Contract - Industry Icon Perspectives: Looking Back 50 Years in Design

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Industry Icon Perspectives: Looking Back 50 Years in Design

15 April, 2010

-By Contract Staff


Contract magazine asked 10 iconic design practitioners to reflect on how they have seen the industry change and evolve over the last five decades.

Jo Carmen

As I sit at a workstation today in the Los Angeles office of Perkins+Will and think back to my early days in the ISD Inc. office in Manhattan (then the interior division of Perkins+Will), I am struck by both the similarities and differences in the working environment. Stacks of drawing sets, documents, manuals, sketches, renderings, and models still proliferate, but with the major difference of the computer now occupying center stage and iPod buds occupying most ears.

Architectural practitioners still are identified by titles such as principal in charge, project architect, and job captain, but a great majority of the work is designed and documented using BIM software that is transforming the architect’s task, the coordination of the consultant’s work, the contractor’s building and procurement process, and the client’s maintenance of the building and systems. This is an on-going and fundamental change in the process of architecture. The practice of interior design is similarly impacted, but it is the growth over the last half century in the overall profession that is startling. The reasons for this are many. In 1963 there were few offices employing architects or designers to provide interior design on a major scale. Prior to the 1950s, architectural masters including Wright, Le Corbusier, and Aalto designed the entire environment from exterior enclosure to all aspects of the interior. Emulating this practice, architectural offices such as SOM, Marcel Breuer, Roche Dinkerloo and Edward Larabee Barnes (for whom ISD worked as interior consultants) recognized interior space to be as important as the exterior. Additionally, a few firms such as ISD, Designs for Business, Maria Bergson Associates, Space Design Group, and the Knoll Planning Unit provided interior design services for both architects and clients directly. The need for and value offered by these more specialized interior firms started to be recognized throughout the country and the world for all types of projects, and the pace was also accelerated by the growth of anonymous office buildings in which a varied group of tenants leased space. Education also has played a part in the change. More progressive schools aim to emphasize the allegiance to architectural thinking in the interior architecture and environmental design degrees offered. This helped to separate their interior design programs from those that were part of home economics departments, which taught style and decoration as a complement to homemaking classes. An additional reason for the infusion and growth of talent in interior design was suggested to me by the designer Joe D’Urso many years ago. He stated that the emphasis at the time on math skills in the architectural departments had discouraged design talent that lacked this skill, but that these designers found a receptive environment in the interior design programs, where the math emphasis was not as great.

Another major change has occurred through the growth in the manufacturing of furniture, furnishings, and accessories, for the commercial and domestic markets. There were only about 20 catalogs of commercial furniture on our library shelves, and we created a great deal of custom furniture and fabrics to meet the needs of our projects. Over the last 20 years, new yarns and production methods have transformed the fabric offerings including sustainable and maintenance requirements. Well-designed accessories had to be searched and shopped for (no Internet for easy reference).

Outside the profession, there was not much awareness of good design and how it could positively affect daily life, and ‘starchitects’ were not household names. Print media and television have exposed and educated the general public, and shops such as Design Within Reach, Conran’s, and Crate & Barrel have provided accessible sources for items once reserved for elite clients.

Today we cannot discuss change in the design world without including sustainability. An awareness of the environment and the dangers to the planet by the irresponsible use of natural resources was not on our radar in the 1960s. As we enter a new decade, no designer or manufacturer who wants to work in this increasingly competitive world can afford not to be responding to this challenge. Maybe this aspect of the change in the profession of interior design is the one to be most applauded and celebrated.


Prior to joining the Los Angeles office of Perkins+Will in her current position as discipline leader for interiors, Jo Carmen, IIDA, CID, was a founding partner in 1988 of CNI Design, which was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2006. Carmen previously worked for Perkins+Will in the 1960s when she joined its then interior division ISD Inc. in New York. The intervening years included extensive travel and work in Paris, London, San Francisco, and Seattle with such recognized firms as John Carl Warneke and Associates, Carles Kratka Associates, and Walker Associates. Carmen was selected as one of 32 Women of Design by Beverly Russell for the Rizzoli-published book of that name.


Stanley Felderman

The late 1960s and ’70s were a period of optimism. It was the advent of new technologies. I worked on the development of the first ATM and used fiber optics and holographic imagery on Faberge’s Corporate Headquarters project. The interior design community was much smaller, and we all knew each other. We worked together to define what was interior design. We learned about what was taking place in the industry through magazine and newspaper coverage.

