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When ancient and imagination meet: the creative approach to exhibiting

Fx

Words by Pamela Buxton

Nick Sainton-Clark is head of design at the Natural History Museum. He joined the museum in 2009 and initially headed up the production services department before taking on the design role as well a year ago. Previously, he worked at the BBC for 16 years managing both the special and visual-effects departments including prop making, animation and digital effects for programmes such as Doctor Who, Alien Worlds and Robot Wars.

What does your role at Natural History Museum entail?
I oversee 40 people including a small design team of 3D, graphic and digital designers, as well as production services that encompass conservationists, mount makers, engineers, painters and joiners, AV and media specialists, and could be dealing with anything from exhibition sets to typography for print to organising a loan certificate.

We have nearly 25,000 sq m of gallery space and the aspiration is to get even more by re-jigging how the site works. We're currently setting out our permanent gallery development programme for the next 20-30 years. We're also looking at how we can get the most out of the grounds while being mindful of the listed Waterhouse building and consultation with our neighbours - there's huge potential there.

Nick Sainton-Clark. Portrait: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.
Nick Sainton-Clark. Portrait: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.

How many different design projects do you generally commission a year, and what sort of work is this?
We have 10 to12 major design projects a year, from architectural work in the grounds to our temporary exhibition programme. Most are commissioned externally but increasingly we are selecting temporary and permanent exhibits to design ourselves in-house. By 2016, we hope to stage a minimum of five temporary exhibitions (up from four) a year. Our key audience are 'Learned Liberals and Contemporary Cultured', and exhibition briefs are developed with this in mind.

Are you approached by design teams?
We do get some approaches made and I would like us to be better at identifying and engaging new and interesting designers.

Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Human story image: Nick Rochowski.
Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Image: Nick Rochowski.

How do you go about commissioning designers and architects?
We did have a framework of companies but recently we have just been tendering per job. We're currently looking at how we can be more agile in how we procure design. My view is that we need the right balance between external design companies and their fresh perspectives and the in-house design team, which has lots of experience of working with our collection. They feed off each other, and the museum gets the best of both worlds.

Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Neanderthal model close up: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.
Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story was designed by Nissen Richards. Neanderthal model close up: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London 2014.

What qualities do you look for?
Flair and imagination, and a clear engagement with the collection - that's a deal breaker. Design companies should be receptive to feedback and input from us - the design does have to earn its keep so we do sometimes play devil's advocate. But we wouldn't want to crush their creative spirit. Hopefully everyone gains from the process.

What makes for a good gallery environment, and what roles can interactive and audiovisual design play within this?
We have to be really clear about what we want to convey. Our goal is to make exhibitions specimen-rich by putting our collections to the fore and creating strong narratives around them. The design should be imaginative and engaging without overpowering the exhibits.

We don't want to just jump on the bandwagon for current display fashions - whether augmented reality or touch-screen. It's about finding the best approach to interactives and design to make the exhibition work. I'm also a fan of mechanical exhibits and objects you can touch - people often respond well to a mechanical way of relating to the subject.

Often we take a black-box route to temporary shows. When we don't we're mindful of being sympathetic to the incredible architecture and detail of the building.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap
Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap

What aspects of exhibition design are the hardest to get right?
Making visitors feel it's a natural movement through the exhibition design. We've moved away from the strong narrative sausage factory route to providing an overall steer that gently guides people around without making it feel too prescriptive.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Plate-spinning! When you're working across such a wide remit it's very easy to get too sucked into one particular area. I am recruiting some design management staff, which will help. Another challenge is value engineering that isn't at the cost of the concept.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The fun bit is near the beginning when we have the concept and blue-sky scenario and are exploring how we can make it interesting and dynamic.

What projects do you feel have turned out particularly successfully?
The recent Volcanoes and Earthquakes galleries project, which moved from a light touch content improvement to practically a new gallery. The design for Britain One Million Years of the Human Story was also very successful.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap
Earthquakes and Volcanoes was by DesignMap. Image: Designmap

What future design projects are in the pipeline?
We're rethinking the Hintze (formerly Central) Hall area to better showcase all the collections, including new displays on the balconies. The idea is to provide a striking glimpse of our specimens and science, as well as making the most of the amazing architecture. That will complete in 2017.

We've the Coral Reefs: Secret Cities of the Sea temporary exhibition opening this month. This has a really strong visual style and story and includes an aquarium with live coral. One of the challenges here is capturing the wonder and immersive feel of the ocean without becoming too theatrical. We've also got the 50th anniversary NHM Wildlife Photographer of the Year show (until 30 August) and an ambitious exhibition under development on whales, which will open in spring next year.

