It’s already been a year? Zenith celebrated its first year in Singapore with a showroom fiesta!
Zenith is only one year old in Singapore, but its showroom parties have already become the stuff of legends in Singapore’s A&D community. They’re known as the place to be if you want to catch up with a huge cross section of the design community in a celebratory atmosphere.
Thursday 30 November 2017 was no exception. The date marked the furniture powerhouse’s first anniversary in Singapore, and over 180 guests flocked to the fortieth-floor of One Raffles Place for a Mexican fiesta-themed party. Live music, maracas and a pinata set the scene, with guests treated to margharitas that they made themselves on margharita bikes. Not sure what we mean?
If you missed the party, you can catch up on the action on our Facebook.
Zenith proudly supported and showcased the graduating class of Interior Architecture 2017 UNSW, at their Sydney showroom.
Working closely together and collaborating with the student lead exhibition team since January, the Eclectic Electric exhibition night celebrated the achievements and the journey the student’s embarked on.
The 2017 capstone project encompassed the revitalisation of the White Bay Power Station, a heritage listed former coal-fired power station on a 38,000m2 site, surrounding a large part of the Bays Precinct Sydney Urban Transformation Program, under Urban Growth NSW. The brief emphasised spatial strategy with a focus on innovation, accessibility, style and public activation.
With no detail left unchecked, the exhibition featured a bar with flowing drinks and an abounding grazing table.
Accommodating 90 graduating students, their family and friends, and the A&D community, over four hundred people packed the Zenith Showroom.
Lapalma’s success has been achieved step-by-step over thirty years. Using natural recyclable materials, expertly combining metal with wood, leather and fabrics to create timeless pieces of elegant furniture with clean fluid lines. It is the hard work, passion and inexhaustible enthusiasm of brothers, owners and founders, Dario and Romano Marcato.
Zenith is proud to announce a new partnership across APAC, supporting Lapalma’s passion for furniture made with high precision using the most advanced technology while respecting the environment and source of all the noble materials employed to make their collections.
In October 2017, Zenith officially launch the Lapalma brand into all 12 locations across APAC. To coincide with his first visit to Australia, Dario Marcato joined Zenith at two special events to help launch new collections released at Il Salone, Milan in April 2017 and Orgatec, Cologne in 2016.
Guests enjoyed a degustation style menu of Veneto inspired food reflecting Lapalma’s origin of Padova, one of North Italy’s oldest cities.
Two years ago, Lapalma launched ‘Light Office’ a new direction for them in response to the new approach to workplaces – flexibility and well-being. An increased need for a lifestyle approach teamed with the ability to change the environment easily according to task, be it for focussed or collaborative work.
As the global economy shifts to become more interconnected than ever and new manufacturing hubs crop up around the world, Asia Pacific is leading the way.
In 2015, the Asian Development Bank reported that the region’s burgeoning economy was a product not of oil, agriculture, or booming global trade; rather, it came as a result of thriving local industry. Deftly marrying the preservation of traditional craftsmanship and methods of making with mass investment in advanced machinery, Asia Pacific has pulled away from the pack to lead with its innovative design, efficient manufacturing, and bold and distinctive design identity. The heavyweights of Europe and North America have had to make space on the world stage for a new player that brings with it a fresh point of view and keen eye for timeless design… On. Our. Own. Terms.
A New Global Power: The Rise Of Asia Pacific
This new identity comes at a time when the Asia Pacific middle class is more affluent than ever, comprising 37% of the global middle class and having an estimated international revenue injection power in excess of $1.7 billion per annum. According to the International Monetary Fund, this group constitutes history’s largest continental economy when measured by both nominal and purchasing power parity, in addition to indexing consistently in the upper rungs of GDP across the world’s BRICK economies. Largely thanks to persistent growth in the financial and technology sectors, private individual incomes remain higher and more stable than heretofore, as are vital remittance inflows from overseas as our collective ‘dollar’ (across the region) remains low enough to coax the world’s offshore manufacturing needs. Combined, such factors have traditionally forged stronger intra-national relationships; but today, this has brought in its wake a new era of co-operation between supplier and consumer, fast loops of commercial and design optimisation feedback, and an astronomical rise in consumer activity across all industry sectors.
Locals are increasingly choosing products designed and made within their home region – and why wouldn’t they? Design coming out of the region takes the best of traditional solutions to age-old challenges and blends it with contemporary manufacturing and aesthetics languages to create products that look good and just work. All this is perfectly timed with the rise of online shopping and so called ‘cross border shopping’, which have exposed the region’s design to tens of thousands of new customers.
At the heart of this evolving industry is China – particularly Shanghai – where design is attracting the best and brightest. In 2014, Deloitte speculated that in order to remain competitive in the world economy, China needed to diversify this industry and move away from a commoditised manufacturing reliance on lower-skilled assembly to an “innovation-based economy” of which optimising the design resolution of any given product or range was an prime determinant in the Chinese design world’s ongoing success.
