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Going to work is the new working from home


Words by Richard Beastall,

Principal Director at TP Bennett

The role of the workspace has changed over the past couple of decades, falling in and out of favour with employees; buildings became 'brand' status symbols for some, while for others home-working had far more appeal.

These transformations have been inspired in part by generational changes, improvements in employment rights and conditions, and the impact of technological development.

Flexibility made possible by more powerful and more portable computing gave rise to the concept of hot-desking while high-speed internet, affordable technology and the formation of cloud computing made homeworking practical and attractive to executives and their employees.

For Markit, the provider of financial information services, in the City of London.
For Markit, the provider of financial information services, in the City of London. Photo:Markit

But today's office is experiencing a rebirth, undergoing its greatest transformation to date. Increasingly, commercial clients ask me how they can meet the new demands of a workforce who want a 'place from home' to work, a space that is comfortable yet inspirational and flexible, that can accommodate the plethora of personal working practices and offer space that is collaborative yet provides the tranquility needed for thinking time.

As technology and a more communicative generation distort the barriers between work and play, some commercial offices are at a loss as to how to create a workplace to keep up with the fluctuating global trends and a more independent yet collaborative workforce.

It is important to remember that people are social creatures and crave interaction. We learn from working with others; stimulating environments inspire ideas and, irrespective of how advanced cloud-hosted collaboration tools are, we know that face-to-face interaction is the truest form of communication. In addition, employee well-being is now recognised as not only vital to attract and retain talent, but also as an enormously influential factor in profitability.

Office design is now welcome in the boardroom as part of a company's commercial strategy.

For Guardian News and Media, King’s Cross, London
For Guardian News and Media, King's Cross, London. Photo: The Guardian News and Media

With strategically designed environments embodying ethos and brand we're seeing companies undertaking large-scale redesigns to attract the best talent. Employers are asking for social spaces and amenities to strengthen working relationships and boost morale, specifying soft furnishings and textures that create a high-end leisure feel. All these factors are coming together to make going to work the new working from home.

Yet even as business spends millions on refurbishments, many are still not getting it quite right. Knee-jerk action to reduce desks, introduce hot-desking and carve out collaboration spaces is regarded as a successful implementation of current trends while reducing costs. But with little thought these spaces often aren't well planned and the result is noisy, disruptive and distracting areas that damage productivity and morale. The collaborative office is becoming the office that people need to escape from to do 'real' work.

Today's work-time has been split into two parts - desk and collaborative - and I believe this is where people are making mistakes. I don't believe desks should be totally removed, but I do believe they should be reduced and the space generated developed into areas for specific activities. The work environment is far more than these two simplistic elements and 'the desk' is not the place where people should be doing quiet work and really concentrated thinking.

There are too many phone calls, too many interruptions. Why else do you think most people would rather draft an article at home than at work?

Instead, we should be talking about activity-based workspaces. A business needs a variety of differing spaces for team catch-ups, large meetings, client meetings, day-to-day e-mailing and phoning, video and teleconferencing, training, quiet contemplation and concentration... And, if space is at a premium, then creativity needs to be combined with the ability to maximise space value to deliver imaginative, flexible areas that successfully adapt to specific needs and work effectively. It's no use having video conferencing where it can distract visually and intrudes aurally. Focus too much on creating a 'buzzy' atmosphere and, while the office extroverts may be in their element, the introverts end up inhibited and interrupted. It's no use putting the social breakout space next door to the quiet zone.

For multinational professional services network PwC, One Embankment Place, Charing Cross, London
For multinational professional services network PwC, One Embankment Place, Charing Cross, London. Photo: PWC One Embankment Place

I've seen numerous offices with row after row of desks and then a clutch of alternative furniture dropped in haphazardly as a so-called collaboration space. They're often empty or underused, and, when in use, disturbing the people around them. Effective, successful workspaces require intricate planning. Engaging, stimulating and practical collaboration spaces are vital, but just as vital are thoughtfully conceived quiet spaces with no phones. A traditional, quiet library-feel offers a place to escape to and is reminiscent of study. It's about creating the right state of mind as well as a practical space.