Do you have any favourite museums/ galleries that you take inspiration from?
I love the Victoria and Albert Museum. Its shows are very classy and manage to get some real wow factor. The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford is a lovely museum with an eclectic mix of display cases that you just roam around. I quite like that quirky character.

One of my goals is to get out and about more to look at other museums and get some international trips in - the last thing I need is to become too insular.

 

Going public with lighting

FX

Words by Jill Entwistle

The association of darkness with crime and/or a disproportionate preoccuption with health and safety has resulted in a tendency to overlight public spaces. However, cranking up light levels in one place means they have to be raised in the adjacent area if that is not to appear murky by contrast, and so begins an arms race that does nothing for the carbon count or the conduciveness of the space.

But lighting designers are beginning to exert a restraining influence over those who are concerned to tick whatever light level box has been deemed appropriate by the latest standard. Common sense is starting to prevail as a few proof-inthe- pudding schemes demonstrate that carefully layered and orchestrated lighting can produce both a safe and aesthetically pleasing space.

Light is also being used more playfully, from the now quite widespread use of gobo projectors to produce dappling and patterning to the full-on use of an interactive colour installation to transform a formerly intimidating dark street.

Kings Cross square,
Lighting design: Studiofractal

The regeneration of the King's Cross area has been radical and ambitious, the largest area of urban redevelopment in Europe. Its gateway is King's Cross Square, London's busiest transport interchange that deals with 140,000 people a day.

The all-LED lighting scheme, shortlisted for a Lighting Design Award, was key to providing a strong visual identity, helping with orientation and creating an environment to encourage commuters to linger. With thousands of people hurrying through the space, safe and functional lighting was crucial but that had to be balanced with creating a pleasant lit experience.

Bearing in mind that the clients were Network Rail, London Underground, Camden City Council, Islington City Council, TfL and English Heritage, each of them with a different set of lighting standards - all with varying criteria for luminance, illuminance, permissible colour appearance and colour rendering - and the scale of the lighting task becomes clear.

 

The essence of the scheme lies in integration and, by layering the lighting from a number of directions, creating the illusion that light levels are higher than they are. 'This is deliberate and ensures the vertical and horizontal lighting is as even as possible - and yet the appearance is that it varies greatly,' says Studiofractal's Tim Downey. 'This is a good trick - in the darker areas there is more light than you would think, but in the brighter areas it is not as high as you would imagine. Much has been written about horizontal illumination levels, but the key here is vertical illumination and how bright the space feels.'

It's a beast of a space to light so there had to be a primary fitting that would provide the basic layer of illumination. The majority of light comes from three 20m stainless steel columns specially made by iGuzzini. Each houses an array of individually focused LED spotlights strategically positioned to align with the historic station frontage. There are dual sources: one gives focused, controlled downward illumination and the other provides a backlighting element to reduce contrast and even out the appearance.

'The arrays were carefully designed to provide a low glare, crisply functional appearance against the warmly glowing facade,' says Downey. 'Great effort went into placing and scaling them correctly, and then conducting an exhaustive detailed design process to ensure they had the right feeling of permanence, solidity and elegance. The aim was to create a very soft field of illumination across the square - without the glare often associated with these types of exterior lighting installations.'

The Big Picture
Part of the £۵۵۰m redevelopment of King's Cross, King's Cross Square has had major structural changes. The scheme now reveals the brick facade of Lewis Cubitt's 1852 railway station behind a 7,000 sq m plaza. Architecture practice Stanton Williams replanned the station entries and exits to ease movement, and incorporated three large London Underground services structures. These are clad in the same granite as the plaza and incorporate a variety of service functions and retail activities. The lighting remit included the main square, new entrances, and exits and colonnades from King's Cross platforms.

Architect: Stanton Williams
Station architect: John McAslan and Partners
Engineer: Arup
Contractor: Murphy and Sons

 

Richard-Wagner-Platz, Leipzig, Germany
Lighting design: Licht Kunst Licht

The winner of the 2014 city.people.lights award, Richard-Wagner-Platz is the historic site of a 10th-century market settlement from which the city developed.

The lighting concept involved the traffic lighting system of the nearby streets, the actual plaza, including skatepark and fountains, and the private facade of the Höfe am Brühl shopping centre.

The central aim of the scheme was to keep clutter to a minimum so that cyclist and pedestrian pathways could be kept clear and the square used for markets and events, so pole-top fittings were avoided where possible. Illuminance had to be between eight and 18 lux.

The plaza and walkways around the entire section of Höfe am Brühl are lit by simple pillar luminaires, which provide general illumination for the pedestrian walkways but also have extra modules to light exterior facades from the public space. These were also used for the skatepark and parts of the open plaza. Warm white LEDs are used for the buildings, sculptural fountains and the skatepark.