Computers were large main frames. There were fewer restrictions— no ADA, no Title 24, no LEED certification. We didn’t know about out-gassing or Fluorocarbons—hair spray was the rage. We drew on mylar and had to go back and make changes on each drawing by hand, slowing down the creative process. It was very labor intensive, yet we got it done and were extremely creative. There was a smaller arena of recognized talent. We worked with Ray Anderson who was developing the first green initiative.

Today we have global connectivity to the pulse of the world of design. Through blogs, design Web sites, TV coverage, programs and personal videos we know what is going on. Designers are more socially conscious and environmentally responsible. Now change happens more rapidly. It is time for designers and the future of design to broaden their scope of work to include interior architecture, industrial design, branding, project management, and environmental responsibility. We are at a pivotal point in our profession. Recessions, as they did in the 1970s, force us to rethink our business, our professional and our creative model. Any design firm today must focus on what are the new drivers for design, address those needs, and broaden its business model.

A partner of Felderman Keatinge + Associates in Los Angeles, Stanley Felderman is the pioneer of the “total design concept” and has integrated planning, architecture, interior design, and product design successfully on a host of award-winning projects. Today, he and Felderman Keatinge + Associates, are applying these ideas on a global basis.

Margo Grant Walsh

I began in the profession in 1960, practiced for almost five decades, and worked on very large projects. (I would say 300,000 sq. ft. would be my average, and three projects I worked on were more than 1.5 million sq. ft.). During the time I practiced, the industry changed considerably.

“Our profession” finally was recognized as legitimate and needed, and more women entered the drawing room. In 1960, I was only the second woman in SOM San Francisco; the other woman was a plumbing draftsperson. I was at SOM when they were a beta site for the first Xerox machine. In addition to being a designer and Girl Friday, I was the interiors department head’s personal assistant/secretary, typing documents with carbon paper for tissue copies. Technology—phones, blackberries, etc.—has had an amazing impact on design and drawing. Communication became immediate and ubiquitous, which was good and bad. You were constantly involved with the clients, projects, staff, meetings—whatever was going on and wherever it was taking place.

Globalization meant that clients were no longer just American clients; there were practically no borders. While at SOM in the 1960s, I was working in Australia on mega projects, and I thought that was going to epitomize my “international” experience. By the late 1980s my clients were sending me to Europe and Asia. Clients became larger and more widespread, and designers followed them to help implement their standards to all parts of the globe.

 The old culture in many of the professional firms and financial firms we served broke down quickly as they merged, acquired, and expanded. If you had provided good service you went with them and had to adapt to a change of leadership. But if a client was acquired, you could also be out of a job/project almost overnight.

The old days of presenting to partners and senior executives disappeared, and designers presented to more real estate brokers and facilities people, many of whom would bring on their own team. At times the designer didn’t really know who was in charge.

The rise of project management firms resulted in groups with different loyalties, and these project managers often became a barrier to a design team in establishing a true rapport with the end user. If they valued your role as a member of the team and used you properly for your expertise and experience, that was a good result. If, on the other hand, they decided to rule your results and put you through too many hoops you could lose the vitality of a project (and money as well). Designers spent too much time justifying our work and time so the project managers could justify their fees and services. But, they could also be valuable allies, and convince a client that you had earned those extra services you were requesting the contractors—those who built your two-dimensional ideas—became larger, and if you didn’t have good contractors and subs, they could compromise a job. The days of working out a problem simply and quickly disappeared, replaced by the “change order” process, which also compromised budgets, time, and relationships.

When I started in 1960, there were three acceptable product lines— Knoll, Herman Miller, and GF—and we were still using 36-in.-wide axminster carpets and broadloom. The explosion of products and vendors was a joy. I thought the best service I could provide the client was to present an alternative to every favored product, and let the competition begin with mock-ups, sealed bids, etc. It was not always the low bid that won. It was usually a combination of the function, image, and comfort, then cost, and that was always a client decision. Now an entire new ethic has come on board with the greening of products and projects. And, sadly, some of the older, iconic design firms and leaders evaporated in the 1980s, yielding to a new breed of competitors.

After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1960, Margo Grant Walsh joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in San Francisco, where she spent 13 years, rising to associate director of interior design. In 1973, she joined Gensler as interior design director in Houston; six years later she established the Gensler New York office. Soon, client demand for her personal attention and expertise led her to open the firm’s Boston, Washington, D.C., and London offices. She became founder and managing principal of the Eastern Region Division, a member of Gensler’s Board of Directors and Management Committee, and rose to the position of vice chairman 1995.