And diversify is precisely what China has done in recent years: building from the ground up a design industry that has only continued to grow. The industry is young in both age and composition, with 93% of the Chinese design industry reportedly between 20 and 30 years of age and distributed amongst design consultancies, incubators, and R&D departments of major companies and manufacturers. These talented designers converge in ‘First Tier Cities’ such as Shanghai and Shenzhen to develop new design solutions imbued with the country and region’s characteristic flair. The cities are now making names for themselves at the vanguard of international design as well as turning over staggering revenue: Shenzhen’s more than 6000 design firms and their 100 000 employees have an annual average yield of US$1.54 billion.
Within this space, brands from across the region are flocking to China’s shores to bring the much-needed diversity of expertise in manufacturing, branding, post-occupancy analysis and ultimately a formal design language beyond borders in the effort to offer the Chinese market a degree of design diversity to satisfy their cosmopolitan market’s needs. While our architects and designers continue to be more involved with the A+D community on the Chinese mainland, we are beginning to see the effects of a regional design philosophy take shape.
Last month, I reported on one such brand – Zenith – and its continued quest for more cross-cultural negotiation in this region’s design future. After having celebrated their three year milestone in Hong Kong recently, Zenith has just taken the party to Shanghai to mark their watershed moment on the Chinese mainland amid the revolution of our region’s growing design prowess on the global stage:
Part of the ongoing story of A+D in our growing region is a sub-story of those businesses growing alongside us. […As] Zenith continues to grow across the Pacific, theirs is one of the many stories that testify to the ongoing support of such brands for our emerging design talent. What Zenith’s story uniquely inspires, however, is a coming of age for our A+D designing beyond borders.
Now having launched in Shanghai, Zenith remains squarely at the vanguard of supplying the latest design innovation for the commercial, health, hospitality and education sectors throughout more than five nations and their wholly complete network of service centres. While each of their showrooms celebrate Zenith‘s vast array of products and international portfolio of brands from across the region and beyond. Shrewdly backing this comprehensive design offering with a team of sector specialists, steering managers, service deliver and a dedicated R+D team that work around the clock to improve the profile and performance of design across many sectors, Zenith has emerged as one of this region’s leading suppliers – collaborating with local design talent and their own manufacturing facilities to tailor design solutions in a culturally-aware holistic brand service.
There is, unsurprisingly, plenty to celebrate. And boy-oh-boy did Team Zenith celebrate last week in their Shanghai showroom! As the launch of their twelfth showroom to date, located smack-bang in the heart of Shanghai’s bustling Jingan District, the glittering skyline of the megalopolis was the perfect backdrop to toast what is ultimately the brand’s ultimate triumph: bringing the region the power of design for a brighter, more intelligent and more culturally-sensitive future. As such, the theme of the night – ‘Another World’ – could not be more apt. As China continues to lure us with a rich tradition and looking forward to an equally eye-opening future, Zenith‘s Shanghai showroom truly encapsulates the power of design to realise ‘other worlds’ – a power that was further underscored by the pop-up exhibition of much-vaunted digital installation artist Pussy Krew, a dessert wall (!) of unbelievably mouthwatering delights, and the beats of the Soul Dancing Shanghai company on the night.
In a globalised age where one project can see the specification of Australian timber alongside lighting made in Scandinavia, flooring from the United States and furniture designed in Asia, there has never been a better time to be a designer in the Asia Pacific. Over the coming years, the region will surely go from strength to strength as it further refines its bold and pioneering design identity.
View showroom launch photos here
Download showroom launch photos here
The A+D world faces a precarious future: dwindling local expertise, unlikely local capacity, and a race we thought was heading toward the bottom but seems, instead, to be heading nowhere.
The Anxiety Of Influence
Although the current state of our property market might indicate our growing status as a well-designed nation, few of us in the A+D world are quite so sanguine. Tasked to close contracts faster and cheaper than ever before, our A+D community continues to report a culture of fear within the industry, circuitous monetary flows and wildly ambivalent consumer confidence – whether for key developments in our property market or for the position our industrial design will index on the world’s stage in the face of growing international competition.
At all avenues, we appear to be racing to the bottom faster than ever before. Needing to curb costs wherever possible in order to bolster our value proposition to the market, (namely, a value proposition that hangs solely on price point), the collateral damage has been enormous and, sadly it would seem, largely silent.
Within the space of a single workforce generation, our local manufacturing industry has experienced an ongoing period of contraction, falling to record lows on the Industry’s Group Index. In the 2015-2016 financial year, manufacturing’s injection into the national economy capped almost $30 million AUD. Throughout the last financial year, however, it contributed less than $15,598 million – a drop of almost 50% (which, comparatively, outstrips the drop experienced during the same parameters for our equally anxious mining industry).