Richard-Wagner-Platz, Leipzig, Germany

The projecting entrance of the shopping centre allowed the incorporation of overhead lighting, which illuminates the public space directly in front and avoids the need for pole-top luminaires that would have cluttered the facade. The existing historic light columns along the classic facade of the Grosser Blumberg building were preserved and updated with LED modules.

The scheme was unusually democratic in the degree to which the local citizenry were consulted. A public competition was launched to redesign the lighting through a democratic decision process. 'The project is an excellent example of how to involve citizens and other stakeholders in the preparation of an urban regeneration project,' said Rainer Barth, representative of the city.

Place Du Château, Strasbourg, France
Lighting design: L'Acte Lumiere

A primary aim of the lighting was to knit together the historical buildings and the contemporary square that form the Place du Chateau, part of the Grande-Île, a Unesco World Heritage site. The highly integrated scheme, third-prize winner in the city.

people.light awards, was created by L'Acte Lumiere with the city's public lighting department over a six-year period, and involved extensive public consultation.

Place Du Château, Strasbourg, France

The scheme makes bold use of light and shadow. The vertical lighting around the square reflects off the light-coloured ground surface allowing general lighting levels to be reduced, and creating large areas of attractive shadowing. White light is used in various degrees of intensity to emphasise the architectural styles of the buildings and rich variety of stonework, and create areas of shadow and contrasting light effects.

The square itself is lit by four bespoke masts, with a hexagonal design inspired by the stairways running up the cathedral steeple. The incorporated floodlights also project subtle graphic elements on to the ground features, reflecting the contrasting patterns used in highlighting the facades.

Opera House Lane, Wellington, New Zealand
Lighting design: Stephenson and Turner

A runner-up in the city.people.light awards, this interactive lighting scheme by architecture and engineering practice Stephenson and Turner was designed to make a dark, narrow street safer and more attractive for pedestrians. Presence detectors are used to trigger the RGB LED lighting installation, animating the space with dynamic patterns and muted colours.

Opera House Lane, Wellington, New Zealand

The scheme also features a chandelier - constructed from Kaynemaile, a lightweight chainmail created for The Lord of the Rings films - which creates 'dreamlike' projected effects.

 

Supermarkets in the bag

FX

Words by Pamela Buxton

The supermarket sector is experiencing huge change. Not only are the traditional big players in the market continuing to be challenged by the rise in popularity of discount chains such as Aldi and Lidl, but the growth of online grocery shopping (20 per cent of adults now do their grocery shopping online, according to Mintel) has led supermarkets to question the nature of their physical stores, both in terms of size and customer experience.

Sainsbury's describes the market as 'incredibly dynamic and competitive'. One major consequence has been the swing towards new, smaller convenience concepts - Sainsbury's and Tesco for example both now have more of the latter than their conventional supermarket formats, and Tesco has recently scaled back developing its larger stores.

Waitrose is expanding its Little Waitrose brand, which opened in 20 locations last year mainly in London, outside the M25 and into the Home Counties, and Morrisons has developed its M Local brand. To add to the complexity, Sainsbury's has formed a joint venture with Danish discount chain Netto, which entered the UK market last year, and Tesco recently collaborated with new sandwich bar brand Fred in a number of its London Tesco Express outlets.

Morrison’s Ilkley M Local, created by Fitch
Morrison's Ilkley M Local, created by Fitch

All this is fuelled by huge changes in how people shop. It's not just a matter of online versus in-store; the new picture is of a combination of different types of shopping transactions. The traditional weekly shop, for example, is increasingly a thing of the past, according to Siân Novakovi, insights strategist of Household, which has recently worked with Little Waitrose and Tesco. Instead, she says, this might be replaced with several 'big-basket' shops a week, or even daily visits to a convenience-style supermarket to supplement a less frequent online and/or discount chain stock-up.

Another major factor, says Household's Novakovi, is a polarisation of shopping needs. 'One of the things we've seen is a massive change in how people are shopping in terms of lifestyle needs,' she says. Not only do customers want convenience, they want a considered food offer, she adds, with a greater level of inspiration and emotive connection, for example through the use of produce that is local, fresh, healthy and with an appealing provenance.

'The product and the environment and the communication should come together hand in hand...it's not just about the product on the shelf but about how you bring that to life,' she says.

And that's where the opportunities for design come in. Although traditionally the sector is not the most glamorous of areas, the recent seismic changes there have provided new opportunities for designers, as the big supermarket players respond to changing dynamics and seek to connect with changing consumer priorities. Instead of concentrating on the most convenient formats to build and operate, the focus is increasingly on a range of offers to meet diverse and changing customer needs. 'Design isn't just how the store looks and feels, but is the journey the store takes the customer on - the product flow, the layout, the adjacencies,' says Household creative director Sarah Page, adding that design expression and choice of materials can help create a deeper connection with the consumer who is after far more than just convenience. 'People are looking for an authentic expression - they...want a more tactile, authentic and authoritative experience, and that's where design is leading the way,' she says.

