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Tesla
Epic fail. That’s what first crossed my mind as I watched the window break (twice!) during Tesla’s Cybertruck launch. Instead, the unfortunate incident brought immediate worldwide attention to Tesla’s new truck — mainstream press, social media, and (of course) meme makers all gobbled it up. Fast forward, and Elon Musk’s crazy concept for the Cybertruck is now considered genius.

In fact, Elon Musk actually forecasts failure at the beginning of his bold and audacious ventures. According to Marcel Schwantes (via Inc.), Musk demonstrates “a healthy amount of humility” when starting a project. For example, at an interview at an energy conference in Norway, Musk said, “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”

As Musk points out, “When you first start a company, there’s lots of optimism and things are great. Happiness, at first, is high. Then, you encounter all sorts of issues and happiness will steadily decline and you’ll go through a whole world of hurt.” But, if you take your medicine and learn from your failures, there’s an upside. “Eventually, if you succeed … you will finally get back to happiness,” says Musk.

By acknowledging that failure is a likely outcome, Schwantes says, “you’ll be able to spot impending issues earlier and minimize the inevitable pain and suffering Musk describes.” In fact, Musk has a trick for keeping him abreast of potential pitfalls. He actively seeks out constructive criticism from close friends and confidants.

“A well thought out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold. You should seek that from everyone you can but particularly your friends. Usually, your friends know what’s wrong, but they don’t want to tell you because they don’t want to hurt you,” says Musk. Even if you don’t agree with their feedback, Musk says, “You at least want to listen very carefully to what they say.”

In short, Musk believes failure is necessary on the path of success. He says, “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” It’s something Elon Musk accepts and embraces. Don’t believe me? Check out this revealing infographic of Musk’s many failures as he built Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX into the trailblazing companies they are today.
Arup
Arup, a global consulting engineering firm, recently welcomed clients and partners to its 65,000-sf, four-floor Toronto offices to unveil two new ‘incubators,’ the Maker’s and Pegasus Labs.

Maker’s Lab (pictured above) facilitates modelling, production, assembly and prototyping. The open collaboration space is equipped with a laser cutter, 3-D printers, manual tools and common materials like wood, composites, plastics, light metals and cardstock. Arup encourages using discarded materials for sketch models and early concepts or prototypes.

Pegasus Lab, meanwhile, is dedicated to experiential design through digital engineering workflows and visualizations of operational processes and designs. It features virtual reality (VR), gesture recognition, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, video analytics, augmented reality (AR) and Arup’s own Neuron ‘smart building’ platform.

“Arup was the first firm to embrace digital engineering in 1957 during the design of the Sydney Opera House by using the Pegasus computer,” explains Justin Trevan, the company’s digital technology consulting and advisory services leader for Canada. “Today, the firm continues to innovate for efficient, sustainable and economical solutions.”

In addition to live demos in the two new labs, guests experienced such installations as Motion Platform, which allows users to feel the vibrations of a building while it is still on the drawing board, and Mobile Sound Lab, an immersive audiovisual (AV) environment with simulations of both existing and as-yet-unbuilt spaces.
Christopher Barrett.
Here’s a bold statement that we all need to be reminded of. Pinterest has altered the design world—but it hasn’t replaced the need for a designer.

In a fascinating report on Evidence-Based Design (EBD) from The Center for Health Design, the company defines EBD as “the deliberate attempt to base building decisions on the best available research evidence with the goal of improving outcomes and of continuing to monitor the success or failure for subsequent decision-making.” In short, purposeful design isn’t just a compilation of pretty pictures, but it’s backed by results, best practices, experience, trial and error, and years of research all curated into an expertly planned space centered around the end user's functionality and with inspiration in mind.

Mark Hirons FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP, design principal for CannonDesign, explained it best: “Informed design at the onset of a project leverages baseline comparisons to offer the client context and an enriched design consultancy experience. Design should be behavioral-focused and use relevant data as a means to explore ideas. Each project is unique. Ultimately, it’s a fine-tuned process that, while working with the client over time, results in a meaningful environment and often a portfolio of thoughtfully designed spaces.”

Understanding the Value of Design

The value of design exists in its ability to support two of the client’s most valuable resources: people and place. “While oftentimes clients initially may have preconceived notions, we seek to listen to their vision, understand their culture and explore new ideas that will best position them for the future. We look at behaviors and focus on efficiency and, even more importantly, effectiveness. While everyone wants a space that works well and is budget-friendly, the most important question is how do we purposefully design our client’s second-most-expensive asset in their portfolio (real estate) to make their first-most-expensive asset (people) more effective.”

By overlaying well-being, collaboration, privacy, and meaningful interaction, Hirons explains, great design can do both.

Want vs. Reality

Hirons notes that often the first endeavor is deciphering the difference between a client’s wants and needs within a space to best achieve their goals. “Our job is to take a step back and analyze how best to translate ideas and choices, authentically, to our client,” he says. “They may express an impact, characteristic, or mood desired for their space and our goal is to translate that with their brand and story to craft the environment for which they are aspiring.”

He continues, “Design is taking the desired behaviors and matching them with an array of purposeful settings that support concentration, collaboration, comprehension, and social connection and creating them to express each client’s mission and culture. We come back with a list of design choices that offer both the feel they want and the functional environment we know they need. For example, we’ll provide a list of things to consider—perhaps multi-functional spaces, art, gardens, enhanced technology, etc.—then the client can decide to pull different levers or accentuate certain choices to make the space more engaging and experiential.”

Design as a Catalyst, Space as an Innovator

As a well-illustrated example of this EBD principle, Hirons shared a recent client experience where a leading biopharmaceutical company in Korea wanted an environment that spoke to its brand reputation of being a global leader. After meeting with the client, CannonDesign realized the company needed to provide a space that supported its employees throughout their entire day.

“They wanted a work environment that infused the elements of collaboration, innovation, reflection, and a holistic perspective,” explained Hirons. “We delivered more than 50 different settings—from a living forest and micro-kitchens to seminar rooms and sleeping pods—that spoke to the idea of being the only one. We looked at each experience a person could have throughout the day and how the spaces could support productivity and infuse innovation. Ultimately, design was the catalyst to create a completely unique environment to enrich their staff members’ lives everyday.”

To clarify, Pinterest and the use of imagery has a place in the conte
Wanda Lau
Building professional connections is a skill not taught in many architecture programs, but it is a necessity in practice, Evelyn Lee writes in her first column for ARCHITECT.

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point (Back Bay Books, 2002), I would be considered a “connector.” I’ve been in the industry nearly two decades, with about 15 years serving on different AIA committees at all levels. As a business school graduate and contributing writer to several publications, I seek out individuals and organizations thinking about the future of architecture and how practice needs to adapt. I enjoy connecting people within my network because, while the design profession is relatively small, the number of us thinking about the evolution of practice is even smaller. Relationship building has been critical to my own growth, professionally and personally. My best connections keep me excited about the industry, challenge my viewpoints, and have become incredible mentor and advocates—and I take pride in cultivating my network.

