INTERIORS MAKE AN IMPACT
• 2021 Hot List • MetropolisLikes Winners • Sustainability Lab
FROM THE EDITORS OF
Micki Washington, principal and regional leader of WorkPlace, HOK
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ON THE COVER Micki Washington, HOK’s WorkPlace leader for the Gulf Coast region, in her Houston office Photo by Michael Starghill
8 Sustainability Lab Metropolis and theMART organize a hub at NeoCon to help the interiors industry take the next step toward regenerative and resilient design. 14 MetropolisLikes We name winners of the MetropolisLikes NeoCon awards and reveal the trends among them that are reshaping interiors after a challenging year. 28 Insight: Post-Pandemic Materiality Designers can help create healthy, safe interiors with thoughtful surface and filtration selections.
Hot List 2021 Designers making an impact at NeoCon and emerging talents in commercial interiors.
30 Micki Washington The regional leader of HOK’s WorkPlace practice in Houston is normalizing office interiors with universal design.
46 Merge Architects Interiors matter as much as facades at this Boston-based firm, in line with the philosophy of its founder Elizabeth Whittaker.
34 Pearson Lloyd Meet the U.K. designers whose mission is prompting people to view office furniture differently.
50 Jane Abernethy Humanscale’s chief sustainability officer insists on walking the talk.
36 Ivy Studio Office of Architecture The future of contract interiors can be gleaned in the portfolio of this young Canadian firm. 40 Stephen Burks Get to know the man who uses global design as a means to a more inclusive world.
64 Untitled (Questions), 1990/2021 A projection by noted conceptual artist Barbara Kruger takes over the facade of theMart twice every evening during NeoCon. 2
42 Angie Lee FXCollaborative’s design director of interiors talks about creating humancentric spaces and tackling larger issues as the president-elect of the IIDA International Board of Directors.
52 Ali Tan Ucer IA Interior Architects’ experiential graphics design director discusses ways to ensure environments truly engage workers. 56 Roby Issac The vice president of commercial design for Mannington Mills tells Metropolis how fine artists can help invigorate product design. 60 Susan Lyons Metropolis sits down with Designtex’s president to discuss the future of the contract interiors industry.
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6 Editor’s Letter A Hopeful Return
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FROM THE EDITORS OF
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A Hopeful Return
For years, NeoCon has been a place to find the latest innovations in contract furnishings. But the 2021 edition has a special appeal: Following a challenging year of unprecedented global upheaval due to COVID-19, social justice reckoning, and startling revelations about the immediacy of climate change, attendees (virtual and in-person) are gathering in search of industry solutions. In some cases that means committing to new business practices. At the Metropolis Sustainability Lab at NeoCon, on the tenth floor of theMART, we are using the occasion to invite designers to take the Interior Design Pledge for Positive Impact, created in partnership with the ASID, IIDA, and IDC. To help designers take the next step toward designing for the climate, health, and equity, editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal will be discussing the Climate 6
Toolkit for Interior Design, released by Metropolis earlier this year. Turn to p. 8 for more details about the program. Given the seismic shifts the industry’s supply chains, clients, and workforce have undergone, this is also a critical year to catch up on which practitioners and firms have a head start on carbon neutrality, inclusive design, and diversity, among other innovative concepts. Our Hot List (beginning on pg. 30) is a valuable guide in identifying these change agents. Of course, we are still tracking product trends, the most prescient of which earned this year’s MetropolisLikes awards (“Object Lessons,” p. 14). For all of you who’ve endured canceled shows, Zoom, work stoppages, and quarantine, may this year’s NeoCon be an occasion to celebrate your resilience. —Kelly Beamon, senior editor
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Metropolis and theMART organize a hub at NeoCon to help the interiors industry take the next step toward regenerative and resilient design.
On the tenth floor of theMART, the Metropolis Sustainability Lab at NeoCon is a showcase of how far the interior design profession has come in reducing its negative impact on the environment and in striving to safeguard the health and well-being of people on this planet. The Lab includes an exhibit of breakthrough products and initiatives from B+N, Armstrong Flooring, Clarus, Indiana Furniture, Luum Textiles, Mohawk Group, Shaw Contract, Sherwin-Williams, Tarkett, and Teknion (see more on the following pages). The space is also a hub of learning and participation, with sustainability-driven CEUs on offer and a chance to get involved with two important industry-wide movements. At the Lab, designers can be among the first to take the Interior Design Pledge for Positive Impact. The Pledge, created by ASID, 8
IIDA, IDC, and Metropolis (with support from Interior Design and leading firms and organizations) provides a comprehensive framework for the future of interior design organized around three interconnected commitments to climate, health, and equity. As a first step toward helping designers meet these commitments, Metropolis demonstrates its recently released Climate Toolkit for Interior Design. Shaped by 60 stakeholders spanning the U.S. interiors industry, the toolkit suggests strategies interior designers can use to join the fight against climate change.
Visit the Metropolis Sustainability Lab at NeoCon, Suite 1091
A L E K S A N D R A G AC A C O L L E C T I O N
Designed in collaboration with Aleksandra Gaca
me m osamp le s . c o m
ARMSTRONG FLOORING REVEAL
B+N INDUSTRIES SYSTEM 1224
Armstrong Flooring is focused on transparency—in its product content, recycling efforts, and manufacturing optimization. Through business change and innovation, the company is committed to strategies to reduce its carbon footprint. This starts with third-party-verified declarations to guide Armstrong Flooring’s continuous improvement and to reveal the information designers need to make sustainable choices.
