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MAR — APR 2022
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Create, innovate.
inventor of
adjustable lighting
since 1919
Valencia and Reykjavík
From Gen-Z hospitality to the refill
retail revolution
Zhang Chao, courtesy of Various Associates
Sam Harris, courtesy of Nina+Co
Shenzhen-based studio
Various Associates
Spotify’s Sonya Simmonds
Michèle Margot
Solar designer Marjan
van Aubel
Frame 145
Retail interiors turn out the
lights, wooden buildings show
the way forward (and upward),
pet-friendly design is on the
rise, and more
Urvirsion Co. / Zheng Fang and Tang Cao, courtesy of Various Associates
118 The healing power of
humanized lighting
140 What’s next for health-first
Michael Rygaard, courtesy of Tableau
Patrick Degerman, courtesy of White Arkitekter
Bjørnar Øvrebø, courtesy of
Snøhetta and Studio Plastique
New releases from Herman Miller,
Andreu World, Kettal and more
Chromarama by Kukka in
facts and figures
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Adrian Madlener – AM
Michèle Margot – MM
Kourosh Newman-Zand – KNZ
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Rosamund Picton – RP
Kristofer Thomas – KT
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Frame (USPS No: 019-372) is published bimonthly
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ISSN FRAME: 1388-4239
© 2022 Frame Publishers and authors
Frame magazine is printed by Grafisch Bedrijf Tuijtel
Hardinxveld-Giessendam in the Netherlands.
Ra by Marjan van Aubel (see page 44)
Photo courtesy of Marjan van Aubel
Edward de Nijs
Grafisch Bedrijf Tuijtel
Every Monday, a message pops up on my smartphone
and laptop: last week your screen time averaged x
hours per day (on average y% more/less than last
week). I’m often surprised by how much time I apparently spend in front of a screen. That can’t be right,
6 hours per day!? And do I really pick up my phone
144 times a day!?
Too much screen time isn’t healthy. The culprit
is the blue light emitted by screens, which suppresses
the production of the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin and
causes the quality of our sleep to deteriorate.
It’s not just time spent using phones, laptops
and other screens that messes with our sleep, though.
Exposure to a lot of artificial light in general is harmful to our health. It disrupts our circadian rhythms, or
more simply: our biological clock. While there’s light,
we normally stay awake. When it gets dark, it’s time
to sleep. But spending all day in artificially lit rooms,
at home and at work, and using screens late into the
night, disrupts our natural rhythm, causing us to sleep
poorly and feel bad.
The pandemic has held us in an iron grip for the
past two years, but one of its benefits is that it has made
us much more attentive to our health and wellbeing.
So it was only a matter of time before the use of light
in spaces also came under scrutiny. In this issue’s Lab,
we show how human-centric lighting can improve our
circadian rhythms. We take a look at the three sectors
that are most probable to undergo a lighting revolution:
the health space, the workplace and the home.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Look Book focuses
on the role of light in retail. Better said: the lack of
light, which is causing shops to take on an austere and
mysterious appearance. ‘Released from the prevailing
moral imperative of participation and self-becoming,
the consumer is free to unspool and unwind in moody,
oppressive reverberations,’ Rosamund Picton and
Kourosh Newman-Zand write about this monochromatic dark wave.
Finally, we’ve given the word to Marjan van
Aubel, the designer who became an activist and instigated the solar movement. She wants to bring scientists, designers, policymakers and industry together
to convert sunlight into energy that is accessible to
everyone. ‘We could be generating solar power from
every available surface,’ says Van Aubel, ‘including our
clothing and streets.’
If we have to look at screens, then preferably
powered by solar.
Robert Thiemann
Editor in chief
Returning from a trip to Valencia, designated as World Design
Capital 2022, Floor Kuitert recalls her encounter with the rich
ceramics culture that seeps through the city’s past and present.
It’s when roaming around Valencia’s Mercat Central that I become
aware of the enduring importance
of ceramics for the city’s design
identity. Sure, as an editor covering
the spatial design scene, I’m
familiar with the region’s longstanding ceramic (tile) industry
and have visited the Cevisama
trade fair. But it’s being here that
truly allows me to experience the
significance of the craft for both
the city’s historical and modernday (interior) architecture – and the
creatives behind it. It’s the second
time I’ve visited the city, which was
designated World Design Capital
2022, but the first time I’m looking
at it through an architectural lens
that bridges past and present. I
have Guiding Architects (GA), a
company that offers specialized
tours hosted by knowledgeable
local architects, to thank for that.
The public market building,
designed by Enrique Viedma Vidal
in Valencian Art Nouveau-style
and completed in 1928 after 14
years of construction, GA host
Boris Strzelczyk points out, is not
only still clad in its original colourful ceramic tiles, but also features
contemporary stands that embrace
this traditional material. Jaime
Hayon, for example, decorated
gourmet food products stand Uno
with artisanal ceramic tiles, hand
painted and manufactured in
nearby Manises. And as we walk
on, the black-and-terracotta tile
cladding of Ricard Camarena’s
Central Bar attracts my attention – or could it be the scent of
the Michelin-starred chef ’s food?
Likely both. On further inspection, the play with texture stands
out. In some places, architect
Francesc Rifé chose to reveal
the more irregular clay-coloured
back of the slabs, while elsewhere
vitreous black tiles are combined
with others in the same colour to
create a lattice, reminiscent of old
Mediterranean constructions. The
Barcelona-based architect believes
designers will continue to use
ceramics in projects because the
craft is deeply linked to the identity
of the city. ‘The memories behind
Valencian ceramics are very strong
and aesthetically it is a material full
of potential. It is a good example
of how the same material can
emotionally connect an entire city,’
he tells me.
As Rifé’s words suggest,
it’s not just at the Central Market
that designers have opted for
reinterpretations of the use
of ceramics, which is part of
Valencia’s building idiosyncrasy.
The duo behind Masquespacio
shows me around the store
of (math-friendly notebook)
publisher Cuadernos Rubio
(Frame 130, p. 75) for which they
used traditional mosaic tiles on
the walls, meant to emulate the
look and feel of graph paper.
The overall space looks anything
but traditional, featuring bright
neon signs, augmented reality
goggles and tablets. Over in
Valencia’s maritime neighbourhood Canyamelar-Cabanyal, the
studio realized the restaurant
La Sastrería. The design shows
patterns made with customized
tiles that reinterpret the ceramicclad façades of the neighbourhood. ‘Our designs are hugely
inspired by the local heritage,’
Masquespacio’s founders Ana
Milena Hernández Palacios and
Christophe Penasse tell us. ‘In
most of our projects we work with
ceramics. There is an infinite
range of opportunities, from
industrial to handmade ceramics. The material is durable, not
too expensive and you can make
any form you want with it. It’s an
important industry here. Many
local design studios are involved
in some sense in the ceramics
sector, designing collections for
brands, creating their catalogues
and communication, as well as
designing – among other things –
their fair booths.’
To further highlight the
city’s historical ceramics community, and as part of its mission
to promote the activity and
Reporting From
enhance the quality of its creative
sector, the team behind World
Design Capital Valencia 2022
has funded the DNA Ceramics
project, which includes a search
engine mapping agents of the
ceramics sector throughout the
Valencia region. Headed by local
potter Ana Illueca and implemented with the support of the
Valencian Institute for Business
Competitiveness (IVACE), the
project also aims to present crafts
and ceramics as drivers of social
and economic value, which they
are rarely recognized as. ‘The
everyday nature and proximity
of the ceramics industry in the
Valencian Community has led
people to stop being aware of its
worth. But it tells so many stories
that we feel obliged to protect
them, to give them value,’ says
Illueca. Supporting projects that
honour and upend longstanding
local traditions – in this case
those of ceramics – and proclaim
craftsmanship as a value inherent
to Valencian design, can help
bring a new kind of awareness to
it. Being World Design Capital
2022 gives Valencia the opportunity to do just that.
Floor Kuitert is Frame’s head of
Jenna Gottlieb asks why
Iceland’s capital is lagging
behind its Nordic neighbours
when it comes to accessibility
and inclusivity.
Last March, a private citizen in
Reykjavík launched a project
to help local businesses install
wheelchair ramps to improve
access for people with disabilities. His name is Haraldur
Thorleifsson and he’s the founder
of design company Ueno, which
was purchased by Twitter last
year. He also uses a wheelchair.
After moving back to the Icelandic capital from San Francisco,
he found himself on numerous
occasions unable to enter several
central city shops and restaurants
as they did not have wheelchair
ramps. He felt something
needed to be done, and Ramp
Up Reykjavík was born. Icelanders are known for their can-do
attitude, but it should not fall on
the shoulders of a private citizen
to initiate a critical infrastructure
project. While Reykjavík is
small, with fewer than 200,000
inhabitants, the city should
be better at making buildings
accessible. Indeed, Iceland has
thousands of disabled residents,
and thousands of tourists who
use wheelchairs visit every year.
To launch Ramp Up
Reykjavík, Thorleifsson teamed
up with the City of Reykjavík,
labour unions, local businesses
and government offices. The
programme solicited donations
to fund 100 ramps in Reykjavík
to begin with, and the terms for
business owners were favourable, with up to 80 per cent of
a culture of accessibility and
inclusiveness. Advocacy groups
do their best to highlight where
change is needed. Sjálfsbjörg, the
National Association of People
with Disabilities in Iceland, regularly conducts surveys of public
spaces such as pools, galleries
and museums, making recommendations for access improvements throughout the island
nation. In 2012, the association
established a knowledge centre,
which names accessible venues
of all types throughout Reykjavík.
Meanwhile, smaller
Nordic cities are excelling in
making accessibility a priority. Jönköping, for instance, a
Swedish city with about 100,000
inhabitants, was named the most
accessible city in Europe for
people with disabilities by The
Access City Awards, an accolade
given by the Employment, Social
Affairs & Inclusion department
of the EU commission. Korsør,
Denmark, home to about
15,000, and Tromsø, Norway,
with around 72,000 residents,
have received similar accolades.
Reykjavík is a capital city, and it’s
long overdue that it lives up to its
more accessible Nordic neighbours by investing in infrastructure, enforcing current laws and
making accessibility a priority.
installation costs reimbursed.
Thorleifsson established a fund
and donated €319,000 to the
project; the City of Reykjavík
later matched his donation. The
project was successful: it met
its goal of installing 100 ramps,
and the project also has a surplus
of roughly €100,000, which
will be used to install additional
ramps around the country. The
group aims to install 1,000 ramps
across Iceland, working with
local municipalities.
But why is Reykjavík
behind the curve of its Nordic
neighbours? Iceland’s resistance
to bureaucracy and inadequate
building codes may be to blame.
In 2012, the Icelandic parliament
passed a law outlining building
codes, specifying that ‘design
should not preclude the use of
mobility aids and equipment for
disabled persons’. However, the
rule applies only to structures
built after 2012 and does not
consider the need for retroactive renovations. Thus, older
buildings without ramps or with
bathrooms in the basement do
not need to comply. Furthermore,
the law does not address consequences for non-compliance. The
vague nature of the law makes it
easy for businesses to put accessibility on the backburner.
Icelanders are known as
a progressive group, and the
inadequate laws contrast with
the work done by society to build
Reporting From
Jenna Gottlieb is an Icelandbased journalist originally from
New York City. She has written
extensively about travel, business
and culture in Iceland, including
Moon Iceland (2020), a guidebook
published by Avalon Travel from
Perseus Book Group.
We are an Italian B Corp
Courtesy of Virgin Voyages
Sam Harris, courtesy of Nina+Co
How youth culture is reshaping hospitality. What packaging-free retail means for store
design. Phygital venues for esports entertainment. How workspaces can tackle the
loneliness epidemic. Sustainable restaurants enter a new chapter.
Courtesy of Mini
What if we
could design
spaces that
could ‘give’
more than
they ‘take’?
Steve Harud
What matters most to
Gen Z hospitality guests?
Business of Design
Brands catering to more traditionally
enrolled students are looking to new ways
of designing and facilitating for educative
hospitality experiences. Most prominent
is Amsterdam-based group The Student
Hotel, which recently secured €300 million
in funding. Featuring interiors by the likes
of The Invisible Party, the brand’s location
in Delft, the Netherlands, is pictured.
In 2018, the youth travel market generated €250 billion,
according to the WYSE Travel
Confederation. A year later, Gen
Z became the largest age demographic on the planet, making up
32 per cent of the global population. Now, despite holding less
savings than boomers and millennials, this group is spending
more than it did pre-Covid, and
where millennials are expected
to increase per capita spending
by just 10 per cent in the next five
years, Gen Z is on pace to rise by
70 per cent.
When the majority of parents
to Gen Z say their kids hold
significant influence in household
spending, it’s no longer a case
of preparing for the new wave of
consumers, but a rush for their
attention, loyalty and spending
power. They have already driven
change in the industries of social
media, gaming, fast food and even
funerals. In the hospitality sector,
however, their presence has not
yet encouraged such systemic
reboots, as the younger members
of the demographic are still some
way off making bookings and
reservations of their own.
Hospitality designers and
operators have more time to play
with than the digital sector, where
an immediate response is a necessity and early adoption is key. In
the built environment it can be a
costly mistake to jump on passing
trends beyond a pop-up space,
and if one thing has become clear
about Gen Z it’s their fluency
when it comes to movements in
culture. With this in mind, any
spatial design elements seeking to
appeal to younger guests must be
dynamic enough to readily engage
with an accelerated stream of
content without alienating a wider
customer base. But what exactly
is this nebulous demographic
looking for?
The list may well be topped
by the green factor.’s
Destination Z report found that
‘56 per cent of young travellers
said they’d want to stay in green
or eco-friendly accommodations,
and 60 per cent are looking for
more environmentally friendly
means of transportation once they
arrive’. A similar report by Skift
noted that 54 per cent of Gen Z
travellers would pay higher rates
to a service provider that is more
environmentally responsible.
Beyond the incorporation of environmentally friendly construction
and design methods, hospitality
Courtesy of Virgin Voyages
The hospitality offerings aboard
Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady cruise
align with younger demographics
demanding the luxury of choice.
venues exploring more tangible
and immersive dimensions of
sustainability will be best placed
to engage Gen Z’s desire to negate
their environmental impact.
However, it will not only be
responsibility in the context of
sustainability that draws these
guests. A keen sense for social
justice will see Gen Z seeking out
brands like those highlighted by B
Lab’s Certified B Corporation tag,
which seeks to showcase companies balancing purpose and profit;
the UK’s Exclusive Collection
became the country’s first hotel
chain to qualify last October.
Educative experiences are
another pull factor. In the wake of
Covid-19 and the onset of remote
learning practices, Gen Z’s perception of formal education has
become more flexible. Studies by
the PEW Research Centre found
that this demographic is staying
in education longer than previous
generations, which, when combined with the values of global
community it holds, places this
at the heart of travel experiences.
Sojrn – a network of connected
‘chapters’ based on the values of
slow travel – is the latest to weave
a thread of lifelong learning into
its offer. The brand currently
operates eight locations, including those dedicated to cultural
education subjects like mental
wellness in Ubud, biodiversity in
Cape Town, history in Rome, and
art and architecture in Barcelona.
