Design, What's Up
May 23, 2011
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Reed Kroloff, director of Cranbrook Academy of Art, and pick his brain about the field of architecture today and on shaping the next generation of architects and designers.
Kroloff is an influential thinker who has been a TED presenter, editor-in-chief of Architecture magazine, and while dean of the Tulane School of Architecture, he oversaw the planning for rebuilding New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
In your role as educator, editor, and consultant, you have a unique perspective on how the field has changed over the years. What have you observed?
First and most fundamental has been the digitization of the field. It has utterly revolutionized every aspect of architectural practice from our earliest thoughts of the creation of a building, to the documents, to the execution and construction of the building. Digitization gives architects and designers greater control over their projects than they’ve had perhaps since the middle of the Twentieth Century. Twenty-five years ago, architects didn’t see themselves as part of the building process. They saw themselves as supervisory and peripheral. Now they see themselves as central to it, as they always should have.
The second change is the arrival of women and minorities to the field. Architecture was a tenaciously late player to the game, but it has now come around and is actively embracing this, recognizing that there are tremendous benefits to inclusivity. While ownership and management of firms is still an area where women and minorities are dramatically underrepresented, still their presence in the profession overall is enormously large.
This is a good thing for all the right social equity and justice reasons, but also because it allows the architectural profession to come into line with where other industries have gone before. It begins to align the profession with other professions where women and minorities have already become a presence.
The third major change has been the splintering of the field into subspecialties. Some firms, for example, just design the curtain walls of buildings. Some firms just analyze rental real estate rates and how that affects floor plans.
This creates opportunities for real expertise, but it also splinters the field into such small shards that generalist practices become threatened. The client becomes more confused, and an army of consultants is created, such as owner’s representatives, that are odious in their effect on the practice because they get between the architect and his or her client.
Read part two of our interview with Reed Kroloff.
May 18, 2011
SAYL received the International Design Award for “Product Design of the Year” at a ceremony Sunday evening. That’s a pretty cool award to get. Getting there took a good designer challenging us just as much as we challenged him.
SAYL designer Yves Behar did just that. He asked, “How do we create a task chair that is attainable? Can we make a comfortable, supportive, healthy, and beautiful chair at a lower price point?” Yves challenged us to develop a technology not seen in low-cost seating.
Herman Miller likes designers that ask tough questions and look for creative answers. We also like to work collaboratively to help achieve their vision. Design and engineering should be at the table from the beginning. We feel a close relationship is a key to innovation.
SAYL’s 3D Intelligent back is a perfect example. Herman Miller worked in tandem with Yves on iteration after iteration, each requiring a new mold, in order to achieve proper supportive flex. It took months of trial and error. Traditional methods would have been easy, and less expensive to develop, but we knew Yves was on to something.
Innovation is not an easy or straight forward road to travel, but we’re okay with that. And an award or two helps, too.
Photos: Live Unframed
May 16, 2011
We’ve been busy this weekend at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York City. This year’s booth was inspired by the Miller House and designed by BassamFellows (check out Lifework for more on these two very soon). It’s a clear and beautiful design statement that showcases our pieces perfectly, including the new Eames Aluminum Group Chairs (which won Best Outdoor Furniture category in the Editor’s Choice Awards).
Tomorrow the show opens to the public, so stop by for a visit, check out the booth, and tryout one of the new chairs. If you can’t make it, we’ve put together a slideshow for you. Enjoy!
Photos 1-5 via Paul Warchol Photography.
May 10, 2011
This week in the official opening of the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. The Miller House history is intrinsically tied to Herman Miller. The home was commissioned by J. Irwin Miller, a wealthy industrialist, and his wife Xenia Simons Miller in 1953. Miller and his wife hired Eero Saarinen to design the house, Alexander Girard to work on the interiors and Dan Kiley to take care of the landscape architecture. Girard’s fabrics for Herman Miller feature heavily throughout the home. And it was Girard that got the Eameses involved. He saw the need for outdoor furniture and called on his friends Ray and Charles to design chairs for the verandah. A year later the Aluminum Group lounge chair was in production at Herman Miller.