Which is why I was taken aback by the flurry of cold emails and messages I received from firm principals and senior designers almost immediately upon updating my LinkedIn profile with my new role as the inaugural senior experience designer at Slack, the fast-growing tech company in San Francisco. Since I had moved to the client side three years ago, my ability to hire architects was nothing new. So why the widespread attention? Perhaps it was Slack’s recent IPO?

The myriad mindless messages I received in response to my new position truly left a bad taste in my mouth. Business school graduates know that networking is fundamental: Universities want to promote what percentage of their alumni have gone on to find successful jobs, and building relationships enhances that stat. Literally, Networking 101 is built into B-school orientation.

But designers could certainly do much better when they reach out. To make the process more palatable to both you and your networking target, I offer five recommendations for developing professional relationships.

Look for Mutual Connections
Regardless of your age or experience, leverage the resources that exist in your network. People are more receptive to an email that comes from someone they know—or even someone who knows someone they know—than from a stranger. This validates a good connection and assures the recipient that the contact will be deeper than a superficial ask for new work. The architecture world is not that big.

It’s Not About You
The first outreach should never be about your needs: It’s always about theirs. Do not fish for information in the first contact; instead, be specific about why you want to talk or, at the very least, if you’re requesting their particular experience and viewpoint on your own work. If you explicitly want to talk about my new job, then I will shelve your request.

Simplify Your Ask
Most people will be happy to talk for 15 minutes on a topic they are passionate about—just make sure you know what that topic is. I have had more success asking for a 15-minute phone conversation than an in-person sit-down. Even a coffee meetup means you are asking someone to take time out of their day, go to a place out of their routine, and commit to a conversation that they may not be excited about. Fifteen minutes first. Then maybe coffee.

Be Patient
Relationships take time, trust, and nurturing. A milestone in a person’s career is a good reason to reach out or pick up a conversation with a connection you haven’t talked to in a while. As with personal relationships, it takes time to develop professional confidantes.

Google Yourself
Leverage technology but be mindful of your own profile. Whether you are building your own network or on the receiving end of a cold email, people are going to research who you are. Clean up your public personas and make sure they reflect your professional self.

About 10 years ago, I picked up a great book on social media marketing for AEC professionals. I wanted to meet the author and was excited to discover she was running a workshop at the local AIA component. I made the workshop but had to run immediately after the event without speaking with her. My few shared connections with her on LinkedIn were merely acquaintances to me—so I took a chance and messaged her directly. In my email, I explained that I had attended her workshop, had questions about specific points she made, and was interested on her take on the profession’s
Cody Pickens
The special sauce behind Google’s breakout hardware products is its one-year-old Design Lab. We’re the first publication to go inside.

There’s a building on Google’s Mountain View, California, campus that’s off-limits to most of the company’s own employees. The 70,000-square-foot Design Lab houses around 150 designers and dozens of top-secret projects under the leadership of vice president and head of hardware design Ivy Ross, a former jewelry artist who has led the company’s push into gadgets ranging from the groundbreaking Google Home Mini speaker to the playful line of Pixel phones.

Inside the lab—and away from the cubicle culture of the engineering-driven Googleplex—industrial designers, artists, and sculptors are free to collaborate. “Google’s blueprint for how they optimize is great for most people [at the company],” says Ross. “Designers need different things.”

In any other setting, Ross’s upbeat, bohemian demeanor would evoke that of a high school art teacher or perhaps the owner of a crystal shop more than a design director at one of the most powerful companies in the world. Today she walks me, the first journalist ever allowed in the building, through the space—which she calls “a huge gift” from Google’s executive team. Google was always an engineer’s company, rarely recognized (and sometimes ridiculed) for its hardware and software design. But recently, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been forthright in articulating just how crucial design has become to Google’s business. In the past few years, Google has developed gadgets—from phones to smart speakers—that are some of the most desirable in the world. Yet before doors opened to the lab last June, the growing Google hardware design team ran many of their operations out of a literal garage—not the best setting for such an important of part Google’s operations.

So Ross collaborated with Mithun, the architects behind many Google buildings, to create something new: a space that is meant to be a backdrop to Google’s soft, minimal industrial design aesthetic. “This framework, it has fairly neutral colors. There’s nothing so ingrained that we can’t evolve,” says Ross. “But being a blank canvas, what changes it is the products we’re evolving, the materials, their color, and their function.”

Each space in the lab was constructed to help Ross’s team marry tactile experiences (understated, fabric-covered gadgets that feel at home in the home) with digital ones (Google’s unobtrusive UX). “Essentially the first thing I said was, ‘We need light,'” recalls Ross. “Where in some buildings, [programmers] need darkness for screens, we need light.” The lab’s entrance is a two-story, skylit atrium, filled with soft seating and cafe tables for casual meet-ups.

A birchwood staircase leads upstairs to a library filled with the design team’s favorite books—each member of the team was asked to bring in six texts that were important to them, and inscribe a message as to why. “We’re the company that digitized the world’s information,” says Ross, “[but] sometimes, designers need to hold things.”
In other instances, the lab is set up so designers can window-shop. The second story walkway around the atrium feels something like a high-end mall. On one side, I see a glass wall to the color lab. On the other side, a glass wall to the material lab. The color lab features an ever-changing array of objects, collected by Google hardware designers on their travels. It’s a hodgepodge of items that seems less about color than what I might call a vibe. I see a paper radish, a green stack of stones, and an ivory jewelry box—all evoking a certain handmade minimalism. The display is the best reminder of a simple fact of Google’s hardware design team. Just 25% to 40% of the group has ever designed electronics before. The rest designed everything from clothing to bicycles in a previous life.

At a large white table inside the color lab, under carefully calibrated lights, Ross’s team debates the next colorways for upcoming Google products. Once a week, designers from across categories—from wearables to phones to home electronics—gather around the table with scraps and samples in hand, to make product line decisions together. I’m treated to a show of last season’s products and colors to demonstrate a point: that Google designers, making more than a dozen products that could be in your home at once, want them to look good next to one another, even if they were produced a few ye
SB Architects
What does it take to be a finalist in the 2019 Radical Innovation competition? How about a 21st-century train with wilderness stops along its route through the American West, the world’s tallest modular hotel, and collapsible modular construction units that are adaptable to a variety of environments?

Those three concepts—Infinite Explorer by San Francisco-based SB Architects, the Volumetric High-Rise Modular Hotel by New York-based Danny Forster & Architecture, and Connectic by New York-based Cooper Carry—were recently announced as the three finalists in the 13th-annual Radical Innovation competition. The award challenges professional designers and hoteliers, along with students in a separate competition, to create compelling innovations in travel and hospitality design.