Manufacturing Industry’s Performance Activity
(% contribution to AU GDP):
But Is It A Question Of Déjà Vu?
It may sound flippant, but it feels all-too-familiar to me. Though few might be willing to see the correspondence, we find ourselves today in an oddly similar position to mid-Nineteenth-Century Europe. As the cause of industrialism continued to make in-roads into European social and political circles, the correlative emerged simultaneously for the continent’s economic thinking: the purportedly unspoken virtues of laissez-faire market drivers. We have novelists, in particular, to thank for the gainsaying. In the British tradition, Dickens, Eliot, Carlyle, Gaskell and any one of the Bronte family filled reams and reams of paper with the very human-centric tales of entire industries falling to task as the race to the bottom became more of a chaotic sprint.
But what might the Victorians teach us here? Well, for one thing, their response was inspired: intervention. Charter after charter was passed from the 1848 People’s Charter onwards, delineating strategies for mutually beneficial relationships between industry sectors: the cotton industry bolstered the weaving industry, textile trade and international trading relationships (even the colonial military) all working collaboratively to manage the ongoing struggles of ameliorating the rapid effects of mechanical innovation into an otherwise localised cottage IR structure. In short, the shift in industrial relations produced highly specialised skillsets as relationships became entirely driven by exclusivity and specialisation for quality control.
Do Industrial Designers Have A Responsibility To Manufacturers?
Needless to say, such effects are also currently extant within the A+D community. Relationships between our industrial designers and suppliers have never been richer and more penetrative. And yet, the local manufacturers still appear to be lucking out. While our lower dollar continues to boost manufacturing export volumes, weak local demand continues to subdue total activity as designers seek cheaper offshore alternatives
According to a recent report by Fairfax, 83% of Australian votes believe that we have a responsibility to generate more revenue and jobs within our total manufacturing capacity. Such sentiments could not have arrived at a more pressing moment. Between 2008 and 2016, more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs were lost, now accounting for approximately 1 in every 13 workers.
“The public’s instinct is absolutely right,” says Jim Stanford, economist at the Centre for the Future of Work at the Australia Institute, following his key findings that this nation displays a significantly lower proportion of manufacturing capacity than any other comparably advanced economy. “We risk paying a long-term price if the decline continues.”
So, should the A+D world reconsider its relationship with manufacturers? After all, government deregulation of the commercial sector in particular – plus the constantly changing landscape of taxation and tariff control – doesn’t bode well for too heavy a reliance on offshore manufacturing in the long term (even if it does satisfy short-term commercial imperatives). While local expertise continues to decline, we are actively complicit in creating an arena that is not sustainable for our local industrial designers, their local and international suppliers and the push for seeing our local design language make a loud impact on the international level.
Under such conditions, never has ecologically and socially sustainable approaches to our industrial relationships been more pressing. And thankfully, some industrial designers are proving that understanding the future direction of our collective practice and the potentially errant market forces at play is key to our overall success – as a nation, as an industry, and as a design community.
Rethinking The Designer-Manufacturer Relationship
Keith Melbourne is one such forward-thinker. Following the launch of his Pino collection for Zenith, Melbourne sat down with me to discuss his unique relationship with manufacturers, underscoring his discussion with the insight that closer collaborative approaches are key to the success of industrial design as a discipline, and design as both collective practice and community.
From designing all unique manufacturing componentry for the range, not to mention furniture kitted with ergonomic solutions for the manufacturers needing to construct these difficult product typologies – it becomes clear that it is near-impossible to delineate where Pino’s design story ends and its manufacture story begins. At all points, the difficulties, necessities and support systems for the range’s manufacture appear to inform its design resolution from the beginning. What emerges is not simply a product to decorate our mantle as a well-designed nation but, rather, the vital support system needed to ensure that the mantle will no longer be top-heavy.
David Congram, Indesign: You’ve commented elsewhere that Pino is unique for you because it was very much a balancing act between sustaining its characteristic wire form and still providing the level of comfort and performance we wouldn’t normally expect from hard furnishings.
Keith Melbourne: Yes, and ‘balancing act’ is the perfect term for it. [laughs] Well, sometimes, but it really was more of a pleasurable experience as a whole. And probably the number one thing which I found especially arduous this time with Pino was the manufacture. It was a wonderful challenge but I seriously underestimated the scope of the manufacturing side. We developed twelve manufacture components, and then spent two years refining the manufacturing process as a whole.
DC: Well, since the manufacture for Pino was largely uncharted territory for you in terms of the form of the range, was it key to collaborate with specialist manufacturers?
KM Oh absolutely! It was a very mutually-rewarding experience for both myself and the manufacturing team because it was such a prolonged collaborative process. Manufacturing is something that is very hidden, so I enjoy coming out and championing that part of the design process. Otherwise, how would people know?
DC And people are intensely interested in that part of the design process, too, I feel.
