PortfolioThe Bentley Suite at the St. Regis New York
New York, New York, USA
I recently read an article by Peggy Connolly for The Corporate Citizen, a publication put out by Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship. She profiles Andrew Zolli, who is a “futures researcher” and advises corporate executives to monitor shifts in population, generational attitudes, cultures and consumer behaviors in order to stay ahead in the global marketplace.
He sees the five macro-trends that will create economic opportunities for business are: 1) the global population shift that is creating new megacities, 2) emerging innovation that transforms waste to reliable products, 3) expansion of economic literalism among the world’s poor, 4) the rise of conscious consumerism, and 5) the use of bio-science and nature-based products to solve world problems.
I thought the idea of megacities (cities of 10 million or more) to be very interesting:
“Ever the futurist, Zolli mentions that by 2040 there will be at least three megacities in China that have yet to be built.”
According to the article, he believes these cities will have a huge influx of people needing infrastructure who want to actively participate in the global economy. This need for infrastructure creates enormous potential entrepreneurial activity. And because pollution and other forms of environmental degradation will follow this demographic shift, it will create economic opportunity to lessen the consequence.
How will the travel industry, and subsequently the hospitality design business, work within these trends?
I have been in Lisbon for a few days and have already fallen in love with the city. It is so nice (even with no luggage) and the people are some the friendliest I have ever met.
When I started this trip, my itinerary was loose at best. I had no unifying architectural theme to connect/make sense of my travels. But Lisbon has opened my eyes and made me excited to explore the rest of Europe.
The typical architecture in Lisbon is incredibly interesting and ornate. I had no idea what to expect when I got here but I saw a plethora of colors and textures and I began to realize that the smallest details could give you a sense and an understanding of an entire city. Is it possible to gain an understanding of a city without understanding the buildings as a whole, but instead, their smallest parts?
In Portugal, many buildings are clad in beautiful hand crafted tiles, or “azulejos.” In fact, it is impossible to walk more than a few feet here without noticing the beauty of handcrafted ornamentation. It is everywhere…in the patterns of the cobbled sidewalk to the hand made wrought-iron balconies, to the lovely azulejos. The azulejos are more often than not painted by hand and it is hard to find two buildings that have the same tile. It is sort of like wallpaper for the outside of buildings. They are beautiful and incredibly intricate. These details are evidence that the buildings were made by craftsmen and are what distinguish one building from another, yet connect them all in a unifying theme.
With the advent of modern technology and building practices, it is easy to forget about the importance of handcrafted things. As buildings become more and more machined, it becomes more important that we don’t lose sight of things made by hand. Throughout the rest of my travels I will be looking at the places I visit through a microscope. I want to see if I can get a sense of other cities without understanding the city plan or the buildings, but instead, by getting lost and looking at the details. I am curious to now see contemporary buildings in Portugal and to see how they accept or reject the history of ornament and the azulejos.
“The most visual media is radio. It asks the listener to use his or her imagination to embellish the aural picture.”
--A quote from an NPR listener
The power of radio has turned my work commute from a negative to a positive. I began to appreciate National Public Radio about 20 years ago. I discovered a new vein to mine from my years in London in the form of BBC Radio, the pinnacle for me being Desert Island Discs on Radio 4. The 30 minute show posits the question of what eight songs would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island. In 30 minutes you have people like Tony Blair speaking passionately of a Beatles song, recalling a formative moment in his life you would never hear in a political interview format.
Last week during an interview with novelist Salman Rushdie on NPR regarding his new book, “The Enchantress of Florence,” he spoke of the art of storytelling. One would think the best way to tell a story is to start at the beginning, go through the middle and deliver the payoff at the end. He referred to the art of oral storytelling still alive in India. Mr. Rushdie said the best storytellers are skilled jugglers that never take a direct route. They jump from one segment, to an anecdote, to a flash-back and then to another theme to reveal some character insight, sometimes with purposeful misdirection. The storyteller’s job is to keep his audience continuously intrigued, growing in emotional involvement and on a good day, be transformed by gaining new insight on our human condition. I thought this was remarkably similar to our job as designers, but I wonder if we understand our role as well as the oral storytellers of India.
I thought about my peer group who were educated during the late modernist period. Our story devices were clarity and honesty, avoiding the use of non-functional ornamentation, certainly a limited palette when comparing to the Indian storyteller. Thankfully, our current world welcomes a broad range of design expression. I also have a greater appreciation for the modern buildings that have a powerful story to tell. Perhaps they could be considered design haikus.
The analogy has fueled several hallway discussions this week, a discussion that everyone can participate in. Everyone loves a good story. It has renewed my interest in the idea of every project beginning with a design narrative, but with a new twist. How can we keep our guests continuously intrigued, growing in emotional involvement and on a good day, be transformed? And, how complex can we make our story without losing our audience?
