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The urge to converge

FX

Words by Veronica Simpson

As the quality and quantity of home entertainment possibilities expands exponentially, people are - almost perversely - being seized with the urge to switch off their screens and get out to engage with other people.

And nowhere is this more evident than in the growing number of multifaceted arts venues that offer their visitors a fascinating smorgasbord of cultural treats.

Art, cinema, theatre, dance, poetry, education, debate, gardening, music-making... anything is possible within these new, tailored cultural spaces designed for maximum engagement, refreshment and interaction with their chosen audiences.

Could it be that the cultural/social hub will be to the 21st century what the shopping centre became in the latter half of the 20th? After all, who needs to trudge along an endless parade of identity-kit retailers when all you want or need can be accessed from wherever you are, thanks to smartphone ubiquity. The intellectually curious want something a little fresher, a little more unexpected and original; a venue that offers in reality what Facebook promises virtually: an interesting mix of people who share your interests, while throwing in the possibility of some serendipitious encounters. Real social networking, not virtual.

Rune Grasdal, of Scandinavian starchitects Snøhetta, agrees the shopping centre's days may be numbered: 'Simply going into a shop and buying something is not a social activity,' he says. And social encounter is what the people of Umeå wanted in their gleaming new Väven Cultural Centre, created by Snøhetta and White Arkitekter; instead of consuming culture, they wanted to create it.

It has cinemas, cafes, conference centre and theatres, yes, but its primary space is a library across the third and fourth floors, a library with a difference. Says Grasdal: 'It's a mix of old tech [books] and new tech - robots for automatic book storage, for example. Inside there are places where you can sit and read the papers, there are exhibitions, you can listen to music, do workshops where you paint and make music and recordings. I have been there a few times since the opening, and it's always crowded.'

That urge to be active participants in culture is also writ large in the programming of Home, a new contemporary arts centre in Manchester and billed as a 'mini Barbican for the North'. Like that early Eighties' concrete colossus, Home has cinemas, theatres, an art gallery, and various scenic spaces for gathering, eating and drinking. Unlike the Barbican, it is all housed in one incredibly compact, 6,000 sq m package.

Architecture practice Mecanoo was at first given an even smaller footprint - 40 per cent smaller - than the one the building now occupies. Says architect Francesco Veenstra: 'We would have ended up with a four to six-storey cultural building. That's not ideal. Bringing visitors up to 20m-plus high floor level would create a lot of wasted circulation space.' Instead, Mecanoo negotiated with the site's developer Ask and secured a larger, albeit triangular, plot, which posed opportunities as well as challenges. Says Veenstra: 'The main focus was trying to fit rectangular spaces within a triangular volume.

New cinemas at the Barbican, London
New cinemas at the Barbican, London

It gave us some very interesting leftover areas, which define the public space to create really strong bars, foyers and restaurants.'

Great social connectivity at Home, opened in May, is crucial for the two cultural organisations that form its artistic backbone - grassroots community engagement has long been the primary focus for the Library Theatre Company, while the Cornerhouse, a multi-screen independent cinema and gallery, has always punched above its weight in its food offer.

'That aspect of the social cultural hub is really important to Home,' says Veenstra. 'It is very much driven by the people behind it. As a practice with experience in cultural developments throughout the world, we believe that these cultural activities really boost up a community.'

For evidence look at the extraordinary work of Brazil's SESC, a social welfare institution dedicated to enhancing quality of life, community and opportunities through the provision of public cultural centres. These offer a huge range of activities from chess to sport to theatre, dance and art, for all demographics and at hardly any cost to the user - and always with great food and social spaces.

Begun as a philanthropic movement by entrepreneurs in the Sixties, SESC is now present in every major city. Its most famous building, Lina Bo Bardi's SESC Pompeia, reanimated an old factory in São Paolo and has become a benchmark of its kind, not least for its skillful weaving of drama and connection between people, activities and the surrounding city at every opportunity.

It's that kind of pervasive animation and permeability that Mecanoo hopes to achieve in Home, and what some of the UK's most venerable cultural institutions seek to attain through ambitious refurbishments.

In London, the National Theatre has been undergoing major work to reanimate its interior spaces and make its activities and attractions far more visible to the crowds that promenade past its terraces along the revived Thames riverfront. Haworth Tompkins has the delicate business of resculpting a London icon, mindful of the best intentions of its original architect Denys Lasdun. Says Paddy Dillon, associate director: 'Lasdun...was incredibly interested in how private space bonded and linked through to public space; how [the building] was connected as part of the city. He said people are supposed to flow in and out of it. Over the years those connections have become blocked up and that's what we have been trying to clear - most obviously by a new entrance that really makes an easy, direct link to the building.'

Transparency and legibility characterise these new schemes - the activity inside the building being broadcast both within and beyond its walls, through careful positioning of social and interstitial spaces along glazed exterior walls. Nowhere does this work better than in the NT's near neighbour - the Royal Festival Hall, which now makes full use of its subtle but inspired 2007 refurbishment by Allies and Morrison to programme multi-arts events that make maximum use of its vast social spaces.

But what can you do when existing buildings are barricaded in behind their own listed concrete fortress walls, as with the Barbican, one of Europe's foremost multi-arts centres?

In 2006, Allford Hall Monahan Morris (AHMM) completed a £35m refurbishment aimed at enhancing connections and facilities throughout the complex. But that elusive and desirable street presence could not be achieved until 2007, with the creation of a new ground-level entrance on Silk Street. It now sits opposite two new cinemas, completed in 2014 and boasting their own street-level cafe and restaurant.

The Barbican is now busy making sure that connections between all of its facilities are maximised. There are exciting programmes of cross-art entertainment combining dance, art, theatre and music under specific themes. The Barbican's director of audiences, Leo Thomson, says: 'Our approach to cross-arts participation reflects the changes in our relationships to audiences and artists, and how we engage with our members.' Beyond its immediate footprint, it has developed a pioneering outreach programme for the less culturally enriched parts of East London, while in its own neighbourhood it is working alongside other major arts institutions - including the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Museum of London - to 'create an unrivalled destination for art, history, learning and entertainment in the City.'

Guardian Live, London
Guardian Live, London

The Barbican already has a vibrant membership programme - perhaps the one desirable side-effect of having no street presence for decades is how successfully it has worked at engaging with members via print and online relationships. In that respect, says Thomson, 'One of the joys of the live arts is the ability to go long form, and its appeal is definitely of this age - as a result of technology and everything being instant. Immersion is something the arts can really offer.'