Infinite Explorer is intended to help travelers connect with remote destinations in the American West utilizing defunct passenger rail lines via one-of-a-kind hospitality experience: a train with cabins designed to open at a variety of stops with newly created outdoor infrastructure, allowing passengers to step from their cabin to enjoy the region’s incredible natural scenery along with adventure and wellness activities and dining.

The second finalist is already in the works: AC by Marriott (to be located at Sixth Avenue between 29th St. and 30th St. in Manhattan) will be the tallest modular hotel in the world when it opens in late 2020. Constructed using the Volumetric High-Rise Modular Hotel model by Danny Forster & Architecture, the $65 million build mixes the efficiency of modular design processes with inventive architectural design. A full 80 percent of the AC hotel’s square footage will be shipped from a factory in Poland—pre-constructed and already decorated with curtains, TV, and wall art.

Connectic by Cooper Carry is the year’s third innovator—a collective of modules that a flexible, adaptable, and reusable. Uses could include a pop-up hotel in a remote area, a temporary event space, and interstitial spaces between buildings or in forgotten pocket parks.

The trio of professional finalists was chosen from among nearly 50 entries from more than 20 countries by a jury of hospitality and design experts. They will compete in a live pitch presentation at the New Museum in New York City this fall, where the audience will vote to determine the grand-prize winner of $10,000; the runner-up will receive $5,000.

In addition, the jury selected a student submission winner: Rooftop Hotel Gardens by Ruslan Mannapov and Airat Zaididullin from Kazan State University of Architecture and Engineering (KSUAE) in Russia. They will receive $1,500 and be invited to join the professional finalists at the New Museum event this fall.

Since its founding, Radical Innovation has awarded more than $150,000 to progressive architectural/hospitality innovators.
Nikken Sekkei LTD
Editor's Note: This feature was originally published in the Q3 2014 issue of AECbytes Magazine and it is being republished as it still relevant today. Also, the magazine is being discontinued, and much of the content that was exclusive to the magazine is being republished online to ensure its continued availability.

Earlier this year, I visited Tokyo, Japan, for the launch of Graphisoft’s new BIMcloud offering, and while I was there, I also had the opportunity to visit some of the leading design and construction firms in Japan to find out how they were deploying technology solutions in their practices. One of these was Nikken Sekkei, a 2,400 person firm providing architecture, engineering, planning, and construction management services that was founded all the way back in 1990, giving it a long history in the AEC industry. The firm is headquartered in Tokyo, with additional locations in several cities in Japan as well as in cities throughout the Asia-Pacific region, where most of its projects are located. It is currently ranked as the fourth largest firm in the world.

To date, Nikken Sekkei has completed over 20,000 projects in more than 200 cities around 50 countries, spanning across the entire spectrum of AEC, as show in Figure 1. It has won a whole slew of design awards, hardly surprising given the quality of its architecture, some of which is shown in more detail in Figure 2.

Overview of Technology Use
Being such a large and reputed company with so many on-going projects, it is not surprising that Nikken Sekkei is fairly advanced in its implementation of AEC technology, which includes not only BIM applications but a whole host of additional tools for architecture, structure, and MEP, for design, documentation, simulation, and analysis. The complete map of all the applications used at Nikken Sekkei is shown in Figure 3. These include applications that are well known all over the world such as ArchiCAD, Revit Structure, Tekla, Solibri, and 3ds Max, as well as more regional and local applications such as Midas GEN (a Korean building engineering software) and Cadwell Tfas (a Japanese local MEP application). Some of the applications Nikken Sekkei uses were also developed internally, such as Building3D for structural analysis. I was impressed to find that in addition to energy, lighting and ventilation analysis, which are quite common now, Nikken Sekkei also does acoustic analysis and pedestrian traffic analysis, both of which have yet to see widespread implementation, even in the US. Most of the connections between applications shown in Figure 3 are enabled through the open-standard IFC file format.
Rice University
For nearly the past 100 years, Houston has been proud to be a world leader in the oil and gas industry. However, despite the recent fracking boom, there seems to be a growing sense among its entrepreneurial and political elite that this economic model is going to fail at some point, or at the very least drastically contract, just as the manufacturing economy did in the Rust Belt. FOMO is writ large in their minds. The fear is Houston will be left behind. That Houston was the largest city not to be included in the top 20 choices for Amazon’s new headquarters, for example, stung badly. A concerted attempt to reorient the city is evident in such initiatives as the ambitious push to enhance its major parks and bayou green spaces and the expansion of public transportation, both of which were seemingly inconceivable a generation ago, when the only thought by those in power was how to get more cars on the freeways.

Prestige institutions that can’t just up and move want their physical and intellectual investments in the city to remain viable as well. The president of Rice University, David Leebron has made it a centerpiece of his administration to increase both the stature of the school and its influence beyond the hedges surrounding the campus. To this effect, he has initiated a nonstop building campaign and increased student body. In 2009, there was serious discussion of acquiring the Baylor College of Medicine to get a foothold in the Texas Medical Center. Several interdisciplinary institutes have appeared. The latest effort to move beyond the campus includes Rice’s plan to reclaim the old South End as a hub for tech workers.

Rice was endowed with $4.6 million in 1904. In 115 years, that endowment has grown to $6.3 billion by means of Rice’s varied investments, a little more than 10 percent of which are real estate holdings. One highly visible property is the tract at South Main Street and Wheeler Avenue a couple miles south of downtown that houses a New Deal-era Sears department store building much in the local news due to its recent closure. In January of this year, Rice publicly re-christened this building “The Ion.” It will be repurposed as the centerpiece of what Rice is variously calling an “innovation hub” or “innovation district.” The stated intention is “to support businesses at all stages of the innovation lifecycle and provide resources for Houstonians seeking to participate in the innovation economy.” Outside institutional project partners include the University of Houston, UH-Downtown, the University of St. Thomas, Houston Community College, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, San Jacinto College, and the South Texas College of Law.

Originally the site of the expansive gardens around the Walter B. Sharp House (1895), a rambling Queen Anne building in what was then the almost rural outskirts of Houston, this tract, along with two adjacent city blocks, was later acquired by Rice. In 1938, the house was demolished to make way for a new suburban Sears, Roebuck and Company store (1939), designed by Chicago architects Nimmons, Carr & Wright. This store was one of five locations across the country designed by the firm that was profiled in Architectural Record in September 1940 as being “planned for the motor age.” The $1 million retail complex, which opened in November 1939, encompassed four city blocks. It included the 195,000-sf, four-level store, parking for 700 cars, a super-service station with 16 gas pumps (demolished), and a freestanding building selling farm supplies (still standing). The upper floors of the store were windowless and fully air-conditioned; the escalators connecting the floors were the first of their kind in Houston. Local reports at the time of its opening also remarked on the extensive interior art program of murals depicting scenes from Texas history, painted by Texas native Eugene Montgomery. In 1945, Sears, then highly profitable, entered into a 99-year lease with Rice. Fast-forward to 1962, when the building’s street-side windows were bricked-over and the upper parts of the building were clad in a slipcover of corrugated metal panels. (Ironically, this preserved the building, and today it is one of only a handful of relatively intact prewar, early suburban Sears stores left in the country. Houston’s first auto-oriented Sears building (1929) on Allen Parkway, also designed by Nimmons, Carr & Wright, was demolis
ICD/ITKE University of Stuttgart
Blaine Brownell reviews recent applications of carbon fiber technology and assesses its utility in environmentally conscious construction.

