I've been fortunate to help local company Kings Colleges with the design of their college buildings for many years. It's such a lovely team of passionate and creative people there. I've worked on most of their UK buildings and helped to create a template to apply to their buildings globally. A few years ago we completed Kings Brighton. It's a building that's near to where I live and next to the Level - so lots of green space nearby for students and staff to enjoy.
This building achieved the BREEAM sustainable building rating of EXCELLENT. So this included specifications that were lower impact, there's a living roof, living wall, cycle parking.
I know about sustainability and GUESS WHAT.....I would have loved to have done SO MUCH MORE.
This project very much spurred me on to work harder to provide sustainable specifications for my clients - drawing on all that I learnt during my excellent education in working in sustainability for The Body Shop's HQ early in my career. Although I thought I was working with vegan and sustainable specifications - found I had drifted into the mainstream of unconsciously sourced and specified materials and WASTE! This project completely woke me up to that and what more I could do in my role of designer.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
I took time out to study more to bump up my knowledge.
I completed courses on vegan design, human centred design and sustainability. I'm currently nearly at the end of another course on using healthier materials.
Clients want to make BETTER choices and want to be guided on lower impact specifications. They just don't know what to look out for or even what all the issues are. I feel it's my duty as a designer to guide them.
So my learning is not going to stop and I'm working hard to influence fellow designers via INTERIOR DESIGN DECLARES and the BRITISH INSTITUTE OF INTERIOR DESIGN as well.
Here's a short video about Kings Brighton - complete with a look around the building.
I’ve been a member of the interior design professional body The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) for 8 years. The more I get involved in it - the more I love what they are doing for our industry and those at all stages within it. So many members volunteer their time to support our professional body in a myriad of ways. We all want to support those in our sector and improve & learn together.
A year ago I was invited to join the Professional Practice Committee after talking to our then President Harriet Forde about Sustainability and the BIID. She brought in a few of us - Simone Suss and Brian Wolfe - to join the committee who were also keen to help to bring Sustainability to our members.
A year on - we’ve got an agenda prepared for supporting members which will be released later in the spring. We’re aware it’s a daunting step to take alone. Many members are sole practitioners like me or with a small amount of staff. I just know fellow members want to do what they can in their work and they will appreciate this guidance on how to start.
After all, we have a responsibility and part to play in this horrifying fact:
Buildings contribute to roughly 40% of global CO2 emission.
We were told this year that the popular Student Challenge was going to go ahead despite the pandemic. Our brilliant events manager Hayley had devised a way to make it work online. It was great to hear this as I can’t imagine what a strange experience it must be to be studying for a degree away from your fellow students. So much our our project work was in teams. It was great this challenge could be offered and I hope it’s provided a boost for those teams who entered it.
The below is the brief.
When I heard that sustainaility and biophilic design were ket parts of the brief - I asked if they needed a judge!
The British High Street has been in crisis for several years, and for several reasons’ retailers were already struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to the Centre for Retail Research there are around 50,000 fewer shops on our High Streets than just over a decade ago, and some analysts predict it will only get worse.
In the last 30 years, Britain has fixated on the idea that town centres are purely driven by retail and some suggest that this has led to the generic town centre that many cities host today, with all the same shops owned by all the same big chains. The impact of this has meant that the high street is less appealing, with many shoppers favouring large out of town department stores and online shopping and according to figures from retail analyst company Springboard, the number of people visiting the High Street has dropped by 20.5% over the past decade.
For the high street to thrive, major rejuvenation will need to occur that does not focus on retail but rather the needs of the public, what will draw the community back and how can the high street be re-purposed to support other local businesses?
Your challenge is to reimagine a dynamic new space for the current Top Shop flagship store on Oxford Street. A 39,000 square foot venue arranged over two floors of retail space on their Ground and Lower Ground (sub-basement 1) floors.
Your client is the current owner of the empty property who wishes to re-use the space to benefit the local community of residents and workers and entice visitors from afar.
Please consider the following in your design:
• Community – who will be using your space and how will their various needs be met?
• Sustainability and environmental impact – how are you going to enhance and disrupt the space to be as sustainable as possible?
• Employment for small retail, food services and other industries – your space should be multifunctional and have several services that can support new jobs.
• Office workers nearby are important for the high street to thrive – how are you going to add services that office workers may require?
• In several large towns and cities, students make up more than a quarter of residents, which means if they do not return to university in the autumn, high streets could see lower footfall – how are you going to entice younger people into the town centre?
• Hand drawn design concept sketch
• Design the space with the principles of ‘Biophilic Design’ in mind, explain how you have used biophilic design to improve the wellbeing of the occupants.