System 1224’s modularity is the key to future-proofing. Wall- or tension-mounted rolling systems can be repurposed as space dividers, ad hoc conference rooms, display, shelving, and desking. Updates are easy and require ordering different panels and/or accessories rather than scrapping the whole and starting anew, which equates to less waste in the landfill. Once the uprights are installed, reconfiguration can be done in-house—meaning less travel, less time, less stress.
In keeping with Clarus’s commitment to a more sustainable future, Float boards offer EPDs, Red List–Free Declare labels, and SCS Indoor Advantage Gold certifications to support any project team in achieving its green building project goals. To learn more, designers can find Clarus products in the mindful MATERIALS database (mindfulmaterials.com).
LUUM GRID STATE & ECOTONE
Since 1905, Indiana Furniture has proven its commitment to a sustainable future by supporting the standards and programs that protect the natural world and human health. Whether it’s local sourcing, domestic manufacturing, reducing contaminants, diverting waste, implementing wellness programs, or supporting community endeavors, social responsibility is a part of every decision at Indiana Furniture.
In 2021, Luum proudly launched Grid State and Ecotone: the contract industry’s first and second recycled, biodegradable polyester textiles. Both textiles are bleach-cleanable and are suited for many applications. Grid State’s motif is inspired by the textile development process, while Ecotone references traditional wools.
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MATH TO MAKER SCIENCE TO SPORTS CAFETERIA TO CRAFTS ADMIN TO ART
SPACE: A NEW STORAGE SYSTEM THAT WORKS ON EVERY LEVEL An agile solution for the whole school that cuts clutter. Improves workﬂow. Raises visibility. Optimizes resources. Invites creative collisions. Empowers teachers and students. And can store 40% more than standard casework. Yep, all that. Want to see how SPACE performs throughout your school? Visit us at NeoCon, VS Showroom 1167.
VSAMERICA.COM 704.378.6500 INFO@VSAMERICA.COM
MOHAWK GROUP COLOR PULSE
SHAW CONTRACT BOTTLEFLOOR
With its zero-water dyeing process, Color Pulse is an innovative solution-dyed alternative to space-dyed yarns. By specifying products with Color Pulse fiber instead of traditional space-dyed fibers, you help reduce your project’s water impact by up to one cup of water per carpet tile.
This PET-composite flooring blends the performance of a hard surface with the acoustic sound absorption and slip resistance of carpet. This revolutionary new platform is manufactured with 40 percent postconsumer recycled PET—taking waste bottles and recycling them into beautifully designed, highly durable flooring.
SHERWIN-WILLIAMS SUSTAINABILITY BY DESIGN In addition to having the largest portfolio of coating products eligible for LEED credits, Sherwin-Williams is pleased to announce the new Sustainability by Design program. Through this program, all products developed will consider over a dozen sustainability attributes, including third-party verification and ecolabel recognition, helping increase the adoption of sustainably advantaged coatings.
This resource gives a holistic review of every single flooring category Tarkett produces, whether it’s resilient or soft surface, providing all the data and certifications you need in one place. From information on responsible materials to the environmental impact of manufacturing and the category’s carbon-neutral status, Tarkett Floorprint shows you how your selection can contribute to the health and well-being of people and planet.
Routes is a toolbox of boldly conceived products designed in partnership with Pearson Lloyd, and driven by the concept “What do we need, really need, to work efficiently and well?” Designed for durability, flexibility, and ease of assembly and disassembly, Routes supports sustainability by reducing waste, materials, transport, and packaging, as well as prioritizing recyclability.
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Object Lessons This year’s winners of the MetropolisLikes NeoCon awards reflect the trends reshaping contract interiors after a challenging year. By Kelly Beamon
Office to Go Mobility has never been more important—for safe social distancing, to support collaborative work on demand, and to accommodate diverse work styles. People not only need to get around the office, but to do so quickly. To that end, companies are launching presentation equipment, desks, seating, and entire workstations on wheels. Individual workers are increasingly on the move, and now their workspaces can be too. 14
HAG Capisco by 9to5 Seating 9to5seating.com, 1095
COURTESY THE MANUFACTURERS
Compose Echo by Haworth haworth.com, 312
Spills. Splatters. Supreen. Luxuriously supple and completely impermeable, Supreen is a revolutionary fabric that combines proprietary woven and coated technology. Supreen outperforms in the places and spaces where life hits hard. Learn more at www.supreenfabric.com.
Deconstructed Form by Patcraft patcraft.com, 10-160
Capsule of Calm More than one study suggests that people find rounded decor soothing. Unlike boxy and jagged shapes, gentle curves stimulate the brain, according to neuroscientists in separate studies by the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Toronto at Scarborough. No wonder, then, that roundness is a notable feature of many furnishings that manufacturers are rolling out to welcome postpandemic office users.
Adapt by Hightower hightoweraccess.com, 1110
Autodromo by Decca Contract deccacontract.com, 333
Dela by Stylex stylexseating.com, 337 16
Eklund by Kimball kimball.com
Tempo by Loftwall loftwall.com, 1123A
COURTESY THE MANUFACTURERS; PATCRAFT COURTESY KRISTIN FAYE PHOTOGRAPHY
Embra by Interwoven interwovenhealth.com
Designed by Niels Diffrient One of the first products ever to be Climate Positive. Made with nearly 2 pounds of reclaimed fishing nets, the most harmful type of ocean plastic.
Learn more at humanscale.com/LibertyOcean
Conscientious Colors Soft-focus hues distinguish a number of debuts at this year’s NeoCon, ranging from flooring to lighting and upholstery. Less saturated color is welcoming but it also signals earnest intent: These products are highly sustainable. Call it a reflection of the new sobriety of a post-shutdown world.