KM Yes, extremely so. It’s always met with a very high level of fascination. It has a tendency to ground the product, and really sweep away the unecessary ‘mystique’ that surrounds design as a discipline.
DC And when you were refining each element during that questioning, how many prototypes were required to truly test its functionality?
KM Interestingly, not many at all. I normally make a lot of models when I’m designing furniture, but it’s almost impossible to make a model of anything in the Pino range. When you take it down to one fifth of the scale, the wires don’t really translate. The accuracy required during the prototyping stage to inform the end-result just couldn’t be achieved for Pino because of its peculiar materiality. So largely it was done in CAD with some mock-ups in MDF for an ergonomic point of view.
DC That’s quite interesting because I imagine it would be rather uncommon –
KM Well yes – prototyping is an important part of any design process, but the material that constitutes the bulk of each piece wasn’t very welcoming of traditional prototyping, and certainly wasn’t particularly suited to dropping down the scale. I developed a new type of prototyping for this range using laser cut MDF to make a simulation of the chair, for example, so that you could sit inside to test the distribution of load and weight. Although it differs incredibly from the end result (not only in material) this way I was able to test and refine the ergonomics of each piece. But largely, I think we only did one prototype overall.
KM Yeah! But, thousands of megabytes of CAD data as well. It was an interesting challenge because I normally do like to make many models and work directly with the material and form. Unfortunately, or actually quite fortunately in a way, the material in this instance worked against the way I normally design.
DC You’ve told me quite a bit about the manufacturing side of developing this range, and I’m curious to know your opinion of the manufacturer-designer relationship.
KM Oh it’s extremely important! It’s critical as far as I’m concerned. I don’t work just by completing the design process and then passing the spec sheets through to the manufacturers. I prefer to work more collaborating alongside the manufacturers and I find very often that this also colours the design process to a great extent too, while also influencing the success of the design from a performance, quality or even aesthetic angle.
DC Do you think that is standard or rare for the design community currently working throughout Australia, in particular?
KM All designers I know have slightly different relationships with their manufacturers. Some, like me, are quite involved, and others can be very removed, some removed entirely as we often see with those who use offshore solutions. But I think that the line in the sand – where the manufacturer finishes and the designer starts – for me at least is very blurred. Perhaps that’s more informed by my engineering background than I know. But I love the relationship with the manufacturer. I spend a lot of time physically in the factory refining the manufacturing process. And the manufacturers love it too.
DC I imagine that the stronger the relationship between the manufacturer and the designer leads to a better-resolved product at the tail-end of the whole process.
KM Yes I’d have to agree. The whole process of the tooling side of things is about spending time refining those elements that can improve quality but also save time and a lot of funds too.
The design process for me can sometimes be quite lonely. I do a lot of the legwork alone and then the collaboration starts with the manufacturer where the sparks start to fly. I have a lot of respect with the manufacturers I work with, and the transference of skills and expertise is by far one of the most rewarding parts of this relationship.
As Zenith celebrates their third anniversary in Hong Kong, we look to some of the brand’s landmark achievements in designing the Asia Pacific A+D world.
“Many of our clients have offices in Asia and there are so many Australian architects and designers working in these regions. We need to be there to support them.”
Three years ago, Barbara Schmidt’s above observation prompted Zenith Interiors to build on decades of accomplishment in Australia and New Zealand by branching further into the Asia Pacific region. As Australian architects and designers began to collaborate more with the A+D community on the Asian continent, our region began to see a regional design philosophy take shape on its own terms. And, no doubt supported by brands such as Zenith that were brave enough to jump the pond and extend the offering of their service to new markets requiring their expertise, this cross-cultural negotiation also began to see the rise of Asia Pacific’s economic and political dominance on the global stage.
Now celebrating the third anniversary of their presence in Hong Kong, Zenith is thus also celebrating an important milestone in
the history of our region’s design tradition. The brand joins us in celebrating, that is, the growing strength of our region in our time: the world wedesigned, the world realised by our innovators,
our risk takers, our thought leaders and our design talent.
Part of the ongoing story of A+D in our growing region is a sub-story of those businesses growing alongside us. Last year I reported on Zenith Interiors’ further growth across the Pacific – it is one of many stories that testify to the ongoing support of such brands for our emerging design talent. What Zenith’s story uniquely inspires, however, is a coming of age for our A+D designing beyond borders.
From the 1950s, Zenith has steadily refined its approach and
grown across the Australasian region, closing out the millennium with four manufacturing facilities and showrooms throughout the nation’s major cities. With a commitment to bringing the best in international design to the local market, they quickly noticed the emerging prowess of the design community on our own shores.