This year the entrants were…
Anglia Ruskin University
Plymouth College of Art
University of Wolverhampton
University of South Wales
Buckinghamshire New University
University of Lincoln
Bishop Burton College University Centre
The winning three were
University of Wolverhampton
Plymouth College of Art
University of Wolverhampton
The winning inclusive concept from the University of Wolverhampton's team included a hydroponic community garden as well as a sensory garden and community skill sharing to encourage repairs (with child care to go alongside it). The concept used recycled, repurposed and reclaimed furniture, fittings and equipment (FF&E) - combined with thoughtful material selections that were sustainable and healthy to those using the spaces - low chemical use & VOC, and hypoallergenic. There was a zero waste shop and clothing & book exchange - work areas - workout areas. There was even a small theatre space and an artisan market.
Concepts within every submission created a venue that I would VERY much love to visit!
In just 14 hours the students achieved a huge amount of ideas by working as a team to thoughtfully and creatively consider the possible uses for reviving this huge space - especially thinking about how people will want to use it post-pandemic, They made it inclusive, healing and restorative - and considered supporting small businesses and supporting skills - and encouraging a more conscious and mindful future for shopping and experiences.
Putting the emphasis on hand drawing when it was the digital version was a clever idea and it made the presentations so much more human.
It was an honour to judge the submissions. Thank you to the students for your submissions. I loved being a part of this challenge. Not having experienced the in person event - I thought it worked very well online.
It was very well organised by the BIID’s Learning and Events Manager Hayley McLennan. The BIID mentors were wonderful and put in such a lot of effort in the divising of the challenge as well as the xhallenge itself.
I feel very excited for the future of our industry - and heartened that these talented young people have a good understanding of sustainability and human centric/biophilic design. I so hope it's given them all a boost and will help their confidence and CVs and future job searches.
Interior designer Angela Cheung and I meet online each fortnight to discuss interior design. We thought this week it would be helpful to discuss our own paths to having our own design businesses to help anyone considering starting in the industry.
For me that was the traditional educational route of A level Art & Design, Art Foundation Course and then a degree (although I opted for Furniture Design). Following my degree, I was lucky to work in a drawing office and then a design team to build up lots of experience. I’d bought and sold some houses that provided great experience as well. I also took a distance learning National Diploma in Interior Design (which I didn’t get to mention) while I was working - plus took numourous associatied short courses and continuted courses on CAD and design software. All these things set me up well for venturing on my own - however if you are thinking of doing that - the actual runnning of a business is a whole new skillset.
Angela’s path has been different - she came from the same Art Foundation course to study Graphic Design to working on commercial design projects from the client side. She is an employer and is able to offer office-based work experience (unlike me). She details the software requirements she needs applicants to have - technical skills - In Design, Photoshop, CAD. Angela highlights the huge importance to learn the 'classics' first - art & design history and the basic skills of draughting and drawing by hand.
We talk about the benefits of coming into the industry from other routes and later in life and how that is a benefit rather than a barrier. The people side of the role seems much easier as you get older.
The British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) a great place to start when considering joining the industry. They have advice on choosing courses. They will support designers through their career - starting with free membership and first year in industry. They offer mentoring, a yearly Student Design Challenge (which is open now for registration) and even portfolio mentoring. We both feel strongly that being an accredited designer is important - as the industry is unregulated. Entry requirements to the BIID are high and you must show you have the experience, skills, professionalism and insurances to work in the industry which is vital reassurance to clients.
If you have a specific interest such as Sustainability like me or Biophilic Design like Angela - then seek out courses that teach that specialism. Now that courses are online - you can be studying anywhere.
CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (CPD)
For those entering into the world of interior design - be aware that you are embarking on life long learning. We both are proof that learning does not come to an end. Angela is in her second term of her BA in Architecture. I’m just starting a new course in Healthy Materials and Sustainable Building. The whole reason I joined the professional body was to continue learning through their CPD offer. More and more courses are shifting online and becoming more affordable. Get as much work experience as you can. Try to build up lots of experience within a large company who values education and who will give you lots of access to learning.
The reality is that Interior Design in reality is nothing like what Instagram might convey. Being original - draw on inspiration and be original - not copying is vital! You might be able to shop well but that's not just what interior design is about. It’s not only about design and being creative - it’s actually a huge amount of people skills, technical skills and mathematics.
It is not all about creativity and design is actually a small percentage of what you'll do. The creative concept may not always come from you - so there is no room for ego and stamping your style on every project. Clients often come with their own strong ideas and we are there to deliver spaces to the client’s brief.
Invest in as much education as you can afford and get as much experience as you can.
Angela summarises the discussion so well by advising people to align themselves with companies who share their core values and to be authentic.