Legato Liquid Linoleum by Mannington Commercial manningtoncommercial.com, 1039
Coil by LightArt lightart.com, 10-142
Mixu by Arper arper.com, 346
Shadow Play by Knoll Textiles knoll.com/shop-textiles
COURTESY THE MANUFACTURERS
Outdoor In by Luum Textiles luumtextiles.com, 1043
Individually we are unique, together we are whole. Experience the Collective collection at shawcontract.com
Rising Signs by Interface interface.com, 10-134
Connect Table by Gensler for Andreu World andreuworld.com, 10-132
Metronome Trestle by Nienkämper nienkamper.com, 365
Touch Collection by Arc-Com arc-com.com, 1194
COURTESY THE MANUFACTURERS; NIENKAMPER COURTESY PETER ANDREW LUSZTYK
We may be wired to seek right angles. A 2012 study by Massachusetts General Hospital found that the brain’s mental circuitry is organized in a precise gridlike pattern of fibers—like handwoven fabric or the urban plan of Manhattan. A number of new products subtly commandeer this reassuring arrangement of right angles for carpeting, upholstery, and conference tables. Perhaps office workers know a gray-matter love letter when they see it.
CONFORMING TO YOUR VISION When your inspiration for a dramatically curved ceiling-to-floor design is a nautilus shell and pearls, Armstrong Drywall Grid Systems are flexible enough to rise to the creative challenge. Add a teamwork approach, years of design expertise, and top notch detail drawings, and see how design conforms to your unique vision at armstrongceilings.com/ncl
DRYWALL GRID SYSTEM / NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINES TERMINAL B, MIAMI, FL / BERMELLO AJAMIL & PARTNERS INC., MIAMI, FL
Orderly geometry in textiles can lend more than elegance—it can add an emotional layer to the experience of space. The three-dimensional weaves of the Aleksandra Gaca Collection for Momentum Textiles are a prime example. The new line of contract upholstery—the first by the Dutch designer for the American contract market— features quilted, pillowy surfaces designed to add soft, soothing texture to the hard profiles of office seating. memosamples.com, 323
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Illuminated. Modular. Conﬁgurable. Acoustical. Our Systems give you tools to create your own worlds of endless possibilities.
We Create Worlds Of Possibilties.
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Blurred Lines Sight lines—the imaginary lines connecting a viewer’s eyes to points throughout a space—are a device of thoughtful interiors. Uninterrupted lines can enable views of the outside; blocking them is a way of providing privacy. So what does it mean that we’re encountering products with lines that are faint, fading, dissolved, or shifting to form a new vision? It might be due to today’s blurring cultural boundaries, a sign of our uncertain times. Scanlines by Turf turf.design
Cryptology Collection by Design Pool designpoolpatterns.com, 7-4049
Collective Collection by Shaw Contract shawcontract.com, 1014 Flek Pure by 3form 3-form.com, 10-142
COURTESY THE MANUFACTURERS; DESIGN POOL COURTESY KRISTEN JULIANNA PHOTOGRAPHY
Obscura by Skyline Design skydesign.com, 1040
OCT 4–6, 2021
ANEW NeoCon® is a registered trademark of Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.
Path by Humanscale humanscale.com
Hex by OFS ofs.com, 1132
Easy Pieces In line with new team-style office setups, easy assembly is king. Radically portable and easily reconfigured collections are proliferating at a fast clip, now that the new normal of user-led, improvised meetings and collaborative work has created the need for versatile furnishings workers can arrange themselves.
Loupe Collection by Encore Seating encoreseating.com, 336
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Routes by Teknion teknion.com, 1048
all around Tiffany Gomez of Gomez Design Studio. Photography by Jenna Bascom
November 11–18, 2021 Learn more at festival.nycxdesign.org
Thank you to 2021 Festival Sponsors
Post-Pandemic Materiality Designers can help create healthy, safe interiors with thoughtful surface and filtration selections. By Amanda Schneider
In the depths of the pandemic-driven lockdown, while many industries were struggling to survive, one flourished: the cleaning products industry. In November 2020, Clorox reported its best quarterly sales in more than two decades, and its stock price soared 36 percent over the year. Everyone wanted to make sure their homes were sanitized, and what better way to do that than with bleach? But this logic doesn’t apply so seamlessly to commercial interiors. In fact, most interior surfaces, excluding perhaps those made for health-care environments, are not bleachcleanable. And yet, as the vaccine rollout gives rise to conversations about return-to-office guidelines, it’s become apparent that settings outside of hospitals also need surfaces that can be deep cleaned. So, what are people looking for? And how can specifiers prepare to address the concerns of a germ-conscious post-pandemic world? ThinkLab sat down 28
with Walter Marin, founder and senior principal of New York–based Marin Architects, to understand his firm’s view on antiviral protocols and paired his insights with our research to explore how designers can help create healthy, safe interiors. WHAT IS THE DEMAND? When polled in a Fall 2020 ThinkLab research study, 62 percent of specifiers believed that COVID-19 had either increased or greatly increased the need for bleachcleanable materials, 55 percent felt there was an increased need for antimicrobial materials, and 48 percent said the same about antiviral materials. Much of the current debate about materiality centers on cleaning versus sanitizing. Prior to COVID-19, surfaces generally came with cleaning instructions— but not all came with directions for
sanitization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects” and “disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects.” Meanwhile, “sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements.” In the short term, the focus is on ensuring people are safe. However, COVID19’s long-term impact on materiality is still uncertain. Using health-care-level cleaners may lead to product failures and warranty claims, and most informed designers are not putting their support behind antiviral or antimicrobial materials because of sustainability concerns. SO WHAT’S THE LOGICAL NEXT STEP? Perhaps because of this uncertainty, Marin finds some specifiers are looking for materials
COURTESY MARIN ARCHITECTS
Materials with natural germ-repelling properties—like certain woods and copper—and those with textures that help prevent bacterial growth will be common considerations for commercial interiors specification following the COVID-19 pandemic.