In the past decade, Zenith launched their own contribution to our growing design importance – Zenith Design (2009) – led by their own design and manufacture direction, state-of-the-art facilities and an award-winning suite of proprietary products to enhance collaboration, wellbeing and productivity in the modern workplace. Suddenly with the capacity to offer bespoke solutions “ being a local manufacturer in this Asia Pacific region”, commented Barbara Schmidt, was integral “to offering fully resolved solutions with a customised edge. […I]t was a huge point of difference for Zenith.”
And the significance of this capacity should not be understated here. After all, according to the Asian Development Bank, its was not
our oil, agriculture or global trade that underpinned Asia Pacific’s meteoric economic rise in the new millennium – it was our region’s wholehearted embrace of local industry, the preservation of our traditional skills and unique craftsmanship, and the mass-investment in advanced machinery. In the years that would follow Zenith’s further continental expansion, our region continued to enjoy growing rates of consumer activity, stronger levels of income, continued remittance inflows and greater intra-national ties between supplier and consumers. Earlier last year, I reported on how this has culminated or us, today, in the most remarkable expansion of education in world history – a confident indication
that our 1.7 billion + combined middle class demographic will continue to play an important role in shaping the global future.
Launching soon in Shanghai, Zenith’s co-ordinated design effort comes as an unique boon for an united Asia Pacific.
From Hong Kong to Wellington, Christchurch to Auckland
to Perth, and all along Australia’s East Coast and Southern
border, Zenith’s model recognises that design is (and needs to be) diverse. Their pan-regional presence declares that design is as personal as it is cultural. But, more importantly, it declares that ours is a design culture that matters – that matters outside our borders – and will continue to do so.
At Indesign Media, we congratulate Zenith
on this significant milestone, and wish to
thank them for their ongoing support for championing our design, our way.
Late last month, Zenith’s third anniversary in their Hong Kong showroom was ringed in with a jungle-themed party that brought
a touch of the South-East Asian tropics to sprawling megalopolis. Under a canopy of vines, their showroom was brought to life with jungle rhythms that drew out the wild side of their illustrious
guest list. In recognition of the environmental difficulties facing
our region, Zenith Hong Kong collaborated with Elephant Gin
Cocktails in an effort to conserve chronically endangered
wildlife. A significant portion of all proceeds where donated
to two foundations – Big Life, in support of anti-poaching,
and the Space For Elephants Foundation, in support of the restoration of old migratory routes.
In the lead up to his launch of Pino for Zenith, we sat down with Keith Melbourne to get a behind the scenes glance of the designer
It has been said before, and yet I will say it again. Keith Melbourne has carved out a unique place for himself in
the world of contemporary design. Exploring the sometimes twin, sometimes twain, virtues of rational engineering and creative design, his work bears an unmistakable signature: highly resolved end-results that appear equally whimsical and graphic, but soon start to reveal a litany of calmly determined design choices to bestow the invisible comforts of everyday life.
Having recently launched his latest collection – Pino – for Zenith,
it is clear that the union of engineering, manufacture, R+D and creative design continues to be a strong driving force for Melbourne. Across the entire range, comprising wire-work
dining and lounge chairs, stools, and accompanying tables, Pino carries a sometimes surprising back history that Melbourne was kind enough to share:
David Congram: It has been said before that your engineering background heavily influences your work. I was wondering, however, whether your background in aerospace and automotive engineering
also influences it more directly?
Keith Melbourne: That’s a good question. I don’t think that it
is directly influenced by aerospace and automotive engineering
as much as it is by manufacturing. I work with manufacturers to refine the design of the product and pre-empt moments where
we can refine the product (as an end result) and the process of its manufacture. The aesthetic … well, maybe I’m not the best person
DC [laughs]. No no, really?
KM [laughs] Ah, well no not really. But I do think that in terms
of aesthetic, Pino has so many lines and in that way it is almost
like drawing. The different lineweights express the product in a different way. So we start with much finer seating wires that hang
in a frame, and these lineweights add more definition to the product.
So in terms of its aesthetic influences, I’d have to say it’s the precision I choose to work with … You can take the boy out of engineering, I guess!
DC And is that quite common for your work process? Designing functionally first, and then aesthetically second? Or are they constantly intertwined for you?
KMDefinitely intertwined. But having said that, I’m a strong believer in the functionality of products. So much time on this product was spent trying to perfect its comfort. I was adamant that although it is essentially a wire chair, it should be as comfortable as possible for its category type. So I spent a lot of time reworking the distribution of load over the wire seat, minimising or eliminating pressure points that lead to discomfort. I always start with thinking about the functionality and comfort of each piece, and then rework elements of its aesthetic dimension – so they are very intertwined.
DC So when you began with the functionality and comfort of Pino, what was its initial seed?
KMWell the very first part of the design journey for Pino is this softened hexagonal hoop that forms the seat and back of the chair. That’s the distinctive feature of the chair – it screams out at you from the other side of the street. The wires that hang from the hoop almost forge a sling shape – very soft, and very surprising given the hardness of the material.
