Posts tagged with "universal design studio":

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A new wave of social and relaxation spaces bridges the gap between work and home

As anyone used to late-night emails knows, the nine-to-five workday is a thing of the past. But while innovative companies have traded cubicles for open, flexible office plans, people are seeking even more elastic social spaces that foster wellness and connection—both in the office and out. Consider them an updated version of the "third space," common areas where people go to unplug, reenergize, and decompress. "When we first got involved in workplace in the '90s, our interest was, ‘How can design contribute to creative communities?’" said architect Clive Wilkinson, whose Los Angeles firm has designed the interiors of the Googleplex campus and offices for other leaders in tech and media. "We were in a prehistoric era when cubicle farms still ruled. We’ve come so far since then," he continued, citing the shift from the afterthought coffee rooms of the 1980s to the "Starbucks workplace" of today’s laptops-and-lattes company cafes. "A large part of the social space in the workplace today is somewhere between a boutique hotel and your home," Wilkinson explained. "Depending on the type of client, it can go more one direction or the other." The aesthetic shift is due in part to the influence of designers like Philippe Starck, whose hospitality designs brought a glamorized domestic environment into public spaces, but it’s also a result of the premium put on today’s knowledge workers, noted Wilkinson, who is writing a history of offices tentatively titled The Theater of Work (Frame Publishers). In one of his firm’s current projects, a new headquarters for Utah bedding-manufacturing company Malouf, an entire building will be designated for nonwork areas, including an Olympic-size swimming pool, barbershop, and spa. It’s not just in the office where people are feeling the change in work culture. "There’s a real flattening now between what is considered work with a capital ‘W’ and all the other side projects that people are interested in," said Richard McConkey, an associate director at Universal Design Studio (UDS). "There's not such a clear division between work, home, life, cultural projects, and hobbies anymore; that's why all these multifunctional spaces are occurring." UDS has developed on a number of projects that blur the lines of live-work-play, including MINI Living, the car brand’s Shanghai entry into the coliving concept of small private spaces surrounding shared semipublic spaces. But the UDS project that perhaps best represents the growing thirst for gathering is London’s Ace Hotel, the lobby of which has been called one of the city’s most popular coworking spots, although it isn’t officially one at all. Ian Schrager’s Public hotel in New York is similar in attracting nonguests to spend their days there, usually with laptop or phone in hand, even during off-business hours. "The classic 'third space' is between work and home,” said architect Melissa Hanley, cofounder, CEO, and principal of San Francisco architecture and interior design firm Blitz. "I think of it as, ‘Where’s the place I naturally gravitate to, because I feel best there?’ That can be a pub or a coffee shop; it could be the decompression or ramping-up zone." To bring that energy back to the workplace, Hanley’s firm has created game rooms and social hubs—it even has a speakeasy in the works for a client. But while the ping-pong tables of the past may have been a distraction, today’s game rooms, cafes, and bars are reflections of a company mission. “Work is happening even in these ancillary spaces. These third spaces we're creating are in support of the company’s bottom line," Hanley said. So what advice would she give to a prospective client? "There's just such an incredible amount of data in support of creating more human-centered spaces in the workplace—the benefits are innumerable." That’s why, from Silicon Valley to Shanghai, there’s a new crop of businesses catering to the need for a retreat somewhere between work and home. Beyond the traditional barbershop, clubhouse, or nail salon, these next-gen spaces tap into the growing wellness trend: Chillhouse, a monthly membership spa in New York, offers massages and manicures in an Instagram-friendly space focused on self-care; Nap York allows visitors to catch a snooze on an Airweave mattress for $10 a half hour. Then there’s Calm City, the roving meditation studio in a renovated RV, founded by Kristin Westbrook. An avid meditator who had trouble finding a private place at her hectic Rockefeller Center office, Westbrook was inspired by the food truck trend to create an oasis of calm for stressed-out New Yorkers located just outside their offices. "I've always wanted a Superman’s phone booth on every corner, a pod that you could go jump in and be transformed," Westbrook said. That break can be a crucial antidote to the stresses of the day. "Human beings are social creatures, and with many of us working longer hours and living alone in large cities, the feelings of loneliness