that naturally repel bacteria and germs. While copper and wood have long been known for their ability to kill bacteria and viruses, Marin shares that texture is equally important in material selection and will be a common consideration for nonmedical specification moving forward. “Many designers are following the science behind sharkskin,” he explains. “Sharks tend to travel in areas that are not as clean as other fish, and their skin is textured like roof tiles. This texture minimizes the surface area and does not allow bacteria to survive. There was a huge industry that grew out of this concept. Now in light of COVID-19, everyone is thinking about this.” Another approach that designers are exploring is minimizing high-touch surfaces altogether. “Touchless doorways have been present at hospitals for many years,” he says. “Now we are seeing other industries
incorporate sensors, motion-activated lights, and automated doors.” AND WHAT ABOUT AIR? Beyond surfaces, Marin reminds us that for the immediate future we need to consider one of the most prominent ways COVID-19 spreads—through the air. “As architects outside of the health-care industry, we are not accustomed to thinking about how our designs will protect users against air particles that threaten our health,” he says. “One of the biggest considerations we focus on when designing medical buildings is air circulation. When you are walking through a hospital, you will notice that it is very hard to detect any smells, due to the advanced rate at which air is being filtered in and out of the building. In the long term, we will see more systems like this being utilized in market sectors beyond the health-care industry.”
Given that the traditional construction cycle can take as long as three years, Marin says installing enhanced air filters (as opposed to a brand-new filtration system) is the biggest improvement designers can implement right now without doing a major redesign. “I think at the end of the day, what we have learned is that attention to detail in material selection is such an important part of the health and safety of a space,” he says. “It’s our time to shine, and by mindfully selecting the right properties of a material and pairing it with expertise in systems and filtration selections, we can be an advocate for our clients and help them design safe spaces for their end users.” ■ Amanda Schneider is president of ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW. Join in to explore what’s next at thinklab.design/join-in. SPECIFY 2021
Hot List 2021
Micki Washington The regional leader of HOK’s WorkPlace practice in Houston is working to normalize office interiors with universal design. By Chaseedaw Giles Photography by Michael Starghill
For Micki Washington, regional leader of HOK’s WorkPlace practice in Houston, the best-designed spaces have always been those that are centered on their users. So when Washington asked herself which spaces people spend the most time using, the answer led to her current focus on office design. Pre-pandemic research shows the average person spending nearly 90,000 hours at the office over their lifetime. Washington decided it was important to know not only how they use workspaces but who they happen to be as individuals. When HOK received a brief from a client with a neurodivergent son that asked the firm to design areas that could accommodate people like him, Washington’s intense line of questioning sparked an innovative step: partnering with nonprofits, including Autism 30
Micki Washington, regional leader of WorkPlace for HOK in Houston, also serves in leadership roles across the industry, including for the local chapter of the International Facility Management Association and as a founding member of the American Institute of Architects’ interior architecture committee.
Speaks, to explore tools that could help diverse learners. “This is designing for inclusivity,” Washington says, “regardless of age, gender, or whatever their background is, and especially for the neurodivergent.” Spatially speaking, it also means incorporating disparate types of workspaces under one corporate roof. Coming up with inclusive solutions isn’t new to Washington, who serves as vice president of the Houston chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in addition to her role as a regional leader at HOK. Washington also serves in a leadership role for the Houston chapter of the International Facility Management Association and is a founding member of the American Institute of Architects’ interior
architecture committee. Those combined leadership experiences have heightened her determination to champion underrepresented views and sharpened her ability to amplify them in the design process. In settings where diversity is lacking, Washington stays alert for ways to introduce inclusion. Much of her job revolves around building trust in client relationships and accurately translating client needs to the design team. “I try to respond within 24 hours, at least acknowledging receipt. That goes a long way,” she says, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging all voices on a project across the various teams. That way everybody’s at the table from the beginning, she says, adding that the key is to “listen more than you talk.” ■
Hot List 2021
Washington’s design process relies on an intense line of questioning to ensure her team’s design solutions are inclusive.
Hot List 2021
Meet the U.K. designers whose mission is prompting people to view office furniture differently.
Pearson Lloyd founders Luke Pearson (top) and Tom Lloyd designed the Routes furniture collection (opposite) for Teknion.
London-based designers Luke Pearson and Tom Lloyd are known for their ability to unpack solutions for collaborative work and translate those ideas into highly nuanced furnishings. The firm has designed collections for notable heavies in the office furniture industry, including Steelcase, Andreu World, Studio TK, and Bene. Among their most fruitful partnerships is a six-year relationship with manufacturer Teknion. “We wanted a partner who had a forward-thinking approach in line with Teknion’s goal to evolve alongside the customer,” says Steve Verbeek, vice president of design and innovation at Teknion. Pearson and Lloyd stood out for what Verbeek describes as their “international design perspective” and “softer design language.” The award-winning namesake firm, which Pearson cofounded with Tom Lloyd in 1997, is known for embracing its potential to solve problems. That’s a process the designers realized early on that they both enjoy. The two met at the Royal College of Art in London, where they formed a friendship and discovered a shared passion for furniture and product design. Their frequent tête-à-têtes, often over a pint or two of lager, eventually led the duo to launch their practice in 1997.