Right from day one, the key features of the product were still
there, and they really did determine the direction and the
DC When I sat down with the other editors in the office, we were refreshing our memories of your recent work for brands like Stylecraft and Zenith, and the one thing that really jumped out at us was the strong graphic nature of your portfolio –
KMThat’s interesting because if I had to choose only one word to describe my work it would have to be ‘line’. How line in the 2D and the 3D form then translates into a sculptural presence. I obsess over it, really. Complex lines and vital lines are a central theme in my work. So when you recognised the graphic nature of what I do, you’re right on the money!
DC [laughs] So you feel that Pino is very harmonious with your previous collections?
KMI do, yes. Well … actually, that’s a difficult question.
DC Well, do you feel then that Pino offers something new and slightly divergent from your back history of work?
KMIn a way, yes. For the dining chair in particular, I hadn’t tackled that type of product before – let alone in wire! I’ve done a lot of upholstered furniture and soft seating and stools, but for me I would nominate Pino as ‘hard’. One of the main challenges (which, in a way was more pleasurable than frustrating) was the fact that when you work in wire, everything is on display.
The ergonomics, the aesthetics, you can’t hide anything! By sculpting the piece to achieve comfort, you’re radically changing the sculptural form of it at the same time.
DC Well on that, Pino has this sense – at least to me – of wearing its heart on its sleeve (if such a thing could be said of a wire chair…) –
DC And I have a feeling that this comes from its very flexible nature. Not only is it appropriate both indoors and out, but I can see it being equally at home in residential, commercial and even hospitality environments. It’s equally casual as it is formal. Was this versatility something very much at the centre of your design intent?
KMYes – and I viewed it particularly while I was developing
the chair, as ‘a chair’ not ‘an outdoor chair’, for instance. I wanted
to develop it to a level of comfort and aesthetic refinement that would allow it to sit in a home. I think that if people find it appealing enough to want it in their home then that’s top of the list. That’s the hardest nut to crack. And it’s been overwhelming because the manufacturers and the sales people and the general public who
have been introduced to it have already said to me that they’d
love it in their homes – and that’s extremely rewarding for me.
DC So what were some of the questions you constantly asked yourself to achieve this degree of versatility?
KMComfort was one that kept coming up. And also, the pieces need to be universal – from a scale point of view, it needed to be quite universal in that way. But then also making sure that I was able to refine each piece for its specific function: dining chairs, lounge chairs and stools all require different negotiations of scale, weight and features, so it was definitely necessary for me to really question the relationship between form and function, without favouring one over the other.
DC How did the range itself begin to take shape? Did you have quite a resolved idea of the relationships between each piece – where they diverged and coalesced – or did it emerge quite organically?
KMWell when I began designing the tables to accompany the dining chair in particular, the soft hexagonal form kind of transferred across as a motif. I really did try to hero the chairs in particular,
so the tables are much quieter in form to allow the chair to be the star. But for the collection as a whole, it really did start with the dining chair. About a year in total was spent refining that particular piece, and then the rest of the collection iterated from that quite quickly in comparison.
DC So the dining chair was … true north, I guess?
KMAbsolutely! It was very important for me to get the chair to a stage where it was harmonious, dynamic and highly resolved so that the rest of the pieces in the range had the best aesthetic and functional blueprint to work from.
DC And what do you think is going to capture the imagination of the market for Pino?
KMAesthetically, the soft hexagon is the key feature of the product. The curvature is very key, but I do believe that the fanning gesture of the wirework – particularly in the sling leading up the back of the seat – will be one of the more popular aesthetic touches. It gives the piece a sense of spaciousness and expansion.
DC Yes, it’s quite an elegant gesture –
KMAnd I think that will lead to it being equally as suited to the residential market. But in terms of what the market will love best, I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
Let’s ask the best design minds currently working in the most important sector … health.
Recently in Sydney I attended a function celebrating some new extended facilities for one of the city’s cancer research centres. And while this might sound like a rather dry or dull affair, the demography of attendees surprised me. Medical experts, health policy makers, media personnel and some of the centre’s patients were all in attendance, demonstrating a rather broad sweep of integral stakeholders to the provision of health in this country. One group, however, was surprisingly absent: the design world.
And, perhaps this was for the best. You see, one of the key speakers marked the culmination of her address with the following (surprising/damning) philippic:
“The design scheme behind these new facilities was highly important – too important, in my opinion, to be left to designers”.
Shocking … right? I really should have said something. But ire and confidence failed me at the time, and I – the only person in the audience representing the A+D world, if only by dedicated media – sunk deep into my chair, bit my tongue and tried to conceal the throbbing vein popping out of my temple. Upon immediate reflection, she had a point. This was a medical environment charged with the responsibility of seeking ways to prevent and combat the most virulent diseases affecting us today. After all, 7.6million people die from cancer each year (globally), of which more than 4million are considered to die from its causes prematurely (between the ages of 30 and 69). Yes the statistics are staggering, and the weight of responsibility for devising treatment methods for such a widely devastating disease is inordinate. Without question, those medical practitioners deserve every accolade for their dedication, bravery and innovation in the face of such inauspicious data. And certainly in light of this unfavourable pathogenicity, design plays an enormous role (one potentially too crucial not to be in the hands of the most-vaunted virologists or cancerologists).