are certainly very real and powerful," wrote Anita Cheung, cofounder of Moment Meditation, a modern mindfulness club in Downtown Vancouver, B.C., in an email to AN. "Membership in a club and a consistent (and manageable) schedule of activities outside of the ‘nine to five’ allow people to develop other facets of their lives beyond who they are at work, as well as instill a greater sense of community." That’s part of the mission of the Battery, a private member’s club in San Francisco that has taken a cue from the social clubs of the past to create a place for connection and conversation—no business or tech talk allowed. "We try to provide a little bit of an escape from your day-to-day operations," said founder Michael Birch, whether it's a moment for a cocktail, a pause between meetings, or just a place for serendipitous conversation. To facilitate that human connection, designer Ken Fulk imagined the interiors as sumptuous settings for the club’s wide range of programming and events—a mix of large, high-energy spaces to be around people, and smaller, more intimate groupings. "I think people are seeking real connection again," Birch said. "People have disappeared a little bit onto the online world. We very much discourage technology use in the club: We don’t allow people to have laptops out after 6 p.m., we don’t allow photos, and we don’t allow people to talk on their telephone other than inside a telephone booth." The relationship between work and life can be even more blurred in spaces that blend the two like never before. Take New York coliving and coworking space The Assemblage, which has two addresses in Manhattan (and a third on the way), as well as The Sanctuary, a retreat center outside Bethel, New York, near the site of the 1969 Woodstock festival. Though workspace is at the core of The Assemblage's offerings, the company encourages members to get out of their offices and connect over communal breakfasts and lunches. It also features "intention altars" and offers wellness programming like meditation, breathwork, and yoga, "all under one roof, so that individuals can experience this fluid living/working and balanced lifestyle," wrote Magdalena Sartori, the company’s chief creative officer. "Erasing that distinction between work and life empowers individuals to create their own schedule and lifestyle," she added. But as we trade the typical greige workplace environment for a more holistic, humanistic approach, are we simply going farther down a work-obsessed rabbit hole from which you can never clock out? When even the workplace pretends to be a third space, one filled with simulacra of the outside world, are we worse off than we were before? Maybe not. If the offices from the Industrial Revolution to the year 2000 were "rehistoric," as Clive Wilkinson put it, how will people look back at the way we work today—with increasing flexibility to break away from our desks—100 years from now? "They’ll think that we woke up, that suddenly this was the beginning of a work age," Wilkinson said of the turn away from military- or factory-inspired workspaces. "We’re almost at the place now where we’ll remain stable for the next 100 or 200 years, because I think humans have finally understood how communities work in a workplace, how they need to support each other and communicate.”
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Universal Design Studio on creating the temporary architecture of Frieze New York

What does it mean to build a museum that lasts for only a week? That’s the challenge faced by the architects and designers who create the structures that house the world’s ever-expanding ecosystem of art fairs—pop-up culture and commerce destinations that bring together hundreds of international galleries and thousands of moneyed collectors from around the globe for little more than a weekend at a time. One of the most prestigious of these shows is Frieze, an offshoot of the London magazine that now boasts fairs in London, New York, and, soon, Los Angeles. And each iteration is no small feat—with more than 40,000 visitors expected over the course of its run, Frieze New York, which is open to the public from May 4 through May 6, attracts more visitors in a weekend than some regional museums do in an entire year. “Normally, you build a building, you open it and that’s it,” says Richard McConkey, associate director at Universal Design Studio—the interiors-minded London architecture firm founded by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby. UDS designed this year’s tent on Randall’s Island and has collaborated with Frieze on its flagship London fair since 2014. In their first design for the New York fair, UDS took lessons from four editions of Frieze London to drastically rethink the exhibition space. And while the massive white tent may look familiar from the outside, the feeling inside is completely different—more like walking through a series of galleries than a wide-open convention center—and that’s precisely the point. Unlike permanent architecture, McConkey says, the design process of these temporary structures is endless, as each year’s iteration yields new learning to be applied to the following fair. It also provides the added pressure of having some the world’s most important contemporary art galleries under one roof, meaning the structure needs to function just as well as a permanent building would for the course of its run——”as much as you can in a tent,” jokes McConkey—even though it goes from “green to built” in just five or six weeks.   