“I’d love to be able to say we were picky at the outset, but actually we were so green and enthusiastic that we tended to do what was offered to us because we wanted to learn what it meant to have professional practice,” says Pearson. “We just happened to be lucky that we got very nice commissions and we won some very nice projects.” Today, although Pearson Lloyd designs products for home, health care, and aviation, the duo are especially passionate about designing systems for the workplace. “We set up our firm trying to bridge the seemingly different disciplines of product and furniture,” Lloyd says. A direct reflection of that are the flat-pack pieces of Routes (shown opposite), which the firm designed for Teknion. Routes’s components are engineered to allow users to create agile and adaptable workspaces; and as a bonus, that design aids in distribution and promotes self-assembly—which also leads to energyefficient, direct-to-customer shipping that lessens their environmental impact. “This is the future of office furniture,” Pearson says, adding that “pieces will be agile, loose fit, and untethered, and companies will organize their spaces differently. This will force people to address what type of furniture they have around them.” ■
COURTESY PEARSON LLOYD
By Nigel F. Maynard
Hot List 2021
Ivy Studio Office of Architecture The future of contract interiors can be gleaned in the portfolio of this young Canadian firm. By James McCown
When designing a space for a Montrealbased machine fabricator, Ivy Studio Office of Architecture was inspired by its client’s core product, mvetal extrusions. 36
COURTESY © ALEX LESAGE
Hot List 2021
Ivy Studio’s work for the first location of Spacial, a Canadian office-sharing firm, emphasizes fresh finishes and custom fittings made by local craftspeople.
To glimpse the future of coworking spaces, take a look at Spacial, a Canadian officesharing firm not unlike America’s WeWork. Montreal-based Ivy Studio Office of Architecture designed its inaugural location to update the typology with a fresh approach to finishes, furnishings, and the specifying process in general. “Our philosophy is to do as much custom work as possible,” principal Philip Staszewski says. That also happens to be part of the firm’s sustainability strategy: using local craftspeople whenever possible. “For furniture or finishes, we always try to find a local company,” Staszewski explains. “This gives us more control over the final result and avoids excessive importation of products.” Plus, custom work is a crowdpleaser. “You might see a beautiful chair in one place but if you see it somewhere else, it takes away from the experience.” Like the young workforce associated with the coworking concept, Ivy’s partners (Staszewski, Guillaume Riel, David Kirouac, and Gabrielle Rousseau) are inspired by their shared value systems. “We’re just a group of four friends working together and having fun designing,” says Riel of himself and his young partners. That doesn’t mean they lack experience: The studio’s impressive list of commercial work includes offices, restaurants, and even barbershops. And the team has become expert in finding ways to further clients’ business objectives, or “propelling brands forward,” as Staszewski puts it. For example, Vention, a Montreal-based machine fabricator, needed a new headquarters that reflected its core business, metal extrusions. “We were extremely intrigued by the client’s product,” Staszewski says. For barbershop Crisp Saint-Henri, “the client didn’t want a classic barbershop, but something more minimalist,” Staszewski recalls. “He had taken a trip to Japan and loved everything he saw there.” For Spacial, the coworking office, the brief was to insert a 9,000-square-foot office interior in a former industrial space along the lines of a Manhattan loft. “The three big conference rooms and the common areas are very generous,” Staszewski says. “In fact, it’s patterned after the idea of working in a café.” Ultimately, a spirit of teamwork makes the firm work. “We were close friends at Laval University in Quebec City, doing class projects together,” said Staszewski. “We still have the energy and ambition we had in school.” ■
COURTESY © ALEX LESAGE
Crisp Saint-Henri is a barbershop with a minimalist Japaneseinflected look.
Hot List 2021
Stephen Burks Get to know the man who uses global design as a means to a more inclusive world.
Burks’s partnership with DEDON is the manufacturer’s longest with any designer, and has helped link its collections to handcrafted techniques around the globe His KIDA lounge is shown (opposite).
Designer Stephen Burks is an industry gem not only for his talent but also for his progressive approach to manufacturing and design. On the road to becoming one of North America’s hottest industrial designers, Burks has worked with artisans in France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, India, Italy, Kenya, Peru, and the Philippines, among other countries. His past decade of commercial work is so impressive it is the focus of an upcoming solo exhibit being held at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in September 2022. But ahead of that milestone, he recalls that in most of his collaborations, he was the first African American his clients had ever worked with. Those experiences made him want to use his work to elevate voices of other marginalized groups. “This is about everyone who is outside of that circle of European design. Everyone who is making things in other ways and in other parts of the world and has something to say,” Burks declares. His collections for outdoor furniture manufacturer DEDON may best illustrate
that philosophy. Burks has folded his appreciation for world cultures into each collection: DALA, meaning “to take” or “make” in the Tagalog language of the Philippines, is inspired by the improvised seating Burks has encountered across the developing world. THE OTHERS, a line of portable lanterns, was designed during Europe’s migrant crisis with bold and weary travelers in mind. “THE OTHERS was a way of saying, ‘How do you welcome (if you can welcome) this lantern into your garden, and into your life? Can you also welcome other people into your community?’ ” Burks asks rhetorically. Meanwhile, the KIDA hanging lounge (shown opposite) seems designed for daydreaming, a lighter but still human-centered activity. “He has a playful and colorful creative mind, with design ideals that align so much with ours,” says DEDON’s marketing director, Chloé Sos. Burks and DEDON have mutual appreciation, and he views their relationship as symbiotic: “They’ve given me the opportunity to experiment,” he says. ■
COURTESY STEPHEN BURKS
By Chaseedaw Giles
Hot List 2021
Angie Lee FXCollaborative’s design director of interiors talks about creating human-centric spaces and tackling larger issues as the president-elect of the IIDA International Board of Directors.
IIDA president-elect Angie Lee. She believes that concerns for the planet and our own health are tied together. Opposite: Technology & Accelerator Incubator by FXCollaborative. 42
COURTESY ANGIE LEE / FXCOLLABORATIVE
By Anna Zappia
COURTESY CHRIS COOPER
Hot List 2021
“Sustainability is not an optional condiment that you can sprinkle onto the design process,” says Lee. “It’s not an abstract or nice-to-have. It’s critical.”