Coop at Old Street, London, by Fitch
Coop at Old Street, London, by Fitch

Fitch design director Nathan Watts considers supermarket design to be a particularly interesting area to work in because of the scope for impacting on customers' lives on such a regular basis. The design company worked with Morrisons on its M Local convenience brand and more recently with Co-operative Food. Above all, he says, supermarkets should ensure that customers feel emotionally connected to the store environments through the 'soft' power of customer experience via the use of language, change of pace, ambience, tactility and storytelling. They should also explore how they can deliver a more personalised shopping experience using digital means.

'The big story is that everyone is interested in convenience and nervous about larger format stores because everyone wants to get closer to the customer. Convenience stores are all exploring ways to become more 'heart of community', for example as pick-up points for other retailers or accommodating community groups, he says. With convenience-store formats it's essential, he says, for retailers to be able to present regularly changing ideas to customers and for customers to be able to pick up what they want quickly and easily. 'Some of the convenience stores have become quite mechanical with high shelving as they are under pressure to be high density,' he said. 'At M Local, we lowered the height in the first third of the store and created more of a compelling fresh food experience.'

Sainsbury has also been adapting to the growing trend for customers to shop more frequently - whether for lunch or top-ups rather than just doing a big weekly or monthly shop. This has led to an emphasis on decluttering and an increased focus, especially in smaller convenience stores, on its growing hot food and food-to-go. In larger stores, general merchandise and clothing has become increasingly important and there is more emphasis, says the retailer, on displaying these in a way that customers might see in specialist high-street stores to reflect their quality.

Tesco, by Household
Tesco, by Household

Waitrose is also extending its offer. The retailer recently opened its first station store at King's Cross in London catering for 'transumers' with an emphasis on travel accessories, and twice as much space dedicated to foodto- go as in its regular convenience stores. Hospitality has become more important across the Waitrose estate, with the supermarket introducing eat-in areas at several branches and trialling new concepts for a bakery, a juice and smoothie bar, and a wine and beer bar.

Looking ahead, it's clear that more change is afoot as discount retailers continue to make inroads into the sector, and supermarkets respond by creating a more customer-focused environment. Fitch's Nathan Watt thinks there is more opportunity for all supermarket retailers to consider how they can create multiple formats within the convenience sector, for example for a store in a travel, work, or neighbourhood environment, that are better suited to particular requirements. Household expects supermarkets to explore the potential for greater use of technology in the shopping experience, such as linking to apps and location awareness technology. But above all, the customer is king, as supermarket environments work far harder to give, and communicate, what the shopper wants, than ever before.

 

Drawing a Line – Alexander McQueen’s drawings

Blueprint

Words Abraham Thomas

Alexander McQueen's drawings provoke a particularly intriguing set of questions, given that the designer was so well known for his skill at working directly with materials. How does one interpret the distilled qualities of a flat drawing when considered alongside the textural and sculptural possibilities of fabrics?

Very few of these drawings, whether from his student days or from his professional career, have been published or researched before. Therefore, they offer a rare glimpse into McQueen's design process. Acting both as private musings and as tools of communication within the studio, the drawings performed a number of functions. They indicated McQueen's initial thoughts; facilitated conversations between members of the design team; and, at the outset, established the tone, atmosphere and creative direction of a particular collection.

Sketch, Irere, Spring/Summer 2003. Pencil on paper, London 2002
Sketch, Irere, Spring/Summer 2003. Pencil on paper, London 2002. All drawings courtesy of Alexander McQueen

Sarah Burton, who joined McQueen in 1996, recalled how incredibly fast McQueen was able to sketch, and described how she would run after him desperately trying to make notes on the drawings as he went along. Indeed, many of the annotations on the drawings are in Burton's hand rather than McQueen's, reflecting their close collaborative relationship during these early design stages. Selected sketches were also copied and transmitted to the studio's textile partners in Italy in order to convey vital instructions for fabrication, as confirmed by the scattering of annotated faxes that exist amongst original drawings.

McQueen's drawings provide an important opportunity to understand how ideas were expressed at a stage prior to any cutting or tailoring using fabric on a mannequin. Highly accomplished and supremely confident, the boldness of these sketches creates a sense of equivalence to the bravery that was evident in his method of working with textiles and three-dimensional forms.