To market the design for his Dymaxion prototype, Buckminster Fuller famously asked: “How much does your house weigh?” Composed of a lightweight sheet metal aluminum skin held in tension by a single, central mast, the Dymaxion weighed only about 1.5 tons—about 10 percent the weight of an average house.

Fuller's emphasis on weight is even more critical today, given the ever-increasing environmental impact of shipping raw and processed materials around the planet. The automotive and aerospace industries have made significant advances in the strategy known as "lightweighting" by employing new and lighter materials and reducing the weight of components. Such an approach enabled U.S. airlines to significantly increase fuel efficiency by 125 percent between 1978 and 2017.

Carbon fiber is increasingly employed in the fabrication of many ultralight structures, from Formula One car bodies to bicycle components. Made from carbon filaments that are typically woven together into a cloth, carbon fiber is often coated with resin or thermoplastics to create composites with a very high strength-to-weight ratio. The result is a material about five times stronger and five times lighter than steel—and twice as stiff—that can readily tolerate heat and corrosion, making it ideal for extreme environments.

Despite the relatively high cost of carbon fiber, architects and engineers have started using it to construct buildings and infrastructural projects. For example, researchers at the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute for Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) utilized carbon fiber as a prominent construction material in their latest work: the 2019 BUGA Fiber Pavilion at Bundesgartenschau Heilbronn in Germany, a dome made of glass- and carbon-fiber ribs clad in a transparent ETFE membrane. The team programmed a robot to deliver more than 492,000 feet of fibrous filaments in a spatial arrangement whereby fiber type and density could be varied based on structural loads. Designed to mimic biological systems, the carbon fibers surround the transparent glass fibers to form bundled structure members resembling flexed muscle tissues. According to the team, a single fibrous component can support “around 25 tons or the weight of more than 15 cars.” The dome, which has a free span of around 75 feet and shelters a floor area of 4,305 square feet, is composed of 60 of these components, each of which weighs only 16.8 pounds per square meter.

Although the ICD/ITKE work assumes the form of bespoke demonstrations, another research team has been deploying carbon fiber broadly in public infrastructure. The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center has developed a composite arch bridge system made of carbon fiber–reinforced concrete. Designed for single-span bridges up to 65 feet, the system consists of a series of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) tubes that are filled with concrete on-site and then topped with steel-reinforced concrete decking. Similar to inflatable rafts, the CFRP tubes are transported to the site in a compact, folded state—hence the nickname “Bridge-in-a-Backpack.” According to the center’s website, “The arches are easily transportable, rapidly deployable, and do not require the heavy equipment or large crews needed to handle the weight of traditional construction materials.” In addition to their lightness, the CFRP tubes serve as the concrete formwork, thus eliminating the need for additional materials. They also function as noncorrosive concrete reinforcing, a clear advantage over rust-prone steel. Based on these many benefits, the system has been used to build 23 bridges to date.

These examples demonstrate how lightness—among other material attributes—gives carbon fiber an advantage in construction. But how does this lightness perform when a project also calls for enhanced sustainability?

In a December 2019 Industry Week article, Ray Boeman, director of the Scale-Up Research Facility at the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tenn., explains, “Carbon fiber has the best potential for lightweighting, but takes a lot of energy.” According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a typical CFRP composite requires 800 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) of p
Max Touhey
Bjarke Ingels' firm has completed an extension to the business school at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst with gradually sloping walls that resemble falling dominos.

BIG teamed with Boston firm Goody Clancy, which served as the architect of record to design the extension for the college's Isenberg School of Management.

The 70,000-square-foot (6,503-square-metre) Business Innovation Hub accompanies the original Isenberg building, which was completed in 1964, to provide a flexible space for students and faculty.

Sited on the campus' Haigis Mall, the round addition extends in a circle from the north and eastern facades of the existing rectangular building, and wraps around a courtyard.

"The new Business Innovation Hub at the Isenberg School of Management is conceived as an extension of both the building and the campus mall," said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels in a project statement.

"The linear structure is bent to form a full loop framing an internal courtyard for the life of the students."

BIG designed the fanned design to continue this link between the mall with activities in the hub. The facade comprises thick copper slats and windows, which gradually slope from dramatic angles to an upright position.

"The facade is pulled away in a domino effect to create a generous invitation from the Haigis Mall to the Learning Commons," Ingels added.

"The mall and the courtyard – inside and outside form a forum for the students, the faculty and the profession to meet, mingle and mix society and academia."

Preciosa
Pitched-roof Norwegian barns, urban hi-rises, and heavy metal chains: These are just a few of the unexpected sources of inspiration for new lighting products launched at Euroluce 2019. The international lighting event that runs every two years concurrently with furnishings fair Salone del Mobile wrapped up on Sunday—and once again attracted the global design community with a dizzying array of decorative and architectural lighting. From a lamp that highlights the natural beauty of marble to one that seems to curl right off the wall, here are 15 of our favorite lighting products seen at this year's show.

1. Carousel of Light by Preciosa

Drawing crowds of mesmerized onlookers, installation Carousel of Light by Preciosa showcased the firm’s layering-effect Pearl Curtain. The interactive platform was composed of nearly 8,000 spheres in opal, amber, clear, and pink frosted hues.

2. Fienile by Daniel Rybakken for Luceplan

Consisting of two sizes of indoor table lights and two outdoor floor lights, satin-anodized aluminum Fienile (Italian for barn/hayloft) by Daniel Rybakken for Luceplan references the pitched-roof farm in Norway where Rybakken’s grandfather grew up.

3. Noctambule by Konstantin Grcic for Flos

The interlocking genius of Legos inspired Konstantin Grcic’s hand-blown glass Noctambule for Flos. As a single module, the cylindrical LED lamp is a lantern. Stacked, the modules transform into a dramatic statement piece—either light column or suspended chandelier.

4. La Plus Belle by Philippe Starck for Flos

“Flos turned on the light around the mirror and Snow White appeared,” says designer Philippe Starck of La Plus Belle, his LED-wrapped mirror for Flos.

5. Gioia by Andrea Anastasio for Foscarini

Marble is framed—and its natural beauty pronounced—by transparent acrylic in Gioia, a wall-mounted lamp by Andrea Anastasio for Foscarini.
Gensler
Amenities with the greatest impact on effectiveness and experience are those that directly support the work needs of individual employees and their teams.