LEFT: COURTESY CHRIS COOPER; RIGHT: COURTESY FRANK OUDEMAN
Opposite, 250 Park Avenue lobby; left, Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge.
Angie Lee, partner and design director of interiors at FXCollaborative, uses a multifaceted approach to create interiors that have emotional resonance. As the president-elect of the IIDA International Board of Directors, she is set to apply the same balance of technical skill and creative thinking to steering the group’s sustainability and social justice efforts. “When you walk into a space that moves you, it’s because the designer was able to channel a profoundly personal point of view that they translated from a client brief into an honest understanding of human-centric values,” Lee says. She thinks IIDA could similarly translate design from a privilege for a few into a benefit that’s accessible to all. “That kind of impact, that impression on memory that design can accomplish, is something I’ve always strived to do,” she says. In her design career, for example, she has aimed to create experiences instead of interior looks. It’s an agility that comes from 20 years of honing her craft. “The typology, residential or commercial, the budget—it doesn’t matter as far as I’m concerned. It’s a matter of finding the best possible solution for any built environment.” Now that the pandemic has forced a reevaluation of essential spaces, Lee says
the workplace in particular will be transformed because expectations have shifted so dramatically. “We’ve spent a year and a half getting familiar with the four walls of our primary residences. When we get back to the office, we want to know that we’re still going to be supported, taken care of, and respected, in ways similar to those we have been experiencing at home.” Lee is also pondering more than the workplace, however. As the IIDA presidentelect (and a mother of two), she wants to bring a wider audience to the table on important conversations about wellness, people, and the planet. “There’s going to be a lot of focus on sustainability,” she notes. “And sustainability has to be democratized. We’re talking about it with a different vocabulary and looking at it through an intersectional lens of race and environmentalism, gender and environmentalism. It’s all interconnected.” Those connections, together with bonds among design professionals, can have a lasting impact. “Members of the IIDA, nationally and globally, typically find a [community] when they join, and take advantage of that network. I want to foster that connectivity because I feel like that’s the key to not only renewed optimism but making real progress.” ■ SPECIFY 2021
Hot List 2021
Merge Architects Interiors matter as much as facades at this Boston-based firm, in line with the philosophy of its founder Elizabeth Whittaker.
COURTESY ELIZABETH WHITTAKER
By James McCown
COURTESY CHUCK CHOI
A wooden spiral staircase and a mural add whimsy to a tech company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was designed by Merge Architects.
COURTESY JOHN HORNER
A collaboration between the MIT School of Engineering and Merge Architects led to MIT Beaver Works, a research space for students, faculty, and professionals.
A meditation space by Merge for the headquarters of mindfulness app Ten Percent Happier.
TOP: COURTESY JANE MESSINGER; BOTTOM: COURTESY JOHN HORNER
A soaring ceiling and unusual visual language of scalloped forms set this dental clinic in Beverly, Massachusetts, apart from the typical sterility of health-care spaces.
Hot List 2021
Elizabeth Whittaker’s Boston-based firm Merge Architects is aptly named. She merges the large with the small, the well-known with the obscure, and the public with the private. In this spirit of dialectic, she also makes no distinction between architecture and interior design when it comes to attention to details and environmental impact. “When people ask me ‘Do you do interiors as well?’ I say ‘What’s the difference?’ It’s all design to me.” Founded by Whittaker in 2003, Merge has built an expansive portfolio of work, mostly in New England but also in places as far-flung as Panama, Detroit, and San Jose, California. She began with a modest 1,000-square-foot office in Boston’s hip Fort Point Channel area and is now running the firm from a 6,000-square-foot space with 25 employees. Interior design projects range from a few hundred square feet for a small meditation app company to the hundreds of thousands of square footage Merge designed for Google in collaboration with Utile Architecture. In between are commissions from MIT, Northeastern University, and GrubStreet, Boston’s leading creative writing center. Regardless of scale, Whittaker prioritizes user-centric issues such as occupant health and material sustainability. Practice makes perfect: Whittaker says the team at Merge routinely earmarks time to perform sustainability design exercises, like submitting to Boston’s Triple Decker Challenge competition earlier this year, which the firm won. The charge was to create a prototypical retrofit of the classic New England triple-decker apartment building that provides a more efficient building envelope, converts all power to electric, and adds a unit. The ambition is designing for a smaller overall carbon footprint. “Even though we’re up to 25 people, we try to keep that spirit of exploration and resourcefulness,” Whittaker says. “We try to be inventive with normal conditions. I shouldn’t do small interiors projects because I can’t make a profit out of them. But I love doing them.” One example: Ten Percent Happier is the maker of a mindfulness meditation app, for which Merge designed a 5,000-squarefoot office—and a meditation space. ■ SPECIFY 2021
Hot List 2021
Jane Abernethy Humanscale’s chief sustainability officer insists on walking the talk. By Elissaveta M. Brandon
With Abernethy steering its sustainability initiatives, Humanscale now offers 26 net-positive products certified through the Living Product Challenge.
