Better World, Design
March 30, 2011
You are what you eat, right? Peter Williams thinks you are where you live. Give people suitable sanitation, proper ventilation, adequate eaves, like in the award-winning Breathe House design above, and they’ll be healthier. And they won’t need drugs to manage many of the diseases that attack them, such as tuberculosis.
Williams is founder and executive director of ARCHIVE (Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments). He’s working to increase awareness of the link between housing and health. It’s a connection that can make a difference: in many of the world’s cities, one in six people live in overcrowded, unstable structures that lack adequate sanitation.
At a recent event at Herman Miller’s National Design Centre in London, Williams spoke about ARCHIVE’s mission to combat diseases by making architecture central to a systemic process of improving lives. And with projects such as Kay e Sante nan Ayiti (Creole for “Housing and Health in Haiti”), he’s showing how we can all participate in creating a better world.
Photo via ARCHIVE
Kay e Sante nan Ayiti competition
1st Place Entry: Breathe House
Anselmo Canfora (assistant professor of architecture); Richard Guerrant (medical doctor); Ewan Smith (engineer); Galen Staengl (engineer); Michael Stoneking (architect); Aja Bulla-Richards, Sara Harper, Sally Lee, Nathan Parker, Chase Sparling-Beckley, Lauren Thompson (architecture students)
March 28, 2011
Do you know what happens to companies that value their employees? They grow. They succeed. And their employees stay with them, working hard to make their customers happy.
At least, that’s how it is at Navy Federal Credit Union.
Navy Federal is the world’s largest member owned credit union, serving all Department of Defense military. And when they opened up their Florida contact center (formerly known as a call center) a few years ago, they wanted to make it a place where “employees would want to come to work,” says Jamie McDonald, Assistant Vice President, Projects and Analysis, Greater Pensacola Operations.
Their campus, which has since grown from one to four buildings (all LEED Gold certified), is on a beautiful site and offers all kinds of creature comforts, including, says Ms. McDonald “great furniture.”
Herman Miller’s Resolve system was selected for the first building, and it proved to be such an ideal solution that it was also chosen for the other three. As Ms. McDonald explains, “Aesthetically, it’s very appealing—open, contemporary, vibrant, and energetic—which is the feeling we wanted for our employees. And it’s very flexible; we’re constantly rearranging things because we’re growing so much.”
She says their employees deserve a lot credit for that growth. “When our employees are happy, our members are happy,” she states. In fact, the employees have become such great ambassadors for Navy Federal, enthusiastically telling friends and relatives what a great place it is work, the credit union gets about 1,000 applicants a month. “So we can choose the best of the best, which is a really nice situation to be in,” says Ms. McDonald. “Happiness just seems to be part of our culture now.”
March 25, 2011
OS House, Racine, WI
Johnsen Schmaling Architects
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced the winners of its 2011 Housing awards, and they are fantastic! From urban settings to rolling farmland to glacial lakes, the projects represent work from all over the country, with so many great ideas—edgy angles, fun curves, creative use of color, and lots and lots of glass.
Living well sustainably and affordably seemed to be key in this contest, which includes four award categories: One/Two Family Custom Housing, One/Two Family Production Housing, Multifamily Housing and Special Housing.
50 Saint Peter Street/Historic Salem Jail, Salem, MA
Finegold Alexander + Associates
The award was established a decade ago with the goal of “recognizing the best in housing design and promoting the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource.”
930 Poydras Residential Tower, New Orleans
The 18 winning projects were as different from one another as wildflowers in a field. Let your mind and imagination wander through them. It will be a fun trip from wherever you’re sitting, I promise.
(Oh, and while you’re at it, check out the story on the AIA website about Tokyo-based architect Shigeru Ban, Hon. FAIA, who has designed simple partitions for those living in shelters as a result of the recent earthquake/tsunami in Japan. Also very inspirational.)