When we think of workplace amenities, only the truly extraordinary or extremely whimsical tend to stand out: the ping-pong tables, the nap pods, the pinball machines, the chef-driven lunches.

While these kinds of office perks can be useful signifiers of a company’s culture and values, the amenities that support effective work habits tend to go quietly unnoticed, despite their crucial contribution to the office’s overall productivity.

As the office landscape continues to evolve and companies grant their employees more freedom and choice to work where they like, our 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey research shows that the amenities with the greatest impact on effectiveness and experience are those that directly support the work needs of individual employees and their teams.

Not all amenities are created equal, however, and the most meaningful amenities are those that really speak to the business and the employees’ expertise, while also offering a variety of workspaces and modes.

Amenities with a non-work focus like lounges and break rooms only create a minor improvement in an employee’s experience at work—and they have an even smaller impact on employee effectiveness. On the other hand, employees who have access to spaces designed for team collaboration, ad-hoc group meetings, or individual focus work reported much higher effectiveness and experience scores.

What’s more, we’re seeing that choice itself can be an important amenity. What should be obvious now in our work-everywhere culture is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to how and where people do their best work. Take, for example, the work café. Compared to a breakroom or lounge, a work café borrows elements from hospitality and co-working spaces to offer a productive environment, as well as a change of scenery from one’s regular desk. According to our findings, having a variety of workspaces to choose from is directly connected to a great workplace experience.



‘Employees who have access to spaces designed for team collaboration, ad-hoc group meetings, or individual focus work reported much higher effectiveness and experience scores.’
— Amanda Carroll, IIDA, CID, LEED AP, Gensler

Likewise, an innovation hub or makerspace can offer employees the resources they need to work in a different mode. When you’re a spirits company, installing a bar in your office might seem like an obvious way to embrace the culture, but at Campari Group’s new North American headquarters in New York, four distinct bar-like experiences offer more than just a place for employees and guests to blow off steam. In Campari’s completely open workplan, these spaces provide employees with an alternate setting away from their workstations and conference rooms, while also fully immersing them in the brand.

The Concierge bar, for instance, pulls double duty as a reception area where guests can enjoy an espresso with stand-up service like traditional coffee shops in Italy. The Café bar is where employees gather for meals while enjoying striking views of New York City and Bryant Park below. Additionally, the office space features the “Campari Academy,” which serves as an innovation lab where master mixologists and visiting brand ambassadors can experiment and create new craft cocktails.

The Boulevardier lounge, with its nearly 100-year-old reclaimed wood bar, vintage chandelier, and hand-sketched portraits of master bartenders, speaks specifically to Campari’s place in New York's cocktail culture and provides the ideal setting for more engaging business meetings.

When evaluating which workplace amenities are worth the investment, there’s one key factor to remember: the most effective amenities aren’t designed to escape work—they’re designed to support the employees’ freedom to work where they like while instilling them with a sense of pride for the values, heritage, and future of the company.
Carrier Johnson
Aside from equipment innovations, the building industry has remained largely unchanged for the last 100 years. Beginning about 10 years ago with building information modeling (BIM) software that began to change, said Daniel Reeves, president of the San Diego–based community and government affairs consultancy Juniper Strategic Advisory, who served as moderator of a ULI San Diego/Tijuana event in March.

Like other business sectors, innovative technology is having a disruptive impact on building construction, operations, and management, according to event presenters, who discussed new technology used to cut time for project due diligence; make cost estimates accurate and construction more precise; improve building operations and efficiency; and enhance tenant engagement, comfort, and satisfaction.

Scoutred

San Diego–based Scoutred offers software that simplifies and speeds up early-stage due diligence for real estate developers and their associates, reducing time for research from days to a few minutes, said founder Alexander Rolek. He explained that Scoutred organizes property information on millions of parcels in San Diego County and visualizes the data in a report designed to help parties make informed decisions.

Simply put in the parcel address and receive an immediate report that details property and zoning information, including subdivision name, parcel size, legal description, the owner’s name and address, tax assessment, map location, use type, building height limits, floor/area ratio (FAR), and setbacks. This information is exported to a PDF format, which also includes the following: a high-resolution aerial photo; zoning and other applicable overlays, such as parking and mass transit; a description of the community plan; details on the property’s attributes and any improvements; and all permits pulled on the property on record with the city.

Willow

Based in Sydney, Australia, Willow, a global software developer, is focused on creating easy-to-use systems that facilitate smart building construction, optimize building performance, enhance user experience, and open new streams of revenue by turning data into value.

The company has partnered with Microsoft to create Willow Twin, a scalable platform that leverages the power of the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence to create 2-D or 3-D digital, geometrically accurate replicas of real estate assets that contain all asset information and live operational data.

“Data is the new gold,” said Casey Mahon, digital coordinator, Willow North America, explaining that the program collects building data and uses them to transform a structure into a living, evolving asset that learns from experience. The program harnesses building data, tracking user behavior and building performance to improve the tenant experience and drive savings through actionable insights and predictive maintenance.

Five years ago, Willow partnered with Investa, one of Australia’s largest developers, owners, and managers of commercial real estate, to develop Willow Twin 2.0, an intelligent digital twin that integrates 3-D visualization with data to allow a building to learn to operate itself efficiently.

Over time, the system learns to effectively manage energy and other resources used by assets: using data analytics and intuitive reporting, it improves assets’ triple bottom line by increasing their cash value while reducing their impact on the environment.

Since then, Willow and Investa have used Willow Digital and Willow Twin to innovate multiple areas of building development and operations, ranging from complex digital design and construction management to use of intelligent digital twins to manage buildings efficiently and enhance the tenant experience.

Mahon noted that Willow Digital 2.0 identifies which assets to track long-term, and lessons learned can be applied across an entire portfolio using Willow Scan, an OR, code-driven solution designed to identify and manage all assets in a portfolio.

​It also provides a completion tracker and model auditor that validates subcontractor and data, including operations and manuals, asset registers, and warranty information and gathers and stores operational manuals for the building or infrastructure network, which Mahon stresses is especially important when handing off building management to a n
MIT Mediated Matter Group
the aguahoja pavilion — this tall, honey-skinned cocoon structure — is composed of the most abundant biopolymers on the planet. molecules found in insect exoskeletons, tree branches and yes, even components found in our own bones were printed by a robot, shaped by water and formed into this organic tower by MIT media lab’s mediated matter group — a team of researchers led by neri oxman.

it looks sort of insecty, sort of leafy, orange, yellow and brown, with milky white bones hugging it all together for now… but heat, humidity, light and time will of course run their course on these water-based materials. programmable or not, fabricated-digitally and printed robotically or not — from dust to dust and from water to water, these organisms will serve their purpose then vanish to create something else — unlike the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year. only about 10% of that will vanish.

aguahoja was created by researchers at the MIT media lab’s mediated matter group, led by neri oxman. within this project: a pavilion and a wall of artifacts. what you’ve seen thus far, the tall leaf-like cocoon, is the aguahoja pavilion, which replicates nature in its appearance and, more impressively, its life-cycle. ‘[aguahoja’s] environmentally responsive biocomposite artifacts are composed of the most abundant materials on our planet – cellulose, chitosan, and pectin. these components are parametrically compounded, functionally graded, and digitally fabricated to create biodegradable composites with functional, mechanical, and optical gradients across length scales ranging from millimeters to meters. in life, these materials modulate their properties in response to heat and humidity; in death, they dissociate in water to fuel new life.’