The WATG planning team lands in Cairo in the wee hours of the morning and is instantly whisked through customs and into a waiting big black sedan. Destination: Four Seasons. Catapulted like a ravenous Pac-Man through the streets of Cairo, we can be glad for more air bags than passengers!
Cairo smells like the earth. Dry, burnt earth. And night jasmine too. If the sound of Las Vegas is the ubiquitous ding-a-ling-a-bing-bong of the slot machines, Cairo’s is a honk-and-toot away from crash-boom-bam. No crashes heard, the only casualty seen was an obvious reminder for defensive motoring. I’m in bed by 3AM.
Up early for our only free day, we think it’s a great idea to walk to the museum and see the neighborhoods along the Nile. Finally we are escorted across an impossible-to-cross road by a concerned armed police officer. Whew. Time for lemonade at the nearest hotel! It was right to be out in the daylight and have this walk to the museum; it was also right to jump in a shiny old Peugeot 504 taxi and return to the hotel! A three mile journey, a soaking wet brow, and one hour to get there. Did we master the moment? I believe so.
That evening the pyramids were enjoyed by sunset and the light of the full moon. Magical. Very uplifting. I was overwhelmed with the richness of Egypt. End of day one, sometime around 2AM. No time for jet-lag.
Day two begins the rest of the ride—non-stop work (with food and laughter thrown in) for five more days leading to a brilliant presentation trumpeted by Matthew Beehler, orchestrated by Meghna Andley, and visually enhanced by Chris Bradley and yours truly. And kudos to the team in Irvine for all their hard work! It does take a village…and an exceptional client.
Team travel builds team pride and team trust. And the planning team in Irvine could not be more highly praised for their hard work towards this end. Thanks!
Photos by Michael Brown
I recently left for a long trip of traveling thanks to the George J. Wimberly Design Internship and Travel Scholarship. This scholarship, which I was so fortunate to have been awarded, places a recent graduate from the University of Washington's College of Architecture and Urban Planning in the Seattle office of WATG for one year of employment, plus offers a travel scholarship. The journey began with a four-day drive from Seattle, the place I was born and raised, to Boston, my new home for the next few years. The drive was amazingly beautiful and amazingly long.
My plan is to visit Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland. I don’t exactly know what I am looking for on this trip, but I am excited to explore and to get lost. I arrived in Lisbon, Portugal (the first leg of my journey) sans luggage and very tired. I plan on exploring this city and then making my way to Porto (as soon as I get my luggage)…Then who knows? More to come soon!
While on a break after a master plan presentation in Korea, we had the chance to visit a recently completed WATG project that was close by: SK Apelbaum. The scope of the project was the design of the building façade and public spaces.
Among the challenges with this project, we had to deal with a very steep site (10 meter level difference at both ends), requirements for extra security, and overcoming the unattractiveness of the site and surroundings.
We put a huge parking garage underground and hidden from view and created a pedestrian-only inner garden that allows for privacy and security while adding extra value to the ground floor units. There are two levels of inner gardens, a higher level for residential units and a lower level for the residential community.
Photos by Sih-Young Jeon
There is no doubt that advanced computer programs have enhanced the architectural profession for the better. BIM (Building Information Modeling), along with more advanced graphics programs have allowed us as professionals to better convey the intention of the design and give some form of life to the package.
But for me there is no feeling quite like seeing those thoughts actually rise out of the ground. I love watching what was a drawing transform into the actual finished product and being a part of that process. Seeing the foundation, the bones, the guts, the skin of the building continue to progress gives me a sense of giddiness. The building comes alive and I’m a part of it! There are headaches—Excedrin comes in handy—but the coordination and cooperation of the entire design team along with contractor and owner can be a rewarding experience.
Photo by Susan Frieson
Last month I had the opportunity to visit Kenya. For two weeks I visited AIDS orphanages, clinics, and small tribal villages. One of the most memorable experiences was when I walked through the Kibera slum in Nairobi, home to over a million people on land only three quarters the size of New York City’s Central Park. I struggled to think about how designers could play a role in alleviating some of these problems.
Later in my trip, it occurred to me the impact that the tourism industry has on the lives in Kenya. Violence following the elections this past winter caused the economy to decline dramatically. Fears of safety decreased the amounts of tourists. Now that things have settled down, more people are returning to stay in hotels in places like the Masi Mara, a National Reserve on the Kenyan side of the Serengeti. This increase in revenue is helping to finance much needed infrastructure such as education and health care. It was a gentle reminder of who is being served by the projects we design around the world.
Photos by Christy Diecker
| Blog Home |