(Read more design icon reflections below)




Industry Icon Perspectives: Looking Back 50 Years in Design

15 April, 2010


Contract magazine asked 10 iconic design practitioners to reflect on how they have seen the industry change and evolve over the last five decades.

Jo Carmen

As I sit at a workstation today in the Los Angeles office of Perkins+Will and think back to my early days in the ISD Inc. office in Manhattan (then the interior division of Perkins+Will), I am struck by both the similarities and differences in the working environment. Stacks of drawing sets, documents, manuals, sketches, renderings, and models still proliferate, but with the major difference of the computer now occupying center stage and iPod buds occupying most ears.

Architectural practitioners still are identified by titles such as principal in charge, project architect, and job captain, but a great majority of the work is designed and documented using BIM software that is transforming the architect’s task, the coordination of the consultant’s work, the contractor’s building and procurement process, and the client’s maintenance of the building and systems. This is an on-going and fundamental change in the process of architecture. The practice of interior design is similarly impacted, but it is the growth over the last half century in the overall profession that is startling. The reasons for this are many. In 1963 there were few offices employing architects or designers to provide interior design on a major scale. Prior to the 1950s, architectural masters including Wright, Le Corbusier, and Aalto designed the entire environment from exterior enclosure to all aspects of the interior. Emulating this practice, architectural offices such as SOM, Marcel Breuer, Roche Dinkerloo and Edward Larabee Barnes (for whom ISD worked as interior consultants) recognized interior space to be as important as the exterior. Additionally, a few firms such as ISD, Designs for Business, Maria Bergson Associates, Space Design Group, and the Knoll Planning Unit provided interior design services for both architects and clients directly. The need for and value offered by these more specialized interior firms started to be recognized throughout the country and the world for all types of projects, and the pace was also accelerated by the growth of anonymous office buildings in which a varied group of tenants leased space. Education also has played a part in the change. More progressive schools aim to emphasize the allegiance to architectural thinking in the interior architecture and environmental design degrees offered. This helped to separate their interior design programs from those that were part of home economics departments, which taught style and decoration as a complement to homemaking classes. An additional reason for the infusion and growth of talent in interior design was suggested to me by the designer Joe D’Urso many years ago. He stated that the emphasis at the time on math skills in the architectural departments had discouraged design talent that lacked this skill, but that these designers found a receptive environment in the interior design programs, where the math emphasis was not as great.

Another major change has occurred through the growth in the manufacturing of furniture, furnishings, and accessories, for the commercial and domestic markets. There were only about 20 catalogs of commercial furniture on our library shelves, and we created a great deal of custom furniture and fabrics to meet the needs of our projects. Over the last 20 years, new yarns and production methods have transformed the fabric offerings including sustainable and maintenance requirements. Well-designed accessories had to be searched and shopped for (no Internet for easy reference).

Outside the profession, there was not much awareness of good design and how it could positively affect daily life, and ‘starchitects’ were not household names. Print media and television have exposed and educated the general public, and shops such as Design Within Reach, Conran’s, and Crate & Barrel have provided accessible sources for items once reserved for elite clients.

Today we cannot discuss change in the design world without including sustainability. An awareness of the environment and the dangers to the planet by the irresponsible use of natural resources was not on our radar in the 1960s. As we enter a new decade, no designer or manufacturer who wants to work in this increasingly competitive world can afford not to be responding to this challenge. Maybe this aspect of the change in the profession of interior design is the one to be most applauded and celebrated.


Prior to joining the Los Angeles office of Perkins+Will in her current position as discipline leader for interiors, Jo Carmen, IIDA, CID, was a founding partner in 1988 of CNI Design, which was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2006. Carmen previously worked for Perkins+Will in the 1960s when she joined its then interior division ISD Inc. in New York. The intervening years included extensive travel and work in Paris, London, San Francisco, and Seattle with such recognized firms as John Carl Warneke and Associates, Carles Kratka Associates, and Walker Associates. Carmen was selected as one of 32 Women of Design by Beverly Russell for the Rizzoli-published book of that name.


Stanley Felderman

The late 1960s and ’70s were a period of optimism. It was the advent of new technologies. I worked on the development of the first ATM and used fiber optics and holographic imagery on Faberge’s Corporate Headquarters project. The interior design community was much smaller, and we all knew each other. We worked together to define what was interior design. We learned about what was taking place in the industry through magazine and newspaper coverage.