A workspace is simply a hierarchy of spaces, and the obsession with the desk and furniture needs to be relegated as they are tools of enablement rather than the building blocks of the office. A hierarchy of spaces starts with circulation and natural desire lines - the routes from entrances to lifts and stairs to WCs and kitchenettes.

Circulation routes, both horizontally and vertically, should define the location of social spaces, collaboration zones and generally noisier areas. These are places where chance meetings lubricate the grey matter as well as the social and corporate cogs, where barriers are broken down and interaction has freer rein. Moving away from these interactive zones, you can define and design semi-quiet day-to-day space and super-quiet concentration areas.

In this way, and only with the full buy-in of management effecting a cultural change, will you create the diversity of workspace and community of workplace needed to attract, retain, motivate and support workers of all ages and personalities of all types and deliver a truly well-balanced office environment.


Kristjana S Williams Competition Terms and Conditions

We're giving away Kristjana S Williams's latest Svart Lundunar Kort map of London print, worth £250, thanks to Outline Editions (see them at Designjunction, Victoria House, V19).

Simply follow us on Twitter and re-tweet the article using @DesignCurial and we'll enter you into the draw.

For more information, read the competition Terms and Conditions below.

1.The prize draw is open to all UK residents aged 18 years or over, except employees of the Promoter, their families, agents or any third party directly associated with administration of the prize draw.
2. The prize draw is free to enter and no purchase is necessary unless specified.
3. All entries must be submitted via Twitter using @DesignCurial in the form of a re-tweet only. Entrants must also follow DesignCurial on Twitter to be eligible.
4. The opening date for entries is 9am on 23/09/2015. The closing date of the prize draw is 12am on 01/10/2015. Entries received after this time will not be accepted.
5. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for entries not successfully completed due to a technical fault [technical malfunction, computer hardware or software failure, satellite, network or server failure] of any kind.
6. A winner will be chosen by random draw supervised by an independent person on 02/10/2015.
7. The winner will receive a Kristjana S Williams Svart Lundunar Kort map of London print worth £250.
8. The winner will be notified via Twitter using a Tweet OR a direct message before 07/10/2015 and must provide a postal address to claim their prize. The winner may be asked to provide an email address for correspondence related to receiving their prize. If a winner does not respond to the Promoter within SEVEN days of being notified by the Promoter, then the winner's prize will be forfeited and the Promoter will be entitled to select another winner in accordance with the process described above.
9. The prize will be sent to the winner by post within SEVEN days of being notified of their win.
10. The prize for the winner is non-exchangeable, non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
11. The decision of the Promoter regarding any aspect of the prize draw is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into about it.
12. The winner's name and county can be obtained by sending an email to within SEVEN days after the closing date of the prize draw.
13. Participants are deemed to have accepted and agreed to be bound by these terms and conditions upon entry. The Promoter reserves the right to refuse entry, or refuse to award the prize to anyone in breach of these terms and conditions.
14. The Promoter reserves the right to hold void, cancel, suspend, or amend the promotion where it becomes necessary to do so.
15. Winners may be required to participate in publicity related to the prize draw which may include the publication of their name and photograph in any media.
16. Personal data supplied during the course of this promotion may be passed on to third party suppliers only insofar as required for fulfilment/delivery/arrangement of the prize.
17. The prize draw will be governed by English law and entrants to the prize draw submit to the jurisdiction of the English courts.
18. The Promoter of this prize draw is DesignCurial a trading name of World Market Intelligence Ltd of John Carpenter House, 7 Carmelite Street, London EC4Y 0BS


London Design Festival Preview


Now hitting its half-decade, designjunction has a new main home in the old Central Saint Martins building on Southampton Row. More than 180 brands will be on display in this great old building, which was originally The Central School of Arts and Crafts, set up in 1896 under the auspices of its first principal William R Lethaby. Across the way in Victoria House, where designjunction opened its doors for the very first time, a further 35 design-led pop-up shops will be gathered.

Brands and designers on show at designjunction will include Wrong for Hay, Fritz Hansen, Benjamin Hubert, Modus, Proof, Hermann Miller, Vitra, Artimede and Bisley. Over in Victoria House, you'll find the likes of Heal's, Melin Tregwynt, and Outline Editions.

