It’s easy to overlook the things in life we experience every day. You rarely think of the ergonomics of your bike seat when you ride to work or the way in which the classic Chinese takeaway box (ironically an American invention) is made from a single piece of coated card designed to fold out so you can slide your food out onto a plate. But these ideas we take for granted have all been thought of, and the same is for the spaces we use every day.
Frame was established in 1997 to provide a platform for the discussion and empowerment of consciously designed spaces, and its magazine is one of the world’s leading publications on interior design and architecture. At its core is the fundamental aim to offer forward thinking ideas about space to the widest possible audience, untied to elitism and driven by a recognition that everyone has a part to play. Optimism towards the positive potential of space is what Frame is all about. The Frame Awards, a two-day program exploring the spaces of the future at B. amsterdam is yet another example of their commitment to celebrating the most promising ideas in spatial design. Ahead of the event, we talked to Leah Heaton-Jones, Brand Strategist at Frame, about the balance between humans and technology, the future of offices and how design can help the problems of the world.
Why is it important to talk about the future of spaces?
Research has shown that we spend more than 90% of our lives indoors. So to better understand what spaces mean to us and how to improve them makes a lot of sense. On a basic level, we want to feel safe and comfortable in any interior. But spaces can also contribute to our health, and we can express who we are and what we stand for when we design them. Ultimately, we want to personalize spatial experiences as much as possible without sacrificing communal goals and with as small an ecological footprint as possible.
Why was the Frame Awards created?
Industry awards are prevalent within the architecture and design community, but Frame is not interested in producing another beauty pageant. It was born as a response to the lack of accessibility surrounding the conversation of spatial design. For what once was seen as an elite industry or niche interest, we aim to create transparency through exposing the world of interior design to a broader audience and inviting them to be part of the conservation.
The Frame Awards is open to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the spaces they occupy, and those who are keen to start thinking about what those spaces might be like in the future. We want to educate and inspire people to become more aware of the significance of their surroundings and how spatial design can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of the individual, society, and the environment. It’s not merely an industry event for the design literate. It’s a platform for discussion and exploration for all.
Oxford Dictionaries announced that “climate emergency” was the term of 2019, reflecting the increasing urgency behind a global issue. How do you think the spaces of the future could help the problems we face?
Given the amount of human displacement, rise in far-right populism and proliferation of natural disasters, the world as we know it is being disrupted on an enormous scale, so it’s no surprise that last year’s term of the year was ‘climate emergency’. Thankfully, in response to these unprecedented new challenges we are seeing new forms of research and policy working to address these issues through the built and unbuilt environment. New inclusive platforms for discovery, learning and expression are being established, empowering people to ask challenging questions and tackle tough issues together.
Spatial design can have huge consequences on the environment, both positive and negative. If you think about the amount of waste it takes to produce a new office block or hotel, it’s concerning. That’s why it should be a responsibility for those who are in the position to create new spaces to make the right decisions, from the blueprints they create to the materials they use. But it takes conscious thought and sustained effort to think about and implement those systematic changes, it doesn’t just simply evolve that way.
What will the offices of the future look like?
I think it’s great that people are starting to talk about mental health in the workplace and the role that office design can play there. Of course, mental and physical wellbeing is affected by multiple factors, but spatial design can have a significant impact on a person’s healing.
Because of this, I think the offices of the future will become increasingly invested in the health of its occupants. Rather than acutely pressurized environments that promote human productivity over all else, real estate developers, architects and designers will begin to place a much larger emphasis on creating spaces that heal. Frame editor, Tracey Ingram, wrote a compelling piece on this very subject in our latest issue of Frame titled ‘How workplaces can support mental health’. In it she discusses the rise of offices that respond to individual needs and identifies four specific design strategies that can promote a healthier workforce. And no, free yoga sessions were not part of it!
It seems inevitable that technology will play an increasingly central role in designing and operating the spaces of the future. Do you think this comes with any concerns?
This is a really big question and not one that is easy to answer, considering the ethical implications that can arise from the encroaching tide of tech on human behavior. But the integration of technology with space is inevitable. Does it come with concerns? Of course it does. Technology is not a moral entity – however it is programmed by humans who are moral beings. So it’s important to make the right choices and innovate responsibly.
When we design and develop to embed technology deeper into our everyday lives, it should be to serve human beings in beneficial ways by enhancing their lived experience. We shouldn’t view tech in an ‘us versus them’ paradigm, it should exist in tandem with people, improving their quality of life. However, the more tech that is entrenched in our existence, the greater the risks. Right now you can, to a degree, choose how much you want tech to be part of your life, but this won’t last long.
What are people becoming more aware of when thinking about their own living spaces?
The integration of tech over the last few years has been a big factor behind people’s purchasing and curatorial behaviors. The home tech market has done well by capitalizing on the notion of the “smart home”. This will inevitably increase, but so will biophilic design. In an age of greed and disaster people seem to be choosing to surround themselves more with natural elements, bringing calm and humanity into their living environments. I think we will see a significant shift from synthetic materials and processes, and a move toward more naturally curated environments.
How will spatial design change the way we buy things in the near future?
Spatial design has really interesting impacts on human behaviors. Just think of the supermarket layout with its labyrinthine aisles or the astringent nature of the contemporary art gallery. These spaces are that way by design, and in effect, they control your behavior.
Today, as people move from product oriented purchases to narrative driven purchases, we see a fundamental shift in consumer mindsets. This has led to an increase in experiential design especially within the retail sector. One of the Frame Awards speakers, Gemma Ruse of Studio XAG, will speak about this very topic, addressing the emotive power of pop-up retail as an incubator for new ideas and a testbed for new brand narratives.
How can more people be involved in thinking about the future of spaces? How can both the conversations and the actual spaces be ‘democratized’?
When we talk about the democratization of spatial design, we simply mean making it more easily accessible, whether or not it’s your profession. That’s where the Frame Awards stems from, which is really the brain child of Frame Founder Robert Thiemann. Frame’s vision has always been that meaningful places enable people to work, shop, relax and live better, making them healthier and happier. Everyone exists within space, so everyone must have thoughts, ideas and opinions about how it can be improved, whether they know it or not. That’s what the Frame Awards aims to provide people with – a platform to explore the next space.
What are you most excited about looking forward to the future of spatial design?
What I’m most looking forward to in the future is the creation of more positive, inclusive spaces for people to feel safe, happy and valued. It’s something we should all be able to experience whether that’s at work, in the home or in a public space.
Frame Awards 2020 will be hosted on 19 & 20 February at B. Building Amsterdam in B.1. Frame exclusively invites all B. community members to join them in exploring the next space. Speak to one of your community managers for more information. Not yet a B. member? You can read the full program and get your tickets here.