Sketch, Scanners, Autumn/Winter 2003. Pencil on paper, London 2003
Sketch, Scanners, Autumn/Winter 2003. Pencil on paper, London 2003

The drawings that relate to his Central Saint Martins MA graduation portfolio are especially interesting in that they seem to provide a direct line of evolution from his early career as an apprenticed tailor on Savile Row. Many exude a refined, almost clinical, quality. Others demonstrate how his drawing skills were able to adapt to a variety of contexts and scales with a deftness and clarity of approach.

Sketch, Pantheon ad Lucem, Autumn/Winter 2004. Pencil on paper, London 2004
Sketch, Pantheon ad Lucem, Autumn/Winter 2004. Pencil on paper, London 2004

A fellow student, print designer Simon Ungless, recalls seeing McQueen's drawings in those early days:'I remember the drawings. I just thought, they are so chicken-feet scratchy. Chicken-claws turning into ink. Really scratchy, feathery, girls with really pointy noses, bald heads, turtlenecks that covered their faces. A really different vibe to all the other students ... A not very cool kind of thing. He really stood out tome. Here is someone with a point of view.'

Sketch, Pantheon ad Lucem, Autumn/Winter 2004. Pencil on paper, London 2004
Sketch, Pantheon ad Lucem, Autumn/Winter 2004. Pencil on paper, London 2004

In many design disciplines, sketch drawings often acquire a quasi-sacred status due to their representations of the initial moments of conception. Although it is true that early drawings can play a crucial role in articulating future design thoughts, such a simplistic analysis runs the risk of belying the true situation. For example, within architecture, designers often choose to explore initial design ideas through more physical material processes such as model-making, describing spatial concepts that later will be expressed more explicitly through formal drawings.

Sketch, Pantheon ad Lucem, Autumn/Winter 2004. Pencil on paper, London 2004
Sketch, Pantheon ad Lucem, Autumn/Winter 2004. Pencil on paper, London 2004

One of McQueen's drawings for his Scanners collection (Autumn/Winter 2003) exhibits a particularly architectural aesthetic, with the fabric articulated as a series of interconnected flat planes, and the inclusion of notes indicating a 'fully embroidered fabric ... all engineered, no flat parts'. This interest in the volumetric qualities of a drawing might be compared to McQueen's deep engagement with textile fabrics, and his preference for directly manipulating tactile materials so as to express ideas in a way that might have been frustratingly difficult if relying exclusively on the mediated process of drawing on a flat page. Indeed, from some accounts it appears that McQueen drew less and less towards the end of his career, deciding instead to focus on working directly with fabrics, which offered him an outlet for creative expression that drawing never did.

Sketch, The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, Autumn/ Winter 2008. Pencil on paper, London 2008
Sketch, The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, Autumn/ Winter 2008. Pencil on paper, London 2008

However, in an interview with the photographer, Nick Knight, McQueen revealed that his earliest memory of wanting to design clothes expressed itself through the process of drawing. At the age of three, at a time when his family was living in a council house, he recalled outlining a sketch for a dress on an area of bare wall that had become exposed through the gradual peeling of wallpaper.

This sense of immediacy and gestural flourish permeates a number of McQueen's design drawings. Some are compelling for their minimalism and reduction, as exemplified in one example that provides the subtlest indication of an outlined silhouette.

Others are memorable for suggesting an approach towards abstraction, where the drawing seems to exist simply as a statement of pure materiality. Throughout all the sketches, though, there is a deft use of the medium to describe the various qualities of different fabrics. Subtle shifts in texture and weight are articulated through the delicate and precise application of smudging techniques.

Sketch, Irere, Spring/ Summer 2003. Pencil on paper, London 2002
Sketch, Irere, Spring/ Summer 2003. Pencil on paper, London 2002

Laborious contour lines and crosshatching are employed to indicate the quality of workmanship required for detailed embellishments and other surface details, for example, becoming intently focused on the details of a frock coat. Perhaps most impressive is the way in which McQueen manages to suggest a sense of movement within the fabric, giving the gentlest hint as to how these textiles would behave once they were on a human body -- breathing life into what might have been a rather more static image in anyone else's hands.

Much of this was possible due to McQueen's profound sense of instinct when it came to working with fabric, and his ability to faithfully communicate his designs through his drawing techniques. He clearly strived to ensure that the emotional content of his designs would never be lost through the explicit articulation of the drawn line. These unique drawings are invaluable as records of a creative vision, capturing as they do a series of conceptual thoughts at a particular moment in time.

They are also crucial to an understanding of McQueen's creative process because of their ability to maintain a sense of poignant inference and poetic ambiguity.

 

Biophilic design and architecture – 10 of the best biophilic buildings

Biophilic design and architecture aims at creating strong connections between nature and man-made environments, and has proven benefits, including helping office workers be more productive, encouraging children to learn and helping hospital patients get better.