Transport for London will be making a big splash at the event with a life-size, pop-up Underground station made out of... wood. This has been designed by Camilla Barnard and will sit next to the TfL Cafe, where Blueprint will be hosting the RIBA Architects' Breakfast early morning view. There'll also be a full seminar programme arranged around the theme 'Design for a Reason'.

A visualisation of the lifesize, wooden Tube station. Photo: Courtesy London Design Festival
A visualisation of the lifesize, wooden Tube station. Photo: Courtesy London Design Festival

Design education... WTF?
Continuing with the central theme of this issue of Blueprint, we will be involved with what promises to be a lively debate on the future of industrial design education and how it can stay - or become, depending on your point of view - relevant. Organised by Central Saint Martins' Matt Malpass and Nick Rhodes DE... WTF? is split into three parts starting with the discussion on 17 September. Themes from the discussion will be explored in an onsite design studio on the 19th (Saturday) that will develop them into 'visions of a future', which will be presented the following day.

Designjunction Architects' Breakfast
In partnership with RIBA, BIID, BCFA 24 September, 9am-11am

Blueprint will be a host at Transport For London café at designjunction for the Architects' Breakfast event (RIBA members only). Come and join us if you fancy a break from tramping around the show. For tickets to the event go to ribalondon.


Curated Diary by David Adjaye


1 World Architecture Festival
Singapore 4 - 6 November

Urban architecture is at a crisis point; with unprecedented urban growth across the world, architecture's use of density and volume must be equally intentional and experimental, willing to test new typologies that can prepare the city for this population explosion.

World Architecture Festival
World Architecture Festival. Photo: Hiroshi Nakamura and nap

Appropriately hosted in Singapore, given its leadership in sustainable and intelligent planning, this year's WAF features a series of thoughtful lectures that will explore visions of the future through verticality, big data-led planning and climate responsiveness.

2 Africa: Architecture, Culture and identity Louisiana Museum of Modern art, Humlebæk, Denmark
Until 25 October

Our ideas about a civilised world are manifested through our architecture, with embedded ideas about identity and access and bound by the geography of place, but the global design community is only beginning to acknowledge Africa's contribution.

Africa: Architecture, Culture and Identity Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark
Courtesy Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

This exhibition sheds light on its diversity and complexity, and works to dismantle the stereotypes obscuring a nuanced view of modernity on the continent and the future possibilities.

3 Chris Ofili: Night and Day Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, USA
Until November 1

Chris Ofili's touring exhibition is a long overdue return to the American art scene for an artist whose work is equally breathtaking and controversial. With works such as no Woman no Cry and the Virgin Madonna, Ofili has positioned himself as an artist capable of redefining art practice and reaffirming the relevance of painting for the 21st century.

Chris Ofili: Night and Day Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, USA
Moonbeams Courtesy The Artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner New York/London

He questions our time through intoxicating visual compositions that examine peripheral modernities and enable us to make sense of our world.

4 Endless house: Intersections of Art and Architecture
MOMA, New York, US
Until 6 March architecture should never be discrete from art - it has much to learn from art's capacity to unearth and shift frameworks with immediacy. Working across creative platforms is an essential tool for innovation in the act of making.

Endless House
Haus-Rucker-Co. Stück Natur (Piece of Nature). 1973. © 2015 Haus-Rucker-Co

Houses offer an excellent platform for this kind of collaboration; the endless House exhibition highlights the way the family home, when embracing opportunities for the joining of art and architecture, has been the site of crucial examinations of the meaning of the contemporary.

5 Fata Morgana
Mad. Sq. art, New York, USA
Until 10 January
An artist with a profound understanding of the specificities of place, Teresita Fernández's installation exploits the active and architectural qualities of light to create a 3d urban square. referencing the phenomenon of a superior hovering mirage, perforated metal forms hang above the visitors and create a series of cinematic dissolves.

Fata Morgana
Courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin and Anthony Meier Fine Arts. Photo by Yasunori Matsu/Madison Square Park Conservancy © Teresita Fernández

The active flickering works as a mirror for the ritualistic character of movement through the city and trace connections between the mundane and the celestial.