Connecting with audiences is something that newspapers have long been expert at. Taking this to a new level, news emerged early this year that The Guardian newspaper is creating a physical event space to host talks, concerts, multi-arts festivals and educational courses, in a delicious inversion of the usual process (build the arts centre, create a programme and grow your audience). A neglected 19th-century train shed in King's Cross is undergoing major structural renovations and reinvention.

Says Jonathan Robinson, project leader for The Guardian Media Group: 'Newspapers were formed in the coffee-house culture of 18th-century Britain, so part of us is returning to those roots and fostering human encounter and interaction.

But it's about exploring global concerns as well. The events and experiences will range from debating the Middle East and climate change to exploring personal questions about love and family and how to find a livelihood that has meaning and purpose. It's like the Saturday newspaper coming alive in all its diversity.'

Says Robinson: 'There is a demand for this on all sorts of levels, not least a huge appetite demonstrated by the events we're already running. There's also a strongly held belief that journalism needs to evolve for the challenges of our age...through live debate and conversation, and building relationships through people is crucial. It's also crucial to support not just conversation but the journey, from people talking about what matters to doing stuff that matters.'

 

The Make Lewes Festival of Making, Architecture and Sustainable Design

Words Oliver Lowenstein

Imagine a small town heaving with a diverse, motley and idiosyncratic crew of makers and crafts people. Imagine a town, which is proud of its independent, awkward squad reputation. And imagine a town, which celebrates this independent streak with the biggest Guy Fawkes firework party in the country.

This is Lewes, down in Sussex, or at least one version of the town. Where one of the world's leading plastic figure makers - beautiful sculpting at a scale smaller than your fingers - declared to the local events mag that he loved Lewes because it makes "eccentrics feel welcome."

Over the last eighteen months the town's quirky and straighter sides have been presented with regular architectural events, under the title MakingLewes. And in mid-September ML is hosting the second Make Lewes Festival of Making, Architecture and Sustainable Design, marrying this local culture of design and making to the wilder shores of the music festival building and making scene and the leading edges of sustainable architecture, as a kind of a 'bridge building' experiment, and just to see what happens.

After last years inaugural MLF, where the likes of Sarah Wigglesworth, Jeremy Till, Danish solar century geodesics supremo Kristoffer Tejlgaard and Bioregional's Pooran Desai all participated, this year looks to be just as brilliant and twice as nice.

Assemble, local architectural hero, the Wastehouse's Duncan Baker Brown, Cany Ash, Norway's Rake, and Jon Minchin, who got the first ever Green Fab Lab up and running in the hills above Barcelona, are all set to speak, as are many others.

There's a real spotlight, however, on the Lewes makers themselves, who are involved in all sorts of ways. Collaborative Collisions, one of this years festival events tosses several different sorts of makers into the mix, before standing back to see what kind improvised 'something' emerges over the course of the opening weekend. Whatever the results Lewesian's can rest easy in their beds, knowing that the town's quirky and adventurous spirit is alive and well.

The Make Lewes Festival is on from 12 - 20th September 2015. For more information see: http://makinglewes.org

 

Review – Hepworth in Yorkshire

Blueprint

The Hepworth Wakefield
Until 6 September
Review by Rebecca Swirsky

Every artist has a beginning, and, in an exhibition running until September, The Hepworth Wakefield is sharing the story of Barbara Hepworth, born in 1903. A room of curated juvenilia including photographs, scrapbooks and early works, as well as the earliest known portrait of Hepworth, painted by Dame Ethel Walker RA for her 18th birthday, offers glimpses into the early life of the sculptor.

Hepworth as a baby, with her parents and grandmothers, 1903. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth as a baby, with her parents and grandmothers, 1903. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

While Hepworth's works in the exhibition aren't included in her catalogue raisonné, they attest to her early gifts in understanding form and scale. Portraits of Mary Fennell and George Parker, executed in pencil, also attest to the role of circumstance. In an era when women weren't expected to have careers, Hepworth's progressive father not only encouraged his daughter's gifts but also procured for her these commissions, which were essential in developing her artistic identity. The focus on Hepworth's drawings also illustrates how her scholarships were secured, first at the Leeds College of Art, then the Royal College of Art.

(l-r) Edna Ginesi, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth in Paris, 1920. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
(l-r) Edna Ginesi, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth in Paris, 1920. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Only after Hepworth's admittance to the RCA, and having made a bust, could she enrol on a sculpture course.

Born in Wakefield as the eldest child of middle-class parents, Hepworth's father Herbert Hepworth was a civil engineer who would later become County Surveyor, possibly accounting for Hepworth's technical accuracy when submitting drawings for sculptures made in the foundry.

While driving in her father's car (an early model), Hepworth was often lifted up to see over hedgerows, observing the sculptural forms of the landscape and the road's division of the hills. Like Hepworth's contemporary, Moore, this integral connection with landscape was to continue, shaping her outlook.

Nine black-and-white images of Yorkshire line one wall of the exhibition, their locations selected by Hepworth and published in a book, Drawings from a Sculptor's Landscape (1965). These carefully commissioned images, taken by Magnum photographer Lee Sheldrake, convey a sense of the landscape seeping into Hepworth's bones, re-emerging in her muscular, later forms.

Hepworth at the Royal College of Art workshop, studying on a Yorkshire Senior Country Art Scholarship. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth at the Royal College of Art workshop, studying on a Yorkshire Senior Country Art Scholarship. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

More personal photographs on display reveal a treasure trove of Hepworths, showing her in various guises. Victorian-dressed adults, including her father, cluster around a two-month-old Hepworth in one photograph, while a pert young 'Hiawatha Hepworth' reclining on fur skins in another reminds one of Lewis Carroll's portraits of girls. An older, more assured Hepworth is seen travelling on her West Riding scholarship in Italy, where she would meet her husband, the artist John Skeeping, and in Paris she poses carefree and confident, with Henry Moore and Edna Ginesi. A final, surprising image taken at a King's Road studio presents a glamorous, made-up Hepworth, her heavy brows, luminous skin and formidable hair-parting offering a resemblance to Frida Kahlo.

