Category Archives: Industry News

The red revolution: Red Energy by Carr Design leaves a distinct mark on the commercial landscape

Is there anything as dynamic as a revolution? Rapid, rambunctious, and radical, revolutions are often over as swiftly as they begin, leaving behind a swirl of rubble to be rebuilt and rearranged into something new. In short: revolutions are great, but they can only last so long.

Take, for example, the activity-based working (ABW) revolution. When it first stormed the scene in the mid-2000s, ABW’s approach to old school, formulaic design was heralded as a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale design sector. Workers celebrated the freedom and enhanced wellbeing afforded by the groundbreaking, flexible designs, while higher ups cheered the spike in productivity and worker retention. Then ABW evolved. To keep up with its ballooning popularity, it was reduced to its most basic elements, co-opted for sprawling open plan offices and workspaces littered by colourful couches and ottomans. Soon, spaces verged toward the ridiculous, incorporating slides, ball pits, and cargo net hammocks. And just like that, as quickly as it began, the ABW revolution was over.

Red Energy

Now, nearly 15 years later, designers are stoking the embers of ABW, breathing new life into arguably one of the 21st century’s most important design milestones. With their new Cremorne headquarters for Australian energy suppliers Red EnergyMelbourne interior designers Carr Design Group did just this, marking a renaissance for the ABW movement. The feeling of revolution is fitting, given that Red Energy is an energy provider like no other. Since 2004, the Australian owned energy company has drawn its power from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric scheme, which is roundly regarded as a civil engineering wonder of the modern world. Red Energy is also committed to giving back to Australian communities by way of affordable energy and meaningful connections with local sporting clubs, associations, and charities that share their forward-facing values.

For their new Cremorne headquarters, Red Energy tapped into this revolutionary and community-oriented spirit, crafting workspaces that reflect a fresh approach to ABW. Like any good revolutionary, Carr Design Group did not build from the ground up, but rather looked to the past for inspiration. Nestled into the former Bryant and May factory – one of Melbourne’s most iconic heritage buildings – the new fitout was treated as a sculptural insert within the existing building envelope, and carefully enfolds heritage elements including an exposed truss ceiling and expansive factory bay windows. A richly textured, warm material palette beguiles the industrial setting and offsets shades of deep brick red and burnt orange with cool blue-greys and creamy whites.

Orbis 120 Degree

The new offices bring together over 1000 Red Energy business support and customer interaction staff, all of whom require very different work space typologies. To accommodate their various needs and activities, the plan was arranged in a series of ‘pavilions’, ‘neighbourhoods’, and ‘hubs’ set along a central circulation path. The overlapping spaces range from fixed to flexible and open to focused, and encourage workers to explore beyond the boundaries of their own workspace. Linking the four tenancy levels is a brick red sculptural steel mesh stair that evokes the red brick of the building’s exterior and funnels circulation into new spaces for breakout, collaboration, and interaction.

“Inspired by a commitment to celebrate and respect the historical importance and unique architectural form of this culturally significant structure, the fitout was treated almost as a sculptural insert with all internal built form detached from the perimeter in a bid to respect the existing exposed truss ceiling, expanse of original factory bay windows and important heritage details.” – Carr Design.

Orbis 120 Degee

At the briefing stage, Red Energy emphasised investment in workplace health and wellbeing in addition to a renewed focus on training and development. To make these goals a reality, Carr Design Group turned to Zenith and their broad catalogue of flexible, functional commercial furniture. Across the office’s four levels, Zenith’s signature sit to stand Orbis Workstation delivers both practicality and comfort without compromising on style. Like all Zenith solutions, Orbis prioritises people and the user experience. Red Energy employees can now enjoy a suite of intuitive features that make work life easier: LED reminders to sit or stand, a patented wire management system for keeping things tidy, Bluetooth app control, and the ability to store up to four preset worktop heights.

BeLite Task Chair                                                                    Tipo Sled

The new office also makes extensive use of the Belite Chair, designed at all points with supreme functionality and ergonomic support for the end user in mind. Characterised by minimal parts and componentry, the responsive design of Belite celebrates flexibility and ease. Responding to users’ postures and agile uses throughout the day, Belite’s form is uniquely positioned to alleviate problems of lumbar support while still never compromising on sleek, sculptural forms. The chair’s elastometric skin (held in a contoured backframe and seat pan) alters to suit changing user positions across different tasks and requirements throughout day. Coupled with a dynamic suspension system that takes the user’s bodyweight and movements as a counterbalance, Belite’s 270-degree radius of ergonomic support ensures that irrespective of function and mobility, end user health and wellbeing remains at the forefront of concern. Simplified, innovative and user-centric at every turn, Belite’s intuitive construction also means that the fussiness of adjustments, levers and knobs is finally eschewed once and for all. In its stead, Belite’s seven major elements is a feat of streamlining – ultimately informing the chair’s minimised mass (being 57% lighter than most high-performance task seating) – to guarantee dynamism between rest, application and varied use.