‘in old growth forests and coral reefs, waste is virtually non-existent,’ says the mediated matter group. ‘within this framework, matter produced by one member of an ecosystem, living or nonliving, inevitably fuels the lifecycle of another. the result is a system fueled by water with unparalleled efficiency in the use of energy and resources. this cycle of birth, adaptation, and decay allows ecosystems to use materials in perpetuity’. the environments we build are rarely as natural or as efficient as coral reefs. instead, we extract materials from earth faster than they can grow. we build things that outlive their functions, then throw them under a rug of land or dump them in the water as we turn the other way to begin looking for more materials to prematurely extract and use for a short while.

adjacent to the pavilion, environmentally responsive biocomposites line the wall in a crescendo of color: ‘the aguahoja artifacts.’ glossy, dense, soft, brittle, strong and tough as leather — each material responds very differently to environmental factors, but all of them respond nonetheless. some get cold and hot easily. others darken and lighten as the seasons change. humidity is a catalyst for all of them in life, and in death they all dissociate in water and return to the ecosystem. chitin, for example, may go on to compose the exoskeletons of crustaceans, or the cell walls of fungi.

WEISS/MANFREDI
hanks to an historic gift to the University of Toronto from Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the soon-to-be built Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will accelerate innovation in Toronto and Canada by creating the country’s largest university-based innovation node. The $100-million investment is the largest donation in U of T’s history and the largest gift ever to the Canadian innovation sector.

The gift will help construct a 750,000-square-foot complex designed to anchor U of T’s unique cluster of world-leading artificial intelligence scientists and biomedical experts, its world-class entrepreneurship network, and the country’s largest concentration of student- and faculty-led startups.

The gift will also support the launch of the newly conceived Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, whose mission will be to explore and address the ethical and societal implications of AI and other emerging technologies. The Institute will facilitate cross-disciplinary research and collaboration and will draw on U of T’s signature strengths in the sciences, humanities and social sciences to explore the benefits and challenges that AI, biotechnology, and other technological advances present for our economy, our society and our day-to-day lives.

The Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will occupy one of Toronto’s most iconic locations, the northeast corner of College and Queen’s Park.

Designed by WEISS/MANFREDI, the Centre will be a showcase for “innovation architecture.” The Centre’s layout will feature vertical gardens, soaring atria and collaborative spaces and will promote intellectual exchange and invite the public to take part in events and interact with scholars and innovators. U of T expects the building’s engaging spaces to host thousands of researchers, investors, industry partners and international visitors annually.

In addition to opening up the university to the city, the centre will stimulate economic growth by capitalizing on U of T’s research and innovation prowess and providing space for smaller Canadian companies to grow.

“For the first time, the University of Toronto will have a central facility where young entrepreneurs and faculty can dream big,” says Scott Mabury, vice-president operations & real estate partnerships. “These flagship buildings will have purpose-built spaces for innovation and provide much-needed room for research-based scale-up companies, which will help to keep Canadian ideas and talent in Canada.”

The Centre will be constructed in two phases. The first phase will be a 250,000-square-foot, 12-storey tower, while the second phase will be a 500,000-square-foot, 20-storey tower.

The first tower will house, among other initiatives, the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a world leader in deep learning and machine learning research. It will also house the newly conceived Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society.
IACC
The construction industry is responsible for a large percentage of carbon emissions. From sourcing to design to material manufacturing to building construction, the carbon dioxide output from projects around the world has a significant environmental impact. This has led to sustainable construction innovations that not only reduce the production of carbon dioxide, but also improve a building’s longevity, reduce energy bills and increase the use of natural light. Here is a list of some innovative construction materials and ideas that could revolutionize the industry and help us build a more sustainable future.

Transparent wood

Swedish researchers have turned wood into a material that is 85 percent transparent by compressing strips of wood veneer and replacing lignin with polymer. This product is light but just as strong as natural wood. It can be an eco-friendly alternative to glass and plastic.

When used to build homes, transparent wood will reduce the need for artificial lighting, plus it is biodegradable.

Transparent wood

Swedish researchers have turned wood into a material that is 85 percent transparent by compressing strips of wood veneer and replacing lignin with polymer. This product is light but just as strong as natural wood. It can be an eco-friendly alternative to glass and plastic.

When used to build homes, transparent wood will reduce the need for artificial lighting, plus it is biodegradable.

Hydrogel

The Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona is leading the way in reducing the use of air conditioning by using hydrogel to create walls that can cool themselves. The architects are placing hydrogel bubbles in between ceramic panels that can be installed into existing walls.

Inspired by the human body’s ability to cool itself, the hydrogel can absorb water when the air around it gets hot and starts to evaporate. This can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees Celsius, so you don’t have to keep the A/C cranking non-stop during the summer.

Super-hydrophobic cement

Recently, scientists have found a way to alter cement’s microstructure in a way that makes it absorb and reflect light. This finding has led to the creation of super-hydrophobic cement, or luminescent cement, which could replace traditional street lights and the energy they consume.
Interior Design Media
Interior Design’s very first Innovation Conference just wrapped up at the NeueHouse in New York City and there is a lot to talk about. Editor in Chief Cindy Allen hosted the conference and moderated the day's discussions, uniting a broad range of design disciplines under the central theme of Innovation. "After 'Millennials', innovation seems to be the most popular word used today, but what does it actually mean?" asked Cindy. "That's what we're here to find out."

Attendees were treated to an immersive day of intriguing perspectives on topics that included the future of retail, new frontiers for sustainability, and the value of incorporating design thinking into other departments within the corporate environment. Here, we’ve summarized the top details of the conference, held in partnership with Interface, as well as the speakers’ most notable observations. Check back tomorrow for a full recap of the event and throughout the week for more in-depth coverage of all the exciting ideas that were discussed.

Nike’s Byron Merritt Offers Keynote on the Retail-Digital Convergence

Byron Merritt, Nike’s global vice president of retail innovation, delivered the keynote speech. In his address, “The Convergence of Digital and Physical,” Merritt clued attendees in to what it takes to meet the unique challenges posed by the rapidly-changing retail landscape and still come out ahead of the curve.

“For us at Nike, retail isn't dead. Boring retail is dead,” he asserted. “Increasingly this is about the convergence of digital and physical. It's about leveraging digital technologies to enhance the physical products that you make.”