Hepworth's portrait by Walker anchors the room. Commissioned by Hepworth's father and shown publicly for the first time in 90 years following its auction, acquisition and recent donation, the painting presents Hepworth looking down, her slender, girlish limbs painted cream with blue undertones, appearing graceful and pliant. It's an image at odds with the later, more familiar images of the fiercely independent sculptor.

Hepworth in Siena, from the tower of the Palazzo Communale, 1925. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth in Siena, from the tower of the Palazzo Communale, 1925. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Contact with Walker was made through the Hepworths' regular summers spent in Robin Hood's Bay, where a community of artists lived part-time and exhibited in the New English Arts Club. The painter, described by Augustus John as one of England's 'foremost artists', counted Vanessa Bell among her sitters. Meeting the strong-natured, critically acclaimed Walker would have represented a step in Hepworth's development, linking her to the possibilities of the future.

Another strong component of the exhibition is an early plaster relief of Hepworth's cousins Jill and Peggy (1918), made with plaster used for broken bones, obtained from Hepworth's GP uncle. Hepworth's depiction of her cousin's chubby young cheeks shows an honesty for angles and dimensions. Oddly, the plaster's origins isn't mentioned in the wall text, but was shared with me by the curator, Eleanor Clayton. Indeed, for a show about an artist's early life, Hepworth in Yorkshire is surprisingly stripped of supporting information.

Hepworth, centre, with fellow students at the RCA . Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth, centre, with fellow students at the RCA . Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Understanding the biographical narrative is crucial for a rewarding visit, and without adequate texts, this small yet valuable room may appear like an addendum to other, larger Hepworth exhibitions on show. The Hepworth Wakefield is also presenting A Greater Freedom, offering an examination of the sculptor's final years, and Plasters: Casts and Copies 1965-75, addressing the work of Hepworth and her contemporaries, while Tate Britain's major summer retrospective opens in June, the central show in what is undoubtedly the season of Hepworth.

Nonetheless, Hepworth in Yorkshire is a thoughtfully curated exhibition. It will soon be refreshed to allow more of a focus on Hepworth's time at Wakefield's Girls School, including a drawing made of the gym mistress. And it reminds us that no matter how international in outlook it becomes, an artist's success must begin somewhere.

A Greater Freedom: Hepworth 1965-75 (until April 2016) and Plasters: Casts and Copies (until 8 May 2016) are on view at The Hepworth Wakefield

 

Profile: Maarten Baas

FX

Words by Emily Martin

With little more than one month to catch the Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth (until 23 October), an exhibition showcasing some of the world's best contemporary furniture designs alongside traditional pieces at the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire's stately home, I was excited to see celebrated Dutch designer Maarten Baas's Clay chairs featuring as part of the exhibit. 'For a few years I've been a little under the radar; until 2009-10 I was working really hard and was very much "in the picture",' says Baas who, after creating a legacy in less than a decade, has stepped out of the limelight to focus on select projects.

Does this exhibition signal a comeback? 'I have been cooling down a little bit. I'm very much enjoying the whole glamour thing [of] not being there anymore. Or rather it's smaller and more human-sized,' he confirms in a strikingly down-to-earth manner. A surprising trait for someone who became a high-profiled and established designer when relatively young.

Baas dramatically entered the design scene during the past decade, after graduating from Eindhoven's Design Academy, with his Smoke series (2002). It was swept up by Marcel Wanders' Moooi label and quickly became a worldwide success, with supporters including Dutch trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort and French designer Philippe Starck.

Knuckle candlestick holder (2000). Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann www.splinter.tv
Knuckle candlestick holder (2000). Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann www.splinter.tv

'When I was a child, design wasn't such a known profession. You are not aware that things are designed,' Baas says as he recalls what led him to furniture design. 'It's not in the scope of things, like a rocket scientist or a fireman. But I always wanted to do something creative like working in theatre, being a writer or a photographer - something like that.' When Bass was 14 an older friend went to study architecture and when he saw his friend's chair designs for part of his course 'I thought, this is the kind of job that belongs to me. It was the combination of something creative, but with certain restrictions, and from then on I had my focus,' Baas continues. He then applied to study at the Design Academy.

Although being lauded after graduating from the academy in 2002, Baas's first design success occurred while still studying, with his candleholder Knuckle (2000). 'I started to think about the restrictions there are with a candle holder, and I thought the main one is that the stand is at a 90 degree angle, which is the same as the foot of a crow,' he says of his design inspiration of its three-footed base form. Both Smoke and Knuckle brought Baas commercial success, but it wasn't until Clay Furniture came to the market (2006) that he regarded himself as an established designer.

'The Clay Furniture is a signature that very much defines my way of working. It reflects the expression I have in my mind when I make something,' he says. 'Smoke was my [commercial] breakthrough, but personally it really was Clay. It was very exciting to make something new after the success of Smoke, to come up with something that was new, playful and had such a different look.'

Maarten Baas’s stand at Milan’s Salone this year.Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann www.splinter.tv
Maarten Baas's stand at Milan's Salone this year. Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann www.splinter.tv

Baas had invested large amounts of his own money into the collection and says it was a big risk that left him very vulnerable. He was also afraid critics would not view the collection in the way that he had aimed to express it. 'I was very happy when that also became successful,' he says of the pinnacle moment that made him 'accepted'. In that same year the Design Museum in London displayed 18 pieces from the Clay collection. Several other museums showed interest in Clay, with the Röhsska Museet Göteborg, Sweden, the Groninger Museum, Netherlands, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada, buying pieces for their own collections.

With confidence buoyed Baas continued with new projects and launched Sculpt (2007) at the Milan Salone. A regular exhibitor at the Salone, Baas also exhibited in other major shows around the world and in 2009 he won the Designer of the Year award at Design Miami.

'That was a great achievement and I felt very honoured to have that at 31 years old,' he says. 'And it is the reason why they gave me the award why I'm so happy to receive it.'

He explains that the judges as they awarded Baas described his design career as a 'movie, which was flowing from one scene to another'.

Clay Chairs, part of the Make Yourself Comfortable seating exhibition at Chatsworth House, until 23 October. Photo Credit: Chatsworth House Trust
Clay Chairs, part of the Make Yourself Comfortable seating exhibition at Chatsworth House, until 23 October. Photo Credit: Chatsworth House Trust

The comments delighted Baas: 'That is exactly what I wanted. Every exhibit I made I saw as chapter in a movie, which is what they saw too.