As the first true generation
of the digital era, Gen Zers can
be greatly influenced by technology – or the lack thereof. Indeed,
79 per cent of Gen Z members say
their everyday life and activities
depend on technology, and in
hospitality environments, this
close relationship will feed into
the guest experience beyond the
elements of convenience and
efficiency. Aboard Virgin Voyages’
newly launched Scarlet Lady
cruise (see Frame 138, p. 80), technology – from centralized tablet
cabin controls to free WiFi packages – seeks to attract a younger
clientele. In terms of operation,
meanwhile, the presence of
disruptive digital platforms like
C3’s virtual-food-hall model will
further normalize the technologyenhanced experiences this crowd
has grown up with.
But it might not be so
simple. As noted in Sparks &
Honey’s Gen Z 2025 report: ‘In a
world where data can always find
you, hiding from it will become
an increasing premium. The
ultimate marker of success won’t
be measured in Gen Z’s working
hours, relationships or other
social currencies. It’ll be disappearing off grid – and not being
found, or tracked, by anyone not
designated by the disappeared
party.’ Suddenly, those hospitality brands that have spent the last
decade imbuing every element
of their portfolio with data,
hardware and software could
potentially drive younger guests
away. The recent controversies
to hit Facebook are revealing the
darker effects of social media
among youths, and an emergent
‘health is wealth’ philosophy is
not strictly limited to the physical
condition. KT
Courtesy of Mini
In China, a growing interest in outdoor
activities has resulted in initiatives
like Mini Cooper’s Nomad Hotel – a
remote, minimal-footprint hospitality
Business of Design
Courtesy of Aromatica
Business of Design
Beauty brand Aromatica’s Zero
Station is a zero-waste store in
Seoul offering refillable products.
Who’s driving
the refill retail
Shoppers making bigger commitments to reducing their carbon
footprints are expecting the retailers they shop with to do the same.
Globally, sustainability is rated as
an important purchase criterion
for 63 per cent of consumers,
according to a recent study by
Simon-Kucher and Partners.
While the factors that make
up eco-conscious shopping are
broad – from seeking localized
supply chains to buying seasonal
ingredients – packaging is an area
that has received a great deal of
attention, due to its long-standing
reliance on virgin plastic. A study
by environmental organization
Friends of the Earth found that
the manufacturing of plastic
is responsible for 5 per cent of
greenhouse gas emissions.
Refillable alternatives to
plastic packaging have risen in
popularity recently, and as a
result moved from being a quirky,
hard-to-come-by retail service
for die-hard sustainability enthusiasts to a mass-market option for
everyday shoppers. Customers
no longer need to supplement
their weekly shops with a trip to
an independent refill station, but
can now opt for packaging-free
alternatives in their favourite
consumer packaged goods (CPG)
stores, from a selection of their
favourite brands.
Supermarket chain ASDA
has just opened a third refill
store in York – the UK’s biggest
yet. The 18 bays stock over
100 branded and own-brand
products sold in loose and
unpackaged formats, ranging
from Yorkshire Tea to Whiskas
pet food. Through a partnership
with Unilever, it’s also testing a
new refill format that’s a global
first: shoppers pick up pre-filled
bottles from the shelf and return
them in-store once used. This
convenient option brings refilling
even closer to the regular aislebrowsing experience, and takes
yet another barrier away from
mass adoption: time.
But convenience isn’t the
only way to convert more customers into post-packaging pioneers.
In fact, there’s a growing appreciation for the experiential nature
of refilling your own lotions or
cereals, with TikTokers taking to
the video app to showcase the sensory pleasure that can accompany
more sustainable shopping. Thus,
there is an opportunity for retailers to capitalize on the viral obsession of Restock TikTok, which
merges ASMR with the aesthetically satisfying nature of refilling
containers with food, drink or
beauty products. And with these
videos amassing over 3.6 billion
collective views, it’s not so much
a niche youth subculture as a
natural human appreciation for
order. ‘I think people get boosts
of motivation and satisfaction
from watching the organizational
patterns, colors, and shapes that
come from structuring certain
items in the same way,’ TikToker
Stephanie Quinones tells Modern
Retail, in turn offering a new way
for brands to consider how to
build visual campaigns for their
refill retail ventures.
For grocery stores, the ability
to self-select feels relatively natural – after all, we’re used to testing
the ripeness of our own fruit and
vegetables. But for other CPG
industries, such as the beauty sector, more work is needed to make
customers rely less on the shelf
appeal of beauty packaging and
help drive the cosmetic sector’s
bulk packaging market, which,
according to Market Research
Future, is expected to be worth
€13.5 billion by 2028.
French FMCG retailer
L’Occitane recently opened its
first Green Store in Sydney,
Courtesy of Amorepacific
South Korean cosmetics giant
Amorepacific is ahead of the
curve, opening the country’s first
beauty refill station in 2020, with
15 types of shampoo and body
wash available to fill in recyclable
coconut shell containers.
Australia, with a commitment
to continually monitor ways to
lower unsustainable consumption. It features a Refill Fountain,
which allows customers to refill
their personal care products in
100 per cent recyclable aluminium containers dubbed ‘forever
bottles’. Additionally, a living
green wall helps to metabolize
toxins in the air and release oxygen, acting as a natural air filter.
As the store is located in one
of the city’s shopping centres,
spaces that are typically lacking
in natural light and ventilation,
such a feature positions the store
as a pollution-free haven.
Around the world, post-packaging beauty retailers are following suit. Department store Harvey
Nichols will include a refill station
as part of its new state-of-the-art
hair and beauty space, while The
Body Shop is taking its Francebased refill and recycling scheme
global, with plans for all its stores
worldwide to be equipped within
the next five years.
South Korea is finding its
feet as a leader in sustainable
shopping solutions. The government announced the creation of
a digital mapping service that will
allow its citizens to easily locate
zero-waste and eco-friendly shops
in the Seoul metropolitan area.
This isn’t the Korean government’s first initiative to encourage
greener consumption habits. In
2021, the country’s Ministry of
Food and Drug Safety (MFDS)
said it would pilot an operation of
refill stores that do not require a
customized cosmetics dispensing
manager, and instead allow consumers to refill products on their
own. Stating that customers should
be able to easily refill shampoo,
conditioner, body wash and liquid
soap, a report published by the
ministry outlines that refills should
be purchased at prices that are
between 30 and 50 per cent lower
than standard. This incentivization
of sustainable shopping will be key
to mass adoption.
But even with such positive
changes in place, these services
still predominantly exist as
separate entities to retailers’ main
packaged product offerings. If
Business of Design
they continue in this vein, there
is the danger that labelling these
areas ‘Refill Zones’ contributes
to the othering of sustainable
shopping, rather than embedding
it seamlessly into the traditional
experience. As we edge closer to
mainstream adoption, maybe the
next iteration of refill retail will
not need to be given a marketingfriendly label at all. Perhaps it’ll
just be called retail. EG
Will the rise of esports
create a new type
of hospitality venue?
Courtesy of Populous
Competitive esports have been on
the rise for some years, but following a global pandemic that saw a
39 per cent increase in time spent
gaming, and Microsoft’s gaming
revenue soar by 50 per cent,
both medium and market have
significantly matured. According
to figures from Juniper Research,
the global esports audience will
grow to 474 million this year and
reach a total market value of just
under €1 billion, then €1.4 billion
by 2024. In comparison, basketball and American football both
draw average yearly attendances
of 400 million, while baseball sits
just ahead with 500 million.
This is perhaps the definitive territory for brands seeking
to engage the next major class
of consumers – one where
media, sports and technology
all intersect. In terms of built
infrastructure, however, esports
venues are in a period of relative
infancy when held against the
size and potential growth of the
market. While this could be due
to the underlying tension between
physical and digital event hosting
that pervades the sector, it is
nonetheless a trend that will give
rise to a new type of hospitality
space, and will require a new
school of thought from designers
and operators alike.
The prospect of designing
stadiums, lounges or even single
rooms to host competitive gaming
sessions poses a set of quandaries
near-unique to this genre of space.
Consider the infraction of socalled ‘screenwatching’, wherein
one player is able to see his or
her opponent’s in-game movements and ascertain strategic
advantages. While this might be
taboo for players, for spectators
the ability to watch both sides
simultaneously constitutes the
bulk of the entertainment value,
forcing some venues to enclose
players within sound and sightproof booths to negate any cheating. Likewise, where a traditional
sports venue might deploy screens
to display highlights or branding
elements, here they are the defining feature – their use more akin
to a cinema than a stadium. It’s no
coincidence that many screening complexes turned to esports
following Covid downturns.
Requirements might vary
from game to game, necessitating
a degree of built-in flexibility and
modularity, though like every
competitive field there is a pressing need for a parallel degree of
continuity to ensure a fair fight.
As such, bodies tasked with regulating this sector have turned to
designers and architects for help.
Most recently, the IESF (International Esports Federation) teamed
up with Pittsburgh-based DLA+
Architecture & Interior Design to
lay out a series of technical and
spatial standardization guidelines.
‘The DLA+ IESF partnership
will explore the unique characteristics of esports activities and
environments, both technical and
physical, and leverage those qualities to promote this fast-growing
sport,’ says DLA+ associate Sung
A hotel and entertainment venue
plan by Populous for OverActive
Media in Toronto showcases
an approach that straddles
both digital and physical event
Jung. ‘Our goal is to ensure that all
esports venues provide the conditions necessary for high-quality
competition, production, and
presentation of esports games and
events, both in-venue and through
various forms of media.’
While some uniformity is
established, however, a wider
range of aesthetic values can
be applied to the sector. As one
of the earliest major designers
of esports venues, Kansas- and
London-based studio Populous
has visually defined the medium’s
formative years, with a recently
revealed project for developer
OverActive Media showcasing an
approach that straddles both digital and physical event facilitation.
‘The design of the theatre was neither conceived as a sports arena
nor an opera house, rather, a new
typology that straddles the two
– a state-of-the-art performance
venue,’ explains Populous’s senior
principal Jonathan Mallie. ‘The
theatre architecture creates a
merger of the old and the new.’ In
addition to an esports mode, the
future Populous-designed venue
will also host concerts.
With most major Western tournaments taking place in existing
convention centres, there are still
few standalone venues designed
to serve this market. The planned
16,000-m2 regional esports hub
at Mall of America will still rely on
its host’s audience for day-to-day
footfall, while the Luxor’s HyperX
Esports Arena in Las Vegas is
backed up by the casino floor and
themed F&B. As Juniper predicts
that one in nine people will be an
esports viewer or player by the end
of the year, a number of hospitality operators have been seeking
to bridge the gap between casual
guests and the popularity of the
professional strand. Not least in
the dominant Asia Pacific region,
where esports is set to debut as an
in-competition event at the 2022
Asian Games.
Osaka’s e-Zone incorporates
capsule beds and three floors of
high-spec PC setups and Taiwan’s
iHotel offers high-end DXRacer
seats and in-room console systems
for both overnight stays and
quick-fix two-hour sessions. These
new experiences have anticipated
dedicated infrastructure like the
Business of Design
80,000-m2 Xiacheng District
Esports Venue, which joins Chongqing’s 6,000-seat Three Gorges
Harbour eSports stadium to give
China two of the largest gaming
venues in the world. Designed
by Hong Kong architect Barrie
Ho, the latter features an exterior
clad in screens that combines the
spectacle of the game with the
design itself. ‘Everybody thinks
esports is about two people playing
a game online,’ says Ho. ‘But it’s
not like that; it’s a carnival.’
Recent video gaming restrictions enacted by the Chinese government could momentarily stifle
the sector’s growth, however, and
Dell’s early involvement over in
the burgeoning Latin American
scene with projects like Esports
Arena Borregos hints that hospitality brands and spatial designers
are not the only players exploring
this space. The prominence and
accessibility of streaming technology throughout this sector could
see an emerging spatial typology
increasingly defined as digital,
just as its spectacle begins to
move beyond the screen. KT
How can we make
the future workplace
less lonely?
The office is increasingly expected
to fulfil employees’ needs for
social interaction. It’s no surprise
that the rise of remote work has
exacerbated general feelings of
isolation – a survey conducted by
market research company Ipsos
on behalf of Edelman and Cigna
saw the epidemic of loneliness in
the US intensify. The 2020 report,
titled Loneliness and the Workplace,
also showed men are more likely
to feel lonely at work compared
with women, along with junior
employees, and those at executive
level, who often work from private
offices. A research report by design
collective Loneliness Lab reads
that in the UK, a worrying three
out of five people say they feel
lonely at work, costing employers
€4.4 billion a year in absenteeism,
staff turnover and lack of productivity. Nearly all visions of the
future workplace agree it should
facilitate more social interaction.
But most are vague on how to
achieve it. Nuanced thinking is
required to tackle this sensitive
and highly subjective issue.
To attract workers back
to the office, post-pandemic
workplaces are replacing
the usual rows of desks with
unprogrammed open space to
create more opportunities for
interaction. But creating space
for social interaction within the
workplace doesn’t mean it will
automatically happen. A small
number of meaningful relationships with our colleagues can be
more important to our wellbeing
than numerous fleeting ones.
Employers thinking of ditching
workstations altogether should
consider this. Loneliness Lab
found that feelings of isolation in
the workplace creep up among
those without an allocated desk or
team area. Co-workers, who are
used to hot-desking and finding
themselves alongside different
colleagues each day, ranked the
second loneliest after home workers in its 2019 survey. It’s not easy
to form meaningful relationships
with someone you can’t find in the
same space you did a week ago.
The Lab’s report on workplace loneliness is full of ideas for
smaller gestures that can improve
meaningful interactions. These
include digital-free zones where
face-to-face interaction is encouraged, moveable rather than fixed
furniture that allows people to join
conversations easily, and standingheight desks without central
barriers to encourage conversation.
Shared facilities, like bike storage,
bathrooms and kitchens, should be
spacious enough to allow people
to spend a comfortable amount of
time in them. The report proposes
that thoughtful touches in these
places could become conversation
starters. Circulation spaces should
also be generous to allow for
chance encounters.
Beyond social amenities,
areas with a focus on activity – like
gyms, yoga studios, basketball
courts, and learning and work-
shop spaces – could help employees bond over shared interests.
Co-working space The Commons
at South Yarra in Melbourne
includes a makerspace among its
amenities. Following on from the
thinking behind the Men’s Sheds
community space movement,
these could be particularly useful
in helping employees engage in
personal conversations side-byside, rather than face-to-face.
Features of workspace and
hospitality design continue to
converge. The design of No.6
Babmaes Street alludes to exclusive members’ clubs, reflecting a
growing function of the office to
entertain clients and collaborators
in-house, where they can soak
up a company’s values. Another
tactic for increasing social interaction is for office developments to
reach outwards with public-facing
amenities such as event spaces
and gardens. Corporate lobbies in
particular have been undergoing
a revolution to become coffee
shops, co-working space or even
mini-marketplaces, as Henning
Larsen plans for its first London
‘Office buildings must
become more than simply a space
to work, and neighbourhoods
[should become] places we can
truly live, work and play in,’
wrote Claire Bailey, director of
commercial research at Savills.
‘Businesses need to think of themselves as public amenities with
amazing experiences attached,
Business of Design
nurturing the people who live
around them.’ She believes that
designing for social connection should be a new standard
in development. Employees
spending time volunteering in the
local community could improve
neighbourly connections.