Tours of the Miller House and Garden are open to the public.
Photoes courtesy of the Indianapolis Musem of Art
Design, What's Up
April 19, 2011
A few weeks ago, our Steve Frykholm traveled to New York City to accept one of the most coveted awards for graphic designers—the AIGA Gold Medal. After the ceremony, Steve sat down to speak with Design Observer’s Debbie Millman for her “Design Matters” podcast.
Take a few moments to listen to this wonderful interview. You’ll hear Steve wax lyrical about beards, his time in Africa, design, and 41 years with Herman Miller.
Photo: Steve circa 1985
April 8, 2011
What better way to explore the question of collaboration than by collaborating? I recently participated in a Design Storm with 20 students from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, as they tackled this real-world issue over a period of two and half days.
For Herman Miller, this was an opportunity to ask the next generation of designers about the workplace, about collaboration, and about how they envision the two melding in the future.
Brainstorming, discussion, sketching, and critique; round after round, the students worked through their ideas toward a final concept. The atmosphere was awesome. The results were even better, ranging from the intangible “office as a second skin” and “implicit boundaries” to the tangible “mobile work pods.”
The experience left us wishing we could replicate that spark back at the office. We value our partnerships with universities and colleges of all kinds; they provide us a fresh perspective, all while connecting with future innovators. Who better to create the future with?
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 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.)
March 7, 2011
Bill Stumpf, who would have turned 75 on March 1, wouldn’t have cared. He’d have loved it that a design student at his alma mater, UW-Madison, used reclaimed barn wood to recreate the Aeron chair he and Don Chadwick designed.
The student’s inspiration came in part from the traveling exhibit Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller. It’s now at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin, and will be there until April 3.
A whole group of UW grad and undergraduate students are looking to the exhibit for inspiration. They’re focusing on the design process and how finished works suit the human body. Something Herman Miller knows a thing or two about.
One student looked at Alexander Girard fabrics and designed a coffee table from wood pieces formed to reflect one of his patterns. One design includes collapsed fabric and raises to become the Eames molded plywood chair.
Take inspiration from everything is the creative person’s mantra. And we love it when creatives take it from us.
Photo 1: Chris Reinstad, Aeron Chair Organic Oak, 2010
Photo 2: Emily Rich, Perception, 2010
Photo 3: Heather McCalla, LCF (Lounge Chair Fabric), 2010
March 2, 2011
Daniel Korb has a penchant for simplicity, which is evident in the design of products like Herman Miller’s Sense Desking System. He began his studies in interior design, and he began his professional career with the architectural firm, Zinsmeister and Scheffler, and later migrated to furniture design, all of which provides what he considers a necessary “holistic view of the world.”
His firm, Korb + Korb, which he runs with his architect wife, Susan, reflects that holistic view. Based in Baden, Switzerland, the firm operates at the intersection of architecture, design, and communication, finding creativity and inspiration in the mix. That holistic blend must be fertile ground if Korb + Korb’s impressive list of projects and awards, which include several international awards for the Sense system, are any indication.
Here are seven questions for Daniel Korb:
1. What are you working on right now?
Actually, I’m working on different projects, but my main goal is to understand what I’m really after. Since I’ve worked for more than 25 years as an architect and designer I’m asking myself, What do you really want to achieve? Therefore, I started my own project to determine what does really matter [in the design of a building].
Just as a doctor is responsible for his patient, an architect and designer is responsible for his product and what it means for his customer. To add value is key for me. This could be very basic like choosing the right color for a wall or selecting the right material for a product. I do not only want to facilitate the way people meet, but also I would like to add a certain quality to the space in which they meet and a quality to the furniture involved. We know that a good space can inspire us, and I want to refocus myself on how this quality might be achieved.