I was very happy to be recognised like that.' And being interested in film, Baas introduced his project Real Time (also 2009), bringing a new dimension to his work, filming actors performing as a functioning clock. The project included the film Sweepers Clock, with two people sweeping rubbish piles resembling the moving hands of a clock. In 2010 Baas launched an analogue version, the numbers being painted in real time, but as an i-Phone app.

'When I was still at the Design Academy Eindhoven I was more interested in theatre design, but when I graduated it went totally into the product world,' says Baas. 'The Real Time series is actually a mix of design, film and theatre. I was happy to find a way in which these disciplines could be combined.'

Though stepping out of the limelight, Baas continues to exhibit at the Salone, among others, and this year showcased the LEDS Clay collection (a collaboration between Baas and Bertjan Pot). But he says 'success' brings with it a new meaning. 'I don't have ambitions like building the biggest building or wanting to be a designer with my own brand. My ambition is more on a personal level, which it to remain where I am now (with nice projects).'

 

Joined up thinking

FX

Words by Veronica Simpson

Photography by Gareth Gardner

Those taking part were

Nicola Osborn, Director Morey Smith; Martin Cook, Director BDP; Colin Allen, MD (Southern), Morgan Lovell; Matthew Kobylar, Director, Arney Fender Ktasalidis; Pernille Stafford, Director, Resonate Interiors; Stuart Dommett, EMEA Marketing, Intel; Daphne McMahon, Designer, Morgan; Natasha Bonugli, Director, BDG; Cherill Sheer, Director, CSA; Theresa Dowling, Chair and FX Editor

Stuart Dommett is an IT man turned marketeer (EMEA Marketing, Intel) with a mission to transform our workplaces into technologically enabled hubs. On his business card he describes himself as an 'IT evangelist'.

So his ulterior motive was fairly clear in suggesting FX hosts a gathering of design professionals whose main expertise is office architecture and interiors: a desire to recruit designers to his mission for total 'workplace transformation'. But he discovered that designers are far from tech-phobic. It's often the complex relationships between - and very different IT requirements of - different departments that gets in the way, not to forget the phenomenal cost of workplace overhauls for businesses of a certain size. So what can - or should - designers do to transform the often clunky, IT disabled, workplaces of today into the connective workspaces of tomorrow?

Martin Cook, Director BDP
Martin Cook, Director BDP

Stuart Dommett (SD): 'We're pushing workplace transformation, particularly wireless technology. We see three components to getting this put into the corporate sector. First it's IT. But they can't do it on their own. Second, they need HR, which (mainly) talks about the company culture - what kind of company do we want to be, what do we stand for? Third is facilities, because IT doesn't have the budget to pay for the [refurbishment of] office space...[This is] why I was really interested in getting designers into this conversation because that's the key pillar. Really the fourth is finance, because they pull all the strings. IT needs to push, but we also need facilities to understand that they have a role to play in advancing productivity and the new style of working, because there's a lot of frustration from people saying: "I can't get the same level of tech that I get at home".'

Stuart Dommett, EMEA Marketing, Intel
Stuart Dommett, EMEA Marketing, Intel

Martin Cook (MC): 'We have clients that have genuinely tried to join the dots with technology and IT issues, and all the issues that go with the business model, but the refresh programme to upgrade the whole business is a huge issue. The question is how do we get different parties to talk to each other [and coordinate]. If you're a new start-up, you don't have those issues.'

Nicola Osborne (NO): 'But not every company is filled with 22-year-olds. You have to accommodate a mix of working styles. And not every department needs the same level of sophistication.'

Pernille Stafford (PS): 'One of the problems also is that the power is not keeping up with the tech.'

Nicola Osborn, Director Morey Smith
Nicola Osborn, Director Morey Smith

Natasha Bonugli (NB): '....and the cable management.'

Matthew Kobylar (MK): 'When we talk about having better kit at home, I do in some ways. I've got a touch-screen Windows 8 and it's so intuitive to me to move things around. Why I come into the office is because my monitor is bigger there. Touch is going to transform the way we work. I need that thing (he points to an imaginary monitor) to come down here (gestures to desk).

When I was younger I was drawing. Now I seem to be using Excel all the time.'

Daphne McMahon, Designer, Morgan
Daphne McMahon, Designer, Morgan

SD: 'It's interesting. Now we have wireless docks. Anyone can use that desk because they can wirelessly connect to it. It's wireless gigabyte.

So you're getting much better performance. Also it has "Identity Signature": it knows who you are. As you're opening up your laptop you're already connected. Wireless charging for laptops is coming. Have you seen HP Sprout? It's a monitor with a camera over the top and it projects on to the desktop. You can use that, and interact with it... Why can't I use that as a meeting resource? How can that now become part of my collaboration [toolkit]?'

Pernille Stafford, Director, Resonate Interiors
Pernille Stafford, Director, Resonate Interiors

NO: 'Talking about how tech moves forward, it's also about how human interaction moves forward, alongside technology.'

PS: 'That's the thing, you don't want to loose the human interaction. You don't want tech to take over so we're not talking to each other.'

MC: 'I was presenting to a senior group recently - an unusual mix of corporate and academia - and the CEO was talking about [his desire to] encourage collaboration. The problem he has is that with graduates from last year he has to push them to talk to each other. So I say: "That's great. There's even more argument for you [older] guys to be working with them so you can lead by your example." But they don't [learn], they just sit next to each other and text; they don't talk.'

Colin Allen, MD (Southern), Morgan Lovell
Colin Allen, MD (Southern), Morgan Lovell

Colin Allen (CA): 'Don't you think we're getting vulnerable to IT? I was recently working with a large organisation, all laptops and iPads. Something went wrong back of house. All of their contacts were lost. There was no connectivity. Emails disappeared. They were paralysed. For two days they couldn't communicate with one another. They couldn't even phone people because they had all these numbers but didn't know who they belonged to. It occurred to me that's risky!'

PS: 'But wasn't it the same in the old days? You lost your diary/notebook, you'd never get it back. It's gone.'

SD: 'All my information is available on four machines. All four machines associated to me. Every contact I create on those machines is shared across them. I'm commonly known as a cloud resident in IT.'

MK: 'Again that's really being led by home. I only got comfortable with [iCloud] automatically backing up my pictures and contacts when I changed to a new phone.'