However, Future Spaces
Foundation warns about the
reality of privately owned public
space. ‘Private landowners have
the power to constrain the use
of outdoor areas like plazas and
parks, often at the expense of
local communities. Sometimes
constraints come in the form of
unaccommodating amenities,
like a lack of seating, which could
have the effect of marginalizing a garden square that might
otherwise be a site for kids to
play and parents to socialize,’
it states in its 2019 report on
urban loneliness, Kinship in the
City. ‘Other times it’s a question
of access, with owners limiting
public opening hours in favour of
private engagements; or behaviour, with restrictions on activity
in the space, like ball games or
protests.’ If offices do take it upon
themselves to address the issue
of loneliness at large, the public
spaces generated will need to be
genuinely accessible to improve
a neighbourhood’s social ties. RP
Courtesy of Henning Larsen
Tatjanna Plitt
Henning Larsen’s first project in
London, 105 Victoria Street, is a
prototype for the active and social
office of the future.
Co-working space The Commons at
South Yarra in Melbourne includes a
makerspace among its amenities.
Designed by Nina+Co, the interiors
of zero-waste restaurant Silo – which
was awarded the new Michelin Green
Star accolade – are composed from
waste and thoughtfully sourced,
natural materials that will either
biodegrade or easily disassemble for
repurposing in the future.
Sam Harris
What the
quest to
waste will
mean for
Following the recent COP26
conference, 40 Glasgow restaurants pledged to offer at least one
low- or zero-waste dining option
during a month-long campaign
called Plate Up for Glasgow. As
the organizers and Zero Waste
Scotland point out, around 1.3
billion tonnes of consumable food
and drinks are discarded each
year at an annual cost of €252.4
million to the country’s hospitality economy, with the resulting
methane emissions posing a much
greater contributing factor to
climate change than plastics.
For many, it has been incredibly difficult to conceptualize the
dangers of climate change and the
equally colossal efforts required
to alter a course towards catastrophe. But eating in restaurants is a
near-universal shared experience,
and thus perhaps a more effective and democratized forum
for showcasing the individual’s
place and purpose in this journey.
And while zero-waste, environmentally friendly and sustainable eateries may not be new
territory, recent initiatives have
pushed them beyond boutique,
fine-dining and independent
restaurants into mainstream F&B
consciousness – think Burger
King, McDonald’s and even food
delivery platforms.
While these ideals are
demonstrably changing the ways
restaurants function in terms of
circular processes and service
values, their impact on spatial
design and guest experience has
been less obvious beyond the elements of materiality and the food
itself. But with the call to adopt
increasingly innovative zerowaste principals only growing
louder and gaining traction across
the board, a shift in aesthetics and
design will follow.
That the Michelin Guide saw
fit to launch a Green Star category
to recognize restaurants excelling
in sustainable practices is perhaps
the surest sign that this movement has entered a new chapter.
Already we have seen the rise of
upcycled or repurposed furnishings, sustainable materials and
salvaged elements become commonplace, but soon the processes
of achieving zero waste will seep
into spatial design. At Madrid’s
Mo De Movimiento, for instance,
which won Best Use of Material
in the 2021 Frame Awards (see
Frame 144, p. 94), the rubble of the
existing building formed the basis
of the interior design.
Meanwhile, with high-profile
zero-waste London restaurant
Apricity, run by chef Chantelle
Nicholson, sustainable restaurant
specialists Object Space Place
seek to build further on a restorative design approach. According
to founder David Chenery, this
approach contemplates the
question: What if we could design
spaces that were actually able
to ‘give’ more than they ‘take’?
‘If you are taking on an empty
space, then this may be focussed
on retaining and celebrating the
character of what is already there,’
wrote Chenery in a recent blog
post. ‘If you are taking over the
site that was previously fitted out,
then this process needs to be more
involved as there will be more elements to review and assess. The
default position is that as much
as possible of the previous fit-out
should be retained.’ In the end,
if the latter point is subscribed
to, zero-waste venues with the
least impact – those that reduce
food, environmental and design
waste – may ultimately not look
Major changes in the context
of technology may prove equally
influential. Indeed, not only
material waste is being considered, but so too the efficient use
of an operation’s internal sales
channels, task allocations and
production processes. Digital twin
programmes that replicate, map
and simulate an entire F&B venue
to optimize the operational and
logistical elements of a space may
potentially reduce waste even
further – and mitigate revenue
loss in the process.
Beyond being beneficial to
the planet and continued life on
Earth, such optimization may
prove to be the distinctive characteristic for major chains that
might otherwise struggle to find
an entry point for this movement.
However, the presence of tech in
the zero-waste space could pose
an adverse effect to the hospitality
industry, potentially cutting out
the need for restaurants entirely
for guests seeking out physical
venues for morality’s sake. Where
once the rise of delivery apps
would fail to compete – packaging
for delivery is a necessary evil
to ensure the integrity of food in
transit – platforms like Outcast
Foods are exploring direct-tocustomer models in this sphere,
meaning the movement will
soon grow beyond the purview of
restaurateurs and F&B designers.
In the meantime, the hospitality industry’s embracing of
zero-waste concepts at all levels
can not only reduce the amount
of material and energy squandered, but also educate diners on
their role in this process. If it can
be demonstrated that a comfortable, entertaining, relaxing or even
luxuriously hedonistic experience
can be served with a helping of
environmental responsibility,
these ideals will be engaged on
a level at which few other spaces
are capable. KT
Business of Design
Courtesy of Spotify
SFAP, courtesy of Various Associates
A design is a
failure if people
find it hard to
interact with it
Shao Feng
Pim Top, courtesy of Marjan van Aubel
Various Associates on combining the best of Western and Chinese design.
Marjan van Aubel on making solar energy accessible. Spotify on developing
offices for hypergrowth.
Shenzhen-based studio Various Associates – headed by Qianyi
Lin and Dongzi Yang – has been boldly striving to subvert and
rework the use of Chinese building materials in their most
traditionalist, conservative form, and to introduce them in fresh,
unexpected contexts. Lin and Yang discuss why it’s important
to streamline narrative with design, their search for visual
references that appeal to people the world over, and why they
shy away from hackneyed ideas of good craftsmanship.
Words Amandas Ong
Portrait Shao Feng
How was Various Associates established
in 2017, and how has the studio evolved
QIANYI LIN: We left London in 2015 after
completing our studies, and spent the following year looking for meaningful projects
to pursue in China. One of our British
ex-classmates from the Royal College of Art
happened to be working in Hong Kong at the
time, and after speaking to them, it became
clear that there was space in the Chinese
design market, particularly in Shenzhen,
to do something creative.
We feel that for many years, the
predominant approach to significant projects
has been to go for a stereotypical vision of
grandeur – marble, expensive materials,
a ‘Cinderella’ feel. Initially, we weren’t sure
if our experimental attitudes towards spatial
design would gather currency in China, but
after talking to several people in Shenzhen, we
were encouraged to forge ahead. We don’t see
Various Associates as a company; it’s more like
a platform for like-minded individuals who
value freedom in design to get together. That’s
why our Chinese name is Wan She, with the
latter character referring to the varied groups
you find in society.
DONGZI YANG: Just as every person
and every brand has its own unique DNA, our
aim since starting Various Associates has been
to explore and use unusual materials and visual
effects. We strongly believe in the use of visual
language through design to tell a story about
the space.
PREVIOUS SPREAD Dongzi Yang (left) and
Qianyi Lin cofounded Various Associates
after studying at London’s Royal College
of Art.
You both studied at the Royal College
of Art in London. In what ways has your
education shaped your practice?
OPPOSITE Beauty store Haydon in
Shanghai’s The Bund references the
area’s blend of retro and modern
QL: I think there’s a large emphasis in Western
ideals of design on fun and a sense of humour,
both of which are really important. In China,
because urban development has happened
so quickly, it’s often the case that commercial
priorities overtake the actual design – things
have to be completed at a rapid pace. But that’s
not to say that there’s no potential to combine
the best aspects of Western design with
Chinese ones. Studying abroad taught us the
power of narrative in any given space. There’s
so much we can do with poetic suggestion
to evoke a certain response to design. For
example, as soon as I start reciting the lines of
the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai’s famous verse
Quiet Night Thought, you instantly know that
I’m trying to elicit a sense of nostalgia. We like
playing around with these familiar references,
seeing how we can incorporate them into our
designs and, vitally, make them universal.
DY: I also really appreciated the
open-mindedness of academic culture in
the UK. That’s very important: disciplinary
crossovers and a lack of boundaries can really
benefit design. It’s the ability to ask ‘why not?’
when presented with unlikely combinations.
Have you faced any pushback within
China, when presenting atypical design
QL: We’ve been lucky to have clients who like
the energy we bring to the table. Ultimately,
we’re also practical about what we can deliver
within realistic timeframes, once agreed.
When we’ve offered our clients a variety of
unorthodox design solutions to work towards,
while remaining true to, and embodying,
the spirit of their brand, I think the result is a
success. I think that’s what keeps them coming
back to us, because we’ve demonstrated a lot of
thoughtfulness with each commission.
One of the studio’s core values is that ‘the
method of driving everything is based on
human experience, rather than any fixed
design dogma’. Can you elaborate more
on what this means to you?
To express the unique flavour of
Shanghai in the Haydon store, Various
Associates combined such materials
as anaglyph plaster, mosaic tiles,
wood and golden metal.
Zhang Chao
QL: More often than not, the common
understanding of whether a specific type of
building material can be used is tied to people’s
experiences of how that material has been
applied in the past. Going back to the idea of
dismantling boundaries, what we do is to ask:
Why can’t we do things differently? We don’t
necessarily need to always follow convention.
For instance, we’re now examining the use of
‘gold bricks’, a type of clay tile traditionally
used exclusively in Chinese imperial palaces
like the Forbidden City and named for the
metallic sound it makes when struck after
being fired. The primary perception of these
tiles is that they’re inextricably linked to
Chinese royalty. But what we’re currently
doing is administering new techniques from all
around the world to use these ‘gold bricks’ as
composite materials in our designs. Typically,
these tiles are considered too expensive to be
used regularly – they cost around €3,500 and
upwards for just one piece. We think it’s a pity
that a material with such a rich history is seen
only in China’s oldest buildings, so we want to
be creative about enabling its more widespread
use and giving it new life. That’s why we avoid
conferences where the designers’ focus is on
understanding and learning to imitate how
admired designs have been created before. We
just want to focus on being inventive and doing
our own thing.
DY: I also dislike that the
preconceived notion about what it means to
achieve mastery in design is so restricted to
craftsmanship. In the contemporary context,
I think mastery is about sensitively and
shrewdly getting to the core and the value
of an idea, knowing how to bring it to
fruition effectively. What’s more, it’s about
a willingness to study how things have been
done in the past, noting the merits of these
practices, and finding ways to reinvent them.
That’s real mastery to me.
Your designs feature sleek, clean lines
that are reminiscent of classic sci-fi films
like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space
Odyssey, or even some of Tadao Ando’s
signature works. What’s the process of
deriving inspiration for your projects?
DY: That’s a tricky question, since there’s
no standard way of looking for inspiration.
We’re motivated by a desire to come up with
comprehensive solutions to design problems,
and we use that motivation as a guiding force
to lead us to the materials, methods and
In Practice
colours that we’d consider. It’s interesting that
you bring up both Ando and Kubrick. It goes
to show that designs should serve as a point
of resonance for the people who interact with
them. A design is a failure if people find it hard
to interact with it meaningfully.
How has Covid affected the design
market in China?
QL: The pandemic has of course presented
huge challenges for our entire society. In
particular, brands that operate offline have
been adversely affected. That’s where we
come in. We hope to exercise innovation in
delivering the best designs for these brands,
so they can strengthen their identity and
presence, and in turn improve their business.
DY: To look on the optimistic side,
Covid has given smaller, creative studios like
ours the time and space for contemplation.
I’ve also noticed that brands and companies
are more patient when working with designers,
and more willing to generate out-of-the-box
ideas. That’s a plus, and we hope to see this
trend continue in the future.
Blue was chosen as the main colour
at the AIP international high school in
Shenzhen, China, to contribute to a
relaxed learning atmosphere.
Located in Sanya’s Edition hotel on
Hainan Island – the birthplace of surfing
in China – multi-brand fashion retailer
SND’s concept store is designed to evoke
the experience of moving through waves.
‘I dislike that the preconceived notion
about what it means to achieve mastery in design
is so restricted to craftsmanship’
For Haydon in Hangzhou – whose
products are sparsely merchandised
to avoid an overwhelming shopping
experience – sci-fi storylines,
aeronautic materials and the city’s
misty, grey atmosphere were all points
of reference.
In Practice
The first in a range of products
that aim to integrate solar power
seamlessly into daily life, Sunne
stores energy during the day to
produce ambient night at light.
Pim Top
In Practice
There’s much more to solar energy than outdated
photovoltaic panels. Dutch designer Marjan van Aubel has
dedicated the past five years of her career to uncovering the
potential of this technology: malleable layers of solar cells that
can be applied to almost any surface in our built environment.
Developing tangible products and engaging installations –
notably a contribution to The Netherlands Pavilion at Expo
Dubai 2020 – the self-proclaimed solar designer has set out
to redefine what sustainability entails. Her ground-breaking
designs reveal how this renewable and readily available energy
source can be easily extracted and implemented. But Van
Aubel’s ambition to get the word out doesn’t stop there. She’s
one of the names behind The Solar Biënnale taking place this
autumn, which will survey a wide range of innovations and
highlight the pioneers pushing the industry forward.
Words Adrian Madlener
Portraits Michèle Margot
Tell us about your background. How did a
passion for solar cell technology emerge
from your initial interest in material
MARJAN VAN AUBEL: I developed a
fascination for materials during my studies,
which centred heavily on coming up with
bespoke processes. At the Gerrit Rietveld
Academie in Amsterdam, I engineered a
foaming porcelain process and used it to create
large cabinets. I brought this experience with
me when pursuing a master’s degree at the
Royal College of Art in London, where I began
applying this technique to wood shavings
and bio-resin. Based on this exploration, I
developed the Well Proven Chair with James
Shaw. What I realized during school was that
design isn’t just about exploring how various
materials behave or working towards set end
results, but also about understanding what
it means to design outright, to consider how
objects are produced and the responsibility
they carry.
I was first drawn to solar cells as
a surface material that could capture and
transform light in an exciting way, which
aligned well with my master’s thesis on the
future of colour. I was inspired by the idea
that this technology employs the properties
of colour to generate electricity and do more
than meets the eye. This complexity eventually
became the basis of my work, but it wasn’t
until 2017 that I decided to take a leap, hone
my focus, and fully dedicate my practice
to working with solar cells. Moving back to
Amsterdam was also an impetus for this shift.
I became much more interested in collaborating
with others, with like-minded experts based
here, than just focusing on the material. I
wanted to look at data and design things that
could have a positive impact on the future.
The idea behind most of your projects is
that solar cell technology is inherently
accessible and can be applied to almost
any surface. How did you make this
I first found out that you could make
rudimentary dye-sensitized solar cells
from scratch using readily available natural
components like blueberry juice. Working
with inventors like Michael Gressel and
eventually manufacturers in Switzerland
and South Korea, I learned how to refine the
process and use more sophisticated elements
like dioxide and nanostructures. Through this
process, I realized how flexible the material
is and its potential in different applications.
