Insights From Gensler, Co-CEO of the Largest Architecture Firm, Diane Hoskins
As we move into 2018, are there any new or notable projects that we should be on the lookout for?
Gensler is designing the new corporate headquarters for the Hyatt Hotels Corporation in Chicago. With a design rooted in the architectural legacy of Chicago and Hyatt's own sponsorship of the Pritzker Prize, this project seeks to transform a traditional office environment into a dynamic and supportive new set of spaces that will encourage cross-functional interaction, stimulate innovation in a fast-changing industry, and reflect Hyatt's culture of care. From a stunning new "lobby" concept set against the Chicago River to an internal stair tower connecting floors of "workstudios," Hyatt is moving full speed ahead toward a future of free-address work, flexible team environments, and a staggering variety of spaces to support a balance of individual and group work.
Which Gensler projects are you most proud of and why?
We view every project as an opportunity to make a difference for our clients and our communities, which is an extension of our mission of creating a better world through the power of design. For a firm that works on projects of all scales, from wine bottle labels to the Shanghai Tower, we see the need to bring innovation to each of our 3,500 clients around the globe.
In terms of the projects we’ve recently completed, Cadillac House in New York’s SoHo district is a compelling example of how great design is helping established brands like Cadillac re-think human experience and community engagement. Cadillac House serves as a rotating space for events, concerts, and collaborative partnerships, and features a public café, a lounge area, gallery space, a ‘runway’ for cars on display, and an event venue with an outdoor terrace area. It’s a perfect example of the type of places that people are gravitating to today, with our Experience Index showing that people want to be in multi-modal spaces that allow them to do a variety of activities all at once.
Nokia Technologies is a great example of an innovative workplace project that was recently completed in San Francisco’s South of Market district, and it’s distinctive because of the inspiration it draws from Nokia’s original Scandinavian culture and San Francisco. Nokia was looking for a way to expand its North American presence and tap into Silicon Valley’s rich innovation ecosystem through locating their creative, marketing and leadership teams in the city. Inspired by the ‘industrial chic’ theme that is popular in San Francisco, but unable to find a suitable warehouse, Gensler created a warehouse environment in a traditional Class A high-rise. The design team utilized concrete, steel sash windows, and rough reclaimed Douglas Fir to establish an industrial, yet authentically Scandinavian aesthetic. The team also incorporated local aesthetics, including psychedelic tie-dye and locally-fabricated sit to stand desks and other health-conscience features. Taken together, these design features clearly communicate the organizational purpose for its new ofce: helping the Finish giant take advantage of Silicon Valley’s innovative start-up culture while maintaining its rich, 152-year history. This is important because our research indicates that people perform at their best and are most innovative when they work in workspaces that reinforce a clear sense of purpose and help people
connect with their organizational mission.
How has Gensler impacted the corporate real estate landscape?
At Gensler, we center our work on people and elevating the human experience, and this is what allows us to create innovative design solutions for some truly complex problems. Our focus on creating positive outcomes is what led the firm to start our industry-leading research program in 2005, and today the Gensler Research Institute has established itself as a respected authority within our industry, frequently publishing groundbreaking and disruptive findings in areas ranging from workplace, retail, the future of entertainment, climate change and the future of cities.
Through our research efforts, Gensler created the Workplace Performance Index® (WPISM), which is the first tool to measure productivity in the knowledge workplace and has been taken by more than 270,000 office workers around the world. Alongside the WPI, we have also used our global Workplace Surveys to benchmark key workplace performance indicators in various regions around the world, helping us to understand how trends in the current knowledge-based, innovation economy are impacting the workplace environment and organizational performance.
We have also just released the Gensler Experience Index, which is the result of a multi-year research effort to identify and quantify the design factors impacting human experience. We surveyed more than 4,000 people across North America, and spent more than 60 hours in one-on-one ethnographic studies, to gain a deeper understanding of why people go where they do, how design impacts their behavior, and ultimately, how to design spaces to deliver great experiences. The Gensler Experience Index is first-of-its-kind research proving that design is the differentiator between good experiences and great ones.
Finally, Gensler’s Impact by Design series of reports are dedicated to elevating the conversation on how the built environment impacts climate change and serves as a call to action for the entire AEC industry as Gensler seeks to lead the charge in terms of improving the sustainable performance of the global buildings sector.
These research insights have significantly impacted the global corporate real estate landscape, and they have been published in top media outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Financial Times, Bloomberg TV, Fast Company, Monocle, as well as many global architecture and design trade publications.
What are Gensler’s next steps when it comes to the Future of Design as it relates to the culture within the workplace?
We are focused on providing unique and innovative workplace design solutions for our many clients, which means elevating human experience within the workplace and designing high-performing spaces that allow people to work at their best. Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of employee experience and engagement in terms of organizational competitiveness, including profits and long-term stock performance. With our Experience Index, we have empirically proven the connection between design and enhanced human experience, but our research also indicates that the majority of companies have no systematic approach to creating a differentiated experience.
This gap is why we are advising that businesses that don’t invest in design are overlooking an opportunity to improve sales and engage employees. We have identified six design factors that are the most important for establishing the kinds of unique, rich experiences that people are looking for today: beauty, authenticity, clarity, inspiration, novelty, and welcoming-ness. Additionally, our 2016 U.S. Workplace Survey indicated that creating a well-balanced workplace complete with a diverse range of spaces for people to use, providing easy access to technology and creating highly functional individual workstations is a key factor in improving innovation within an organization. Today’s knowledge workers need to have the spaces to collaborate and to complete their individual focus work, and workplaces that don’t provide that kind of balance limit the innovative potential of their people.
This is especially important during our current period of low unemployment and economic growth, organizations that want to win the war for talent must invest in workplace design, which our research indicates is a competitive differentiator for great employee experiences, recruiting, retention and engagement.
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