SD: 'I would say gesture is the new thing; projecting on to a _ at surface - you can interact with Sprout like that. I can be sharing a photo and moving it around and resizing it, and not touching the computer because it's all 3D.'

MC: 'One of my colleagues came back from Shanghai with this little device: a projected keyboard. It cost him £40. He sat there tapping the table... Another of my colleagues - a product designer - went to Maplin and for £50 got this device that reads hand gestures. He says it's just too sensitive, too accurate, but the fact that you can do it at all is amazing.'

PS: 'But does it help your working day, is it slowing you down because you're so interested in the technology? Or is it benefitting you?'

SD: 'Has everyone heard of the term millennial? They're people aged between 25 and 35. A 35-year-old in large corporations is probably on the fast track, probably very senior. They are decision makers. These people are now in power. Over time that mix of millennials is likely to increase, and one of the forecasts is that office populations will be 60 per cent to 70 per cent millennials by 2025. They approach things in very different way.

'A millennial's approach to problem solving is to search for the answer, then engage in a forum to see who is more of an expert. I don't do that. I'm not of that generation. Most companies don't allow social media in the office. That's social media. It's that side of things that will come to the fore, and if I use that as an advantage, then my tech has to be designed to support that.'

MC: 'The difficulty still is that when you look at a massive investment, like a total upgrade, the supply chain is wrong. It's not accessible enough. The whole industry is geared to making it complicated. I can get into my own bank account quicker than into our workplace IT. For example, I say to people: why are we still buying fixed phones?

NB: 'Yes, everything can be redirected to your mobile phone.' PS: 'But you still have to charge everything.'

CA: 'The issue is not wireless. If you can get a battery that lasts for two days you're laughing. In the next five years, that will be the biggest [evolutionary leap]: power and battery.'

SD: 'So, wireless into desks: is that happening?

CA: 'No.'

NO: 'You have to drive that [as a designer].'

Theresa Dowling, Chair and FX editor
Theresa Dowling, Chair and FX editor

CA: 'Some companies are struggling just with wifi. Even if different parts of the company want to make the gesture towards taking IT to the next level...people aren't trained [to understand the complexities].'

NB: 'It's not just what's on trend and the latest thing, it's what's going to be the right tech in the space for the right people.'

MK: 'I've done a lot of strategy work where you get facilities and HR lining up, then technology is a bit off-kilter. They might not know it. All they are concerned about is hardware, infrastructure. They're not concerned about how users are going to interact with these things. I feel the real obstacle in creating transformative workplaces is that the people in charge of IT are really not forward thinking about what the workplace needs.'

NO: 'You have to push them and challenge them...the problem is often the lack of knowledge about the technology across the board. We can sit in a meeting and talk about wifi then someone pipes up: there's a security issue with wifi et cetera. The problem with pushing boundaries is not just our knowledge but the client's knowledge. We need specialist knowledge and bringing that all together to find the right solution for the client.'

Theresa Dowling (TD): 'When you go to clients, who is the one with the most influence? Who is driving the technology agenda?'

MC: 'For most corporates, real estate [an office move/expansion] is often the catalyst.'

PS: 'When you have a CEO with loads of vision and they want to take things forward, they still need an IT department that supports that.

SD: Why does the IT department exist in first place? What's their role? They're put in there for one thing: computing came in to give you a competitive advantage. We've got to get back to that because that's their role. They need to make their business competitive, agile, flexible, to be able to adapt to the marketplace. They need to give business something it couldn't have without them. They have got to stand up and fight for things instead of locking everything down.'

NO: 'When can we get rid of a static PC please? Can we change the thought processes around that?'

SD: 'When you stop buying them!'

NO: 'I think we can talk about all this remote technology for the rest of the afternoon and we can talk about people moving around the office. But we hear that everybody still needs a desk with a static PC on it ...OK, not everybody...'

SD: 'I have multiple devices. The average number of devices employees have today is 2.2...

CA: 'I've heard it's 1.7.'

Matthew Kobylar, Director, Arney Fender Ktasalidis
Matthew Kobylar, Director, Arney Fender Ktasalidis

SD: 'What we're seeing is far more people moving up to three, four and five devices. It's certainly going up. There is a role for a fixed desktop. But then it needs to be capable of interacting with different things. So it's about how do I use it in different configurations?'

NO: 'Which sounds great in theory but we still have humans to deal with. We can say: share your desk. But how efficient would that be? Everyone works differently. Everyone has an affiliation with their desk in a different way. Some people are very comfortable about going to work on the roof garden, but there's always someone who will say I can't think unless I'm at my desk. It's not an age thing at all. I've conducted forums with media companies with a cross section of ages, and it doesn't matter.'

PS: 'On a trading floor, it's very unusual for them not to be at their desk with a bank of screens.'

SD: 'Or a call centre - though more innovative ones have people at home.'

CA: 'We ran a seminar with someone from Google's office. They will have 650 people at its new place in King's Cross. Someone asked them: how many workstations are you providing? The answer was 650. And yet most corporates are saying, why pay £50 a foot for unoccupied space when we could have £2m extra profit on to the business.'

MK: 'Space as a cost in business is not very much. Staff is the biggest cost. So...give them their own desk, if that makes them work and makes them happy.'

SD: 'How many clients lead with [the emphasis on] employees and workforce style?'

NB: 'They don't, we lead on that.'

SD: 'How many times, if they haven't done so, do you talk to them about how design affects productivity?'

NO: 'You'd usually pitch that anyway.'

SD: 'How do they measure that?'

MK: 'Measuring productivity is the holy grail! What you have to look at is the Indicators of Productivity - staff engagement, staff morale, wellbeing, absenteeism, what's your social network within the office. Those are indicative.'

SD: 'Is there a lot of tech being required for conference space?'

PS: 'There are loads more conference-call meetings than ever before.'

MS: 'But conference space is not presentation [driven], it's collaborative.'

NB: 'More and more people want to share.'

TD: 'Leaving aside all the practical details, how do you think we'll be living five years' time, 10, 50? Will there be an office?

NO: 'There has to be an office?

NB: 'It may not be called an office.'

PS: 'It might be called the hub or something.'