Produced using heavy and harmful synthetics
like silicone, standard photovoltaic panels
are limited and bulky. They’re developed
without much consideration for design or
aesthetics. I decided to conceive products that
could better integrate into our surroundings
and make good use of underperforming
walls, façades, windows, tabletops and so on,
solutions that are tangible, emotional and
even fun. The lightweight organic transparent
solar cell (OPV) skylights I developed for The
Netherlands Pavilion at Expo Dubai 2020
incorporated a playful combination of colour
and pattern. They demonstrated that there
are many ways to implement this technology.
Design is an integral tool that can help us make
solar energy more accessible.
‘Design is an integral tool
that can help us make solar
energy more accessible’
Talk us through some of your other
designs. How have your projects evolved
in the past five years?
Comprising a dye-sensitized solar cell surface
that collects energy from daylight indoors,
Current Table was one of my first solar
designs. Engineered to produce power under
diffused light and charge different devices,
the second iteration incorporated an app that
allows users to monitor light intensity. What’s
interesting about this solution is that it’s a
piece of furniture you can work on and that
simultaneously works for you. From there,
I took the idea that any glass object could
become a power source and ran with it. The
subsequent designs I developed were a series
of custom stained-glass Current Window
installations that could also serve as charging
stations. I then began to think about how
entire buildings could become self-sufficient
generators. With the Power Plant project,
I explored how solar-cell infused glass could
serve yet another function by helping to
run a vertical greenhouse or biotope – the
concept behind The Netherlands Pavilion at
Expo Dubai 2020 – while also gauging and
controlling the optimal amount of sunlight
for growing plants. Each successive project
has informed the next, and brought me closer
to comprehending the full capacity of this
It’s often hard for designers to make the
critical link between speculative research
and marketable products. How have you
been able to bridge this gap?
I’m currently working with partners to launch
a dedicated company that will sell some of my
designs directly to consumers. We’ve started a
Kickstarter campaign and hope to sell products
like Sunne via this brand very soon. Attached to
windows, the lamp harvests sunlight during the
day to power up and glow at night.
What are your hopes for the future?
The sun is one of the last free resources we
have. There are plenty of ways to harvest its
light and energy. It plays a vital, direct role in
photosynthesis, turning carbon dioxide and
water into essential plants. We can learn more
from nature and natural processes to become
more efficient. We could be generating solar
power from every available surface, including
our clothing and streets. People could be able
to activate their own movement, and cities
would be able to become their own batteries.
All of this will be possible very soon.
Tell us more about The Solar Biënnale
and the accompanying book you’re
Innovations in solar power are happening
everywhere. We need a new narrative for this
growing industry and to shake off the stigma
that it’s an expensive form of energy. It’s
not just designers who are introducing new
solutions. The solar panel manufacturing
industry is also starting to change. With a
broad range of solutions, this technology is
an essential part of how we will design our
post-fossil-fuel world. Fellow Dutch designer
Pauline van Dongen and I felt it was time to
celebrate this movement. Bringing together
many leading thinkers, scientists, designers,
industry players and policymakers that
might have not interacted before, The Solar
In Practice
Biënnale will mark the moment with a dynamic
programme of lectures, seminars, labs and
design challenges. The event will start with an
exhibition mounted at Rotterdam’s Het Nieuwe
Instituut in September and continue through
October in different parts of the Netherlands.
Results from the various activations will also be
exhibited at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven,
while a travelling pavilion will offer information
to the broader public. While developing The
Solar Biënnale, I’m also writing a book that
highlights many of the projects already out
there and outlines some of the ideas I have
about where things should go. It will serve as a
guide and toolkit. Beyond that, I believe solarbased design should become an integral part
of design school curriculums. Collaboration
and the open-source sharing of knowledge are
crucial to making significant changes. As more
people get involved, things will start to pick up
steam and move on their own.
Van Aubel is pictured with a model
of Power Plant, a greenhouse that
uses transparent solar glass to grow
the food within.
Pim Top
Transforming solar energy into a
form of art, Ra integrates organic
photovoltaics, a circular, thirdgeneration solar technology. The
ever-changing colours of the
1-mm-thin work – which is designed
to be hung in a window – respond to
the sun’s position.
‘We could be generating
solar power from every available surface,
including our clothing and streets’
Buro Belén
Van Aubel designed skylights using
lightweight organic transparent
solar cells to power The Netherlands
Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo, a
project by V8 Architects. The solar
panels also filter the sun’s rays,
providing the biotope’s edible plants
with the right spectrum of light for
In Practice
Courtesy of Marjan van Aubel
In Berlin, Spotify worked with architects
MNA Merten Nibbes and TP Bennett to
maintain the integrity of the historical
building while softening its raw aesthetic.
‘A new office
reality is up
for discussion
and design’
In Practice
How do you design offices for a company that’s in hypergrowth?
That’s what Sonya Simmonds set out to do for Spotify. Having
previously worked for architecture firms in London and Stockholm on
projects for clients such as Bloomberg, Schroders and the Discovery
Channel, she’s now the global head of design and build at the world’s
most popular audio-streaming subscription service. She explains
how the team reassessed its strategy to create dynamic, flexible and
experiential workplaces.
As told to Tracey Ingram
SONYA SIMMONDS: Spotify is in a period of hypergrowth,
and has been for some years. Back in 2019, we started
to assess how our real estate aligned with our growth
and realized that something didn’t feel right. We were
constantly running out of space, a story common to many
growing companies. But if we looked out across our open
office spaces with dedicated desking, we saw empty
workstations. How could we need more real estate when
our office floors felt and appeared empty?
The first step towards a solution was gathering
utilization data on our biggest offices in
Stockholm, New York and London. The apparent
emptiness of our spaces was due to a variety of
reasons. Like many companies, we had openplan offices with meeting rooms; since people
weren’t comfortable talking in the former, they’d
use the latter. We were also meeting-heavy.
Meeting rooms therefore became overbooked,
but when people missed meetings, those spaces
weren’t made available to others, resulting in
underutilized space. In addition, when one of
us travelled to another office with dedicated
desks, we often had to sit at someone’s highly
personalized workspace, which can feel
uncomfortably imposing.
If we wanted to do a global rollout, we needed a solid plan.
So, we started listening to what people did and didn’t like,
what they needed and wanted from our spaces. To me,
a layered approach seemed logical, and the result was
what we today call our Dynamic Workplace strategy. We
were all set to start implementing this new strategy – and
then the pandemic hit. But instead of pressing pause, we
took the opportunity to push ahead while our offices were
Each Dynamic Workplace project starts with a
raw base. We take the building and expose or
retain as many of the existing features as possible
to remain humble and true to the space. This
approach also informed our future real estate
strategy – we would be looking for interesting
buildings and, as we became more established,
we didn’t necessarily need central business
district locations but could position ourselves
in a city’s more creative sectors.
The next layer is the interior fit out. Up until 2019 every
Spotify office looked different – it was difficult to define
the Spotify office. We started to set global design standards and decided to hire local architects to make our base
design locally relevant and culturally reflective. We usually
approach three or four local architects after doing a lot of
dedicated research to find the right fit for the job, including poring through magazines and staying on top of who’s
winning awards. We’re looking for creatives who base
their design on spatial experience rather than adopting a
one-size-fits-all approach. And we want their style, their
personality, for them to bring something to the table. We
don’t stipulate any design competition or pitch requirements – what we want to see is their true essence, what they
stand for, and whether they align with our values: innovative, collaborative, sincere, passionate and playful.
For each project, we do a deep due diligence on
the building as well as interview our local teams
to understand who they are and what they need.
This helps us to set up a very clear baseline for the
local architects, so that they don’t get too bogged
down in guesswork. We also provide guidelines
for furniture, sustainability and accessibility.
These guidelines indicate our main priorities – for
example, it’s not important for us to have a piece
of paper that proves we’re sustainable, but it is
important that we follow sustainability practices.
As for the furniture, we suggest pieces that are sustainable
and support the various ways our ‘band members’ work –
that’s what we call the Spotify team, as all our employees
are treated like one big band. We’ve moved away from
a uniform, desk-ownership approach towards what our
platform does best – it’s a system that allows for user
choice. We want to offer spaces to use based on people’s
mode or mood. Collaborative spaces are as equally
important as focus areas, and we noticed that specific
groups want different environments – after all, those in
HR, finance and artist relationships are different types of
people who work in different ways, so why shouldn’t each
team have personalized environments? The furniture
choices also needed to answer some of our aims for
improving diversity and inclusion in our spaces, such as
making enclosed retreat areas and enhancing acoustics.
The final stage in our new layered approach is
about the experience, which was completely
lacking in previous Spotify offices. When I joined,
we were about to embark on an experiential
project for 4 World Trade Center – 14 floors of
In Practice
Located in LA, Spotify’s US production
hub includes workspaces, studio
production and viewing and listening
rooms spread across three buildings.
The entrance is designed to reflect the
feeling of arriving in a nightclub, with
dynamic lighting for different moods.
Stationed between artist listening
rooms at the LA hub is a RIOSdesigned barista bar – a social
space to meet and mingle.
‘The office needs to learn from
the home and become a much more
comfortable and appealing place to be’
art work needed to be done in the New York
skyscraper – but we also had 19 other office
projects planned for the forthcoming year, so
it was the perfect time to reimagine our goal to
focus on brand experience, curation and creation.
We redesigned a global package of wayfinding to
make each space easier to navigate and to give
the offices a consistent look. Accessibility in the
platform is integral to our beliefs, and we should
be just as accessible with our spaces. Now, the
text in our spaces connects to our brand identity
and is used in the most easy-to-read manner
– lower case, high contrast – to align with our
neurodiverse design requirements. We looked at
our meeting room names, which reflect artists,
playlists and podcasts, and did a deep analysis to
ensure they were equitably representative. We
added on-brand Spotify features to meeting room
signage – below the room name, a scannable
Spotify barcode directs you to the corresponding
playlist on the platform. And, to remind us of who
we are and what we produce, we started to display
our existing assets, such as playlist art work and
marketing campaigns.
An important part of our platform, and therefore also
our offices and studios, is to foster creativity. To keep us
engaged and excited, it’s crucial that our offices reflect the
brand and serve as bases for creators, and we often work
with local visual and audio artists to achieve this essence.
For three of the 14 floors in New York, for example, we fed
back into the education system in New York with an open
call for art work. We also did a series with diverse artists
from different backgrounds, and used local creators and
production teams. We want art pieces that express the local
vibe at that point in time and celebrate audio in some way
while matching our brand aesthetic: bold, colourful and
graphic. Most of these installations were made according
to briefs or with input from our band members.
Assessing the bigger picture of the workplace and
how the office will function post-pandemic, we
need to look at aligning our HR policies with the
flexibility of our Dynamic Workplace strategy –
which was, thankfully, the perfect partner to the
Work from Anywhere (WFA) initiative. WFA is
Spotify’s version of a hybrid workforce – it allows
employees to choose between an Office Mix,
whereby they work predominantly on site, and
a Home Mix, which reflects the opposite. I’ll be
honest: on the one hand, I was excited by the
flexibility that this would offer people, but on the
other, I was freaking out. We’d never had to ‘sell’
the idea of coming to the office before – it was
just a place where you came and did your work.
Suddenly, our on-site offerings are competing
with the home, co-working spaces, cafés – and
anywhere else our band members want to work.
This means that the office needs to learn from the
home and become a much more comfortable and
appealing place to be – somewhere with better
acoustics and more greenery.
Now we’ve reached a stage where we not only need to
utilize and measure how we use space, but to understand
that people want to use it for other types of activities on a
much more random basis. Not having a steady stream of
people coming and going makes it harder to plan – we’ll
have to be even more flexible with our spaces, much more
attentive to our experiential offer, and think about how to
deliver our service in a virtual way. Looking forward, it’s
exciting, and I can imagine possibilities where our offices
and studios will become much more porous. Maybe the
lower sections of our buildings will be more open and
integrate with the streetscape, or we could open up our
amenities such as auditoriums. Maybe some of our spaces
will become larger communal meeting areas – not just
for internal meetings but also external ones. Or perhaps
the spaces and meetings we have will become a blend of
virtual and reality. A new office reality is up for discussion
and design, and it’s a hugely interesting period for
rethinking what we need and what we can offer our band
members and our local and global communities. As we
move forward, we’ll openly share our design strategies and
what we’re working on, continue to collaborate with likeminded companies, aim to learn more, and be okay with
experimenting and reiterating.
Our job in the field of architecture and design is
to problem-solve on all levels, to innovate and
integrate from the macro to the micro, and to
design sustainably and inclusively for the future.
In the Spotify workplace team, we’ll remain
true to our initial three pillars when it comes to
our built spaces: flexibility, sustainability and
wellbeing will be at the heart of our solutions.
And we won’t stop there – by embracing Spotify’s
core values such as playfulness, we’ll have fun on
this unpredictable journey.
In Practice
Brad Devins
At its Miami building in the centre of
the Wynwood Arts District – designed
with OTJ Architects – Spotify
showcases artists and creators from
Central and South America.
Andrea Martiradonna
Nestled among skyscrapers
in Milan’s city centre, Spotify’s
southern European home was
designed with local architecture
firm E45 to combine cosy home
comforts with the company’s
global brand experience. The art
work in the reception – which
refers to recording studios through
the use of acoustic panels – is
reflected in the rug beneath.
‘I can imagine possibilities where
our offices and studios will become
much more porous’
The Client
Urvirsion Co. / Zheng Fang and Tang Cao, courtesy of Various Associates
LLAP, courtesy of DUTS Design
Building smaller
can promote
José Hevia, courtesy of Eeestudio and Lys Villalba
Zaohui Huang, Dison Mao, Peng Zhong, courtesy of Inspiration Group
Why retail is showing its shadow side. Plyscrapers reach new heights. Animals up
the design ante for interiors. China’s parent-child retail revolution. The growth of the
small-living movement.
In each issue we identify a key aesthetic trend evident in
our archive of recent projects and challenge semiotics agency
Axis Mundi to unpack its design codes. This time, we’re taking
a look at recent retail spaces that embrace a more sober,
mysterious and monochromatic staging for their products.
Words Rosamund Picton and Kourosh Newman-Zand
Urvirsion Co. / Zheng Fang and Tang Cao
(So)What boutique by Various
Associates in Chengdu, China.
Akenz flagship by Lukstudio
in TX Mall Shanghai, China.
Lotan Architectural Photography / Peter Dixie
Ambitious developments in the construction of
the so-called ‘metaverse’ encourage the ongoing
dominance of ‘immersiveness’ as a spatial design
strategy that elevates and centres the participation
and creative direction of the consumer to define,
personalize and edit the retail experience. Partner
apps, augmented reality, engaging art installations and
in-store gamification facilitate this, knocking on the
fourth wall of retail – promising consumers a newly
empowered role as both listener and storyteller. In Dark
Retail, disruptive retailers are challenging the prevailing
orthodoxy, designing spaces that renew the status of
the retailer as creative instigator and that affirm the
phenomenological stability of the product.
The structures and pathways of these spaces
are built on and along linear and cold geometries.