Says Biophilic designer Oliver Heath: 'Biophilic design is more than just bringing the outside in, it's about making and strengthening a connection with many aspects of nature. It's about natural light, views on nature, plants, natural materials, textures and patterns.'

As our lives have become increasingly urbanised, our connection to nature - natural light, green spaces and organic materials - have diminished. However, developments in technology and new attitudes to design - as well as some very persuasive research on the subject - are leading to positive change, albeit only in a handful of trailblazing projects. Maybe someday every office worker will be able to harvest salad for her lunch from an urban farm and all our hospitals will be bright, airy places that seamlessly blend the technology of healing with the salubrious effects of the natural world; until then, here's our pick of the nine best examples of biophilic design and architecture.


 

Alistair Barr – 10 things I’ve learned about design

FX

Words by Pamela Buxton

1 I love variety. I once had a job where all we did was speculative office work and I soon realised I had to chase variety instead. Diversity of projects breeds a great creativity, not just for me but for the whole office. We do everything from public realm and masterplanning to central London office fitouts, leisure venues and one-off homes. If you work on different scales it's more stimulating, and makes you consider projects from the inside and the outside. We often find this extends the scope of the project because we are able to suggest ideas for other aspects beyond the original brief. If we were only interior designers or only architects we wouldn't make the same connections. That's why I like the idea of having different disciplines - it gives you a different energy.

Equally I try to hire people with diverse skills, backgrounds, and experience - it's no good trying to clone yourself.

2 I love collaboration. Collaboration with the community is a brilliant thing. We listen to people and their ideas and this makes you think about a whole lot of different things that you can feed into the project. We've learned that a small intervention can make a tremendous difference. I also love collaborations with other creatives that open up your mind to different ways of approaching a brief, and push you in a way you wouldn't normally think of going. We've worked with a poet and all sorts of artists including sculptors, painters, glassmakers and light artists.

3 Teaching and judging is a brilliant way of learning. I've taught at Greenwich University for 21 years, and I'm a Civic Trust and FX Awards judge, as well as sitting on a local conservation group. In the office, we have a design review session every Monday morning. The act of critiquing someone else's work hones your own views and tunes your perceptions.

4 Buildings should be like hosts. In the Seventies Charles and Ray Eames talked about the concept of guest and host, and the idea that any building should be welcoming and calming like a host. When you experience a building as a visitor or a member of staff, you should feel like you're being looked after and are comfortable, and know where everything is. A lot of our work is fitting out lobbies and receptions, and we always think about what the experience is like for anyone using the space - can they see where the entrance is from the outside? Does the building welcome you? Does the reception desk work well? Getting the host-guest relationship right is really crucial.

Staff cafeteria for Geneity, Hammersmith
Staff cafeteria for Geneity, Hammersmith

5 You have to know the rules to break them. We've designed more than 100 reception desks so we know all the technical requirements. As years go by, we use that knowledge as a way to stretch ourselves. We're currently carving a reception desk from a 45-tonne rock from a Welsh quarry. Because we know the rules, we know where to push the boundaries while ensuring it still has all the functionality it needs.

Reception at the BREEAM Outstanding-award winning Quadrant 2 building in London
Reception at the BREEAM Outstanding-award winning Quadrant 2 building in London

6 We play design Jenga. Many architects and designers load too many things into their buildings, so that sometimes you get spaces that end up in confusion. Instead, we try to take pieces away, paring the concept down so that we don't have so many different finishes, for example. But like Jenga, if you go too far, the concept collapses. Our job as designers is to know what the essence is of the scheme, and when you have to stop paring back. Often, it's that last squeeze of lemon that brings everything to life.

Artist’s impression of the refurb of Greenwich market
Artist's impression of the refurb of Greenwich market

7 You need open and closed ways of working. At certain stages of a project, you have to be open to all ideas. But then you have to put your blinkers on and really focus on one thing before taking them off again and opening up. It's very easy to get tunnel vision. But when you feel yourself going that way you have to pause, look up and consider all the options.

8 Models are catalysts. We build models all the time to help us look at things in a different way. They are consciously a bit crude - if you built a perfect one it would feel too precious so that that you couldn't change it around so freely. If ever we've backed ourselves into a corner with a design, we always build a model in order to start another conversation about the problem.

Reception at South Oak Way, Green Park Business Park, Reading
Reception at South Oak Way, Green Park Business Park, Reading

9 Designing is a messy process. Sometimes architects jump in too soon to try to tidy it up. Instead, you have to embrace the messiness to make sure you get the best out of a project, before making order out of chaos.