6 All the World's Futures
Giardini della Biennale, Venice, Italy
Until 22 November Okwui enwezor's curatorial vision for this year's event exploits contradiction to examine how the ruptures of the present have effected a reappraisal of our relationship to art. In response, my temporary museum offers multiple conditions for experiencing art, drawing visitors through the exhibition with distinct immersive experiences.

All the World’s Futures
Photo by Alessandra Chemollo Courtesy. La Biennale Di Venezia

The centrepiece is arena - an active space dedicated to continuous live programming across disciplines that circulate around Enwezor's central demand for dialogue and a questioning of the existing order.


BALTIC Ryder Commission in collaboration with Blueprint

Following a four-month selection process, an architect and artist have been chosen for the £40,000 BALTIC Ryder Commission in collaboration with Blueprint.

An open call for architects went out in Blueprint at the end of last year. Ryder Architecture, ourselves and the gallery were looking for a young practice eager to collaborate on an installation at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.

Atomik Architecture from London, was chosen from a strong global response following interviews with a shortlist of three. Artist Alice Theobald, also London-based, was subsequently chosen to collaborate with Atomik after the practice went to Gateshead to talk to BALTIC curators.

Atomik Architecture and Theobald will each receive £2,500 prize money, put up by Ibstock, while all of the £40,000 from Ryder and BALTIC will go towards the installation, that will open at the gallery on 11 December and run through until 13 March. Blueprint will, of course, be following their progress and bring you a full report on how the collaboration unfolds and what the final outcome is.

Founded by Mike Oades and Derek Draper, Atomik Architecture is a young practice of architects and designers working in the UK and Kazakhstan. The practice has a number of buildings, from residential to hotel, in the pipeline and its first completed building will be a pavilion and hub for this year's Artbat Fest urban art and culture festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Atomik Architecture also created a parametric art installation, on an island in a lake in Amiens, using 2,000 timber blocks, as part of the 2014 Art Villes & Paysage Festival.

'We suspect that we are totally unaware of what we have let ourselves in for!' says Atomik Architecture's Oades. 'Alice's work is multifaceted involving music, video and performance - very different to our largely static constructs. We're looking forward to the odyssey we are about to embark on, finding some common ground and testing how our processes come together to deliver a co-authored piece at BALTIC.'

Theobald, who graduated from the RA last year, employs a mix of pop and underground cultural references in her work that uses music, installation and video. She also often works with a cast of non-professional actors and performers, while using repetition 'as a strategy to interrogate the unstable relationship between art, communication and representation'. In February 2014 she presented: I've said yes now, that's it, at the Chisenhale Gallery's interim programme, and in 2013 she was selected for the International Performance Residency at Gasworks, London.

'I am really looking forward to working with Atomik to see how it will develop,' says Theobald.

'My performances, video and sound installations are very reactive to pre-existing spaces and places, so collaborating this way where the space can potentially be manipulated psychically feels like an interesting new challenge, yet a natural way forward.'

Peter Buchan, senior partner at Ryder Architecture, adds: 'We are delighted to have selected these two emerging talents for our jointly funded commission with BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art.

We look forward to the process of co-authorship - a real sharing of ideas that creates something truly exciting.' You can see Theobald's work at London's Lisson Gallery, in The Boys The Girls The Political, 18 July to 6 September.


Client File: Patrick Bedeau, Global art director of Al Jazeera


Words by Pamela Buxton

What does your role at Al Jazeera entail?
As global art director I'm responsible for all design and promotions-related content and issues in London, New York, Sarajevo, Washington DC and in our smaller studios in Paris, Berlin and Moscow.

I also work with the creative director in our Doha hub. My brief covers all on-screen design including the daily news information graphics content and as well as programme branding, music and set design. Workplace environment has recently taken up a great deal of my time due to the fast-paced expansion of Al Jazeera Media Network in recent years. Talent spotting and creative recruitment is a fundamental part of my role.