Spotlights in formations reminiscent of dotted grid
paper hover squarely above, or else strips of light
stretch into Tron-like infinities. Neat mesh metal
sheeting and shoji-style walls lit with an ambient
eggshell paper colour meet and comfort the eye with
a sense of permanence, a comfortingly immovable
material substrate. In a moody riposte to our culture
of immediacy, consumers are invited to traverse blind
corridors with an aura of mystery, their field of vision
obscured by one-way mirrors or distracted by the
gloomy shadows of looming doorways. Sturdy ladders
reaching up to high shelving or imposing podiums
impede the reach of the consumer, postponing the
gratification of consumption.
Lighting often seems not to illuminate space,
but to entice consumers forward. Luminous globes
hang enigmatically, while guiding stars shimmer in
the middle distance. Translucences lurk in the gaps
between. Velvety black corrugated walls ripple as if
they are curtains enshrouding a purgatorial zone,
while pervasive shadows and black or charcoal walls
reveal infinite depth that does not yield to the cultural
expectations of transparency. At times, the spaces
seem inspired by the horror genre. Alienating cold and
milky blues creep across screens and surfaces, while
the interplay between materiality and luminosity is akin
to the tense and disturbing quiet of an ancient forest
beneath a full moon.
Interrupting and contradicting the territorial
permanence of the atmospheric grid, products are
arranged to bring attention to their organicness and
temporariness. This strategy of tension between cool
geometry and romantic decay is perverse and theatrical.
A sneaker store ironically highlights the rising status of
sneakers as an asset class with a pile of dust obstructing
the customer’s passage. Everything turns to dust – even
sneakers. A cloud of mist swirls around bouquets of
flowers in a neoclassical florist, drawing us to imagine a
solitary, earthly petal delicately falling to the floor in the
still, sterile territories of a vessel telegraphed from an
accelerating technological future.
These dramatic sequences focus on
storytelling and resist consumer immersion or
participation. Staging techniques – whether sincere
or ironic – revive the aura and mystery of the product
experience, while a monochromatic ‘dark wave’
aesthetic cultivates a thrilling and dangerous energy
with libidinal appeal. Released from the prevailing
moral imperative of participation and self-becoming,
the consumer is free to unspool and unwind in moody,
oppressive reverberations.•
Look Book
Yong Joon Choi
Soldout Musinsa store in Seoul,
South Korea.
Oculis Project
LEFT (So)What boutique by Various
Associates in Chengdu, China.
BELOW Soldout Musinsa store in
Seoul, South Korea.
Yong Joon Choi
Urvirsion Co. / Zheng Fang and Tang Cao
OPPOSITE Closet Case store by L.S.
Design in Dubai Mall, United Arab
Look Book
LEFT Beauty Innovation 2020
window installation for Shiseido
by We+ in Tokyo, Japan.
OPPOSITE (So)What boutique
by Various Associates in
Chengdu, China.
Courtesy of We+
Urvirsion Co. / Zheng Fang and Tang Cao
Yong Joon Choi
Soldout Musinsa store
in Seoul, South Korea.
BELOW Closet Case store by L.S.
Design in Dubai Mall, United Arab
OPPOSITE Bananain concept
store by Some Thoughts Project
in Hangzhou, China.
Oculis Project
Shao Feng
InSpace Architectural Photography / Zhizhou Zhang
RIGHT Dresscode flower store
by F.O.G. Architecture in Beijing,
Courtesy of Balenciaga
Balenciaga store at Haus
Cumberland in Berlin, Germany.
Urvirsion Co. / Zheng Fang and Tang Cao
COLOUR Multi-layered, glossy and
charcoal blacks meet dusty greys,
eggshell whites and nightly blues
in a Goth-inspired colour palette.
Pure white lights and reflective
silver surfaces add a sense of cool
to the overall gloomy yet tranquil
Shao Feng
Yong Joon Choi
LIGHT Instead of fully illuminating
spaces, light is used to guide
consumers forward. Spotlights in
grid formations and luminous strip
structures are combined with more
spherical, shimmery light sources.
Strong lighting leaks from doors
for dramatic visual effects, while
evasive shadows move through
the darkness.
Oculis Project
MATERIAL Hard-wearing
materials feature heavily. Concrete,
corrugated, shoji-style and steelclad walls wrap shop interiors
filled with stainless-steel clothes
rails, leather-topped and velvety
furnishings, and cement-cast
cabinets. Black tiling, marble, mesh
metalwork and one-way mirrors
complete the aura of mystery.
Look Book
New ways of working with
wood have seen the material
emerge as a sustainable,
circular solution for buildings
tall and wide.
With the Sara Cultural Centre and The
Wood Hotel, White Arkitekter aims to
showcase how wood can be engineered
as a sustainable structural material for
complex and high-rise buildings.
Patrick Degerman
With awareness rising of the construction
industry’s impact on climate change, the pressure is on to find sustainable, circular material
alternatives to concrete and steel – two major
contributors to carbon emissions. Concrete and
steel are responsible for metropolitan skylines
as we know them, where towering high-rises
convert limited square metres into densely
populatable habitats for living, work, education, leisure and more. Such towers can help
to accommodate the 55 per cent of the world’s
population currently living in urban areas, a
figure that the UN expects to rise to 68 per cent
by 2050. The question is, how can we resolve
these two seemingly opposing issues, creating
enough space for a growing urban population
without exacerbating climate change?
Apparently, one answer has been
under our noses the entire time: wood. ‘Two
solutions to climate change are obviously to
reduce our emissions and find [carbon] storage,’ said architect Michael Green during ‘Why
we should build wooden skyscrapers’, a Ted
Talk he gave in 2013. ‘Wood is the only major
material I can build with that actually does
both of those two things.’ Just 1 m3 of wood – a
renewable material that can often be sourced
locally, further reducing its carbon footprint –
can store 1 tonne of CO2.
Wood has been around for as long as
we’ve known, so have we simply been slow to
catch on to its suitability for bigger buildings?
In reality, new technologies like mass timber
construction have made it possible to push
such a low-tech material to its limits. That
said, these technologies are relatively simple.
Glued laminated timber (GLT), for instance,
is made by bonding together layers of lumber
with their woodgrains aligned. Able to be
used for longer spans, heavier loads and more
complex shapes than reinforced concrete and
steel – and with much lower embodied energy
than either – GLT is perfect for columns and
beams. Cross-laminated timber (CLT), on the
other hand, is like giant pieces of plywood. Its
layers are glued together perpendicularly to
create uniform strength, making CLT ideal for
walls and floors.
Due to the size and scale of these
techniques, wood can finally move well beyond
the bounds of 2 x 4 construction. Where
wooden buildings once barely grazed the
four-storey mark, we’re now seeing countries
compete for the title of ‘world’s tallest plyscraper’. Just completed in Amsterdam, Team
V Architectuur’s Haut claims to be the ‘first
wooden residential tower in the world’ at 21 storeys. Skellefteå in Sweden recently welcomed
a 20-storey, 75-m-tall project comprising the
Sara Cultural Centre and The Wood Hotel,
courtesy of White Arkitekter. Tokyo has plans
to go much, much bigger: the city is proposing
a 70-storey wooden building to commemorate
its 350th anniversary, in 2041. In the meantime,
many others will likely appear rapidly around
the globe. And rapidly is apt: According to The
Guardian: ‘A whole year was saved by using
wood [for the Sara Cultural Centre and The
Wood Hotel], compared with steel and concrete, with a storey completed every two days.’
One major remaining obstacle is cost
– or at least the perception of it. Stefan Prins,
partner architect at Powerhouse Company,
says that in his home base of the Netherlands,
‘the price of building in timber is still much
higher than traditional methods of construction. I foresee this changing once our industry’s
focus shifts to a building’s entire lifecycle. For
the government, the environmental benefits
of using wood will outweigh the price of the
effects of concrete’s carbon emissions.’ What’s
more, he adds, ‘designing in wood gives incredible possibilities in architecture. The speed at
which technological developments are being
implemented makes this material increasingly
the best choice for the building industry.’ TI
30,000-m2 cultural centre and hotel
Jonas Westling
A small Swedish city is now home to one of the world’s tallest timber
buildings to date: a 75-m-tall carbon-negative complex that comprises the Sara Cultural Centre and The Wood Hotel. The high-rise
hotel in Skellefteå is comprised of prefab 3D CLT modules, while the
low-rise cultural centre combines CLT cores and walls with GLT columns and beams. The trees used – which were both harvested and
processed within 60 km of the site – have all since been replenished.
10,000-m2 social housing
The largest wooden-structured residential building in Spain lies in Cornellà de
Llobregat, in the province of Barcelona. The Peris+Toral-designed project – which
includes 85 social dwellings across five storeys – was made using 8,300 m2 of zerokilometre wood from forests in the nearby Basque Country. The five wood-framed
floors are supported by a reinforced concrete structure on the ground floor, where
shops and public facilities can be found. As well as reducing CO2 emissions, using
wood helped Peris+Toral to industrialize the building process, improve the quality
of the construction and dramatically cut the duration of the build.
José Hevia
Working with large panels may
speed up construction, but wood
offers opportunities for more
complexity, too. Powerhouse
Company’s Stefan Prins
recommends teaming up with
manufacturers and engineers to
explore alternative geometries.
7,700 + 1,700-m2 education complex
The use of wood as a ‘natural material’ has two
meanings at Oregon State University: it was the
fitting choice for part of the campus’s Forest Sciences
Complex in Corvallis. Michael Green Architecture
contributed two mass timber buildings to the project,
developing an innovative CLT rocking-wall system
for the Roseburg Forest Products Atrium in response
to the site’s high seismic requirements. Due to its
educational context, the building is considered a
teacher. As such, it’s monitored by integrated sensors
that gather data on the structure’s movement and
moisture levels.
Josh Partee
CreatAR Images
Stacked like building blocks, the
units at the pet-friendly Kennels
hotel in China resemble a series
of giant kennels.
Four-legged friends are quickly becoming akin to clients,
with everything from cafés and hotels to schools designed
with them in mind.
At a certain point during one of the many
lockdowns in the Netherlands, dog owners
walking their pets were among the only people allowed on the streets after a certain hour,
prompting jokes of investing in animals for
the added freedom. Jest aside, pet ownership
boomed in 2020. As Nick Paumgarten wrote
in a piece for The New Yorker: ‘Pandemic life
has shrunk our horizons, narrowed our focus.
For many, the cat was the only companion,
and the dog walk, if you even bothered,
became the only trip outside, the rare encounter with strangers.’ He goes on to call people’s
newfound fixation on their pets – the natural
result of being home alone for extended periods with their animals – ‘helicopter petting’.
What all this means is more pets
in general, and their owners spending more
time with them and more money on them.
Research by The Pet Food Manufacturers’
Association found that 19 per cent of Brits
aged 24 to 35 acquired a pet in 2020, the same
year the US pet industry market tipped over
the $100 billion mark (€87 billion) for the first
time. According to financial services company
Morgan Stanley, it’s an industry that’s ‘poised
to nearly triple to $275 billion [€240 billion]
by 2030 thanks to a surge in new owners,
favorable demographics and increased
per-pet spending’. Similarly, China Business
Review reported that from 2015 to 2020,
China’s pet-related consumer goods category
achieved 32.8 per cent growth. And in the past
decade, the country’s entire pet economy –
which includes food, toys and supplies, as well
as the pets themselves – has increased by an
enormous 1,500 per cent.
Even though the pandemic expedited the uptick, the trend looks likely to
outlast the Covid crisis. An AlphaWise survey
suggests millennials and Gen Z are bolstering the movement: 65 per cent of those aged
between 18 and 34 are planning to acquire a
pet in the next five years, and this age bracket
is likely to spend more on their furry friends.
Millennials are also the largest
consumer group in the world, and many
are opting for pets instead of children – and
treating them as such. Whether it’s a trip to
the local café or a getaway further afield, pets
are coming along for the ride. This aligns with
March 2021 research by in the US:
Each featuring a lower living area
and a mezzanine floor with a
bedroom, guest rooms at Kennels
are designed to suit different
family and human-dog dynamics.
40 per cent of those surveyed said they were
anxious about returning to work and leaving
their pet behind.
Hospitality enterprises have caught
on and are offering services that reflect the
shift. As we reported in May 2021, Hard Rock
Hotels’ Unleashed programme allows guests
to bring two pets per room, each of whom will
be provided with a gift bag of treats and toys
on arrival, and hotels like Hilton and New
York’s Innside have developed high-end dogfriendly dinners.
While such considerations may be
service-oriented, they come with a need to
readdress spatial design. Materials will need
to withstand the potential for added wear and
tear, and even layouts may require a rethink
if pets begin to populate both private and
common areas. Finally, to stand out in what
will become an increasingly saturated market,
brands will be upping the design element to
appeal to younger demographics. TI
Dog-oriented accommodation
The Kennels hotel in Aranya, China, pointedly considers the behaviour of
dogs. Atelier GOM addressed their propensity to tussle with unfamiliar dogs
upon meeting by eschewing the traditional hotel layout of rooms fed by corridors in favour of independent units with separate entrances and exits. The
construction is sprayed with a transparent polyurea coating that not only
protects the hotel from rain and frost heave but also prevents dog urine from
corroding the concrete. Resilience and pet-friendliness are also reflected in
the landscape design: the inner courtyard is paved with low-maintenance,
easy-to-clean stones, while the hotel’s west side features a pet play lawn.
Schooling animals through space
Spaces like the Educan School – a learning environment for dogs, birds, bats and more – prove
that animal-oriented design is about more than mere functionality. With its bright, photogenic
aesthetic and focus on encouraging balance between humans, animals and the environment,
the Eeestudio and Lys Villalba-designed school will appeal to a young demographic. Each
space and its detailing fulfils the learning or living needs of animals, from the exterior lettering
José Hevia
(where birds and bats can nest) to flooring specifically suited to the pads and joints of canine
paws. To ensure acoustic comfort, animal noises are offset by sound-absorbing pyramid foam
insulation, and rainwater captured by the roof is collected in large drinking troughs. Custom
bench legs and large sliding doors reflect the need for easy, hurdle-free movement.
Pet-friendly café
UND Design Office’s design of Heytea café in Shenzhen acknowledges people’s attachment to their pets while maintaining boundaries – to the designers, ‘pet friendly’ shouldn’t mean ‘borderless
intimacy’. Pets are catered for outside in the fresh air through
custom-designed furniture and facilities, including a ‘parking station’, waste disposal and seating. Designed to bring people and
pets together – and connect them with others, too – seating can be
adjusted so that smaller spaces open up to form larger group areas.
Although animals aren’t permitted indoors at
Heytea café, they feature visually through the
likes of both physical wall art and a rotating
display of digital imagery, where pet owners
can share pictures via a mobile platform.
Sunway Vision
pet-friendliness may be used as a selling point, it’s
the animal owners who will be footing the bill. Both
groups should be considered clients: What will make
their experiences more comfortable and enjoyable?
And, as the market continues to grow, what design
cues can spaces use to stand out?
A rainbow tunnel welcomes
visitors to KidsWinshare 2.0,
a non-traditional retail space
in a Chendgu shopping mall.
Falling fertility rates and a rapidly ageing
population could spell disaster for China’s
economy. But with the government’s new threechild policy in place, it’s a unique time for retailers
operating in the fast-growing parenting sector.
Popo Vision
The business of families is a contentious one in
China. Since the one-child rule was abolished
in 2013, the government has been on a mission
to encourage Chinese citizens to have more
children – it even established a three-child rule
in 2021 – in a bid to reverse its position as one
of the world’s oldest nations.