Merritt went on to detail how the company has used the best of product and interactive digital media design to inspire customers to engage both online and in-store. His examples ranged from the Nike by Melrose store, a 100 percent data-driven store cued into the buying behavior of L.A. consumers, to the New York City Nike by You studio, an immersive in-store product customization experience.

His advice to anyone looking to come out on top of the digital and brick-and-mortar reckoning? “Keep pace with how consumers are experiencing the world today.”

Sustainability Panel on Overcoming Fear with Pro-Active Practices

The Interface Panel assembled to discuss what lies ahead for sustainable built environments. The talk was moderated by Pamela McNall
Civil + Structural Engineer
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized 30 clean water infrastructure projects for excellence and innovation within the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program. Honored projects include large wastewater infrastructure projects to small decentralized and agriculture projects.

“The Clean Water State Revolving Fund plays an integral role in advancing the President’s infrastructure agenda, providing communities with low-interest loans so that they can modernize aging infrastructure, create local jobs, and better protect public health and the environment,” said EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator Dave Ross. “The scale and complexity of the 2018 PISCES recognized projects represent the determination, coordination, and creativity our partners put forth to achieve their water quality goals.”

The CWSRF is a federal EPA-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. Over the past 31 years, CWSRF programs have provided more than $132 billion in financing for water quality infrastructure.

EPA’s Performance and Innovation in the SRF Creating Environmental Success (PISCES) program celebrates innovation demonstrated by CWSRF programs and assistance recipients. Thirty projects by state or local governments, public utilities, and private entities were recognized by the 2018 PISCES program:

Exceptional Project

Five projects received Exceptional designations:

Wilmington Renewable Energy and Biosolids Facility (Delaware) — The City of Wilmington’s wastewater treatment facility received a $36 million CWSRF loan to construct a renewable energy and biosolids facility for its treatment plant. This new facility captures previously flared methane gas from the plant’s anaerobic digester and gas from a nearby landfill and uses it to to power two reciprocating internal combustion engines that generate 4 megawatts of electricity. This offsets the treatment facility’s electricity needs by 90 percent. The thermal energy from the engines is used to heat a sludge thermal dryer, which reduces 140 wet tons of daily biosolids by nearly 80 percent to reach about 30 dry tons of biosolids. These reductions in electricity and solid waste disposal costs are estimated to save the city $16.7 million over 20 years.

This project also sponsored a $3.4 million CWSRF
Daniel Luis Martinez and Etien Santiago
Nowadays, architects seem to think that only structure and material research are hip and cool.

When did the fabricators take over the avant-garde? It seems that to be hip and cool in architecture these days, you have to work with six-axis robots, weaving pavilions out of carbon fiber, fiber, or even concrete in shapes that highlight the weirdness of the materials. You have to make forms that are odd in appearance, not only because they reject centuries of how we use form and structure to shelter ourselves, but because the logic of your distributed stresses and algorithmically defined planes dictate such apparitions. If you want to consider yourself as fighting on the barricades of new architecture without engaging in throwing parametric bombs, your only alternative is to create spaces that are meant to attract performances and social actions the likes of which you can’t quite define but that will happen exactly because your architecture is so open and loosely defined.

I had not realized how far the fabricators had gotten in taking over what I always thought was the fun part of architecture until I attended a symposium in Columbus, Ind., recently. That home to decades of experimentation in architecture, many of whose masterpieces were made possible through the patronage of the late J. Irwin Miller, has hosted only mediocrity in recent years, at least in terms of permanent and functioning buildings. On the other hand, Columbus is now the site for a biennial set of installations festooned mainly around the downtown landmarks. The conference I attended was a presentation of the designs that the organizers, Exhibit Columbus, will work to construct towards an August 2019 opening of the latest presentation.

There will be several groups of designs to see when the exhibition opens, the most prominent of which are six projects by academics who work with their students—and labs—to create site-specific installations. These are stringiest, swoopiest, and most bizarrely made of the lot. The other main category of installations consists of five J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize winners, who receive larger budgets to create designs that tended more towards the stage-set end of things.
Clayco
Clayco has hired two digital and innovation executives: Matthew Porter as chief innovation officer and Simona Rollinson as chief information officer. Porter will oversee all aspects of technology at Clayco, continuing to drive the company’s message and implementation of innovation forward in the design-build industry, while Rollinson will be responsible for overseeing all elements of the information technology function.

“We are pleased to have Matthew and Simona joining our team,” said Robert G. Clark, chairman and CEO of Clayco. “Their skills and past experiences in the ever-changing technology landscape will help Clayco expand our capabilities to deliver the best approach in the industry.”

Porter will oversee traditional IT entities such as service and storage and search for new ways to integrate IT into Clayco’s day-to-day operations through new technologies such as virtual construction and augmented reality. With more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry, he most recently served as Clayco’s interim chief information officer while leading the effort to hire a permanent CIO. Seeing Porter’s experience and unique perspective he brought to advance the company, Clayco created the role of chief innovation officer for him.

“I am overwhelmingly excited to join Clayco. There is a staggering amount of opportunity to amplify Clayco’s core business through technology and disrupt the industry,” said Porter. “One of the best ways to expand a business is by bringing IT and future industry plans together, and I look forward to working with Clayco to create a new standard in the field.”

One of Porter’s key goals as he begins in his new role is to break down silos across the construction landscape. Particularly, he hopes to make data accessible throughout the construction process to ensure that the best tools are available to the marketplace, creating a seamless process from the moment planning begins to the moment the keys are handed over to a building’s owner.

Rollinson will spend much of her time working with Porter, planning to outline a strategic roadmap in the technology space, and identify new opportunities that will allow Clayco to develop innovative initiatives. She comes to Clayco with more than 20 years of experience as a technology professional. Following 17 years in the private sector at a software company, she spent four years in the public sector before joining Clayco.

“Throughout my career, I have enjoyed working with sectors that are approaching a time of disruption, and I believe Clayco is ready to lead the charge in the construction sector,” said Rollinson. “There is so much opportunity to advance within the industry, and I look forward to creating new opportunities with Clayco.”

As Rollinson begins her tenure at Clayco she is planning to outline a strategic roadmap in the technology space and establish an IT investment council, as well as identify new opportunities that will allow Clayco to develop innovative initiatives that change the field.
NikolaVukojevic /iStock
Design leaders at Microsoft, Google, Ideo, Pentagram, Gensler, and more weigh in.

Everyone is overworked and unhappy. Digital platforms have sucked the last of our attention and sanity. If you read the headlines in 2018, you’d have every reason to feel pessimistic about the future.

But the design experts we talked to–from companies such as Microsoft, Google, Ideo, and Forrester–offer a glimmer of hope. As they look forward to 2019, they agree on one thing: The cold, corporate thinking that has defined the business world over the past several years doesn’t jive with how people want to live. In 2019, people will be more than mere data points; it’s a designer’s job to make sure of it. Here are nine key design predictions for 2019.

