Monthly Archive: August 2015

8 Modern Wristwatches We Love

Simple wristwatch inspired by professional drafting

Inspired by the instruments used by professionals who produce technical drawings for engineers and architects—draftsmen—Japanese Design Studio Nendo designed the Draftsman watch series to celebrate this special craft. The Draftsman 01 Scale Watch’s face is based on the increments of a calibrated ruler and the hour indicators are printed directly to the sapphire glass lens, offering a distinctive yet subtle departure from traditional watches. 

5 Striking Examples of Corrugated Steel Architecture

modern fire resistant green boulder cor-ten steel native grasses

A natural disaster cleared a property in the Colorado mountains, giving an architect and her family a blank slate on which to build their green dream home. The fire-resistant structure is clad in corrugated Cor-Ten steel that has been left to rust for easy maintenance. Instead of fussy landscaping, the family spread seed for native grasses and wildflowers that they let fill in naturally.

Photo by David Lauer.

The RSA Student Design Awards 2015 call for entries

Katherine Houston

The RSA Student Design Awards (The SDAs) are now open to entries for the 2015-2016 awards.

The prestigious awards challenge young creative minds – designers, artists, craftsmen – with project briefs based on real issues to drive innovation.

Steeped in heritage, the awards initiated in 1924 and feature winners including Sir Jonathon Ive, chief design officer at Apple (RDI); Richard Clarke, global vice president of design at Nike and Paul Priestman, founder of ‘PriestmanGoode’.


2014-15 RSA Student Design Award winning projects: Christopher Rothera’s ‘Sustainable Filtration Kit’, a water purification solution utilising local resources. The kit is a 5 litre, robust container with a two-lid system that produces high quality carbon from scrap wood which is then used to filter contaminated water.

This year sees 12 briefs covering a variety of topics in society, the environment and in business. These range from designing greener ways to bathe and wash, to promoting waste as a valuable source to eliminate the surplus. Sponsors include Airbnb, Philips, Unilever, Fazer, GlaxoSmithKline, RBS, Waitrose, Springetts and PriestmanGoode.

Global Director of the RSA Student Design Awards, Sevra Davis, says:

‘Every year the briefs evolve to reflect contemporary challenges and issues. This year we have 12 briefs that tackle a variety of day to day problems, from how to rebrand waste in developed societies and how to make bathing more sustainable, to how to create business environments that foster innovative and creative thinking.’


2014-15 winning projects: Lisa Hornsey’s ‘Squiggle’, a gender neutral playhouse made from chalkboard that allows children to bring their imagination to life and transform the toy by drawing on it. Squiggle is ecologically produced, designed for a longer product life, and the packaging is made from 100% recycled and biodegradable elements.

Last year’s winning projects include a unisex playhouse, a filtration kit that produces high quality carbon from scrap wood to purify contaminated water (see above), and a unique redesign of the London’s Underground map to aid disabled users.

Winners compete for a range of prizes such as bursaries from sponsors, work placements and mentoring to develop younger designer’s careers. Additionally this year, entrants can receive over £35,000 in cash prizes and paid internships at Philips, Waitrose, GlaxoSmithKline and PriestmanGoode.


2014-15 winning projects: Lisa Hornsey’s ‘Squiggle’

The awards are recognised across the globe, last year seeing entrants from Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Finland, Taiwan, Turkey and Libya. This year to help expand the awards, the RSA are introducing global partners outside the UK such as AIGA in the US.

Davis says:

‘We want to show that good design is fundamental to creating positive social and environmental change on a global scale. The aim of the RSA Student Design Awards is to help challenge society, the design industry, governments and business to think more openly about what design can do.’


2014-15 winning projects: Rebecca Grover’s ‘London Accessible’, a service that provides live accessibility information, enabling users to plan their journeys on the go. The service integrates with existing mainstream station information and journey planning apps.

Today the 12 briefs are launched alongside pre-registration.

For more information visit the SDA website.

Read more:

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Brent Sherwood: I’d be mad if I wasn’t designing cities on the moon

Sweating walls concept: The future of air conditioning?

Review – Hepworth in Yorkshire


The Hepworth Wakefield
Until 6 September
Review by Rebecca Swirsky

Every artist has a beginning, and, in an exhibition running until September, The Hepworth Wakefield is sharing the story of Barbara Hepworth, born in 1903. A room of curated juvenilia including photographs, scrapbooks and early works, as well as the earliest known portrait of Hepworth, painted by Dame Ethel Walker RA for her 18th birthday, offers glimpses into the early life of the sculptor.

Hepworth as a baby, with her parents and grandmothers, 1903. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth as a baby, with her parents and grandmothers, 1903. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

While Hepworth’s works in the exhibition aren’t included in her catalogue raisonné, they attest to her early gifts in understanding form and scale. Portraits of Mary Fennell and George Parker, executed in pencil, also attest to the role of circumstance. In an era when women weren’t expected to have careers, Hepworth’s progressive father not only encouraged his daughter’s gifts but also procured for her these commissions, which were essential in developing her artistic identity. The focus on Hepworth’s drawings also illustrates how her scholarships were secured, first at the Leeds College of Art, then the Royal College of Art.