Cherill Sheer, Director, CSA
Cherill Sheer, Director, CSA

NO: 'I don't think technology is going to make us obsolete. Even if we all had implants this conversation wouldn't be the same if we were all dialling in. You don't connect in the same way...the landscape of the office will change. So it may not be called an office. And maybe companies will start sharing office space - it won't be just this company's building here and that company's building there; it may be big incubators for lots of businesses.'

MK: 'What's the purpose of the office of the future? I have to say I do believe that 25 years from now there will be gigantic corporations like Intel and Microsoft and Yahoo - though maybe not Yahoo - or it will just be one and it will be Google, and there will be loads of small firms that Google will want to buy. There'll be this barbell economy with a few big firms and lots of small ones and not a lot in between. The workplace is where all of that dissemination, that culture of information, happens.'

NB: 'Maybe we could get to a point where you do your work elsewhere and the office is just a social environment, where you come to exchange and relax.'

NO: 'Designers always respond [to market shifts]. But we also push the boundaries.'

CA: 'You have to challenge your clients... You cannot be expected to be an expert in everything, but if you get people to talk and discuss the issues, then you can pick the right solutions. I say, what makes me successful, what makes my staff happy, is a great business to me.'

SD: 'So, if I was to summarise the debate about IT and office design with one headline, it would be: design community pushing boundaries but being kept back by modern companies' approach to the workplace.'

Agreement all round.

 

LDF: The world’s design capital endorses its title

FX

Words by Emily Martin

Established in 2003, the London Design Festival has attained a reputation as being one of the largest and most innovative design events in the world. This year the festival will again celebrate and promote London as being the design capital of the world, with the city hosting more than 350 events and installations.

For the seventh year the V&A will become LDF's central hub, housing a broad range of installations, events, talks and workshops. this year includes Frida escobedo's installation in the John madejski garden and the robin day exhibition.

Other festival highlights include's Alex Chinneck's A Bullet from a Shooting Star, a huge landmark project at the Greenwich peninsula (pictured), and some 250 partners, representing the heart of London's design community, including tent London, Superbrands and 100% design.

Check out LDF's website for more details.

 

Focus: Three unique retailers, cue agenda and design solutions

FX

Words by Clare Dowdy

Milroy's of Soho by Martyn 'Simo' Simpson
Billed as London's oldest specialist whisky retailer, Milroy's of Soho has been repositioned by its new owner with two bars. In the basement is a 55-seater cocktail bar called The Vault with a private room adjacent, and on the ground floor is a 12-seater whisky bar, Milroy's Bar.

The 51-year-old establishment has been reconfigured by its new owner, 28-year-old Martyn 'Simo' Simpson, who set up Coal Vaults cocktail bar and restaurant in Wardour Street in Soho. The refit was done by his construction company Griffin Construction. 'All the changes were cosmetic, to my own design, and with me on the tools,' he says.

The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi, by Silverfox Studios
The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi, by Silverfox Studios

The Vault is the conversion of a 56 sq m tasting room into a speakeasy-style cocktail bar with original wood panelling and brickwork, a concrete and latex floor and custom-made furniture, including bar stools in timber and metal, retrofitted whisky-barrel tables and benches, and a concrete bar. To get into The Vault customers must locate a 'hidden' door at the back of the shop. 'I just wanted a place to escape the streets of London,' says Simpson.

Meanwhile Milroy's Bar is a 37 sq m space with original brick walls, timber flooring, and a display unit along the length of the bar, which is made of copper.

The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi, by Silverfox Studios
The Starwood Operated Le Méridien Abu Dhabi hotel has nine restaurant and bar offerings, including its signature eatery, The Latest Recipe, which reopened this year. Located in the Emirate's Tourist Club Area, it was created by design agency Silverfox Studios as a contemporary allday dining experience. Key to the environment are 'live action' stations where the latest culinary trends from around the world are showcased. 'The design is informal, colourful, upscale, though importantly casual-fun,' says Silverfox partner and co-design director Patrick Waring.

The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi
The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi

The restaurant includes multiple interactive cooking stations where guests can and are encouraged to engage with chefs in creating their own menu. 'Silverfox has created multiple dining experiences for guests through creative planning, level change, indoor/outdoor areas, a partially separated bar area and even dining both in and behind the kitchen areas,' says partner and co-designer Suan Heng. 'This enables returning guests to enjoy an unexpected experience each time they visit.'

The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi
The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi

So for example the Patisserie has banquettes covered in richly coloured fabric, mosaic flooring and granite counters. A 'green wall' of vegetation is interspersed in the ceiling. Meanwhile guests are shielded from the interactive cooking display areas by subtle low-level glass partitions.

Key to the kitchens' success is the lighting design. In order to draw attention to the exposed show kitchens, lighting consultancy Project Lighting Design in Singapore introduced barrisol-clad artificial skylights. 'We used DMX controlled RGB lighting to create dynamic sky effects that suggest moving clouds, sunsets and such like,' says Peggy Tan of PLD. The lighting consultancy was also briefed by Silverfox to avoid the use of conventional-looking downlights, and to avoid glare.

The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi
The Latest Recipe, Abu Dhabi

'To achieve this we chose to use Precision Lighting spotlights, which were made in beautifully machined brushed aluminium finish, and came with excellent glare control,' explains Tan. They are housed in thick metal channels framing the skylights and are expressed as integral elements of the skylights. 'We like how the lights lend a theatrical touch to key show kitchen and dining spaces,' she adds.

Wyvedale Garden Centres' Coffee Ground by Kiwi & Pom
The CaFe and restaurant offers at garden centres can be uninspiring. 'They are very out-dated, tired, unappealing spaces,' says Kam Young, co-founder of design agency Kiwi & Pom. Young and fellow co-founder Emma Young discovered this in their research into the sector for their client Wyvedale Garden Centres. 'Garden centres in general are playing catch-up with the high-street offer,' says Emma Young, with customers' expectations largely not being met. Wyvedale, which has more than 100 outlets with restaurant offers, wanted to breathe new life into them. London-based Kiwi & Pom created a pop-up cafe style, with a new brand: Coffee Ground. The aim was to create an environment with an artisanal feel referencing many gardeners growing their own produce.

Wyvedale Garden Centres' Coffee Ground
Wyvedale Garden Centres' Coffee Ground

The design's centrepiece is a free-standing, oversized shed-like structure of galvanised steel and timber cladding. The idea is that the shed draws the eye and operates as a preparation area. On a functional level, it is modular so that it can be constructed to suit different-sized areas.