What's your design background?
I studied visual communication specialising in advertising at Birmingham and briefly worked at JWT before joining BBC Current Affairs at Lime Grove Studios. There I experienced the old paper-and-cardboard methods of creating TV graphics and was able to contribute to the introduction of electronic and computerbased design workflows, which are now the norm. The technology revolution, which saw the move from bespoke equipment - for example Quantel Paintbox - to powerful desktop-based computers has also been fascinating, along with the advent of social media and citizen journalism in TV news.

Reintroducing the swingometer on the 1992 BBC election coverage with Peter Snow remains one of my best memories. I then set up my own company, working for Channel 4, MTV, the BBC and consulting on channel launches including the Money Channel and Al Jazeera English. For the past nine years I've worked with Al Jazeera, the past four as staff.

Patrick Bedeau
Patrick Bedeau

How many different design projects do you generally commission a year and what sort of work is this?
Television news is thirsty for creative content 24/7, so there is a vital need for design and promotional commissions daily. We have a large internal design and promotions team but we do also commission externally for long form projects. There's been a rapid expansion of the Al Jazeera Network, with the launch of Al Jazeera America and Al Jazeera Balkans, the opening of our Paris and Moscow studios and the relocation of the London and Washington DC broadcast centres. These projects have involved considerable design commissions and collaborations that has seen a solid, rolling programme of work for the past five years across all the design and production disciplines.

How do you go about commissioning designers and architects?
We have a very detailed commissioning process administered out of Doha by our procurement teams and steered by the senior creative teams. The design commission brief and invitation is signed off by the client base and procurement team.

What are the particular challenges for designing broadcast facilities?
We have to be reactive and very sensitive to new technology and new production workflow developments, so future-proofing our design and the selection of new technology is very difficult. There are few architect practices that really understand broadcast requirements and construction, so the client collaboration process is vital, along with a specialist broadcast project management team. Also, design education has changed fundamentally - especially with early specialisation - and it can be hard to find the right design collaborators for working on such multidisciplinary projects.

What were your ambitions for your new studios and HQ in The Shard and how did the design come about?
We built a temporary studio in Stratford in the three years running up to the Olympics and while we were travelling out to East London from Knightsbridge we could see The Shard taking shape. The process for relocating from Knightsbridge had begun and the board in Doha liked our idea of moving to The Shard.

We then spent some time establishing the right floor that would suit our needs and how we could use the views and natural light. We then looked at Renzo Piano's design and wrote an open brief. We consulted the RIBA, which recommended an initial list of eight practices.

We finally worked with three practices on the pitch/selection process. A parallel process was conducted with the set design and construction and also the technology contractors. The low 'office' ceilings of the Shard were a real challenge for the design concepts and technical practicalities, so we knew innovation had to play a key part in the thinking.

We kicked off the architectural fit-out and set-design process in parallel, appointing John McAslan & Partners and Veech x Veech respectively. The selection process, however, doesn't find you all the creative answers and the hard work really began afterwards. We demanded a very high level of client consultation right through the process, with a realistic 3D rendering process that plotted out all the areas, material usage, furniture and lighting.

The various construction and design teams worked very closely together to enable a seamless link between offices and technical facilities, including the studios.

Patrick Bedeau is anti Silicon Valley-type design, preferring a minimalist, Scandanavian aesthetic for the Al Jazeera HQ
Patrick Bedeau is anti Silicon Valley-type design, preferring a minimalist, Scandanavian aesthetic for the Al Jazeera HQ

Transparency was the core theme running through the project and we are happy with the result. Broadcasting was new to McAslan & Partners but it really came a long way and worked well with Veech x Veech and newsroom/set constructor MCI Studio Hamburg. We arranged the open-plan office spaces around the edge of the floor to maximise natural light and the technology facilities on the inner core, with the news studio integrated into the newsroom and oriented to the north to give the best views of London.

What's the best part of your job as design client?
The variety of creative people you meet. Al Jazeera has a hugely diverse global group of people, both in and out, all pushing in the same direction. No two days are the same. It's non-stop, and that's how I like it. I don't regard myself as a 'design client', more a collaborator.