In the five years that the fair has taken place on New York’s Randall’s Island, the tent that houses the exhibition had expanded to break two Guinness World Records, one for the largest single-unit marquee and the other for the biggest temporary stage in the world. But for this year’s edition of the New York fair, the team at UDS took a more subtle approach to the space with a brief to eschew the continuous, snaking structure of past fairs for something that felt more intimate, despite spanning some 300,000 square feet. They devised the plan by thinking from the inside out, creating a series of connected buildings that flow one into the next, with blue-chip galleries anchoring the crossroads. Within the space, many of the details are left to the galleries, who choose from a menu of options on everything from wall color to lighting to flooring (the most common area where galleries upgrade, where a specific surface might be needed to accommodate things like sculpture). “The fair is just here as an infrastructure for the galleries,” McConkey explains, coyly underplaying the importance of the structure that makes it all possible. “Our job as architects is to get people here, get the flow going, and get out of the way.” But, that means everything needs to work, down to considerations like the orientation of windows and outdoor spaces, to make sure no direct sunlight ever hits the work on display within the light-filled space. In addition to interior concerns, UDS moved the pavilion closer to the river and reoriented the entrances to enhance natural light and connection to the context of the island—all while understanding that come the end of the fair, no trace could be left behind, not even damage to a tree. Further reducing the structure’s impact on the environment is the fact that it is largely comprised of rented modular units, “a kit of parts, like Lego,” McConkey says. In fact, custom components account for less than ten percent of the structure—mainly the large-scale clerestory windows—a move that does more than cut back on budget, it also means the most pieces, down to the walls that separate the galleries, will be put in storage after disassembly and used again for similar structures by UDS and other firms.   And then it’s right back to the drawing board. As for the next Frieze iteration, says McConkey, it “starts as soon as this thing ends.”
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London’s Frieze Art Fair opens a second pavilion by Universal Design Studio after successful 2014 show

image002 The Frieze Art Fair looks to capitalize on the 55,000 people who thronged a pavilion by Universal Design Studio (UDS) last year by commissioning another. The five-day festival is held in Regent’s Park, London every October. Starting in 2003, Frieze London has quickly grown to become one of the world’s foremost art fairs. A New York outpost began in 2012, held each May on Randall’s Island, Manhattan. For the 2015 pavilion, UDS has used the main construction components of Frieze—membrane, steel, board, and aluminum—to create an appropriate temporary structure. New to the fair this year is a Reading Room which offers a diverse selection of art publications and hosts live events. To entice people into the space, Frieze has collaborated with Petersham Nurseries Restaurant for a pop-up cafe and bar on the mezzanine level overlooking the fair. Aside from the gallery spaces, the design team has sought to give these areas purpose and identity, bringing the park into the surrounding vicinity. This was achieved with the help of careful planting by Hattie Fox of Shoreditch-based That Flower Shop. Clever uses of visual framing emphasize views and encourage people walking through the fair to enter various spaces. We were keen to find ways of bringing the park into the Fair," Jason Holley, a director at UDS, said in a statement. "We achieved this by creating an entrance experience which is in dialogue with the tree canopy, framing and drawing attention to the transition between the Park and Frieze, and through the creation of windows within the restaurant areas that offer glimpses into the park. We are also incorporating planters throughout the Fair which are carefully curated arrangements of plants that directly reference the type of planting found in the park. “Much of our focus in this respect has been on creating a logical flow around the Fair, with widened aisles, connections and turning points – punctuating the journey with the formation of pause points – moments of change," Hanna Carter-Owers, director at UDS, said in a statement. "The galleries are doing a huge volume of business at the Fair and there needs to be consideration to how people and galleries work within the space.”