Tabletops are either zinc or rough-sawn oak and the chairs are Lloyd Loom and rattan. Kiwi + Pom also designed moveable shelving units to carry terracotta pots of herbs. Four Coffee Ground cafes have already opened, and by the end of the year there will be a further 10.

 

Focus: Fenchurch Street

FX

Words by Clare Dowdy

As the Architect of the so-called Walkie-Talkie building, Rafael Viñoly has garnered his fair share of adverse publicity. But there is another design story to tell of the 37-storey building at London's 20 Fenchurch Street.

The small interior design agency o1creative has completed not one but the three venues on three floors under the glass dome at the top of the building, collectively known as the Sky Garden - on time and on budget for the operator Rhubarb. And because of the unusual nature of the building, its remit went far beyond furniture and fabric choices.

The team, led by directors Sue Heaps and Derrick Plover, are behind the Sky Garden's offer of the Sky Pod Bar on Level 35, the Darwin Brasserie on the floor above, and the Fenchurch, a seafood bar and grill on the building's top floor, Level 37.

The Fenchurch seafood bar and grill at the very top of the building
The Fenchurch seafood bar and grill at the very top of the building

To describe the project as logistically challenging is an understatement. o1creative had to contend with a space that had been conceived as a single restaurant with just one kitchen and one toilet block. It had to cater for both a daytime and a night-time audience, and there were non-combustibility issues on Level 35.

On top of all that, the build had been delayed by - among other things - bad weather and when o1creative took over the space, a crane was still there and it was surrounded by what Heaps describes as 'a forest of scaffolding'. In fact, the day the flooring company arrived to lay the floor, 'they had to be turned away; the floor was flooded because the roof wasn't completed,' says Pover.

The Fenchurch seafood bar and grill at the very top of the building
The Fenchurch seafood bar and grill at the very top of the building.

The designers' first job was to figure out where to position the plant rooms for the air-conditioning, and to try to find somewhere for the toilets in the highly glazed site. 'There was nowhere for them to go,' says Heaps, because of the building's three sides of glazing, the kitchens and the plant. 01creative came up with the idea of taking an area that had been allocated as 'landlord's space'. 'We couldn't penetrate the floor for the drainage,' she adds, so instead they raised the level of the floor.

Once the design concept had been signed off, it was a question of getting the materials up. No mean feat when all the office floors below were being fitted out at the same time. 'One of the big challenges was securing the lift space,' to achieve this, explains Heaps.

The Darwin Brasserie
The Darwin Brasserie

As for those two distinct daytime and nighttime audiences, the space had to cater to the free-access sightseers who might have a coffee in the Sky Pod after spending time on the viewing platforms, and the evening guests who come up for a cocktail and a swanky dinner.

So the design team specified Philippe Starck's polypropylene Bubble sofa, which is as hard as it is hardwearing. Hard finishes were needed across the whole of Level 35, because there are fewer sprinklers on that level. 'We had to discount 90 per cent of the materials that we would have liked to use,' says Pover. Heaps adds that they were considering 'beautiful timber finishes' for the bar on Level 35. 'Instead, we used a lot of glass, metals and mosaic tiling.'

The Darwin Brasserie
The Darwin Brasserie

A softening of the space is achieved through the Rhubarb's seasonal styling. So in winter Starck's Bubble sofas are covered with faux fur rugs and in spring there are pots of daisies and colourful throws. There are also plans to improve the acoustics by adding drapes at the windows, which will add to the softening effect. The result of the project is three different areas that not only feel very different but that belie the efforts that went into their creation.

 

One to Watch: TM Lighting

FX

Words by Emily Martin

Who
This lighting design manufacturer was founded by Harry Triggs and Andrew Molyneux in 2012, after they discovered a shared 'obsession' for art and lighting while at Brunel University studying industrial design.

TM picture Light
TM picture Light: TM Lighting's debut product uses LED technology to bring museum-grade lighting into the home. Providing colour rendition and light distribution, the product also gives significant energy savings. It uses no UV or infrared rays and has very low-level heat emission. It comes in a range of durable finishes and with several different shaped hoods.

They went on to pursue careers in different areas of the lighting sector. The company launched its first product, TM Picture Light, as a response to the 2009 EU energy-saving directive phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs to reach climate-protection targets.

TM Slim Light: Combines the same innovative LED technology found in the TM Picture Light, but uses a slimmer, more discreet, frame. Designed to illuminate small canvases up to 900mm square, the product maintains good light distribution across the canvas, as well as controlling glare. It is available in brushed aluminium, black, white, gold, bronze and custom finishes.
TM Slim Light: Combines the same innovative LED technology found in the TM Picture Light, but uses a slimmer, more discreet, frame. Designed to illuminate small canvases up to 900mm square, the product maintains good light distribution across the canvas, as well as controlling glare. It is available in brushed aluminium, black, white, gold, bronze and custom finishes.

'We identified a gap in the market for energy-efficient bulbs that ensured artwork was protected from harmful UV rays and heat spots,' Triggs and Molyneux say. It achieved Highly Commended at the 2013 LDA.

Why
The company design and manufactures its products in inside the UK's M25, with much business coming from museums and art galleries.

ZeroSeries: A range of mini accent lights, which include track spotlights. The series utilises the same high CRI LEDs, and is aimed at use in highend retail spaces and art galleries where accurate colour rendition is of particular importance. The ZeroSixty High CRI LED spotlight has proved especially popular, and is also available in a variety of custom finishes.
ZeroSeries: A range of mini accent lights, which include track spotlights. The series utilises the same high CRI LEDs, and is aimed at use in highend retail spaces and art galleries where accurate colour rendition is of particular importance. The ZeroSixty High CRI LED spotlight has proved especially popular, and is also available in a variety of custom finishes.

'We only ever use the highest quality LEDs for our lights, so as to achieve the best CRI and ensure the colours in each artwork are portrayed accurately in their true light,' Triggs and Molyneux say.

Where
tmlighting

 

Focus: Fast Premium

FX

Words by Clare Dowdy

The Rise of online sales coupled with rent hikes mean that many conventional brick-and-mortar retailers continue to struggle or are dropping away completely. Recent casualties include Phones4U, La Senza, Blockbuster and Albemarle & Bond.