WE’LL FOCUS ON FOCUS

“Design has journeyed into uncharted territory. The impact of technology is more strongly felt than ever and at scales never seen before—some of it positive, but much of it negative. We’re distracted, depressed, and overwhelmed. The digital experiences that were once fun, delightful, and helpful now feel like a burden; an always-on state that we hope to escape.

“In 2019, I believe design needs to be the answer to that escape. We need to take a hard look in the mirror and hold ourselves accountable to the unintended consequences of rapid innovation. Do we need 1 million new apps a year? Do we need to design for constant engagement? Do we need to live in the corners of Dark UX? We do not. We need to be more intentional and design experiences that support cognitive sustainability for individuals, groups, and society. It’s time now for designers to take on this ethical responsibility. The biggest design trend will be a return to mindfulness and focus.” —Albert Shum, corporate VP of design, Microsoft
AECbytes
SHoP Architects, a young, award-winning architecture firm with an innovative design approach, shares its perspective on AEC technology in this Firm Profile.

What is the history and background of the firm?

SHoP Architects was founded twenty years ago to harness the power of diverse expertise in the design of buildings and environments that improve the quality of public life. Our inclusive, open-minded process allows us to effectively address a broad range of issues in our work: from novel programmatic concepts, to next-generation fabrication and delivery techniques, to beautifully crafted spaces that precisely suit their functions. Years ago, we set out to prove that intelligent, evocative architecture can be made with real-world constraints. Today, our interdisciplinary staff of 180 is implementing that idea at critical sites around the world. We are proud that our studio has been recognized with awards such as Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Architecture Firm in the World” in 2014, and the Smithsonian/Cooper Hewitt’s “National Design Award for Architecture” in 2009.

What is the firm's current focus? What are the key projects it is working on?

Since 1996, SHoP has modelled a new way forward with our unconventional approach to design. At the heart of the firm’s methodology is a willingness to question accepted patterns of practice, coupled with the courage to expand, where necessary, beyond the architect’s traditional roles. We are proud to have worked with clients such as Google, Goldman Sachs, and the United States Department of State. A snapshot of our current work includes a 1,400 ft Manhattan skyscraper at 111 W57th Street; the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York; 447 Collins, located in the heart of Melbourne’s Central Business District; the Botswana Innovation Hub in Gaborone; the Syracuse University National Veterans’ Resource Complex; and Uber’s new headquarter offices in San Francisco (Figure 1).

When did the firm start using AEC technology, and how is it being used today? How important is AEC technology to the firm?

At the heart of our process is set of evolving tools and techniques that have come to be known as Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). In a multi-dimensional environment, VDC is the process of digitally simulating the complexities of a design project under the lens of construction processes. This can include geometric rationalization, systems development/fabrication, logistics analysis and cost estimation, from concept through construction (or fabrication through assembly). The VDC workflow leverages emerging, cloud-based technologies to promote collaboration throughout all phases of design, production and building operation. SHoP has been a long-time pioneer of building information modeling (BIM), bolstered by Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) processes, a focus which has resulted in unparalleled architectural results under challenging delivery environments. SHoP identity has always embraced technology as a means to magnify creativity without sacrificing rigorous quality standards. SHoP views technology as a tool to embolden the rich nature of human collaboration. Some examples of SHoP’s technology implementation are shown in Figures 2, 3, and 4.

Does the firm have a specific approach and/or philosophy to AEC technology? If so, what is it?

For nearly two decades, SHoP has pioneered architectural design, encouraging owners, architects and contractors alike to form strategic relationships and deliver built work. The reason we do this is simple. By demystifying the process of construction, by presenting complex processes in a manner that even non-specialists can immediately comprehend, we can access the knowledge of every stakeholder in real-time. The result is broader, more fruitful, more fluid, and far more equitable collaborations. And that means better-performing buildings.

What are some of the main challenges the firm faces in its implementation of AEC technology?

A major challenge is that the standard AEC toolkit is not robust enough to facilitate the federated way that we should be working. We should have much more control over the pieces, parts and products, and their respective lifecycles, within a portfolio of projects. The platform should facilitate parallel processing as opposed to a linear construction. Our design work, in collaboration with all trades and stakeholders, should result in a digital twin of the project that can be meaningfully leveraged for the delivery of the project. Traditional
VIATechnik
The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is ripe for disruption, and emerging technologies are poised to usher in a new era of increased design and construction productivity, quality, and efficiency. While many members of the industry have been slow to embrace change, firms like The Lamar Johnson Collaborative (LJC) are setting a stellar example of what a forward-thinking AEC firm should look like.

LJC may only be just over five months old, but as founder Lamar Johnson says: “It’s been 20 years in the making.” Johnson launched his new firm with the idea of bringing together the very best people he’s worked with over the past two decades. This people-first philosophy endowed the firm with a depth of experience and range of capabilities that allowed them to hit the ground running and tackle large-scale, complex projects right out of the gate. Moreover, it gives them a unique perspective into the changes caused by recent technological advances.

Last month Anton Dy Buncio (COO, VIATechnik) and Gregg Young (Board of Advisors, VIATechnik) sat down with Johnson, Tod Desmarais (Managing Director at LJC), and Mariusz Klemens (Associate, Architect and Urban Designer at LJC) to talk innovation, tech, and the future of the AEC industry — here’s what they all had to say.

Anton Dy Buncio (ADB): These days, everyone is talking about autonomous vehicles, coworking/coliving, prefabrication, machine learning/AI…what do these technologies bring to the table, and what are the limitations?

Lamar Johnson (LJ): We built our firm around the idea of integrating technology into the architecture and design process in a holistic and authentic way. Of course, technology allows us to implement a vision and respond to issues more efficiently, but it doesn’t necessarily compel us to think differently. We still have to do that ourselves. Technology can empower us; it can supplement our thinking; it can make us more nimble; it can help us deliver our ideas in a more complete and effective manner. At the end of the day, however, it’s the energy, effort, and brain power that people put into projects that really make the difference.

When you combine that mindset with the power of cutting-edge technology, you can achieve really great things. It requires a lot of confidence — in both yourself and your technology — to raise unasked questions or suggest unexpected or innovative solutions, but we’re not afraid of presenting something unbelievable, because we know that what we’re doing works.

ADB: To that end, AEC has a reputation as a generally risk-averse industry, and yet you guys seem to be very comfortable with taking risks. Why is that?

LJ: I’d say that there are two sides to risk. In some situations, you take on much greater risk by doing nothing. Inactivity is a decision, and it can create a lot of risk in and of itself. If you fail to adapt or react to a changing environment, that’s taking the worst risk of all.

But it’s also important to note that “risk” is not a gamble. A gamble involves unknown odds; it’s taking a chance or a guess. Proper risk assessment entails a careful review of a situation, an analysis you then use to make an informed judgement. We do take risks — and so do our clients — but we thoroughly evaluate them beforehand.