But it didn’t take too long at all for my mind to flip entirely in the opposing direction. I began thinking about the increasing clout that ‘design thinking’ and, in particular, ‘evidence-based design’ currently enjoys. Among A+D professionals, neither are particularly new nor novel; we’ve been extolling their virtues for generations. But for non-designers, both design-thinking and evidence-based design practices are being seen to harbour the potential to make significant positive impact. After all, with their combined belief in empiricism and experimentation, creativity and analysis, they coalesce into a pedagogical model that values the impact of strategy, process, fixed principles, changing variables, defining trends, post-occupancy analyses, end-user experience – a surefire toolkit to build and guide the course of our collective future.
Insofar as this might be the case, there is little, it would seem, to differentiate the practices of contemporary design and contemporary epidemiology. And I mean this quite earnestly. In recent years the A+D world has consistently proven the wholesale salubrious effects of intelligent design in our homes, our places of work, and environments in which we commune. Within the ambit of healthcare, in the words of one significant study, “[t]he state of knowledge of evidence-based healthcare design has grown rapidly in recent years. The evidence indicates that well-designed physical settings play an important role in making hospitals safer and more healing for patients and better places for staff to work.”
“…The evidence indicates that well-designed physical settings play an important role in making hospitals safer and more healing for patients and better places for staff to work.”
Perhaps, then, the aforementioned feather-ruffling speaker would have done well to amend her critique of our profession: “The design scheme behind these new facilities was highly important – too important, in my opinion, to be left JUST to designers”. Undoubtedly, we’d all agree. If for nothing else, the A+D community understands that our best work starts with culture, need, context and collaboration as the bedrock for creating new environments, new material cultures and new methods of thinking and being. Such is a sentiment that was expressed repeatedly across the country alongside Zenith’s launch of purpose-driven designs for the health and aged-care sectors: Zenith CARE.
Representing a veritable smorgasbord of designers, studios and examples of evidence-based design, the fanfare surrounding Zenith CARE’s launch was to be expected. Embodying a shift in approach for A+D in the health and aged-care sectors, the collection moves away from a standards-and-statistics-based approach and towards a deeper understanding of the social, economic, medical and personal implications that design has for end-patients and end-practitioners alike.
Over a series of mornings across the country, health and aged-care professionals in A+D and beyond discussed their future visions for the two sectors and the role A+D will play. At the end of the day, that role (or at least our understanding of that role) has expanded considerably. Rather than the invisible, sterile backdrop A+D has played in health and aged-care in the past, there is new recognition of its creative potential to assist in the healing process and reduce stress for all occupants. A+D not only has a role in the future of healthcare, but a significant one, capable of easing the growing pains of an expanding sector.
With a stellar line-up of European, Asian and Australian brands, Zenith CARE represents one of the leading efforts for the A+D community to help combat the problem of health today. From ensuring that all pieces in the Zenith CARE range are Standards Approved under Class 9a of the Building Code of Australia, to assessing limitations and safety features, Team Zenith have provided the much-needed support to counter the the increasingly worrying state of healthcare in this region.
Presenting the Zenith CARE Seminar Series (July 2017):
“Are our healthcare facilities in this country prepared for the needs, effects and conditions of our rapidly ageing population? Our industry has proven that we can provide methods and environments for health – especially in the commercial sector – but a new generation of architects and designers who believe in the processes and ideas of evidence-based design will be shaping the health of this country in the near future”.
JacquiWilliams – Project Leader, MKDC
Lisa Hunt – Interior Design Leader, Cameron Chisolm Nicol
Emma Williamson – Director, CODA
Moderated by Neil Cownie – Neil Cownie Architect
“Designers are habitually concerned with the experience of the end-user: not only in how they consume objects and spaces, but how those objects and spaces leave an indelible mark on us all. Whether providing comfort, happiness, confidence or respite, design is intimately connected with the question of health”.
Dr Darragh O’Brien – Senior Architect / Knowledge and Design Leader, Peckvonhartel
Amanda Elderkin – Interior Designer, HSPC Health Architects
Moderated by Alice Blackwood – Editor, Indesign
“We’re seeing a lot of focus and funding placed on the healthcare sector in Australia right now. Due to our expected population growth, the rate and change of communicable diseases, and the changing nature of access to healthcare across the country, design is (and will continue to be) one of our most important avenues to improving our community’s physical and psychological health – but also our social and economic health, too”.