“I tend to not share a goal publicly because when companies say they’re going to be net zero, they get the reward before they do the hard work,” says Jane Abernethy. That comment should tell you everything you need to know about Humanscale’s chief sustainability officer. Since joining Humanscale, Abernethy has made a practice of setting, meeting, and exceeding her goals, a work ethic that has the manufacturer reaping enviable rewards. An industrial designer by trade, Abernethy was always drawn to art, architecture, and creative problem-solving. “When you design a product, you have to understand why you’re doing it,” she says. “Nobody wants a toaster; they just want toast.” And problem-solving doesn’t always involve designing new products or new features. Sometimes, she says, it’s about subtracting. This sentiment rings particularly true of her work for Humanscale, where her overarching goal has been to eliminate environmentally harmful products: no more
Red List chemicals, which are often found in coatings, finishes, and additives; and no more hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, a highly toxic form of chrome and a known human carcinogen. Abernethy joined Humanscale in 2007 as an industrial designer with a focus on health care. Sustainability was always top of mind even then, she says. But she quickly learned she would need to have companywide influence to make a meaningful impact. “Different people have different ideas of what sustainability means. There wasn’t a cohesive approach,” she explains. Then, in 2012, Abernethy was named Humanscale’s sustainability officer, a role that has since evolved into the company’s first chief sustainability officer. The company’s approach to environmental design has since become cohesive, accompanied by a groundbreaking set of goals. This June, for instance, Humanscale announced that 25 of its products (the list has since grown to 26) were certified climate-, water-, and energy-positive. In other words, 60 percent of the company’s products have a measurable, positive impact on the environment, meaning they give back more than they take. The certification is provided by the Living Future Institute under its Living Product Challenge, which is considered to be the most advanced sustainability standard for materials. Building on the success of its Smart Ocean chair, Humanscale recently launched the Liberty Ocean chair, each of which is made with nearly two pounds of reclaimed fishing net. Abernethy says another chair will launch this year. As for other measurable goals—lest she be accused of claiming the reward before the hard work—she would like to see the percentage of climate-positive Humanscale products climb from 60 percent to 100 percent. And when it does, the company will have officially made good on its promise to go, as it says, “beyond sustainability.” ■
Hot List 2021
Ali Ucer IA Interior Architects’ experiential graphics design director discusses ways to ensure environments truly engage workers. By James McCown
A fitness center in Louisville, Kentucky, received an interactive LED feature wall that responds to patrons movements courtesy of Ali Ucer and the team at IA Interior Architects. 52
COURTESY IA INTERIOR ARCHITECTS
Hot List 2021
As the son of an architect and sibling of two brothers who are designers, one graphic and the other industrial, Ali Ucer, creative technology leader of experiential graphics for IA Interior Architects, has design in his blood. In the wake of a global shutdown, he also had the impact that workspaces have on people on his mind. This preoccupation was apparent in the “Dear Office” project Ucer led for IA. The participatory art installation featured emotional neon signage in IA’s front window conveying “encouraging messages” from its staff to coworkers and to the office itself. The signage Ucer designed carried missives such as “I love seeing everyone in person! —Bob,” “Missing cookie time. —LM,” and “I miss Coco the coffee machine!! —Jen T.” The Turkish-born graphics specialist has been in New York City for more than two decades, melding his graphics skills and computer savvy while leading the experiential graphics unit for IA. For Ucer, the word “experiential” is key. “It’s experiential graphics, not environmental graphics,” he
IA developed an LED ceiling treatment (above) for a confidential client in the technology space. IA developed interactive feature walls (below) for a confidential tech client. LEDs and sensors that respond to people’s body movements integrate the graphic treatments into users’ experience of the space.
insists. “You’re creating an experience that becomes part of the space.” Prior to joining IA in 2008, Ucer worked for a who’s who of corporate and digital America: Microsoft, Uber, Red Hat, JPMorgan Chase. and Bank of America are just a few names that stand out on his résumé. “I prefer to work with people who are passionate,” he says. “That may be someone from a start-up, but it also may be someone from a very established company. And it’s not about one person’s particular taste. It’s about the brand. A good company wants people to live and breathe that brand.” They also want interiors that are healthy for employees to live and breathe in. “Sustainability is our biggest focus right now at IA,” Ucer says. “I won’t spec Red List materials. I won’t do anything that is potentially harmful.” In his more than 20 years as a practitioner, he has become committed to improving his knowledge of chemicals and materials, along with his expertise in technology. His education uniquely prepared him to send and receive messages—of comfort, trust, safety—using signage and wayfinding design. In Turkey he got his undergraduate degree in industrial design before coming to New York to earn a master’s degree in communication arts at New York Institute of Technology. The institute was so impressed with his student work that it hired him shortly after graduation to be an adjunct professor. Ucer asserts that he is still learning: “School is just the tip of the iceberg,” he concludes. “It’s all a hands-on learning process.” ■
COURTESY IA INTERIOR ARCHITECTS
The “Dear Office” project Ucer led for IA showed his commitment to the idea of experiential graphics, and exploring how graphic treatments can be more than window dressing.
Hot List 2021
Isaac’s love of fine art, sparked by his favorite high school teacher, is being paid forward through Mannington’s participation in IIDA’s Design Your World Education program for BIPOC teens. 56
COURTESY MANNINGTON MILLS
The vice president of commercial design for Mannington Mills tells Metropolis how fine artists can help invigorate product design.
COURTESY MANNINGTON MILLS
Hot List 2021
made the entire process and the product a lot more valuable because it seemed much more intentional.
Product collaborations with fiber artist Gabriel Dawe (right with Isaac) and sculptor Larry Bell (below) revved up Mannington’s flooring collection.
Kelly Beamon: You’ve been leading Mannington Mills in some fun collaborations with artists recently, notably sculptor Larry Bell and fiber artist Gabriel Dawe. Could you speak to the ways fine art fuels innovation in commercial design? Roby Isaac: Wow, that’s a good, loaded question. When I got into the industry, I was balancing this idea of how a formally trained designer incorporates that expressive side in a commercial space. It was this thing tugging at me that said ‘We’re all born creative.’ I wanted to be creative, and I think [Mannington] hired me because I believed I was creative. KB: Describe your technical training. RI: My background is in textile design, and I was trained in a way that prepared me for
KB: Walk me through that process at Mannington.
the industry. Manufacturers back then were looking for designers who understood not only aesthetics but also textile chemistry and manufacturing.