According to China’s latest census,
18.7 per cent of its population is now over 60
years old. And with birth rates falling for a
fourth consecutive year, experts speculate
that the country could experience the lowest fertility rate in the world in the coming
decade. However, with the economic burden
of raising multiple children at the top of their
minds, young adults are not necessarily looking to take advantage of the three-child rule
anytime soon. ‘The mums who are having
kids are now mainly post-90s and 99 percent
of them grew up in single child families due
to the one-child policy; they are very comfortable with a small-sized family,’ Chen Shu,
senior business strategy planning manager
at Balabala, a leading brand in China’s
childrenswear market that boasts over 4,800
stores, told Business of Fashion.
With these milestone family-planning policies in the public eye comes renewed
interest in the children’s retail market, where
competition is heating up among
All-day experience
Conceived by Panorama Design
Group as an ‘imaginative parentchild world’, KidsWinshare 2.0 is
a family bookstore in Chengdu
with four key functions: retail,
learning, dining and amusement.
The designers abstracted the
colour and shape of a rainbow
throughout the scheme to define
the various zones.
But with the oldest millennials now in their
forties, the focus is shifting to the next cohort
of families – Gen Z. In China, this postnoughties generation is approaching childrearing with more liberalism, challenging the
stereotype of the country’s discipline-first
parents, a.k.a. ‘tiger parents’. According to
a study by creative agency Virtue, 78 per
cent of Chinese Gen-Z parents consider
themselves and their offspring equals. That
works both ways, raising the experiential and
aesthetic bar for spaces that would once have
taken a more ‘primary colour’ approach.
What’s more, as tech-savvy Gen Z
becomes the driving force behind the country’s key opinion consumers (KOCs), we will
likely see an increase of media-inflected
fitouts. Many are already using social platforms like Little Red Book to digitize the act
of parenting, leading to a rise in mother-child
influencers such as KimNico and Diu Ma. With
the demand for matching mini-me fashion
on the rise, we could soon witness a future in
which childrenswear retailers do not exist as
solo entities and instead are merchandized
side-by-side with adult collections, making
the need for elevated, immersive, experiential
interiors all the more urgent. EG
Multi-generational design
For Livat Beijing Kidstown – a 14,000-m2 family-friendly
complex that combines retail and recreation with hospitality, cultural activities and education – DUTS Design used
the Möbius strip as a symbol for ‘infinite happiness’. Notably
devoid of the bright, primary colours that often typify kids’
spaces, the former supermarket was overhauled to create
a relaxed and optimistic shopping-slash-leisure space that
both parents and children can appreciate.
childrenswear stores vying for high-spending
customers. Even before the government’s
announcement of the new policies, the
country’s €46.7 billion childrenswear market
was braced for double-digit growth, with
Euromonitor expecting the market to reach
€57.3 billion by 2023.
As the country prepares for another
year of population decline, the role of children’s retail is in flux. With fewer parents to
reach, stores are taking the opportunity to
increase the spending per capita of shoppers,
shifting their priorities to luxury childrenswear, and investing in the store experience to
develop creative environments that boost the
curiosity of parent-child shoppers.
As opposed to existing as pure commercial entities, retail can be an ideal outlet
for encouraging parental wellbeing. Some
stores are integrating nature indoors, while
others are recognizing the importance of
community among new parents by accommodating meet-ups.
While many digital groups exist
for mothers seeking advice, there is a lack
of options in the offline space, giving retailers an opportunity to develop regular parent
programming. Art agency founder Lang Xiao
believes that, for luxury brands especially,
‘the subtle networking offline is quite important. I was at a birthday party at Baby Dior
recently and made connections with all the
other mothers in a very special way.’
Brands and retailers have spent
the last few years adapting their strategies
and storefronts to suit millennial parents.
Media-inflected motifs
To create unconventional toy store X11 in Xi’an, Tomo Design took
the aesthetic language of Gen-Z lifestyle stores and translated it to the
parent-child market. The store differentiates itself from competitors
by tapping into a point of reference common to parents rather than
children: retro-futurism. A life-size mock-up of a zeppelin provides a
dramatic backdrop for social media posts.
Yanming Studio
Retail can take cues from the elevated designs
of several recent schools and kindergartens
– X+Living’s Ziling Changxing Kindergarten
is but one example – that demonstrate how
child-oriented spaces can be as immersive
and experiential as those aimed at parents.
Typically categorized as residences with a footprint of
between 18 and 37 m2, micro dwellings are becoming increasingly
popular. That doesn’t mean they’re popular by choice.
Zaohui Huang, Dison Mao, Peng Zhong
A vertiginous design extends the
modest 20-m2 footprint of Utopia
2020 Dream Home in Guangzhou.
‘I can’t believe there are people living like this,’
said Frame Awards 2021 jury member and
Barde + vanVoltt founder Valérie Boerma when
confronted with the 10-m2 home for four in
Hong Kong that took home the prize for Small
Apartment of the Year (Frame 144, p. 82).
Essentially a 2-m-wide corridor with various
fold-out functions, the Studio Z-designed
home is an anomaly – but only because of
its focus on aesthetics and functionality.
Boerma’s shock was directed less at that specific space than at the wider situation in places
like Hong Kong, where more than 280,000
people inhabit subdivided flats with an average
per-capita floor area of 5.7 m2. ‘If people have
to live in such cramped spaces,’ noted fellow
jury member Tina Norden, partner at Conran
and Partners, ‘then at least they can be made
more liveable.’
Google the term ‘tiny house’ and
you’ll see a steady uphill climb that began
around a decade ago. That the typology has
emerged as an Instagrammable glamping
getaway trivializes the real reasons behind the
shift. As urban populations soar, family sizes
shrink and available space becomes rarer and
more expensive, there’s often little choice but
to go, well, little. The movement has been
called a micro solution to a macro problem,
and drawing attention to it is one of the reasons why projects like Studio Z’s exist.
Global standards for the minimum
acceptable size of a single-person studio flat
fluctuate wildly, from non-existent in Hong
Kong and New York City to 13 m2 in Taiwan,
30 m2 in Australia and 37 m2 in the UK. How
small such spaces feel, however, can be greatly
influenced by good design, as proven by a
number of creative firms. The designers at
UK-based Proctor & Shaw, for instance, believe
that building smaller can promote innovation – not to mention increase affordability and
reduce material resources. Indeed, sustainability is one of the admirable rationales behind
the tiny-house movement, which aligns with
shifts towards off-grid and low-waste living.
Whereas tiny houses are often
stand-alone structures or squeezed into
20 m2 in Guangzhou
A small home by Inspiration Group was designed as a private ‘utopia’ for a
couple and their two cats (see p. 90 for more on the rise of pet-friendly spaces).
The 20-m2 residence relies on stacked volumes and staggered spaces to make
the most of a tight and tricky spot in Guangzhou’s old city. As jury member
and Beyond Disciplines cofounder Christian Lungershausen said when Utopia
2020 Dream Home was crowned the Frame Awards Interior of the Month in
December 2021: ‘This minimal-footprint home is a wonderful example of how
to activate voids in cities . . . without too much “transformer furniture”.’
29 m2 in London
Highlighting how period properties can be better utilized
when converted into smaller-unit accommodation, Proctor
& Shaw’s Shoji Apartment is named for its sleeping pod
with translucent sliding doors inspired by Japanese shoji
screens, whose mezzanine location creates storage beneath
– something sorely lacking in many small living spaces – and
helps the 29-m2 space feel larger than it is. By capitalizing on
the London building’s tall ceilings, the designers managed to
fit in everything from a walk-in wardrobe and king-size bed
to a substantial kitchen and six-seater dining table.
Ståle Eriksen
seemingly unbuildable spaces such as narrow urban infill sites, Studio Z and Proctor
& Shaw have explored the challenges of
working with existing housing complexes.
In London, the latter came up with what
it deems a prototype for micro living in
buildings with small footprints yet generous
ceiling heights. Granted, Proctor & Shaw had
almost three times as many square metres to
play with as Studio Z did in Hong Kong, but
both approaches share a focus on flexibility
and a reductive attitude towards materiality.
They highlight how muted and restrained palettes can help to calm the senses and create
a feeling of spaciousness, while the incorporation of storage will help petite interiors feel
less cluttered and therefore bigger. Slidable
and foldable surfaces can transform not only
an interior’s look and feel, but also its function. In the words of Antonin Yuji Maeno,
cofounder and lead architect of Cutwork,
another studio addressing the increasingly
inaccessible housing market: ‘It’s no longer
about the amount of square metres we live in,
but about living in “polyvalent” spaces that
are designed to be reconfigured to fit all our
intimate and social needs.’ TI
26 m2 in Paris
Initiated as a prototype in Paris, Cutwork’s PolyRoom is a concept for prefab modular
studio units to be constructed for French developer Bouygues Immobilier’s new
co-living brand. The interiors of the 26-m2 units – which are stacked together much
like Lego bricks to create residential blocks – are inspired by the Japanese concept of
washitsu, a central room with no defined purpose. In Cutwork’s plan, this facilitates
the kind of versatility needed in today’s living environments, especially in urban areas
where space is limited. Furniture is as adaptable as possible: the bed folds up when not
in use, and sliding partitions allow privacy where required.
Courtesy of Cutwork
the need for small
spaces will increase
in the future, smart
layouts that optimize
functionality will be
crucial to making them
not just inhabitable
but also enjoyable.
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Thomas Meyer / Ostkreuz, courtesy of Gonzalez Haase AAS
Nick Wiesner, courtesy of Cinco Sòlidos
One of
the critical
components of
health is light
Michael Rygaard, courtesy of Tableau
Yohan Fontaine, courtesy of Ubalt
Artificial light. We’ve designed our modern world around it, but now it’s wreaking havoc
on human health. With excessive screen time and light pollution contributing to the
disruption of circadian rhythms, is it time we turned out the lights? Not necessarily.
As we explore on the following pages, designers are taking a more humanized approach
to illumination by borrowing from nature.
In an immersive installation developed
by the EPFL+ECAL Lab in partnership
with the Ming Shan Centre, the
intensity, rhythms and colours of light
change during meditation in response
to the user’s physiological parameters,
such as breathing or heart rate.
Frame Lab
Daniela Tonatiuh
Why is light – something so integral to how we live – damaging
us? Because light regulates circadian rhythms – the physical,
mental and behavioural processes that determine our 24-hour
cycle – telling us when to sleep and when to be alert, it’s only natural
that being exposed to the wrong type of light at the wrong time will
profoundly affect our biology.
Contributing to our reliance on light is screen time, which
increased 60 per cent among Americans during the pandemic.
According to a UCLA study, this had ‘profoundly negative impacts’,
such as disrupted sleep, which, in turn, disrupts the body clock.
Our always-on culture extends to our light-polluted cities, some
of which are responding by shrouding themselves in darkness.
Pittsburgh, for instance, is dimming streetlights and using LED
bulbs to lessen the impact of light pollution. Meanwhile, findings
from a study conducted in Paris – a city that has founded an entire
identity on illumination – suggest 95 per cent of residents would
prefer it had fewer lights.
Spatial designers, on the other hand, aren’t removing light
from their design toolboxes. Instead, they’re turning to solutions like
human-centric lighting (HCL), which matches the motion, intensity
and colour of sunlight, thus improving our circadian rhythms.
But how, exactly, can HCL replace conventional lighting, and
where can we expect to find it? ‘Any space that has a prolonged
absence of solar lighting: where a person spends the majority of
time,’ believe Catalina Maldonado and Demian Ezequiel Epsztein
of LED lighting brand Actilum. Drawing from this, we investigate
three sectors awaiting a lighting revolution: the health space, the
workplace and the home.
Words Eva Gardiner
No longer defined
by blinding white
strip lights, health
and wellness hubs
are primed for a great
recasting of light.
OPPOSITE Lighting plays a key role
at Post Service in Copenhagen, an
alternative therapy environment to
support those dealing with grief and
death. The design by Tableau includes
a care room and two private infrared
saunas, whose light temperatures can
adapt to personal preferences.
All signs are pointing to the fact that light
can pose a very real risk to our health – and
to the healthcare system. With exposure to
excessive artificial light during night-time
hours linked to numerous health issues – from
increased risk of obesity to sleep issues and
mental health disorders – healthcare spaces
such as hospitals, general practices, mental
health facilities and even therapists’ offices
are good places to start implementing humancentric lighting (HCL) concepts.
‘I would strongly advise you that
one of the critical components of health is
light,’ explained Kurt Ward, senior design
director at Philips Healthcare, at Frame’s
October 2021 think-tank The Next Space. He
went on to explain that Philips has been able
to reduce the recovery time for patients in
intensive care units (ICUs) by as much as 15
to 30 per cent by mimicking natural daylight
and removing unnecessary night-time light.
‘It was simply about helping the body do
what it needs to do.’ »
Frame Lab
Michael Rygaard
Frame Lab
Dissolving the boundary between
landscape and building, large
windows flood the AL_A-designed
Maggie’s cancer support centre at
Southampton General Hospital with
natural light, which is supplemented
with soothing warm-hued lighting.
1988 Photography Studio / A Qi
Small, irregular windows at T.T. Pilates
Studio by Wanmu Shazi in downtown
Xiamen introduce natural light in a
controlled and meditative manner.
We can say goodbye to harshly lit
basement gyms, where the only
contact with the outside world is the
glare from muted television screens
Philips’s use of circadian lighting is part of
a new movement in interior design towards
‘neuroaesthetics’, whereby buildings go beyond
pure function and are instead designed as
sanctuaries to promote healing. Mental health
facilities are especially in need of such reinvention. Decades ago, they were ‘designed
as places to be feared’, says Alison Leonard,
mental and behavioural health practice leader
at CannonDesign. ‘They were located on the
edges of cities, often behind gates or fencing, isolated from the larger community. This
design approach amplified stigma around mental health and did not help patients.’
No longer synonymous with windowless rooms, labyrinthine corridors and
sterile shades of white and blue, healthcare
environments are quickly being recognized
by designers for their role in helping patients
recover faster – and light is the next frontier on
this mission. At the Tiaho Mai mental health
unit in New Zealand, interior design by Klein
Architects substitutes harsh strip lighting for
low-stimulus suites with soft lighting, reduced
noise levels, neutral colours and open-plan
shared spaces. Embracing natural light is
central to its philosophy – even the name of the
facility translates to ‘shining light’. Features
such as sweeping windows and glass-lined
corridors also serve as visual connections to
the outside. ‘Exposure to natural light keeps
people’s circadian rhythms entrained,’ says
Anjan Chatterjee, founding director of the
Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics.
But it’s not just medical spaces that
can benefit from the health-boosting properties of circadian lighting. Where gyms were
once built with the sole purpose of enhancing
physical fitness, they are now acknowledging
people’s mental fitness. This means we can say
goodbye to harshly lit basement gyms, where
the only contact with the outside world is the
glare from muted television screens. At Hagius
Sports Studio in Berlin, circadian lighting is
just one innovation that encourages gymgoers to connect with the city while also tuning
into their biorhythms. As the team explains:
‘Following the sun, we would be active in
the mornings and calm in the evenings and
the time signals to trigger this response can
naturally be found through light, food, sound,
scent and movement. If we don’t live in harmony with these rhythms . . . our ability to
perform and regenerate steadily decreases.’