Better World, Design
March 22, 2011
We’ve been observing, too. Our connections there began with George Nelson, Herman Miller’s famous design director. Here he is taking music lessons, flanked by his teachers. The photo is probably from his two-month tour of Japan, late 1957 to early 1958. A guest of the Japanese government, Nelson lectured in several cities and met with designers, manufacturers, and students.
Nelson first traveled to Tokyo in 1951, and became enamored of the city. He was fascinated by the care he observed in the design of all things. Even the most ordinary items received an attention that he found fascinating, as did the noted Japanese graphic designer Hikeyuki Oka. Nelson added a foreword to Oka’s book How to Wrap Five Eggs, a mid-60s classic of Japanese design.
Writing in the foreword, Nelson said that “what we have lost for sure is what this book is all about: a once-common sense of fitness in the relationships between hand, material, use and shape, and above all, a sense of delight in the look and feel of very ordinary, humble things.”
A sense of delight continues to energize us, as does a real connection to Japan. Fast forward 60 years after Nelson’s first trip there, and you’ll find our latest touchpoint: the Herman Miller store in Tokyo. Opened in January of this year, the store makes great design available to consumers, from chairs and desks to games and toys.
Photo 1 Copyright Jacqueline Nelson
Photo 2 Weatherhill Publishing
Help Us Act
As with everyone in Japan and the world, we are preoccupied with helping the country rebuild after the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the Sendai area. The disaster has prompted us, and our employees, to make donations to the relief efforts. Find out more about what we’re doing and how you can help make a difference. Thank you.
March 21, 2011
Recently, North Central College featured the work they are doing in partnership with Herman Miller and Widmer Interiors. Nine professors and their students are participating in the Learning Spaces Research Pilot program that incorporates the latest thinking in teaching spaces.
Whether it is the unique space compared to other classrooms on campus, the adaptable furnishings and flexible configurations, or the freedom to use technology unconfined, it has the campus talking.
Photo courtesy of North Central College
Better World, What's Up
March 18, 2011
You have to love an organization whose motto is, “Making a difference, one wag at a time.” And West Michigan Therapy Dogs is making a difference, especially to the kids at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Twice a month WMTD volunteers drop by with their canine companions to visit the young patients, and the reaction, says Herman Miller Payroll Manager Deb Caukin, is “instantaneous. The kids just love it.”
Deb was instrumental in bringing the program to the hospital four years ago. WMTD trains the dogs and there are currently 20 volunteer teams—one dog, one human—who take turns on visiting nights.
Deb’s dog Sunshine is always a big hit. “The other night, we stopped in to see a teenager, and she was so excited to see us. Her mom was taking pictures and said to us, ‘It’s so wonderful you’re here; it’s the first time she’s smiled all day…’ We hear things like that all the time.”
Jodi Bauers, manager of the hospital’s Child Life program agrees. “The dogs provide an unconditional love; they look past tubes and wheelchairs to see a new friend.”
The volunteers also go to nursing homes and other hospitals, but the Children’s Hospital is Deb’s favorite. “It’s such a great opportunity to give back to the community. Every single time I go I think, ‘I’m so glad I did this.’ My dogs give me a lot of joy and it’s wonderful to be able to spread it around.”
Design, Products, What's Up
March 16, 2011
Many of us have lived this story: a parent or other loved ones who want nothing more than to stay in their own home as they age. The issue is gaining attention because the first 70 million Baby Boomers hit 65 years old in 2011. Their home-related needs will have a significant impact on home and product design.
That impact is explored in an exhibition called “Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future” at the University of Minnesota’s Goldstein Museum of Design in St. Paul. It will be on display until May 22, 2011. The exhibition explores the housing trend of “aging in place,” which allows people to stay in their home by using products with adaptive technologies and by making simple adjustments to their living environment.
