United House, Notting Hill: the latest offering from The Office Group
TOG’s Head of Design Nasim Köerting tells Mix about the 40th space from the flexible workspace providers.
There were (even if we say so ourselves) a lot of ticks in boxes when it came to Mix Design Collective 2019. This unique design event, held at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, showcased the best of commercial interiors across nine specially curated experiences, created by leading designers and featuring world-class product design. Tick!
Alongside this, a packed programme of inspiring discussions from leading voices within the industry saw standing room only throughout the two-days, with fascinating and diverse speakers such as Michael Pawlyn, Martin Ballendat and Gary Neville. Tick!
Not only was MDC19 twice the size of 2018’s inaugural event, it also attracted double the audience. Tick tick!
Although officially a two-day event, the Tuesday’s launch evening attracted some 500 guests, who enjoyed a sneak preview of what was on offer throughout the week.
As we said, for the 2019 edition nine design practices created nine immersive experiences featuring the very latest in workplace, hospitality and residential design. Working with world-class product partners, each designer took on a major theme within the world of commercial interiors. As the great Jim Bowen might have said, see page 88 onwards to see what you could have won…
MDC was (and is) about far more than just an exhibition of products. Not only does it offer these design-led, curated spaces (no airless, cavernous spaces or 8x6ft white boxes here), it also delivered a series of informative, relevant talks and seminars. Here, we present just a flavour of those sessions…
There are some clear disruptors within the hospitality world at the moment – in particular, data driven hospitality. Questioning the need for technology to deliver a higher level of service and create a smoother pre-arrival experience for different travellers, our panel was divided on the importance of human service in a world of apps and data.
‘Ultimately, we’re trying to deliver a product and service that satisfies the customer’s requirements,’ said Tom McWilliams, Development Director at Property Alliance Group. ‘How that impacts on the built environment will be a real pivotal point – we need to create buildings and spaces that are flexible and sustainable for changing technology and needs of customers.’
This technology, and how it interacts with different generations, is a key indicator for amenities required in current and future hospitality experiences. Customers want something new, not the usual stale business lounge. ‘People want to come back and be able to tell a story to their friends – 40% of people now choose their holidays on where they can take the best photos,’ explained Katy McCann, Managing Director at Travel by Lillingston.
‘When you’re designing and putting so much investment into public area space, you really need to look at the revenue opportunity there, or risk losing it to the restaurant or coworking space around the corner,’ added Emma Dalston, UK Group General Manager for Dalata Hotel Group.
I think it’s great to challenge the status quo of exhibitions and furniture showrooms – putting things together so people can see how products can work in an environment – it’s invaluable!
In the last two years we have seen environmental issues shoot up the agenda and, as a country, we’ve declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. But what next? Discussing his recent projects, including the Sahara Project, as well as how we can use solutions from nature in design, Michael argued the need to move beyond the paradigm of sustainable design, and on to regenerative design – ways of designing the built environment to repair damage to the environment.
‘What is absolutely certain, in my mind at least, is that we’re not going to achieve that simply by tightening up the knobs on the current ways of doing things, we need to start looking at much bolder thinking,’ he explained.
On his innovative Biomimetic Office project, Michael commented: ‘We brainstormed what the key functional challenges were in an office building. This is one of the clearest ways to use biomimicry – you define a series of functions, and then you look at how those functions have been delivered in biology, and you use that as an inspiration for an innovation that suits human needs.’
So, what did we take away from this fascinating session? At the very least that, by looking to nature, we can create design that is not only effective and efficient, but actively creates a better environment and community – whether that’s in a busy city or in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
What does workplace 2030 look like? Will technology be king? Will there still be a focus on current trends such as wellbeing, sustainability and flexible working (to name but a few!)
Considering the move away from traditional office space, the panel at this special edition of MixInspired discussed the factors that companies are considering when designing their spaces. Unconventional and quirky spaces are on the rise, and have been for the last 10 years, as staff retention, wellbeing and a cross-generational workforce become increasingly important.
‘There’s a huge war for talent,’ explained Ciara Keeling, CEO of Bruntwood Works. ‘In order for companies to both attract and retain the best talent, they have to be thoughtful around creating spaces that really work for the for the end user and the customer.’
The panel was unanimous that sustainability issues will continue to play a key role in the workplace over the next decade, as cities set carbon neutrality targets – such as Manchester’s target of 2038. So where do certification schemes come into this – if at all? ‘We’re not actually going to promote BREEAM ratings,’ said Greg Ball, Senior Development Manager at U+I. ‘We’re looking at various measures to make our buildings as sustainable as possible, but we’re not just going to go out and get a brand certification that might become obsolete in the future.’
Tying this all together is technology. Monitoring individuals’ requirements and wellbeing as well as automating processes will not only create more flexible spaces but also create a more sustainable environment.
On the Thursday afternoon, we got a rare opportunity to talk to former England and Man Utd footballer and current Sky Sports pundit, Gary Neville, about his adventure into the property world, focusing on his new project – the Stock Exchange Hotel. Originally born from the idea of member’s club in Manchester, with flexible workspaces and an F&B offering, over a period of three or four years, the concept changed into a hotel-led concept.
On the challenges the team faced while undertaking the process, Gary commented, ‘It got to a point where it became the most confusing and painful project particularly for the development and design team – we changed designers and designs all the way through because one chef wanted one design and another different chef wanted another.’
Discussing the design, fit-out and manufacturing for the hotel, Gary took an unusual approach, hiring a Turkish firm to create the interiors from scratch. ‘They designed it in two months and were able to fit-out the whole building in four months. It was incredible. I don’t think I would go to an interior designer again that couldn’t promise that cradle to grave approach for me.’
It was great to have Gary on board, and we thank him for being so refreshingly open and candid.
It’s different to a normal exhibition; the themed rooms are inspiring, and it allows suppliers to showcase how they can work with designers rather than just showing lots of products
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