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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

2015 Outlook for Architecture and Design from Gordon Beckman, AIA

 
January 21st, 2015 by Susan Smith

Guest article:

By Gordon Beckman, AIA – Principal and Design Director, John Portman & Associates

Looking ahead, advances in technology may have the biggest influence on the work that we will do in 2015 and the way that we do it. The dynamic, collaborative and performance-driven nature of our profession causes us to continue our quest for ever more efficient, meaningful and expedient ways of working.

230 Peachtree Street in the heart of downtown Atlanta represents the very first highrise office building designed by Portman (1965). It is now being revitalized as a Hotel Indigo on the lower floors, with office space on the upper floors. The plaza out front provides a connection to the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (subway) station below. Image Credit: ©John Portman & Associates

230 Peachtree Street in the heart of downtown Atlanta represents the very first highrise office building designed by Portman (1965). It is now being revitalized as a Hotel Indigo on the lower floors, with office space on the upper floors. The plaza out front provides a connection to the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (subway) station below.
Image Credit:
©John Portman & Associates

Project delivery standards are changing. The traditional setup of multiple design phases is giving way to an accelerated path. Facilitating this is the move to working in a three-dimensional shared model where all systems are integrated in one smart, coordinated and dynamic model. This method of working places a greater emphasis on the front end of the project, forcing rapid integrated decision-making based on real-time input.

Technology also extends beyond the software that we use to design. The ever-changing materials development and construction industry is yet another way in which technology drives our work. Better performing materials and systems have a huge impact on how we design. More cost effective, higher- performing and simpler building systems increase our ability to develop more efficient projects with greater degrees of comfort.

We are finding that more can now be achieved with less material. Advances in construction technology allow for the integration of the exterior enclosure with the structure of a building, leading to a thinning of the physical thickness of exterior walls. This comes at a time when people are embracing the appeal of a smaller room size. Glazing and other transparent materials can be effective in making the experience of these smaller spaces feel spacious by visually opening up the room.

Union Tower West in the LoDo district of Denver features a 180-key select-service hotel with approximately 100,000 square feet of office space above the hotel. The neighborhood is highlighted by Denver’s historic Union Station and a new multimodal station. Image Credit: ©John Portman & Associates

Union Tower West in the LoDo district of Denver features a 180-key select-service hotel with approximately 100,000 square feet of office space above the hotel. The neighborhood is highlighted by Denver’s historic Union Station and a new multimodal station.
Image Credit:
©John Portman & Associates

Globalization will continue to have an impact on design and development in 2015, as input now comes from many different sources. There was a time when investors primarily stuck to deals in the city where they lived. The same was true with architects and the projects they pursued. Now, the financing for a project can come from anywhere (increasingly coming from China into other markets); materials are shipped from all around the world; and design intellect and expertise are sourced from across the globe. Specifically in hospitality design, we have seen the effect of globalization play out in two ways. First, there is a global design standard to luxury hotels in particular. “World-class” is the same in Shanghai as it is in New York. But, to contrast that, there is also an increasing call for a more “authentic” guest experience. People visiting Miami expect a different experience than people traveling to Beijing. They want to feel that they are truly experiencing the place. Secondly, the quest for authenticity has given rise to the design of a “boutique” experience, even in the larger chain hotels. Restaurants and retail are also influenced by the desire for a more local, authentic experience. Microbrews, locally sourced food and even hotel restaurants with their own rooftop gardens are proliferating in urban centers.

Sustainability continues to be top-of-mind, but we see a sensible approach that goes beyond checking off points on a form and begins in site selection. As urban centers become denser, it makes sense to reuse and repurpose. If you can clean up an old industrial site and make it serve current needs, that makes sense. If you can revitalize a neighborhood by bringing new life to an existing building or building on top of something already there, all the better. Tying into public transportation is an added benefit, too. Multi-function components that blend together a mix of old and new bring vitality and help maintain authenticity in an urban environment.

There has been a lot in the media about the influence of millennials on design, but we think the focus should be more on a mindset than an age group. Life involves change. People’s needs are constantly changing – it’s evolutional, more so than generational. There is an increased desire for communal spaces, but even these spaces should offer a variety of experiences. People may enjoy gathering and lingering here, but they also want the choice to engage in conversation, quietly observe others or work alone even in the midst of activity. They want to be able to connect digitally, so they need wi-fi and convenient places to plug-in and charge their devices. We address these issues in the design of office space, multifamily residential, hotels and even urban plazas. These sorts of factors influence design, but I hesitate to say that it’s all about millennials.

Finally, it is important today, more so than ever before, for the design and development of a building to be a collaborative process. The greater the participation of all parties right from the start – developer, owner, city and government officials, operator, architect, interior designer, engineers, contractors, material providers, etc. – the better the overall product will be. A fully collaborative approach allows the rapid testing of alternative concepts on all levels and the integration of all systems into a whole, all while continually testing the economic and construction feasibility. For developers, being willing to collaborate and choose a design team that is open to working together is a more effective approach than overseeing experts working in silos. Technology today facilitates collaboration and makes the process easier than ever, but it begins with choosing the right team.

Gordon Beckman, AIA Principal and Design Director for John Portman & Associates Image Credit: ©John Portman & Associates

Gordon Beckman, AIA
Principal and Design Director for John Portman & Associates
Image Credit:
©John Portman & Associates

About the author:

Gordon Beckman, AIA, has built a distinguished career, working nationally and internationally on a broad range of building types, including commercial, civic, hotel, and mixed-use developments. Mr. Beckman’s work reflects his ongoing interest in, and examination of, the interdisciplinary connections, that structure, technology, environmental concerns and transparency play in next generation architectural thought. His recent work at John Portman & Associates (Portman) reflects these values and ideas.

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