RI: We reached out to Gabriel Dawe because I was a fan of his, and because multiple times, in design reviews, others would have images from his installations on their mood boards. So, we reached out to him, and first he said, ‘What’s a Mannington?’ Second, he said he saw a lot of neutrals on our website, and told me, ‘I don’t know if you know, but I work with a lot of color.’ I said, ‘That’s why we’re reaching out to you.’ We started with sketches, then we moved into prototyping. And when you’re building carpet, you have to have a yarn ‘thread-up,’ which refers to the specific placement of yarns on a machine. So Gabriel said, ‘Hey, do you mind if I take a stab at that?’ Right off the bat, it was exactly what we needed. Larry Bell’s collaboration was different. Gabriel said we should reach out to Larry, and then he traveled with us to Larry’s studio in New Mexico. Then we started working on pattern development. We flew out a couple times to see him, showed him samples and prototypes, and he gave the blessing.
KB: How did you arrive at the idea of fine arts collaborations?
KB: Were you breaking new ground in contract flooring with these partnerships?
RI: In high school, I had worked as an apprentice at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. They would invite these artists to come into the workshop and do an exercise or a collaboration with the studio staff. They would give their ideas to the staff, and the staff would work in conjunction with the artists to prepare fabric. It was cool that you could take these ideas from an artist who is skilled in photography or sculpture or something else and show them in a different medium. For me, it
RI: Other places were doing it. But I felt like a lot of places, competitors or otherwise, would create these product stories and—this is going to sound awful—but I felt like it was a little bit over exaggerated. So, I thought, ‘How do we make it genuine?’ And I asked our design team to start with an experience. It’s when you’re in a moment, a space. Something that might evoke an emotion. Don’t force it. Let it happen, and if it does let’s talk about it and see if there’s something we can take from it. ■ SPECIFY 2021
Hot List 2021
COURTESY SUSAN LYONS
Metropolis sits down with Designtex’s president to discuss the future of the contract interiors industry.
With Lyons at the helm, Designtex has operated carbon neutral for the past 11 years. Gather (shown) is among their recent upholstery launches.
Two of the company’s latest upholstery lines, Gather (shown below), Layer, and Lounge (both shown opposite, left to right) are an affordable trio.
Hot List 2021
Ethan Tucker: You have new products that just came out called Gather, Layer, and Lounge. Tell us a little about them. Susan Lyons: This drop was designed around the idea of gathering. We like being able to offer our clients a suite of products that can play well together and that they can use to layer on texture. One of the textiles is this plush heathered velvet that we’re running in 34 colors. That’s the foundation of the collection. You can be working within a color palette, but constantly get that little bump-up in scale that adds an additional layer of interest. ET: Across the industry we’re seeing distinctions between commercial, residential, hospitality, and even health-care spaces start to fall away. Why do you think that is? SL: Over the past 20 years, the development and performance of yarns has evolved in such a way that you can now use more tactile fibers in combination with more
high-performance warps, and you can get products that feel like something you would have in your living room on your sofa. Designers are excited to see that they can get that same feeling. And suddenly, clients are saying, “Okay, I want that hospitality vibe, why can’t I have that in my office?” Or “Why can’t my health-care project feel more like hospitality instead of a sterile, boring environment? Why can’t I have a little more luxury in my space?” ET: In the past year or two have you noticed people using products made for heavy cleaning in places they weren’t used before? Is that a good idea? SL: I think it’s happening. There was, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, a rush to bleach-clean everything, which of course is terrible for the people doing the cleaning and for the materials. Fortunately, I think people have stepped back from that a little bit. Steelcase also did a study that was looking at the likelihood of COVID-19 transmis-
sion through textiles, and it’s really quite low. ET: For years, Designtex has been a leader in sustainable textile development. How are you pursuing that today? SL: From a material standpoint, it’s almost become table stakes to develop products with optimized construction. Now the conversation has really moved over to how you operate your business. We partnered with a group called Native Energy to help mitigate our carbon footprint, and for the past 11 years, we’ve operated carbon neutral. ET: How can the interior design, textiles, and furniture industries make a difference in terms of climate change? How much of a role can they play? SL: It would be nice if the industry said collectively, “Let’s make a lot less stuff.” That’s my dream, that “less is more” idea. Could we just do things that are more enduring and that would last longer? ■ SPECIFY 2021
Untitled (Questions), 1990/2021 A projection by noted conceptual artist Barbara Kruger takes over the facade of theMart twice every evening during NeoCon.
Launched in September 2018, the Art on theMart program is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, splashing the works of renowned artists across the vast riverfront elevation of theMart. This fall, the program features Untitled (Questions), 1990/2021, a projection by the artist Barbara Kruger, coinciding with a retrospective of her work at the Art Institute of Chicago. Every evening at 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. (CST) through November 25, her characteristically provocative text-based projection interrogates our relationships to each other, as well as the dynamics of identity, desire, and consumerism. ■
COURTESY OF ART ON THEMART
Art on theMART
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The feeling’s neutral Presenting Swurve™, our first carbon neutral chair. We believe that great design and sustainability can go hand in hand. When it comes to Swurve, we fully considered the carbon impact from design to end of life. We started by selecting materials with low carbon features, then completed a third-party ISO 14044 Life Cycle Assessment to calculate our carbon impact and verify our program. We then offset the inevitable carbon by investing in offset credits that support third-party verified carbon-reduction projects. Built with extreme craftsmanship, to the highest environmental standards, Swurve is a chair we can all feel great about.
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Designed by Andrew Jones | Made by Keilhauer
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