What are the most challenging part of your job?
Change! Screen-based communications is a constantly evolving medium and TV news and current affairs is still at the sharp end. However, hand-held devices and social media will change everything we do.

What future design projects are in the pipeline?
We have Washington DC coming on stream soon and we're also redesigning our Doha studios and have projects in New York about to start. New programme commissions are constant and we have a number of promotions, branding and set-design projects rolling out at present.

Do you have any favourite workplaces that you take inspiration from in terms of design?
I'm rather anti those Silicon Valley type of office typified by Google. I like the Scandinavian ethos of simple, clean, functional environments rather than clutter. I want people, not the office design, to provide the individuality in the workplace. I quite like the unfinished - leaving enough scope for the space to change and grow as it is occupied. In terms of particular designers, I admire the work of Saul Bass, Carlo Mollino, Moholy Nagy and Alvar Aalto.


Head of design at TfL, Jon Hunter


Words by Pamela Buxton

What does your role at Transport for London entail? What types of spaces and projects are you involved in commissioning design for?
Everything from templates to the design of trains. The variety of projects undertaken is vast - ranging from branding for the new Cycle Quietways project through to the magnificent new trains for London Underground and Crossrail. No two days are the same - across my desk today are items as diverse as the development of maps for the newly announced Night Tube, samples of winter gloves for our frontline staff, signage proposals for Crossrail and various maquette designs for upcoming refurbishment projects.

How many different design projects do you generally commission a year, and what sort of work is this?
Generally, about 100 a year - with a mix of long-burn, medium-term and business-asusual projects across all design disciplines.

Jon Hunter
Jon Hunter

How do you go about commissioning designers and architects? Is there a roster system? If so, how many are on it and why is this useful?
I use various existing rosters for commissioning design and also engage with the design community on projects that require more specialist disciplines - for example uniform design.

What qualities do you look for?
Design vision, a deep understanding of what we are as an organisation and the ability to add value to a commission - challenging and pushing me where needed to ensure the best possible result is delivered.

The new train for Crossrail
The new train for Crossrail

You have an in-house design team - what sort of work does this do?
We have three in-house teams - dealing with corporate/graphic design; industrial/product design; and film production/photographic services. These are essentially design professionals working as a collective to deliver the best design solutions possible to the people of London and users of our transport network.

What are the priorities for achieving a well-designed transport environment?
To quote Frank Pick, the former London Transport chief executive, the pursuit of an environment that is 'fit for purpose for all uses and by all users' is still our mantra. A fundamental priority is the re-establishment of form being as important as function, and the need to look at design proposals through the eyes of our end-users.

What particular challenges are there to overcome?
The ever-present tension between form, function and affordability - our transport environments are incredibly hard working, and obtaining high-quality design in these environments is achievable - but requires a great deal of work with internal and external stakeholders to get the balance right.

The transport industry is governed by some very rigorous safety standards - but these should be viewed as part of the design challenge.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Pragmatism, and getting the balance right between stakeholders who can often have competing requirements for the same product, or design solution.

Priestman Goode’s trains for the New Tube for London initiative
Priestman Goode's trains for the New Tube for London initiative

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Being part of an amazing organisation that keeps the capital moving and growing constantly.

What recent projects do you feel have turned out particularly successfully?
New Tube for London. This project was started back in 2009 as a design response to the increasing sterility of transport environments as a whole, with the ambition of creating a vehicle that balances form, function and price perfectly, and with the customer at the heart. The desire is to create a vehicle that a customer would choose to travel in, providing the same quality of design that we experience in our own homes or cars.

Thomas Heatherwick has delivered the same with the new Routemaster, and it is only right we deliver the same level of customer experience across our other vehicles. TfL has been working on this with Priestman Goode - a formal invitation to tender is expected to be issued later this year and a contract to build the new trains to be awarded in 2016. The first train is expected to come into service on the Piccadilly line in 2022.

What future design projects are in the pipelin? Who will be designing them?
Crossrail - lots of work is going on for this monumental project. The design for the rolling stock is being finalised at the moment in collaboration with BarberOsgerby. This project uses the same design strategy as applied to the New Tube for London, and delivers a real step-change in customer experience for national rail services.