Varying light, sound and aroma stimulation over the course of the day, the space
aims to remove distractors and create an ideal
environment for the body at whatever hour
someone chooses to workout. Hagius’s custom-made biodynamic lighting represents the
type of adjustable product innovations that
spaces such as gyms will be expected to invest
in if they are serious about the wellbeing of
their customers. »
Frame Lab
Custom-made biodynamic lighting at
Hagius, a Berlin gym designed by Studio
Gonzalez Haase AAS, adjusts to the
time of day and training type. Cool and
warm light are emitted simultaneously,
but unlike industry-typical biodynamic
fixtures, they mix within the space rather
than at the source.
Thomas Meyer / Ostkreuz
According to market research
firm Graphical Research, growing
awareness of the harmful effects
of conventional lights is set to
boost the global human-centric
lighting market size, with market
predictions for Europe exceeding
€2.65 billion by 2027.
At Vibras Lab, a Medellín office designed
by Cinco Sólidos, a bespoke network of
lighting allows users to choose from a
spectrum of colours and shades to align
the interior atmosphere with the nature
of their work.
Nick Wiesner
As employers lure
workers back to
physical offices,
adaptable lighting
informed by
chronobiology will
become the latest
in a new wave of
corporate benefits.
The pandemic raised the stakes for employee
wellbeing, and these expectations have only
continued: ‘Wellbeing is no longer merely a
perk, a benefit or a program to keep healthcare costs low,’ writes Ryan Pendell, workplace science writer at Gallup. ‘Caring for
employees is a basic expectation for employees to show up to work.’
The great pause of the last few years
has been a time of contemplation for workplaces and their designers alike, leading them
to question what types of environments would
draw people back to the office. The prospect
of improved wellbeing offers real benefits for
those willing to brave long commutes and
busy coffee stations. As places that are more
commonly associated with stress and burnout than with flourishing – even with the last
decade’s introduction of such perks as ping
pong tables, napping pods and fruit baskets »
– workplaces provide ample opportunities for
human-centric lighting (HCL). After all, with
such lighting systems proven to boost workers’ motivation and concentration levels, they
bring benefits to employers in the form of happier, more productive employees.
While many future-facing offices are
already maximizing these opportunities, the
most successful ones will be those that create space for experimentation and trial and
error. To acknowledge that people’s circadian
rhythms can be vastly different, and dependent on many external conditions, designers should avoid seeing HCL as a quick-fix
solution and instead consider it a constantly
evolving project.
That’s just what manufacturing company Armstrong World Industries is observing with its post-Covid office design, which
takes the form of a Living Lab at its corporate
campus in Pennsylvania. The Living Lab replicates the benefits of working from home while
including features that go above and beyond,
such as real-time air quality scores as well as
sound, light and climate controls. With the
company finding that 84 per cent of workers
expect their employer to deliver a workspace
that supports personal wellbeing, the space
will eventually inform the renovation of the
Armstrong headquarters building, designed in
partnership with Gensler.
Forming part of the wider movement
for companies to practise what they preach,
designers will also be expected to integrate –
and play around with – circadian lighting solutions in their own workplaces before building
them into their client projects. Architecture
and design engineering firm Arup has already
achieved this. ‘Part of the fun of having this
system in our office is we’re using it as a big
testing lab, essentially,’ writes Jake Wayne,
senior lighting designer at Arup, for Arup’s
online publication Perspectives. ‘We’re trying
to understand: does it make more sense to do
it based on the schedule of when people are in
the office? Or with the sunset?’
Right now, HCL appears to be confined
to high-octane corporate offices. But it’s arguably those working shifts – whose body clocks
risk being indefinitely disrupted by light – who
would be most likely to reap the biological
rewards of intelligent lighting. According to a
recent study of shift workers, for every hour of
‘social jetlag’ – when the natural body clock is
out of sync with a person’s work rota – the risk
of developing a heart condition increases by
31 per cent. Increasingly, the responsibility of
such health issues is falling on the employers,
especially billion-dollar enterprises such as
Amazon, and in the coming years we can only
hope such corporations recognize the longterm benefits of redesigning artificially lit and
often claustrophobic warehouses, factories and
supermarkets as bright, breathable spaces that
can respond to the needs of their workers.
Further down the line, educational
spaces such as schools and universities may
follow the lead of workplaces by integrating
circadian lighting. After all, recent research
from Harvard University shows that concepts
such as SunLike, an LED light that mimics the
sun, can actively improve college-age adults’
working memory, cognitive processing and
circadian health. »
84 per cent of workers expect their
employer to deliver a workspace that
supports personal wellbeing
Frame Lab
Courtesy of Random Studio
Random Studio turned its Amsterdam
workplace into a testing ground
for technology. Conceived in
collaboration with light artist Arnout
Meijer, the Studio Sun System
mimics the sun’s movement above
the building, infusing the space with
energy and making its users more
aware of their surroundings.
Salva Lopez
The individual volumes that make up
the Barcelona headquarters of Spanish
advertising agency Fuego Camina Conmigo
are carefully composed to optimize the
amount of light that enters. In addition,
Isern Serra’s interior concept incorporates
a set of James Turrell-inspired booths.
Yohan Fontaine
In transforming a former data centre
with limited natural light into a
flexible Parisian home, Ubalt worked
predominantly with white to bounce
luminance around the space.
While circadian
lighting gains pace
in public spaces,
designers should
not forget that the
home will remain an
important sanctuary
where light can
nourish our bodies
and minds.
The home has undergone a sea change in
recent years, shifting from a place for temporary moments of downtime to a place for resting, socializing and working. While this revaluing of the home has affected every part of our
life, its relationship to our health and wellbeing has been particularly catalytic. Part of this
stems from the fact that we’re now expected
to separate the various activities we use our
residences for, such as learning to switch into
rest or childcare mode after a day of working
without the natural partition of commuting.
Studies show that a sense of kinship
towards our home is central to maintaining
good health. According to Ikea Retail, 40 per
cent of people who felt more positive towards
their home in the last 12 months also saw »
their mental health improve. But progress
needs to be made if we are to make the home
an alimentative space – starting, naturally,
with the quality of light.
Recognition of the neuroscience of
light is finding mainstream appeal among
consumers, according to Rowena Gonzales,
founder and creative director of Liquid
Interiors. ‘People are really understanding
lighting scenes and the way they affect mood
– like how a dim light to wind down makes you
feel sleepy,’ she explains, highlighting ‘wakeup lamps’ that mimic sunsets and sunrises as a
simple but effective way that people are investing in their circadian health.
Product innovations such as the wakeup lamp or apps such as Sunn are good places
to start for circadian-curious consumers
looking to offset the artificial glares of their
screens. But soon residents will be demanding these systems be embedded in their buildings before they even move in. Samuele Sordi,
chief architect at design studio Pininfarina, is
seeing ‘greater implementation of circadian
lighting systems with tunable, white lamps to
further improve wellbeing’ in its architecture
As awareness rises, and work-fromhome arrangements continue to be a mainstay
of many working weeks, human-centric lighting (HCL), as a relatively affordable technology, offers an entry point into the wider smart
home market. ‘What is most exciting about
this category is that the cost for the general
consumer has finally come down, so that having lighting systems with circadian rhythm
is more affordable, and there are many more
options than there were even two years ago,’
notes Ian Bryant, director of strategic partnerships at home technology association CEDIA.
Affordability is undeniably a major step
towards mass adoption for the home HCL market. But for those looking to develop holistic,
long-term solutions that truly impact people’s
lives, the real opportunity lies in niche developments that are targeted at specific demographics. Take elderly consumers, for example. This
market is primed for major growth in the coming years, as powerful nations such as China,
Japan and the US experience a rapidly ageing
population. Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population aged over
60 is expected to nearly double from 12 to 22
per cent, according to the WHO. A report by
Graphical Research on Asia’s HCL market is
evidence that this type of lighting infrastructure can have a positive impact on the recovery
of elderly patients. It’s also important to note
that many older consumers suffer from visual
issues, spending most of their time indoors
with limited access to sunlight, which can
adversely affect their eye health.
This issue was high on the agenda
for Sunrise Senior Living, a state-of-theart living complex for elderly residents that
recently opened in New York’s Upper East »
The future of regulating our circadian
rhythms lies in personalized lighting that
is adaptable on a hyper-individual scale
Frame Lab
Yohan Fontaine
Franz & Fritz was responsible
for the supplementary artificial
illumination at an Ubaltdesigned flat located on the
outskirts of Le Marais (also
pictured on p. 134).
Courtesy of NewTerritory
Frame Lab
Side. The space left no stone unturned in its
commitment to the wellbeing of its residents
– from individually tailored memory care to
onsite medical experts and wearable devices.
Naturally, circadian lighting is built into every
part of the building, taking into consideration
how light can facilitate a better quality of life
in one’s twilight years.
Another demographic that lends itself
to future strategies of lighting designers and
architects is athletes, who are professionally
indebted to achieving mental and physical
clarity. To bring athletes to their optimal state,
Dallas-based firm Beyond Interior Design
launched the Athlete-Centric Design concept
to turn athletes’ homes into ‘re-charging stations’. By following this principle, the living
room maximizes the impact of natural light
to help regulate the occupant’s circadian
rhythms, which, according to the design team,
can reduce stress, depression and illness while
sharpening one’s mental focus.
‘The design of a home has various
components that affect an athlete’s health and
wellness,’ comments Juliana Oliveria, principal designer at Beyond Interior Design, which
she cofounded with sister Sara De Oliveria,
Beyond Interior Design’s director of operations. ‘Some elements include air, sound,
lighting, sleep, water and thermal comfort.’
The concept represents a unique way of infusing circadian rhythms into buildings with a
specific customer in mind, something they
plan to develop into a ‘curriculum’ to help educate athletes on the importance of wellnessfirst design. ‘We’d like to see it transcend past
the home and throughout the sports industry
as a whole,’ explains Sara De Oliveria.
All signs are pointing to the fact that
the future of regulating our circadian rhythms
lies in personalized lighting that is adaptable on
a hyper-individual scale, thus creating a perfect sunlight spectrum for every human being.
‘How could we start to create cities and environments and spaces that are reacting to behaviours that help you become more healthy?’
asks Philips Healthcare’s Kurt Ward. ‘It’s these
responsive tools to our space creation that can
help us change our behaviour, whether it’s how
we eat, how we’re interacting with people, or
how we’re acting with ourselves.’•
OPPOSITE Part of NewTerritory’s
Empathic Technology collection –
smart, human-centric concepts for
the home – the Enhance window
frame features a built-in LED strip
that augments the natural light
entering through the aperture.
In the lead-up to each issue, we challenge emerging designers to
respond to the Frame Lab theme with a forward-looking concept.
Light is the biggest stimulus to the nervous system, and light
pollution – through everything from continually lit cities, day and
night, to constant screen time – is affecting sleep patterns and
general wellbeing, as well as prolonging recovery time. How can
we tap into the more restorative potential of light to counter these
issues? And how can we make our systems more human-centric
while better balancing artificial and natural light? We asked three
creative practices to share their ideas.
Words Floor Kuitert
Frame Lab
Valentine Maurice
fights blue
insomnia with a
You’ve looked at the relationship between
modern technologies and sleep. Why?
VALENTINE MAURICE: Our use of – and
relationship with – new technologies, especially those radiating artificial (blue) light, has
a real impact on our sleep. Smartphones, for
example, can have similar effects on our mood
as psychotropic drugs, potentially leading to
things like destructive disillusion, oppressive thoughts and dissatisfaction, as well as
insomnia and impaired time management.
What target group did you keep in mind
when working on this Challenge?
I’ve looked at the increasing cases of screenrelated insomnia popping up among Gen Z.
About 20 per cent of the young population in
European countries suffers from insomnia.
This generation grew up with the smartphone,
an object that upsets the relationship between
time and their bodies, and that influences
The Challenge
A graduate from Design Academy
Eindhoven, Amsterdam-based
light designer VALENTINE
MAURICE conducts research on the
relationship between health and
modern-day technologies.
OPPOSITE To complete her master’s
in Social Design, Valentine Maurice
developed Paradoxical Screen,
which attempts to create a positive
relationship between people and
screens, prompting a good night’s sleep.
TOP RIGHT The digital screen’s role in
establishing our sense of time informed
her contribution to this Challenge: an
intuitive timekeeping piece designed
to reinstall people’s connection with
their biological system.
their social connections. Our laptops and
smartphones radiate mostly blue wavelengths,
which negatively affect the melatonin production linked to sleep, thus deregulating our
biological system.
to calm down both mind and body? To do so,
I dreamed up a time-keeping piece that helps
users establish new rituals around sleep and
build a more empathic relationship with light
How do you propose to resolve this blue
light-induced insomnia pandemic?
Tell me about the timekeeping piece.
Doctors usually advise avoiding overexposure
to (blue) light, but I decided to question how
light technology can help support our biorhythmicity. Looking at the role of lit screens
in the transition from wakefulness to (subconscious) sleep, my intention is not to avoid light
technology, but to find a different way to live
with it. Blue light inhibits hormones that are
essential for our life, like melatonin, but also
increases hormones related to stress, like cortisol. So how can we turn the negative impact
of screen-and-light-based technologies on
rest around and instead use such technologies
The Challenge
I conceptualized a mechanical ‘clock’ that is
operated manually. Users can move a light
up and down behind a lens whose colour
transitions from blue to red, to match their
circadian rhythm. Replacing digital timekeeping pieces with a more intuitive object,
I hope to reinstall people’s connection with
their biological system.
Julia Slopnicka’s
communicative and
guiding light system
helps create spaces
that are more mindful
of their users
Holding a master’s degree from the
Faculty of Architecture and the Built
Environment of Delft University of
Technology, Rotterdam-based design
researcher and ‘psychologist of
space’ JULIA SLOPNICKA founded
JAA Studio, ‘an anthropocentric
initiative exploring the application
of neurosciences into space design’,
in 2021.
The Language of Light – Dictionary
Light tools
Feeling: directing attention, raised alertness, focus
Function: invitation, strong guidance, establishing hierarchy and order
Feeling: sense of danger and unknown
Function: preventing access, discouragement, setting a strong and sharp
border, dividing space
Feeling: fading sense of purpose, pointlessness, no destination
Function: subtle discouragement of movement, soft boundary, blending of
Feeling: raised alertness, directing attention, recognition of pattern, looking
for systematic order
Function: strong guidance, encouraging action/movement
Feeling: curiosity, sense of purposefulness, following guidance, approaching
the destination, anticipation and expectation build up
Function: establishing hierarchy, gradual transitioning between functions,
soft border
Frame Lab
To communicate and
indicate different
levels of accessibility
through spatial
illumination, Slopnicka
dreamed up a
collection of light tools
and assigned each to
a specific purpose and
function that aligns
with research into
human reactions to
distinct forms of light.
To show the possible applications
of The Language of Light, Slopnicka
simulated potential applications for
three user groups within a multiuse
concept building.
You think of architecture as a language.
Can you explain in what way?
JULIA SLOPNICKA: Through architecture we
can communicate a certain message. Architecture has the power to shape our behaviour,
influence our state of mind and provoke a
sensorial or emotional response. Any spatial
tool can therefore become a communication
tool – a unique message carrier customized
to achieve a project-specific goal. To improve
people’s experiences within spaces we need to
better employ and understand these tools.