Featured in the exhibition is Mobilegs, from Mobi, an innovative mobility device developer in Minneapolis. Mobilegs is a breakthrough in crutch design that makes it easier, safer, and more comfortable to get around. It’s designed by Jeff Weber of Studio Weber + Associates. He also designed Herman Miller’s Embody chairs, Caper chairs, and Envelop desk, which are among the products featured in the Smart House as well.
March 14, 2011
Anxiety, nerves, and a 20-second shot clock. Sounds more like the final minutes of a closely fought basketball game, right? But it has more to do with collaboration than competition, and the only athletic feats on display are of exercising jaws and vocal chords, and, of course, that big muscle on top.
I’m describing the 17th edition of Pecha Kucha night at Martyrs’ in Chicago. I shared stories about the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Herman Miller’s environmental commitment, all with the idea that if you do stick to your beliefs, even in the face of doubt, good things will happen. I joined nine other presenters speaking to a sold-out house of about 400 people.
Pecha Kucha, which roughly translates to “chit-chat” in Japanese, refers to gatherings in over 390 cities around the world where creative types, activists, entrepreneurs, designers, and just about anyone else can share their “passion not portfolio” with an engaged audience. The format limits all presentations to 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide, with the slides running on auto-advance.
This lack of control over the slides keeps the presentations brief, the speakers on track (or not), and contributes to a collective sense of “you can do it” emanating from the audience to the presenter as they roll through their presentation. This fight against the clock is part of the fun for the audience and the anxiety/excitement for the speaker.
You should be sharing what’s important to you at a local Pecha Kucha event. Check out the Pecha Kucha website to find one near you.
Photo credit: Visualized Concepts
March 11, 2011
After making the list for 23 out of 25 years, Herman Miller again is one of FORTUNE magazine’s “Most Admired” companies for 2011. Herman Miller was ranked #2 in an expanded “Home Equipment, Furnishings” category and was the only office furniture manufacturer to make the list. The company was also ranked first in five of the nine attributes—innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, and quality of products and services.
Before you move on to read something else, consider that this has been a year of winnowing. Now, hard upon the recent economic turmoil, some companies are well-positioned to move forward; others remain on shaky ground; and yet others have disappeared completely. According to FORTUNE magazine, this year’s list contains more new names than ever before—and fewer of the old standards. FORTUNE calls it, “a new competitive order…that will probably last years.” Companies that made the list this year “through good times and bad…dared to differ from how most competitors were behaving.”
If “daring to differ” is a differentiator, it comes as no surprise that Herman Miller continues to rank high on the “Most Admired” companies list. Setting trends, creating markets, and not following the herd is in Herman Miller’s corporate DNA. This recognition reaffirms that if the vision is broad enough, the roots deep enough, and the moral ground solid enough, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world does. In this case, the rest of the world recognized a leader—yet again.
March 10, 2011
Hospital professionals are always looking to improve the care they deliver and do so more efficiently. Many think standards are the answer, especially in patient room design. But a question quickly arises: Which approach—same-handed or mirror-image design—is better for patient safety and staff efficiency?
Why the debate? Mirror-image rooms like the one below share plumbing chases and medical gas and electrical lines. That’s efficient from an architectural point of view.
On the other hand, same-handed rooms like the one below don’t share chases and lines. That adds about $3,000 to $5,000 to the cost of each patient room.
Even with this added cost, an increasing number of hospitals are choosing same-handed design. They’re doing because they believe that standardized same-handed design contributes to better process and workflow. Trouble is, there’s very little evidence to support this belief.
So the debate goes on. We think it’s a healthy debate because it focuses attention on the important role design plays in patient-room settings. It’s generating new research into the merits of same-handed versus mirror-image design, too.
This is all good, but in all the research and all the talk, let’s not lose sight of the people who deliver care. Too much standardizing in the name of efficiency—prescribing, for example, their approach (either left or right) to patients—may backfire if we don’t involve them in the discussion.
Photos 2 & 3 credit: HKS Architects