10 Everything flows from sustainability. The design process is not linear but circular, with sustainability right in the middle. Even five years ago clients hadn't fully bought into it and we had to achieve sustainability by stealth. But now people have taken it on as something they have to address. We're proud to have the only Outstanding BREEAM design rating for a listed building at Quadrant 2 in Air Street, London for the Crown Estate.

 

If Only… wasted spaces were given over to wildlife

FX

The central areas of gyratory systems and large roundabouts are often wasted spaces in that are under-used, have expensive maintenance burdens and, on occasion, suffer from anti-social behaviour. If only they were used more effectively... What if they were given over to wildlife?

Today, wildlife competes with humans across much of the UK but nowhere is this problem more apparent than in urban areas. If securely protected, these undervalued spaces could become wildlife havens, offering much-needed habitat for flora and fauna. Societal benefits would see maintenance costs slashed, mental well-being increased and air quality enhanced.

gyNATUREies

Gyratories could be transformed into gyNATUREies, not only across London but across the UK and the wider world, creating a global network that contributes to green infrastructure on a planet-wide scale. Free from human access and interference, wildlife could thrive undisturbed, with CCTV cameras providing people with visual contact.

To kick-start nature's revival, a kit of parts could be installed - such as a pond, and areas of soil and rubble - with nature left to establish and grow from there. Sculptural perimeter fences could identify gyNATUREies becoming a symbol of urban nature conservation. They could be implemented across the network as an easily recognisable feature.

Ian Wale
Ian Wale is a partner at Make Architects, which he joined in 2013 to establish a landscape architecture team. He is also an associate tutor at the University of Sheffield. Ian has a passion for the natural and designed environments and thrives on the challenge of bringing nature into our urban areas.

 

The world’s 10 best-designed bus stations

Bus stations are hardly synonymous in most people's minds with glamour and great design; indeed we're far more likely to think of airports and even train stations as examples of innovative and stylish architecture. But among the dust heap of dull prefatory concrete sheds lurk some true diamonds of design, including the brutalist masterpiece that is Preston Bus Station (recently rescued from being demolished and given grade II listed status by English Heritage) and the Bus Station at Spaarne Hospital in Switzerland by NIO architecten, which has been described as looking like a whale's jaw.

Here's our pick of 10 of the world's best-designed bus stations.


See also:


Bus Station at Spaarne Hospital (Sesign aarne Ziekenhuis)

Design: NIO architecten

Location: Holland

Bus Station at Spaarne Hospital (Spaarne Ziekenhuis)

Photo: Radek Brunecky

This mammoth creation of architects NIO of Holland, located as a roundabout in front of Hoofddorp's Spaarne Hospital, resembles a whale's jaw. Built in 2003, it emerges as a cross between black Baroque and white modernism, à la Oscar Niemeyer.

Bus Station at Spaarne Hospital (Spaarne Ziekenhuis)

Photo: Radek Brunecky

One of the largest structures built entirely of synthetic materials, this bus station is made of enormous pieces of polystyrene foam clad in polyester skin.

Bus Station at Spaarne Hospital (Spaarne Ziekenhuis)

Photo: Radek Brunecky

Ingenious use of length as well as the ceilings moulded contours gives the station an unforgettable form and the materials used in construction were tested to be resistant to knives, graffiti, and cigarettes.

 

Retail Design Expo

Fx

Words by Emily Martin

March will see an estimated 6,000 designers, architects, marketers, visual merchandisers, shop fitters and suppliers head to London's Olympia for a new show: Retail Design Expo.

Hailed by organisers as the 'essential event for all those responsible for retail design' the show is set to be a one-stop shop for anyone wishing to seek out new ideas, suppliers, or to rub shoulders with leading trendsetters in the field of retail design. The event is also conveniently co-located with Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE), one of Europe's biggest and fastest growing retail technology solutions show, to ensure an info-packed two days for visitors.

As well as featuring market leading suppliers and thought leading speakers from around the world, the show also includes: Design Pavilion - for design consultancies and architects; Future Laboratories - revealing future trends; Student Awards; live demonstrations; and boundless networking and sales opportunities.

Here is just a snippet of what to expect.

retaildesignexpo.com

Dalziel and Pow
Retail design consultancy Dalziel & Pow is set to showcase work from five continents, with a client list that includes John Lewis, Jigsaw, Argos, Primark and Debenhams. 'We are really looking forward to the Retail Design Expo,' says group creative director David Dalziel.

Dalziel and Pow

'It comes at a time when we are all reappraising the definition of retail design and its impact on the market.' At stand G33, adjacent to the Designer Pavilion area and close to the main seminar suite, the practice will be discussing trends and insights and bringing experience and knowledge to the event with its full studio team in attendance.

dalziel-pow.com

Fitch
Global design consultancy Fitch, which has design studios around the world, is exhibiting to keep up to speed with a 'rapidly changing' UK retail sector.