Like the vast majority of the Zenith portfolio, Belite carries an inspired sustainability approach. Constructed from postconsumer recycled PET drinking bottles, corn byproduct and foam based on soy as a raw material, Belite’s sustainable manufacture dovetails with the product’s lightweight, minimised form to truly deliver a ‘conscious’ artefact: of the environment, of its user and of the evolving profile of the commercial landscape. Complementing the Orbis Workstation specified throughout, Belite cuts an aesthetic figure just as much as it does a functional one: as clean, streamlined and multitasking as even the most agile of workers.

Orbis 120 Degree

Fleeting though revolutions may be, their effects are indelible and their legacies indestructible. Often, the most interesting repercussions occur long after the final aftershocks have subsided and a new sense of clarity allows the best pieces of the revolution to be identified and carried into the future. As much is evident in the new Red Energy Cremorne headquarters, which heralds a rebirth of the ABW revolution, albeit reimagined for the changing needs of today’s commercial spaces. It’s bold, it’s bright, and there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else. Vive la révolution!

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, comprehensive service delivery 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.

View project here.

Zenith is back on board for this year’s INDE.Awards

Zenith returns to the INDE.Awards in 2018 as Platinum Partner. Taking the Asia Pacific’s best design to the global stage, we look forward to celebrating this region’s most excellent in creative practice.

There’s never been a better time to be a designer in the Asia Pacific. A strong regional economy, cutting edge technological capabilities, and unrivalled raw design talent have all converged at the right point in time to make now the most exciting period in our region’s design history. None of this is coincidental: over the past few years, the industry has worked to develop strong support structures and international mentorship programs to ensure sustainable growth and that the next generation of talent is provided with the guidance and assistance that they need to reach their full potential. The INDE.Awards do just this, providing the Asia Pacific with its foremost platform for recognising and nurturing regional talent and developing strong cross-country ties.

INDE Awards 2017

 

This year, Zenith will return as an INDE.Awards  Platinum partner and once more contribute to enriching the region’s already diverse and dynamic design culture. An established leading light of Asia Pacific design, Zenith embodies all the characteristics that make the region’s design landscape so unique and exciting. Like the regional industry, Zenith blends a strong spirit of innovation and idiosyncratic design aesthetic with a thoughtful design process that is driven by a twin focus on style and functionality. Akin to the broader region, Zenith takes an unrelentingly forward-facing, trailblazing approach to design and is committed to developing new and unexpected responses to age-old design questions.

For over 60 years, Zenith has led our region in striking, eye-catching commercial design that doesn’t compromise on performance. From the tech boom to the open plan office, Zenith has responded thoughtfully and practically to every major contemporary design landmark. Their carefully considered approach has won admirers around the world. Zenith recently celebrated the launch of their new showroom in Shanghai, and continues to diversify its activity across the many commercial sub-sectors throughout the region.

Whether they’re in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, or SingaporeZenith approaches all design with a high degree of sensitivity to local culture and design traditions. Their hubs across the region allow them to fully understand local design contexts and challenges and design accordingly. Zenith consistently distinguishes itself from its peers by reflecting a firm grasp of not only the brief but also the context from which this emerges, responding to this thoroughly and sensitively.

In today’s hyperconnected design industry, regional ties between designers, suppliers, and manufacturers are more important than ever. For designers, well-developed connections with manufacturers and suppliers feed the iterative design process and streamline manufacturing, allowing for the highest possible quality of finished product. Zenith understands this, and has developed strong manufacturing capabilities to support their design efforts within the region.

The INDE.Awards would not be possible without the generous support of Zenith interiors and our other sponsors. We are grateful for their ongoing commitment to celebrating the uniqueness of design in the Asia Pacific region and look forward to working together moving forward to strengthen existing regional connections and forge new ones.

By David Congram

Designing for Aged Care

As Australia’s older generation continues to grow, the architecture and design community is beginning to see tremendous opportunity for change within aged care.

By 2042 one in four Australians will be 65 years or older. This unprecedented change in our society, coupled with longer life expectancy, means we will become increasingly dependant on aged care services and facilities. In addition, the Baby Boomer generation is rapidly redefining how it wants to spend its twilight years, representing a huge opportunity for design to play a bigger and better role when it comes to creating spaces that look and feel both comfortable and uplifting.

