What are the factors that go into designing a building or space?
We have a fairly ridged methodology as a studio, because we value the science of built environment and design, as well as the artistic side of it. We spend a lot of time with our clients, trying to understand their requirements, their needs, what they expect, their aspirations and goals for a project. We do this through a process called evidence based design. It doesn’t matter what our design ideas are, we always want to hang them on a clear piece of data evidence that shows it will add value to the project. Evidence based design is our mantra and touchpoint for all of our projects.
The way we break that down, is we look at two key factors when starting a project. We look at the special parameters, constraints and objectives; then we look at people based objectives for a project and we put them both together. We believe that the built environment can have such a positive impact on people, behaviour and life in general. Whether it’s how you lay out your desks in an office to get people to work better, or how you lay out a space when you arrive into a new building to get an overall experience. So we have a strict process to bring people and spaces together.
How do you judge how people are going to interact with a space?
We have an extensive tool kit. We spend time with people, we interview people and, if we can, we like to speak to every member of staff in an organisation. So we give everyone a chance to tell us how they want their space to look. I guess one thing that’s a USP for us is we have people here that don’t design for us, they just observe people in space. They look at the dynamics of an organisation and how people are performing, not the space, but absolutely focused on the people. So for example on Sea Containers for Ogilvy & Mather, which is our flagship project in London, it took us nearly 4 years from competition pitch to the end, we spent 9 months with the client.
What is your biggest achievement?
There are two sides of that. There’s the biggest achievement that we are best known for and that is Sea Containers for Ogilvy & Mather. It’s our biggest refurbishment in London recently and it’s won awards for innovation and fit out. People know about it now, so we’re getting contact from new clients wanting to see the space and know how we did it.
I think the second achievement as a business is 6 years ago, just before pitching and winning that project, we were a small niche design studio of 15 people. Off the back of winning this pitch against stiff competition, we are now a studio of 50 people and developing in 9 different countries around Europe. This has all happened in the space of 4 to 5 years, so as a leader of the business this is a massive achievement.
What does the future hold for BDG?
We had a very successful 2017, both creatively and financially, we won awards for projects with major clients. As we come into 2018, even though it’s all very doom and gloom in the media, I don’t see our success diminishing. I can see a longevity to the workflow at the moment, so the future looks good.
What are the current trends in architecture and what are your views on them?
We have two types of clients, we have end user clients and developer led clients. In both clients we are seeing a big emphasis on the wellness agenda; providing staff amenity space. Base build developers are doing it from day one and using this amenity to sell their space. Then there are end users doing it within their own fit out to retain staff talent. I think this is a good thing for the individual because if you can go into an environment that keeps you healthy that’s a real positive.
My concern from an industry perspective is we are drifting down the route of wellness becoming a tick box exercise. The danger is because you can measure it, people just assume you are doing it right. We are all saying we are doing it, but are we really pushing that agenda forward? As a company we are actively trying to make sure we are approaching our wellbeing projects with a holistic, slightly more creative differentiator than our competitors.