Fitch

The group has a client list that includes from crystal brand Swarovski to food giant Nestle, and has developed stores for American retailer Target and UK company Ann Summers, as well as showrooms for Indian motorcycle brand Bajaj. 'We're excited that Retail Design Expo is very much about the new and the future,' says Fitch EMEA creative director Alasdair Lennox. 'A new event can really set the tone at an exciting time.

It can set a new agenda because it is not tied to the past.' Fitch can be found at DES8.

fitch.com

Armourcoat
Surface finishes specialist Armourcoat will be bringing new colours and finishes to Retail Design Expo, and plans to reach out to retailers, designers, architects and shop fitters when it unveils its latest product ranges (stand H50). Armourcoat lists international brands, including Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and DKNY, among its long-standing clients. It says shows and events are a vital way to reach new customers. 'It's a tactile product and people have to experience how it feels,' says Armourcoat group marketing director Daniel Nevitt of the company's latest product, being launched at the event.

armourcoat.com

iGuzzini
Italian lighting specialist iGuzzini is sponsoring the Invisible Light Lab, a special feature area at the event. The educational display will show retailers, brands and retail designers the latest techniques and technology for highlighting merchandise without drawing attention towards light fixtures or creating unwanted glare.

iGuzzini

'It's a problem for a lot of shops: you have spotlights going everywhere and the first thing that hits people when they enter the retail environment is that they are inundated with glare,' says iGuzzini UK sales and marketing director Ian Stanton. iGuzzini's lighting experts will be at the Invisible Light Lab to provide details of the cost lighting systems. i

guzzini.com/lightfirst

Wieland Electric
Connection expert Wieland Electric will be taking advantage of Retail Design Expo to demonstrate the benefits of its new Gesis MICRO connector system (stand E70) .

Wieland Electric

A system so small, the Gesis MICRO connector system only requires a small drilled hole for running wiring through and is easy to install with its 'plug-and- play' functionality. Wieland Electric says it's the ideal solution is for connecting discreet LED lighting in display cases or shelving where space is at a premium, so that nothing detracts from items on display.

wieland-electric.com/en-gb

Zumtobel
The Zumtobel and Thorn Lighting brands, both part of the Zumtobel Group for some years, have become more closely aligned recently. The company will be promoting both brands at Retail Design Expo, emphasising its expertise in lighting controls and retail maintenance, as well as its extensive range of lighting products.

Zumtobel
Zumtobel

'We are looking to establish a stronger position in the retail market, in both store new-builds and refurbishments,' says Zumtobel sales director for the end-user, Clive Jackson. 'We now want to be clearly visible as being very active in the retail sector.' Zumtobel and Thorn Lighting will be on stand J61.

zumtobel.com/com-en; thornlighting.co.uk

 

Talking Points

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Words by Anna King

When Reed MIdeM announced a MIPIM UK at London's tired Olympia venue, there were audible undertones of 'what are they thinking? to be heard by some in the property sector. Understandably, given the stark contrast between a rainy autumnal London and a salubrious, spring-like Cannes.

However, it appears there may be room for both. The inaugural MIPIM UK event last year catered for the property sector in its broadest sense, attracting more than 4,000 delegates, 500 of which were investors, which made it the biggest-ever gathering for the British property sector.

Private-sector developers, investors and advisers were joined by representatives from 35 cities and local authorities, including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and the Scottish Cities Alliance.

Over the three-day period MIPIM UK provided a platform for a UK-centric discussion that didn't get lost in the much bigger picture of global discussion. Housing issues and devolution, which are still so topical, were high on the agenda for discussion.

Mark Simpson, director of design at BDP, summed up his thoughts: 'BDP has attended every MIPIM in France since it started so it was good to be in at the start of this new initiative, which we feel sure will grow. It is a very different proposition from Cannes, very UK-focused with a lot of local authority attendees. We will be back or the next one!'

Bill Hughes, managing director of Legal & General Property, said: 'Far exceeding expectations on quantity and quality of attendance, the inaugural MIPIM UK was unequivocally a success story - providing lively debate on the key issues, such as housing and infrastructure, and the critical new trends in commercial real estate. In particular I was delighted to see a high level of engagement between the public and private sectors.'

Interestingly, 77 per cent of delegates had never attended MIPIM in Cannes, which almost confirms the requirement for such an event. Mark Day of Artelia UK, commented: 'The London MIPIM event was a positive step for Artelia in developing its credentials further in construction consultancy services within the built environment. The event produced positive enquires, increased sector profile and positive feedback and will almost certainly see Artelia exhibit again this year."

MIPIM UK will take place at Olympia, London 21-23 October.

 



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