Aqua Tower, with its wavy exterior and Lake Michigan views, is open now in Chicago’s Lakeshore East community. For a fascinating perspective on the 82-story apartment/condo/office tower, and a profile of the architect, Jeanne Gang, of Studio Gang Architects, check out The New Yorker (Feb. 1, 2010 edition).
Aqua Tower is getting a wave of good reviews for many reasons, but its most obvious attribute is the undulating cantilevered balconies, which change slightly from floor to floor, forming a curvaceous façade that also shades apartments and protects the building and balcony sitters when Chicago’s hawk talks (that’s Chicagoan for “oooh, it’s so windy”). No two balconies are alike. There’s also a big rooftop garden. And LEED certification is being pursued.
Condos range from about $300,000 to $2 million; rents start around $1,500 per month.
Says The New Yorker, “It reclaims the notion that thrilling and beautiful form can still emerge out of the realm of the practical.” And it calls Gang an “anti-diva” for the building’s lack of conceit.
Some critics and bloggers complain, though, that the balconies are gimmicky ornaments disguising a traditional box structure. Indeed, The New Yorker notes Aqua is “an ordinary glass condo tower” turned into something exciting. What do you think? Let us know.
(Note: Almost a month after this post was published, Aqua Tower was named 2009 Skyscraper of the Year, an annual award issued by Emporis.)
I once worked at a company housed in the second floor of an old mill building. You might be thinking “lovely renovated office space with high ceilings and tons of character.” You’d be wrong. The building was dirt-cheap chic and the only character it had was a homeless man who slept in the unoccupied first floor.
Our office space consisted of shoddily constructed half-walls and an eclectic mix of broken down desks, wobbly chairs—and, most important of all, space heaters. In winter, there’d be miniature snowdrifts on the window sill, and you could see your breath until 10 a.m. We never had temperature wars in that office. We just cranked the thermostat as high as it would go, and our space heaters, too.
Granted, ours was an extreme case. But recent IFMA research shows that complaints about the temperature top the list of common office grievances. Facilities managers say they get an almost equal number of complaints about the office being too hot or too cold.
This is a big deal because there’s a positive correlation between comfort and productivity. Unfortunately, it’s tough to keep everybody happy and comfortable all the time. As any facility manager will tell you, often the person complaining about the office being too hot is sitting right next to the person complaining about it being too cold.
Facility managers do the best they can, but when it’s not enough, people do what they have to do. They use space heaters (frowned upon because of the fire hazard), heating pads, personal fans, supplemental clothing and, in one case reported in the research, a small wading pool under the desk in which the worker could “paddle” his feet to cool them off.
Herman Miller has a sweet and sensible alternative that uses 90% less energy than space heaters. C2 climate control uses advanced thermal electric technology to provide heating and cooling in a single unit. Someday I’d like a C2 for my home office, but for now I use a foot warmer to stay warm. What’s your solution?
Did you know that a huge problem for hospitals right now is in med dispensing rooms–nurses giving the wrong drugs to patients, often as a result of poor working conditions, such as cramped, inefficiently designed spaces?
Or that college classrooms are being looked at in entirely new ways because of how technology influences learning in high school these days?
I learned about both of those issues–and a lot of other interesting things, too–by working on Herman Miller case studies. Case studies are short summaries about a particular challenge a customer was having and how furniture and/or design solved the problem.
I find these solutions to be quite fascinating. For example, there is a company in Vermont that turns giant truck trailers into fully-equipped, high-tech mobile health care units, where doctors perform everything from surgeries to eye exams. They’re shipped all over the world to meet a variety of needs–from hospitals requiring temporary operating rooms to war zones and disaster areas.
If you’re a designer, you should check it out. It will help you keep up with what’s going on in the world – and keep learning. After all, isn’t that what libraries are for?
Tom Newhouse walks the environmental talk. From the earth-bermed, passive solar house and studio that he designed and built in 1978 to his recreational choices (kayaking, hiking, and snowshoeing—“all human-powered activities”), Tom has lived his ethos despite the shifting winds of fad and cultural consciousness. Sustainability is part of the “Four Corners Philosophy” of design from which he operates. According to Tom, products should be: aesthetically pleasing, sustainable, ergnomic, and cost-effective. Tom works primarily in the areas of home and office furniture, kitchens, and lighting. His most recent design for Herman Miller was the Flute personal light.
Here are seven questions for Tom Newhouse: Read more
That’s the question Herman Miller is asking full-time students attending 2-or 4-year U.S. colleges or universities for our first video contest offered exclusively to them. We’re encouraging them to document the places–on or off campus–that best support their learning.
Since learning can take place anywhere, we’re hoping to see a variety of entries that are creative, fun or serious—all from the perspective of students. The results will help promote discussion among higher education professionals about the rapidly changing needs of students and how higher education facilities can respond to those needs.