In the past, aged care facilities have been more akin to hospitals than homes. With long corridors, closed off nurses’ stations and institutional-looking furniture, design for the care of the elderly has been more clinical than comfortable. But things are beginning to change. As the focus on wellbeing and health in design becomes ever sharper, we’re seeing more architectural and design firms being brought in to create aged care spaces that align with general home design.

This change in approach comes as consumer expectations for future aged care environments are also evolving. People want to stay in spaces that are light and spacious and they expect flexible living areas with comfortable places to relax.

Buena Nova by LSS Designer

It’s one of the reasons Zenith branched out in to healthcare: to reimagine what furniture in aged care looks like to not only increase comfort and enhance patient recovery, but also to reduce the stress and physical fatigue of caregivers. And it’s a space Zenith has been working on quietly to get absolutely right.

Last year we partnered with German furniture brand Brunner, which is renowned for providing solutions-based furniture right across the full spectrum of the healthcare sector.

The company’s innovative design thinking proves that soft furnishings and furniture can be luxurious and practical at the same time. For example, comfortable armchairs and recliners with high-quality fabric upholstery, combined with practical vinyl covering for hygiene purposes. It’s this approach to design that retains the importance of aesthetics along with the specialised requirements of aged care furniture.

The products fall under our Zenith Care Collection, a carefully curated range of products by European, Asian and Australian brands, designed to cater to the specific needs of those within the healthcare sector. We’ll be showcasing the collection at Australian Healthcare Week this month as we continue our efforts to rejuvenate spaces for aged care, contributing to a wider shift towards stylish and practical living spaces for Australia’s ageing population.

Contact us for more information here

Kirstin Ojerholm – Business Development Manager
Pino by Keith Melbourne

Do Designers Have A Responsibility To Manufacturers?

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):
Australian-Bureau-Statistics-Australian-National-Accounts
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian national accounts: national income expenditure and product, cat. no. 5206.0.

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.

Pino by Keith Melbourne
Pino by Keith Melbourne

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?

Pino Stool Bodies by Keith Melbourne
Pino Stool Bodies by Keith Melbourne

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.

DC       One?!

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.

Pino Rolling off Production Line by Keith Melbourne
Pino Rolling off Production Line by Keith Melbourne

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.

By David Congram

 

Happy Third Birthday To Zenith In Hong Kong

Happy Third Birthday To Zenith In Hong Kong!

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.

Happy Third Birthday To Zenith In Hong Kong

“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 we designed, 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.

Happy Third Birthday To Zenith In Hong Kong

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.

Happy Third Birthday To Zenith In Hong Kong

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.

By David Congram

 

Is Design Too Important To Leave To You, The Designers?

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.

The launch was paired with a series of seminars – held all throughout the country – aimed at highlighting the importance of healthcare and design across Asia Pacific today. The seminars examined the relationship between evidence-based design and evidence-based medical thinking, along with the changing nature of ‘best practice’ for the A+D community involved in the healthcare sector, and the role that A+D can play in responding to the needs of all stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, the seminars also sought to tackle how the A+D community can leverage its creative input in order to alleviate the strains that affect and that are expected to affect the provision of health in our region.

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):

Perth:

“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”. 

Panel:

Jacqui Williams – 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”. 

Panel:

Dr Darragh O’Brien – Senior Architect / Knowledge and Design Leader, Peckvonhartel

Tonya Hinde – Associate Director, Billard Leece Partnerships

Amanda Elderkin – Interior Designer, HSPC Health Architects

Moderated by Alice Blackwood – Editor, Indesign

Canberra:

“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”.

Panel:

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”. 

Panel:

Ron Bridgefoot – Principal, Hames Sharley

Wade Sutton – Owner, Sutton Consultants

Jennifer Gilmore – Managing Director, Gilmore Interior Design

Moderated by Sophia Watson – Editor, Indesign

Brisbane:

“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”. 

Panel:

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

Brunner at Sydney Indesign: It’s a Wrap

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.

See more of the Brunner collection here.

A New Fresh Look for Hong Kong

We’ve had a face-lift.

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.

Formway Design: Delivering Meaningful Global Solutions from New Zealand

Distance is no barrier to global impact for New Zealand-based studio Formway Design. An international perspective and the creativity fostered by a remote location bring a unique point of view on workplace furniture to the world.

Kent Parker and Paul Wilkinson, the Joint General Managers and Lead Designer and Engineer (respectively) at Formway Design, have no qualms about the word ‘antipodean’. They are based on New Zealand’s north island in the city of Lower Hutt, nestled between a mountain range and the sea.

“Yes, we are way down there!” jokes Parker as we chat in Zenith’s Singapore showroom. There are 45 hours of travel time between them and the headquarters of European brands. He adds, “It makes us hungry to know what’s going on everywhere else and it makes us naturally resourceful. New Zealand is full of creative businesses that have been established out of need. But there’s also an advantage in the fact that we can stay away when we need to, and just focus on what we do.”