Computers were large main frames. There were fewer restrictions— no ADA, no Title 24, no LEED certification. We didn’t know about out-gassing or Fluorocarbons—hair spray was the rage. We drew on mylar and had to go back and make changes on each drawing by hand, slowing down the creative process. It was very labor intensive, yet we got it done and were extremely creative. There was a smaller arena of recognized talent. We worked with Ray Anderson who was developing the first green initiative.

Today we have global connectivity to the pulse of the world of design. Through blogs, design Web sites, TV coverage, programs and personal videos we know what is going on. Designers are more socially conscious and environmentally responsible. Now change happens more rapidly. It is time for designers and the future of design to broaden their scope of work to include interior architecture, industrial design, branding, project management, and environmental responsibility. We are at a pivotal point in our profession. Recessions, as they did in the 1970s, force us to rethink our business, our professional and our creative model. Any design firm today must focus on what are the new drivers for design, address those needs, and broaden its business model.

A partner of Felderman Keatinge + Associates in Los Angeles, Stanley Felderman is the pioneer of the “total design concept” and has integrated planning, architecture, interior design, and product design successfully on a host of award-winning projects. Today, he and Felderman Keatinge + Associates, are applying these ideas on a global basis.

Margo Grant Walsh

I began in the profession in 1960, practiced for almost five decades, and worked on very large projects. (I would say 300,000 sq. ft. would be my average, and three projects I worked on were more than 1.5 million sq. ft.). During the time I practiced, the industry changed considerably.

“Our profession” finally was recognized as legitimate and needed, and more women entered the drawing room. In 1960, I was only the second woman in SOM San Francisco; the other woman was a plumbing draftsperson. I was at SOM when they were a beta site for the first Xerox machine. In addition to being a designer and Girl Friday, I was the interiors department head’s personal assistant/secretary, typing documents with carbon paper for tissue copies. Technology—phones, blackberries, etc.—has had an amazing impact on design and drawing. Communication became immediate and ubiquitous, which was good and bad. You were constantly involved with the clients, projects, staff, meetings—whatever was going on and wherever it was taking place.

Globalization meant that clients were no longer just American clients; there were practically no borders. While at SOM in the 1960s, I was working in Australia on mega projects, and I thought that was going to epitomize my “international” experience. By the late 1980s my clients were sending me to Europe and Asia. Clients became larger and more widespread, and designers followed them to help implement their standards to all parts of the globe.

 The old culture in many of the professional firms and financial firms we served broke down quickly as they merged, acquired, and expanded. If you had provided good service you went with them and had to adapt to a change of leadership. But if a client was acquired, you could also be out of a job/project almost overnight.

The old days of presenting to partners and senior executives disappeared, and designers presented to more real estate brokers and facilities people, many of whom would bring on their own team. At times the designer didn’t really know who was in charge.

The rise of project management firms resulted in groups with different loyalties, and these project managers often became a barrier to a design team in establishing a true rapport with the end user. If they valued your role as a member of the team and used you properly for your expertise and experience, that was a good result. If, on the other hand, they decided to rule your results and put you through too many hoops you could lose the vitality of a project (and money as well). Designers spent too much time justifying our work and time so the project managers could justify their fees and services. But, they could also be valuable allies, and convince a client that you had earned those extra services you were requesting the contractors—those who built your two-dimensional ideas—became larger, and if you didn’t have good contractors and subs, they could compromise a job. The days of working out a problem simply and quickly disappeared, replaced by the “change order” process, which also compromised budgets, time, and relationships.

When I started in 1960, there were three acceptable product lines— Knoll, Herman Miller, and GF—and we were still using 36-in.-wide axminster carpets and broadloom. The explosion of products and vendors was a joy. I thought the best service I could provide the client was to present an alternative to every favored product, and let the competition begin with mock-ups, sealed bids, etc. It was not always the low bid that won. It was usually a combination of the function, image, and comfort, then cost, and that was always a client decision. Now an entire new ethic has come on board with the greening of products and projects. And, sadly, some of the older, iconic design firms and leaders evaporated in the 1980s, yielding to a new breed of competitors.

After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1960, Margo Grant Walsh joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in San Francisco, where she spent 13 years, rising to associate director of interior design. In 1973, she joined Gensler as interior design director in Houston; six years later she established the Gensler New York office. Soon, client demand for her personal attention and expertise led her to open the firm’s Boston, Washington, D.C., and London offices. She became founder and managing principal of the Eastern Region Division, a member of Gensler’s Board of Directors and Management Committee, and rose to the position of vice chairman 1995.

(Read more design icon reflections below)

 


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