries as you're talking about Kristin, is that sometimes what we think is very matter of fact, like "We can do it." you can't necessarily do it there.”
“We work with remote countries like in Africa,” Yu said, “Where if you were to send furniture over there, they don't have dealers that can maintain that furniture. So, we have to start thinking ‘Maybe we need to order extra pieces of furniture so they have a pile of parts and pieces so they can repair it by themselves.’ It's just thinking of things like that as we're providing services and specifying products in those remote locations.”