To get their attention, Herman Miller partnered with senior graphic design students at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to develop graphics for the contest website and its Facebook event page. Barbara Loveland, Interim Director of the Gwen Frostic School of Art at Western Michigan, led the group of students who worked on the contest graphics and believes that it makes sense that students design for students. “This experience also allows students to learn something fun and build their portfolio, which will be helpful to them in the real world,” she adds.
The 2010 Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) Annual Conference in Austin, Texas proved to be the hot spot for higher education professionals last week. Focusing on the theme “Learning Environments for a Web 2.0 World,” they were seeking how to best utilize the latest technological tools to enhance their students’ experience on campus.
Once again, Herman Miller’s Education Solutions team was a sponsor for the event, offering attendees the opportunity to experience how our furniture can address the needs of today’s more collaborative and interactive learning environment.
A host of educational sessions focused on the benefits of utilizing popular social networking tools, such as Second Life and Google Wave, to connect students from around the world in a more real-time and personable way. Mobile learning sessions provided an in-depth look at how the wildly popular iPod Touch has been used effectively on Abilene Christian University’s campus. It was exciting to engage with faculty and administrators on the cutting edge of what’s next in higher education.
As Herman Miller continues to be a resource to higher education professionals in the holistic design of learning spaces, our Education Solutions team will always value the unique insights we gain from participating in the ELI annual conference.
I don’t envy designers their task of deciding which fabrics and finishes to choose for furniture. With so many choices and constraints to deal with, I hear it can be a complex and frustrating process. But it’s also typically the favorite part of their job because it’s a chance to get creative. So to make things easier, more gratifying, and more fun, Herman Miller revamped its Materials Program. They’ve made it simple, logical, and closely aligned with how designers and specifiers like to think about and use materials.
In addition to the online Materials Program, Herman Miller developed a new way for designers to interact with the choices the company offers. The Materials Collection, a sensibly-sized, permanently bound, recyclable set of books, contains complete swatch presentations for the entire textile and finish offering. The Collection is housed in four Baltic birch plywood slipcases. Nice. Reliable. Easy to use. So easy even a writer could do it. Read more
Herman Miller’s Black Inclusiveness Resource Team—one of seven employee networks that work to implement business recommendations for a diverse workplace—sponsored the bowl painting opportunity in cooperation with our Inclusiveness and Diversity Team.
Our employees displayed great artistic ability in the 98 bowls painted in one day. This was our way of recognizing MLK Day as a “day of action”—doing an activity that benefits the community.
Coretta Scott King sums up the spirit of the event well: “The greatest birthday gift my husband could receive is if people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds celebrated the holiday by performing individual acts of kindness through service to others.”
Last week I was part of a group of Herman Miller employees from various Inclusiveness Resource Teams (IRTs) who attended a luncheon honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of the annual Civil Rights Celebration Week at Hope College. It’s the fifth year in a row that Herman Miller has sponsored the event.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Lawrence J. Pijeaux, Jr., President and CEO, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Dr. Pijeaux’s presentation, “MLK and Birmingham: Turning Point of the Civil Rights Movement,” brought to mind that impactful and powerful movements are often attributed to an individual or at most a few individuals, when in reality it is the words and actions of many that lead to the resulting change. This is also true in the business world. The CEO or president of a company may set the strategy for its success, but it is the many employees who execute the strategy that make it a reality.
At Herman Miller, I have seen the impact of the average employee as we focus on our strategy to work for a better world. Our IRTs and Inclusiveness and Diversity team have expanded our awareness of the uniqueness of each individual through education programs, policy changes, and access to more resources. We have made amazing progress toward our environmentally-focused 2020 goals through the work of more than 400 employees. And our safety incident rate has steadily declined because of the decisions made every day by every employee.
Like other sixteen year olds, my son writes a history paper, texts his girlfriend, and plays Battlefield II on his computer—all at the same time.
Me: You can’t possibly do all three well. Him: Practice makes perfect. Me: Riiiiight. Him: <shrug>
New research is on his side (darn it). René Marois, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University is co-author of a study on multitasking. Marois says there are two major ways tasks can interfere with one another: If they both require concentration (we’re bad at splitting our attention effectively) or if they make demands on the same neural resources, e.g., trying to carry on two conversations at the same time. His study focused on the former and showed how people can become efficient multitaskers when tasks require less attention.
“Our results imply the fundamental reason we are lousy multitaskers is because our brains process each task slowly, creating a bottleneck at the central stage of decision making,” he says. With practice, we can learn to process more quickly.
Researchers on another project asked a different question: Does multitasking affect your ability to concentrate when you aren’t multitasking? They tested the concentration of students who multitask frequently and other students who multitask but not all the time. The three tests measured students’ ability to ignore irrelevant information, organize items, and switch tasks. Each test required the students to do only one thing at a time. Students who spent less time multitasking did better on every test than students who multitask frequently.
Finally, experts agree that no one truly multitasks. Instead, the brain toggles between, say, history paper, Battlefield II, and girlfriend so quickly that it gives the illusion of multitasking. And oh, how we love that illusion.