Wayne Hemingway and his team are creating a singular uniform design for all of our operational modes, with subtle branding variations as required - but the main aim being to provide our singular customer with a consistency of experience no matter what part of our network they are using.

A new uniform design is being designed for TfL staff by Wayne Hemingway
A new uniform design is being designed for TfL staff by Wayne Hemingway

Do you have any favourite public transport systems (other than your own, of course) that you take inspiration from in terms of design?
London has the best transport network in the world - but I do admire Stockholm for its bold approach to integrating the environment in which its Underground resides with public art, and the Moscow metro for its sheer beauty.


Drawing attention


Words by Theresa Dowling

FX celebrated its latest drawing competition with the first of two exhibitions at BDG architecture+design in the summer at its fabulous offices on the river Thames.

David Price’s evocative landscape was chosen by Will Jones from Ecophon as his favourite, for its descriptive drawing skills and memories of childhood villages in Cornwall. David Price is head of his own architecture practice, David Price Design
David Price's evocative landscape was chosen by Will Jones from Ecophon as his favourite, for its descriptive drawing skills and memories of childhood villages in Cornwall. David Price is head of his own architecture practice, David Price Design

Elles Middeljans’ work was chosen by Natasha Bonugli of BDG architecture+design. Artist Elles Middeljans works as Studio Ellessi
Elles Middeljans' work was chosen by Natasha Bonugli of BDG architecture+design. Artist Elles Middeljans works as Studio Ellessi

But if you missed this there's still time to catch it at our next showing, during London Design Festival at the Morgan showroom in Clerkenwell.

The competition was staggering in its diversity, with submissions from product designers, interior designers, textile designers, architects, and indeed freelance illustrators and designers and fine artists.

Chris Eckersley’s dynamic drawings of the Pazzi Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, as chosen by Trevor Flynn from Drawing at Work. Chris Eckersley is a freelance furniture designer

Chris Eckersley’s dynamic drawings of the Pazzi Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, as chosen by Trevor Flynn from Drawing at Work. Chris Eckersley is a freelance furniture designer
Chris Eckersley's dynamic drawings of the Pazzi Chapel in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, as chosen by Trevor Flynn from Drawing at Work. Chris Eckersley is a freelance furniture designer

As the competition was open to all, and free to enter, it wasn't a surprise that we also uncovered drawing skills from the shy and the unknown in our industry.

Katerina Zachariades of Morgan Furniture chose Gary Schuberth’s striking tonal drawing as her favourite. Gary Schuberth is an architect
Katerina Zachariades of Morgan Furniture chose Gary Schuberth's striking tonal drawing as her favourite. Gary Schuberth is an architect

Javier Artadi
Javier Artadi

While drawing is a skill traditionally taught in art school, it's not that common for it to be used in day-to-day business until Trevor Flynn, from Drawing at Work, pioneered a renaissance in the design industry with drawing workshops at practices around the UK.

Nic Pryke
Nic Pryke

Allistair Covell
Allistair Covell

So add in the fineart factor and bingo, we have a brilliant exhibition. There was no curating as such, because FX wanted to represent at least one drawing per entrant, but with more than 300 entries we were running out of wall space!

Anette Taylor
Anette Taylor

Gordon Byrne
Gordon Byrne

We asked our four 'judges' to select their personal favourites from the exhibition, and we have included them on the next few pages.

We also grabbed a few VIPs on the first opening night to make a video, so please have a look at what they have to say about the show on our website Design Curial - Google 'FX and Ecophon drawing exhibition video'.

Eline Johansen
Eline Johansen

Stephen Lees
Stephen Lees

Our next showing is at the Morgan showroom during London Design Festival, from 21 September until 1 October, and we'd love you to see you there.

Morgan Furniture is hosting a party for us, but places are nearly full. If you'd like to attend the show's private view (and party) on 22 September, make sure you email Daphne to be added to the guest list.

Lorraine Simoes
Lorraine Simoes

Lorraine Simoes
Lorraine Simoes

Places are necessarily limited, and so there's a very strict guest list. So please send an email with your name and practice to daphne@

We look forward to seeing you!


The urge to converge


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:


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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