Last year more than 5,800 high street shops closed, according to research carried out by the Local Data Company for PwC. That equates to 16 closures a day. But the latest Openings and Closures report said there were also 4,850 new openings in 2014. Rather than clothes and phone shops, however, it is other sectors are thriving. 'Our town centres continue to evolve away from traditional shops and services to leisure - food and beverage, and entertainment,' says Matthew Hopkinson, director of the Local Data Company. Mike Jervis, insolvency partner and retail specialist at PwC, adds that: 'The strength of the restaurant and fast-food sectors is... a fillip for the high street.'

Fortnum & Mason’s The Bar and Heathrow T5, designed by Universal Design Studio, features a freestanding canopy that references English cutlery
Fortnum & Mason's The Bar and Heathrow T5, designed by Universal Design Studio, features a freestanding canopy that references English cutlery

This trend is highlighted in our Bars and Restaurants Focus, which demonstrates that as the sector becomes increasingly crowded existing operators are upping their game and new entrants hope to make a splash with ever-more specialised offers.

So a large chain of garden centres - hardly a sector synonymous with fabulous eating experiences - has introduced a top-notch cafe format in the hope, no doubt, that it will become a destination as much as its garden products; an old-fashioned whisky retailer has a new owner that hopes to reinvent brown spirits and inspire drinkers with a hidden bar; and a 300-year-old grocer's is making its restaurant debut in that epitome of modern dining, the airport.

Meanwhile many operators in the 'fast casual' category and those with 'premium casual' venues are watching with alarm as their two worlds collide. The emerging sub-set is being labelled 'fast premium', and it seems to go against everything that restaurant designers hold dear.

These places are positioned to teach well-heeled diners that good food and speedy service comes at a price, with convenience being the buzz-word. Will it take off, or do traditional restaurateurs still believe that diners prepared to pay for the privilege should be allowed to linger?

What happens when the term cash-rich time-poor manifests itself on the high street? The answer seems to be a crop of businesses keen to part deep-pocketed consumers with their money in the shortest amount of time possible.

Traditionally, highly priced offers have been associated with a long dwell time. Think of the hours whiled away in posh hair salons and over long, luxurious lunches.

Inside Ethos in London’s West End, designed by I-AM
Inside Ethos in London's West End, designed by I-AM

But that trend is being bucked, now that the current Holy Grail of convenience has been added to the mix. Some people, these business owners believe, are just too busy to take things slowly. What they want is a quick, well-executed, good-quality fix.

Hence the rollout of Blow, a 'fast beauty' hair, nail and make-up salon aimed at women with hectic lives who like that just-applied look. The concept, launched by venture capitalist Dharmash Mistry and Grazia's founder editor Fiona McIntosh, and designed by Caulder Moore, promises to buff and coif women in a matter of minutes.

This macro trend, believes Mistry, will be based on 'increasingly time-poor, busy consumers who juggle many things' and the 'reinvention of high streets and consumer expectations of convenience'.

The restaurant sector has also spotted the appeal of this approach. The first brand to really embrace it was Five Guys in the USA, which now has a handful of outlets in London. Its restaurants serve good-quality burgers - though no novelty in that as American and European towns are littered with similar concepts, including Byron by Michael Boyd Associates.

But two diners at Five Guys can expect to spend just 15 minutes buying and eating a burger and chips washed down with a Coke, and will pay a total of £28 for the privilege - that's three times as much as McDonald's charges for the same express experience. 'When you analyse their pricing and speed of service it's a freakish model, but it is very successful,' says Jon Blakeney, group managing director of London design agency I-AM.

I-AM sees this trend as the bold collision of 'fast casual' dining with its relatively low price point, like Mexican food offer Chilango, which was designed by I-AM, and 'premium casual' with its stripped-back environment. Pizza Eastis an example of this, which was set up by Soho House's Nick Jones, and the second of which was created by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio. 'Fast premium comprises the convergence of the two,' says Blakeney. 'But this is a new paradigm and the implications are huge. It's quite cultish.'

Such speedy offers as Five Guys benefit from fast and furious service with a smile, and an interior design concept that lends itself to a quick turn-around. These places need to be durable, with lots of hard surfaces. That means floors that can be mopped, tiled walls, booth-style and fixed seating, so that staff don't waste precious time realigning the chairs after customers have left.

Fast-premium formats rely on being positioned in busy locations. 'These are very expensive sites with a huge footfall, so you need to build a quick machine,' says Pete Champion, director of 3D design at I-AM. 'They don't need advertising or marketing because high visibility of locations and huge numbers of customers.'

I-AM's design for Ethos in London's West End applies many of these rules. The premium buffet is vegetarian by stealth - the menu excludes meat but doesn't crow about it. Customers load up a plate from teak drum pods whose marble tops display the food like jewellery. The plate is then weighed and payment calculated accordingly.

At I-AM’s Ethos diners select their food from marble-topped team drums
At I-AM's Ethos diners select their food from marble-topped team drums.

Such concepts obviously work well on busy streets and in transport hubs, and airports have had their own 'bar' version for some time. A new offer is Fortnum & Mason's The Bar at Heathrow Terminal Five. The menu - including delights such as parfait of Foie Gras with toasted brioche for £20 -is served in a suitably upmarket environment, designed by Universal Design Studio. 'The bar is shaded along its length by a stunning freestanding canopy structure which references English silverware,' explain the heads of the studio Jay Osgerby and Ed Barber.

'The canopy is self-supporting and uses nickel plated steel.' Other materials used include custom-made nickel, pressed ceramic tile, polished pewter, velvet, leather and glass. Blakeney predicts that despite the run-away success of Five Guys, 'the cheap fast restaurants won't change, but the premium ones might speed up. Unlocking the rule that fast has to be cheap could revolutionise restaurants. The industry is very aware of what Five Guys has done. It could be a dynamic shift.'

Whether other restaurant operators dare to follow Five Guys remains to be seen. But that's one format that seems to be unstoppable: it has more than 1,000 locations in the USA and another 1,500 units in development.

But not everyone is convinced that customers will speed-eat pricey burgers ad infinitum. International design agency Frog is working on concepts and strategies for several restaurant and hospitality clients. Hans Neubert, Frog's chief creative officer, believes that fast premium is a commoditisation of luxury and premium. 'As a concept it's only temporary, because consumers are aware of the health issues of fast food. What's now premium will be fast food in the future.'

 



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