Light being one of them?
Indeed. Light’s a prominent example, as
different forms and intensities can evoke a
wide variety of sensorial responses. For this
Challenge I propose a set of light-based tools
to communicate messages within space,
ultimately creating what I call The Language
of Light. The developed ‘language’ is universal
and, depending on the project, is used to
achieve diverse goals. In order to fully represent the application and utilitarian value of
The Language of Light, I explored one specific
example – a kind of prototype scenario – that
focuses on using light as a tool to mediate
between privacy and publicness. The lighting
strategy I propose here can be highly useful,
for instance, when inserting different groups
of users into one complex space. In such circumstances there’s an urgent need to organize
traffic efficiently, while avoiding collision and
still providing the necessary guidance.
Can you talk us through the scenario that
you came up with?
In my concept I use light to shape intangible
barriers and to communicate different levels of
accessibility. I dreamed up a collection of light
tools and assigned each to a specific purpose
and function – such as encouraging movement
or establishing hierarchy – that aligns with
research into human reactions to distinct
forms of light. To show the potential application of my light tools, I envisioned a multiuse
model building that combines spaces for
living, work and leisure. I then used this model
to simulate potential conditions for three
user groups with various needs. By selecting and applying the most fitting tools from
my ‘dictionary’ I was able to create custom
experiences that are perfectly fitted to each
individual user group. The Language of Light
provides guidance through space by signifying the spaces that are possible to access in
a subtle yet clear way. The ‘Outsider’ (group
#01), for example, lives and works outside the
building and is directed directly to the staircase to access the public rooftop terrace. The
The Challenge
‘Office Renter’ (#02), in turn, works in one
of the spaces on the ground floor and makes
use of the shared spaces such as conference
rooms, relaxation spots and library. Lastly, the
‘Apartment Dweller’ (#03) works outside the
building, but resides in one of the apartments
on the first floor. This user can also access the
shared and public spaces.
What are the benefits of using light
as opposed to other tools for spatial
The Language of Light is an experimental
attempt at subconscious communication, using
intangible and ethereal rays of light. It’s more
subtle and therefore the messages communicated are understood on a more subliminal
level. Replacing physical obstacles and signage,
such a system not only creates aesthetically
cleaner spaces, but also greatly improves the
quality of designed spaces on a sensorial level.
Understanding the human reactions to different
stimuli allows creatives to design in a more
mindful and efficient way, with more awareness
and control over the impact a space will have on
the end user.
In addition, the system is very flexible.
Light settings can be changed, redirected over
time, and their location can be adjusted.
The custom-designed skylights
of Mai-Anh Doan’s light therapy
chambers capture daylight for
therapeutic purposes.
Mai-Anh Doan’s light
therapy chambers
tackle Seasonal
Affective Disorder
Frame Lab
What light-related issue are you
addressing with your project?
MAI-ANH DOAN: Seasonal Affective
Disorder (SAD) is a severe type of depression
related to changes in seasons. I’ve chosen
Belltown, Seattle, as my research location,
where it’s cloudy about nine months of the
year. As a result, 30 per cent of the population
suffers from SAD.
How do you suggest to ‘treat’
this disorder?
By providing light therapy spaces. I’ve
conceptualized four ‘floating’ chambers – a
morning room, noon room, afternoon room
and meditation room – that are stimulating,
strengthening, calming and meditating.
All four chambers are designed on the roof
of a proposed branch of the Seattle Public
Library for the Belltown neighbourhood.
They are designed to follow the sun and
capture all the changes of the natural light
of the Northwest region in the US. I aim
to show the importance of light on our
circadian rhythm and explore new ways of
employing both daylight and electric light
to establish a more normal circadian rhythm
for people suffering from SAD. The project,
including the featured light therapy rooms,
serves as both a branch library and a community space for the local neighbourhood.
How does your design benefit from the
natural light available?
The chambers feature custom-designed
skylights to maximize daylighting quality
for therapeutic purposes. Research into the
way the correlated colour temperature of
natural sky conditions and the wavelengths
of electric light impact the circadian rhythm
hugely defined the design strategies for shaping the sky apertures of each chamber. I’ve
also included an LED lighting system into my
concept in order to replicate the light characteristics at night. The effect of the electric
lighting is also visible on the outside when
it’s dark, resulting in four glowing rooftop
chambers that mark the neighbourhood site
and raise curiosity.
Holding a master’s degree in
Architecture from the University of
Idaho, Vietnamese designer MAI-ANH
DOAN is currently working as a
professional in Seattle, WA. Through
her work, she aims to create living
environments that significantly
contribute to the user’s performance,
health and happiness.
The Challenge
Illustrations Simon Flöter
DARK In a world in which light
follows us wherever we go,
citizens are craving moments
of darkness. Consider designing light-free spaces that
can invoke contemplation,
silence and a sense of escape
from the rays of our light- and
screen-polluted lives.
Frame Lab
HEALTH As our understanding of health
as a holistic endeavour broadens, combine
circadian lighting with other sensorial
design features such as scent and touch
to align people’s mental and physical
Imaginative workplace design can no longer
be exclusive to offices. Designers are wellplaced to radically rethink warehouses
and factories, whether implementing sunmimicking lighting for night-time workers or
utilizing open-plan layouts to bring natural
light to those on day shifts.
are highly personalized spaces, and
the lighting within them should be no
different. Tailoring lighting design to
not only offset the glow of screens, but
also consider the specific preferences
of residents, will ensure living spaces
remain an extension of one’s identity.
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Courtesy of Muuto
Courtesy of Kettal
Courtesy of Iris Ceramica Group
office norms
have vastly
Lower-impact design with recycled materials, self-built furniture, modular seating solutions,
versatile collections for in- and outdoors, and freedom-focused setups for agile working.
With antibacterial, antiviral, anti-pollution, anti-odour and self-cleaning properties, Iris Ceramica Group’s
Active Surfaces collection was essential to the renovation of the private roof terrace and pool area on the
fourth floor of Palermo’s Palazzo delle Poste building, originally built in 1922. The ceramic material from
the Loft series by Porcelaingres, an Iris Ceramica Group brand, closely resembles opulent stone, and was
selected for the outdoor area in the shade Snow, creating a relaxing ambience.
‘A chaise longue is not really a piece of furniture you
will ever need, but if you can afford it, it can gild everyday life,’ says Chris Martin of Massproductions of
the studio’s 4PM chaise longue, available in laminated
Douglas fir or cherry wood. Wanting to make this
gilded luxury available to the public, the studio offers
free building instructions for a DIY-version of the 4PM.
‘We realized that the self-built version of 4PM was
cheap, simple and fun to build,’ says Martin. You may
not be able to afford 4PM, but with instructions you
can make your own.’
Frame 145
Seeking to bring character to one of the more mundane elements of interiors, Jung has developed Jung
Unique, a platform for designers and architects to
customize switch designs and imbue personality into
a space’s minor details. The project-specific platform
allows designers to create custom messages and
communicate specific information with full control
over aspects such as design, colour, images, symbols,
fonts and texts used. Pictured here are two of the 34
designs created by Studio Komo for Stuttgart-based
co-working space Urban Spaces.
Deemed ‘a social sculpture’ by its designers, Rope
6M is a modular seating solution for one to ten people. Rope 6M offers endless configurations: sitting,
lying and playing are just a few of the things it can
be used for. Developed by Atelier Ief Spincemaille
in collaboration with textile designer Esther van
Schuylenbergh, the series comprises four unique
woven patterns.
Long-lasting quality lies at the heart of Sunbrella
fabrics, due to a specialized dyeing process that
totally saturates fibres with highly UV-stable
pigments. Because of their resistance to fading
as well as to mould and mildew, these fabrics can
be used both in- and outdoors. The Bahia and
Marquetry lines of fabric include vibrant colours,
textures and patterns, making them compatible
with a variety of spaces.
Tasked with building a mobile and multifunctional
retail space in London’s Tate Modern, Brinkworth
designed a kiosk that is ‘sympathetic to the structure
of the building and uses some of its detailing and
finishes’, says Graham Russell, associate director at
Brinkworth. The compact display incorporates interchangeable elements like a free-standing table that
can be integrated into the main structure, a flexible
shelving orientation and apertures. ‘Our intention was
to create a highly functional mobile piece that wouldn’t
look overtly like a retail unit,’ explains Russell.
Keeping in mind that conventions surrounding
office norms have vastly changed post-Covid, Sam
Hecht and Kim Colin conceived height-adjustable
workstations called EO1 Micro Packs for Herman
Miller’s OE1 Workspace collection. Users have the
freedom to sit or stand, and the stations can be easily
modified. Adopting the now more widely accepted
philosophy of agile working, these work spots come
in one-, three- and four-person configurations and in
a variety of hues.
The Rizo chair designed by Rodolfo Dordoni for
Andreu World is characterized by simple lines and an
upholstered seatback that hugs the natural curves of
the chair’s frame. Constructed of ash wood with wool
or leather upholstery – and an eco-leather option to
dress the wood – the Rizo line boasts iterations with
and without arms.
Frame 145
Coverlam – which can be manufactured in sizes up to 1,200 x 3,600 mm and thicknesses of 3.5 and 5.6 mm
while maintaining excellent mechanical and aesthetic properties – is ideal for a variety of applications such
as flooring, coverings, kitchen countertops and external façades, as well as for both residential and industrial
environments. In addition, the lightweight material can be clad with an application by H&CTiles, which helps to
eliminate atmospheric pollution if used outdoors and has antibacterial properties if used indoors. Coverlam
Distrito Aluminio is pictured.
Vincent Van Duysen and Kettal teamed up to design
the Giro collection with both interior and exterior uses.
Included in the collection are the Giro high and low
side tables, constructed of concrete and finished in an
antique rose colourway. The tables’ semi-cutout bases
allow the table to be placed in a number of ways – and
as a supplement to other table surfaces.
Able to reduce the concentration of harmful dust particles in the air, the Desso AirMaster carpeting series by
Tarkett has already helped offices achieve better air quality. Now available in plank form, the Savera and Savera
Shades not only offer a functional design, but also an interesting aesthetic in the workplace – with 24 shades in
the Savera and Savera Shade lines, an array of floor designs are possible.
The concept of the Connie-Connie café in Copenhagen was thought up by Tableau and Ari Prasteya,
coming to fruition at the hands of 25 artists, designers
and architects. This group of creatives were tasked
with designing unique chairs and benches with off-cut
pieces of wood provided by Danish wood company
Dinesen, which wanted to extend the lifecycle of the
scrap pieces.
Frame 145
‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ is an
adage that Muuto has taken quite literally. With its
own name meaning ‘new perspective’ in Finnish, the
brand does exactly that with the relaunch of the now
iconic Fiber Armchair and Side Chair. Having initially
released the plastic shell chairs in 2014, Iskos-Berlin
has reinterpreted the pieces, namely their materials,
to achieve a refreshingly lower-impact design.
The shells of the chairs utilize a new composite
material developed by Muuto. It consists of at least
80 per cent recycled plastic – recovered postindustrial waste from eyewear manufacturing – mixed
with up to 25 per cent FSC-certified wood fibres.
Muuto’s drive to establish and live out ‘new
perspectives’ – something that involves a continuous
questioning of its approach and methods – is
reflected by sustainable initiatives that include the
increased use of recycled materials. The company
believes that taking the leap from virgin to recycled
plastic for production is an ambitious starting point
in becoming more circular in its consumption of raw
materials. By making the switch to recycled plastics,
the brand expects to save over 50 tonnes of virgin
plastic in 2022 alone.
While material sourcing is an important aspect
of sustainability, the long-lasting quality and aesthetic
of products is also something Iskos-Berlin considered
– after all, an enduring design is much more
sustainable than a passing trend. For that reason, the
Copenhagen-based designers stripped the chair of
all unnecessary layers to arrive at what they describe
as an ‘iconic form’ that marries the tactile wood-fibre
composite with ‘soft, embracing curves’.
According to Muuto, reimagining the way the
brand works with recycled plastic has resulted in a
product that’s strong and durable enough to endure
daily wear and tear while matching its distinctive
palette. With versatile applications for a variety of
spaces and available in Muuto’s signature colours –
black, dusty green, grey ochre and white – the Fiber
Armchair and Side Chair prove their longevity in both
aesthetic and use.
Ethimo and Studio Zanellato / Bortotto have
presented a new line of exterior lounge furniture,
Rotin. The collection is inspired by Asian traditions,
such as the use of bamboo and techniques usually
found in the production of rattan furniture. The
Rotin line includes a coffee table with legs crafted of
‘pickled’ teak – which has been brushed and tinted
to achieve a vintage look – tied together with rope.
The tables’ surfaces are handcrafted using either
enamelled terracotta, waste marble or cement.
Elevating the already eye-catching properties of precious metals like bronze, brass, copper and a variety of
other surfaces, decorative coating Plamina is utilized to enhance new materials or to restore used materials.
The water-based coating can be applied to walls, ceilings, tables, countertops and more to create a wide variety
of striking metallic effects.
Frame 145
Motivated by the goal of creating community,
Joongho Choi Studio’s Xiscape Outdoor Furniture
collection is a modular, open-ended system that can
be used to build anything from a dining chair to a sofa
for a commercial real estate project in South Korea.
Adaptability not only futureproofs this design, but
also allows for flexibility should spatial needs change.
The furniture pieces can be disassembled to their
mono-material state to be reused or recycled.
Sangpil Lee
Following an extensive remodelling period, Antoni
Gaudí’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona has reopened its
doors as an immersive experience into the mind of
the famed Spanish architect. The building’s atrium,
interpreted by Kengo Kuma, is home to 164,000 m of
Kriskadecor chains. Adopting Gaudí’s tribute to the
light of the Mediterranean, the Japanese architect
sought to do the same with the chains: ‘By omitting
the use of any other materials, we are able to speak
of light and light only.’
Bjørnar Øvrebø
Snøhetta and Studio Plastique wanted to find a way to
extend the lifecycle of glass from electronic products
that would otherwise end up in a landfill. They later
joined forces with Italian ceramic tile manufacturer
Fornace Brioni to realize Common Sands - Forite,
tiles of terrazzo-like quality made of recycled glass
from microwave ovens, with applications ranging from
surface coverage to semi-transparent partitions.
Raising awareness about the ways
in which design neglects visual
limitations, the Chromarama
tapestries by Dutch design studio
Kukka are developed with colour
blindness in mind. The designers
worked with colour-blind peer
groups and TextielLab to bring
the functional fabrics to life – each
represents the perspective of a
viewer with a form of colour-vision
defiency (CVD).
plates were on the original Ishihara
colour-blindness test, developed by
Japanese professor Shinobu Ishihara
in 1917 for red-green deficiencies
hours of handiwork goes into
finishing the tapestries after
they’re woven on industrial
jacquard machines
tapestry designs – each with different
functions – comprise the Chromarama series
Words Lauren Grace Morris
different types of colour blindness exist and
8 per cent of people have some form of CVD
warp – or vertical – threads make up the tapestries’
width of 170 cm; there are between 18,000 and
21,000 weft (horizontal) threads
Frame 145
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Exhibition Herbarium of Interiors Case Study*2: a Milk Bar
A project shown during the Salone internazionale del Mobile in Milan in 2021
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