Lisa Biddiscombe – Director / Senior Interior Designer, The Peppermint Room
Vanessa Brady – Executive Director, Health Investment Portfolio ACT Government
Amanda Elderkin – Interior Designer, HSPC Health Architects
Moderated by Alex Sloan – Journalist and Radio Broadcaster
“I am always interested by the question of design creativity in healthcare environments. Such questions establish important boundaries and grey-areas afflicting the entire spectrum of our professional practice. Not only questions surrounding where creativity places in the design process as a whole, but questions specific for the healthcare world. Is there a space for creativity in designing health environments, or does it take a back seat to science and hard facts? The jury appears to still be out on that one. But all of us here know just how central creativity is to health; our task is simply to devise ways to suffuse the health-potential of creativity en masse”.
Ron Bridgefoot – Principal, Hames Sharley
Wade Sutton – Owner, Sutton Consultants
Jennifer Gilmore – Managing Director, Gilmore Interior Design
Moderated by Sophia Watson – Editor, Indesign
“Just like our profession, the processes, standards and roles of the healthcare sector are constantly being redefined and shaped alongside advanced technology. These environments necessarily have to be flexible and adaptive to withstand and accommodate medical improvements. Designing a future-proofed medical facility, as an example, sounds like a paradox. But they’re questions that designers and architects are asking themselves everyday so that such spaces can always equal the forward-thinking and innovation at the heart of medical progress”.
Harm Hollander – Principal, Conrad Gargett
Megan Reading – Principal, Hassell
Helen Ma – Associate / Brisbane Health Sector Leader, Woods Bagot
Moderated by Angela Spillane – Practice Director, Arkhefield
Zenith Interiors proudly introduced its new partnership with renowned German brand, Brunner at Sydney Indesign over Friday 11 and Saturday 12 August.
Architects and Interior Designers from Sydney and beyond visited the Brunner stand at the collaborative exhibition space of B2 Photographic Studios.
Our highlight was celebrating this beautiful new portfolio launched at Orgatec 2016, being the latest collection from Brunner.
Brunner is a family owned and run enterprise founded in 1977 by Rolf and Helena Brunner. Brunner are one of the largest manufacturers of high end conference, executive office and event furniture in Europe. Brunner’s facility spans more than 25,000m2 in Rheinau, Baden, nestled in the Black Forest of Germany. Each year Brunner produces approximately 500,00 chairs and 100,000 tables, of the highest quality.
We served Pretzels and Glühwein over both days and ran a fabulous competition to win a return trip for two to the spa town of Baden-Baden nestled in Germany’s Black Forest, including four nights’ accommodation, and a dinner at one of Germany’s famed restaurants! A big congratulations to our winner Rachel Dixon of Twine and Twig Design.
Indesign: The Event has been held annually in design centres across the Asia Pacific for over a decade. In every city, Indesign: The Event is distinguished by a coming together of boutique commercial design houses, international and regional, and leading creative figures from the architecture and design industry. Inspired by the idea that a design event should itself be highly designed, Indesign: The Event is immersive, curated and experiential.
In 2015, Zenith opened its showroom on the 27th floor of The Centrium building in the bustling Central area. Our first real presence in Asia.
Zenith Interiors is an internationally-servicing Australian company providing innovative solutions for all corporate and commercial environments.
Zenith not only ‘provides’ but actively collaborates with organisations in the region to develop inventive workplace solutions to engage their employees by creating spaces with products that are functional, appealing and forward-thinking.
“By gaining a deep understanding of the organisations’ needs, we help to create work environments that bring people together to share, collaborate, socialise and learn,” says Zenith’s Director, Barbara Schmidt. “Zenith understands that office environments today are about leading-edge technology, collaboration and community.
We are passionate about designing, manufacturing, distributing and supplying the very solutions, aligned with current thinking and trends. In turn, our clients receive ideas, experience, expertise and locally-manufactured best-in-class products.”
Zenith is a champion for the “Made Local” movement, having invested significantly in an internal manufacturing and design program, Zenith Design.
In 2009, Zenith introduced an R&D department, now called Zenith Design, to lead their manufacturing and design direction. Zenith Design comprises a veritable cabal of industrial designers, product engineers and CAD operators. Design is continually researching global workplace trends and designing products that anticipate the ever-changing workplace environment.
The designers and team work in close collaboration with end-users, clients, architects and interior designers to develop tailored and bespoke solutions for the specific and varied needs of every workplace.
But overall, the Zenith philosophy is to look at each region of operation as a complete service centre. This ‘think global, act local’ approach see every area where Zenith is active, offering a unique showroom experience to showcase their products, backed by a savvy team of sales, project management and service delivery who in turn, work very closely with Zenith’s manufacturing facilities; creating one harmonious brand service.
Zenith has 12 showrooms (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai) and four manufacturing facilities in the Asia Pacific region.
If you’re strolling along Wyndham Street, why not pop in and we’ll show you around our new digs.