And what they do could be summarised as such: creating products that will really help people in their lives. Formway Design focuses on intuitive performance seating. “That’s where we want to push the boundaries,” says Parker. “It’s always been part of our culture to figure out how people can work better, and how we can affect that,” he adds.

Life Chair, formway
Life Chair by Formway Design

The Life chair, designed in 2002, is a great example of a winning solution. It’s Knoll’s highest-selling task chair. The Be task chair (known as the Generation chair in the US) is selling around 160,000 units per year, notes Parker. He also cites Formway’s first showing at NeoCon in 1996, when the studio presented the Free desk system – a moveable, flexible plug-and-play design. It won four ‘Best of NeoCon’ gold awards at the fair.

The key to Formway’s impact is perhaps the rigour with which the team evaluates everything they design. Says Parker, “We don’t just want to create another chair or another table. We want to create solutions to make everyday lives richer. We mark ourselves quite hard; we ask, ‘What’s the real benefit of this product?’”

Research is a huge part of arriving at meaningful solutions, and – though you might expect it to have an impact in this regard – the distance at which Formway Design works is no barrier to investigating working and living trends at a global scale.

Part of the key to Formway’s reach is maintaining a large international network of contacts. With the help of this network, the studio carries out observational work, with cameras set up in workplaces and homes (“People are actually really open,” remarks Wilkinson); undertakes global surveys (the most recent one involving 2,000 respondents from Germany, the UK, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand); and holds face-to-face discussions with customers about how they work and live. The gathered information is carefully processed and the team seizes on opportunities that emerge through data analysis.

Another big part of delivering on-target solutions is nurturing rich partnerships, say Parker and Wilkinson. “Our partnerships with brands like Zenith are all about delivering value at the design end and partnering with people who believe in what we’re doing and can take that to market,” says Parker. These relationships are also another way for the team to keep on top of trends in different markets.

“The trends we’re seeing in Singapore right now are quite different to what we’re seeing in Australia and the US,” says Parker. “These markets are at different stages of the cycle of how people work.” He adds that they have started seeing some pushback in Australia in terms of activity-based working. “You have to get the balance right,” he says. “Not everything has to be collaborative and not everyone works well in open spaces.”

These days, co-working and the ability to work from home are having an effect on the workplace, suggests Wilkinson, and on the types of products designed by Formway. For example, the Belite chair was introduced as a variation of the more technically advanced Be task chair, offering similar performance but a lower price point.

Belite chair, formway
Belite Chair by Formway Design

The need for adaptable products that suit smaller home environments is another trend being addressed by Formway. “But I don’t think the traditional office will disappear,” says Wilkinson. “It’s still the place where everybody gets together.”

What is changing in the office is the growing influence of domesticity. “The warmth and domesticity we provide now for work is very different to what we had ten years ago,” says Parker. “We realise that we need to match the functional performance of our products with the aesthetic side.”

Yet the colour primarily specified for task chairs is still black, shares Wilkinson. “It’s a lot easier to change, for example, a laser-cut wall panel than it is to change the office seating, so other products still tend to provide the accents,” he explains.

Of course, it’s a different story in the residential sphere. We’ll watch with interest to see how Formway’s product offer expands to cater to the ever-changing trends of living and working in New Zealand and around the world. Without question, the stoic underpinning of Formway Design’s methods and philosophy will continue to serve the studio and their customers well.

Team Zenith is your Official 2017 INDE.Awards Platinum Partner. Join them at the inaugural INDE.Awards this June and meet the future of our region’s A+D superstars.

By David Congram

Red Dot Design Award for Halm

Red Dot Design Award for Halm

halm – the all-rounder with a real sense of style. The practically seamless combination of solid wood and innovative plastic gives the halm design aesthetic unity and, as a result, makes it robust and particularly easy to care for as well as giving it stackable, space-saving qualities. Seat and back surfaces and the optional armrests are available in a choice of six colours. These can be harmoniously combined with the solid beech or oak frames featuring a natural finish or one of a number of stained finishes. Optional seat and backrest liners give added comfort. In its own discreetly elegant way, halm excels in mastering all the challenges facing furniture in the cafeteria and restaurant sector as well as in the public waiting areas of the care sector.

The well-thought-out and unusual design proved enough to convince the international jury of experts at the world-renowned Red Dot Awards. Competing against manufacturers’ submissions from 54 countries, halm was able to set itself apart in the Product Design 2017 category. The chair with the special material mix will now be on display from July for one year at the Red Dot Design Museum, the largest museum for contemporary design in the world.

Are you interested in finding out more about halm?

Click here to view the specification brochure.