(l-r) Edna Ginesi, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth in Paris, 1920. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
(l-r) Edna Ginesi, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth in Paris, 1920. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Only after Hepworth’s admittance to the RCA, and having made a bust, could she enrol on a sculpture course.

Born in Wakefield as the eldest child of middle-class parents, Hepworth’s father Herbert Hepworth was a civil engineer who would later become County Surveyor, possibly accounting for Hepworth’s technical accuracy when submitting drawings for sculptures made in the foundry.

While driving in her father’s car (an early model), Hepworth was often lifted up to see over hedgerows, observing the sculptural forms of the landscape and the road’s division of the hills. Like Hepworth’s contemporary, Moore, this integral connection with landscape was to continue, shaping her outlook.

Nine black-and-white images of Yorkshire line one wall of the exhibition, their locations selected by Hepworth and published in a book, Drawings from a Sculptor’s Landscape (1965). These carefully commissioned images, taken by Magnum photographer Lee Sheldrake, convey a sense of the landscape seeping into Hepworth’s bones, re-emerging in her muscular, later forms.

Hepworth at the Royal College of Art workshop, studying on a Yorkshire Senior Country Art Scholarship. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth at the Royal College of Art workshop, studying on a Yorkshire Senior Country Art Scholarship. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

More personal photographs on display reveal a treasure trove of Hepworths, showing her in various guises. Victorian-dressed adults, including her father, cluster around a two-month-old Hepworth in one photograph, while a pert young ‘Hiawatha Hepworth’ reclining on fur skins in another reminds one of Lewis Carroll’s portraits of girls. An older, more assured Hepworth is seen travelling on her West Riding scholarship in Italy, where she would meet her husband, the artist John Skeeping, and in Paris she poses carefree and confident, with Henry Moore and Edna Ginesi. A final, surprising image taken at a King’s Road studio presents a glamorous, made-up Hepworth, her heavy brows, luminous skin and formidable hair-parting offering a resemblance to Frida Kahlo.

Hepworth’s portrait by Walker anchors the room. Commissioned by Hepworth’s father and shown publicly for the first time in 90 years following its auction, acquisition and recent donation, the painting presents Hepworth looking down, her slender, girlish limbs painted cream with blue undertones, appearing graceful and pliant. It’s an image at odds with the later, more familiar images of the fiercely independent sculptor.

Hepworth in Siena, from the tower of the Palazzo Communale, 1925. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth in Siena, from the tower of the Palazzo Communale, 1925. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Contact with Walker was made through the Hepworths’ regular summers spent in Robin Hood’s Bay, where a community of artists lived part-time and exhibited in the New English Arts Club. The painter, described by Augustus John as one of England’s ‘foremost artists’, counted Vanessa Bell among her sitters. Meeting the strong-natured, critically acclaimed Walker would have represented a step in Hepworth’s development, linking her to the possibilities of the future.

Another strong component of the exhibition is an early plaster relief of Hepworth’s cousins Jill and Peggy (1918), made with plaster used for broken bones, obtained from Hepworth’s GP uncle. Hepworth’s depiction of her cousin’s chubby young cheeks shows an honesty for angles and dimensions. Oddly, the plaster’s origins isn’t mentioned in the wall text, but was shared with me by the curator, Eleanor Clayton. Indeed, for a show about an artist’s early life, Hepworth in Yorkshire is surprisingly stripped of supporting information.

Hepworth, centre, with fellow students at the RCA . Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth, centre, with fellow students at the RCA . Photo Credit: Courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Understanding the biographical narrative is crucial for a rewarding visit, and without adequate texts, this small yet valuable room may appear like an addendum to other, larger Hepworth exhibitions on show. The Hepworth Wakefield is also presenting A Greater Freedom, offering an examination of the sculptor’s final years, and Plasters: Casts and Copies 1965-75, addressing the work of Hepworth and her contemporaries, while Tate Britain’s major summer retrospective opens in June, the central show in what is undoubtedly the season of Hepworth.

Nonetheless, Hepworth in Yorkshire is a thoughtfully curated exhibition. It will soon be refreshed to allow more of a focus on Hepworth’s time at Wakefield’s Girls School, including a drawing made of the gym mistress. And it reminds us that no matter how international in outlook it becomes, an artist’s success must begin somewhere.

A Greater Freedom: Hepworth 1965-75 (until April 2016) and Plasters: Casts and Copies (until 8 May 2016) are on view at The Hepworth Wakefield

The fine art of playing – Artists on Play


Words Rebecca Swirsky

Amid the glitz of London’s Frieze Art Fair, a four-year-old studies an oversized dice scored with black holes, from which children are intermittently appearing. ‘Normally you’d roll a dice,’ he tells his mother. ‘How am I going to roll this?’ Nearby, a toddler is tugging on a toy octopus’s tentacles, the creature’s hazel glass eyes uncannily human, while two six-year-olds are rocking a giant mushroom with realistic funghi veins and patination. I’m in Gartenkinder (2014), a children’s playspace designed by Carsten Höller, the Belgian conceptual artist whose major show – Decision – has just opened at the Hayward in London. Gartenkinder’s title is translated literally as ‘garden for children’ and this installation for the Gagosian Gallery’s stand attracts a steady stream of well-dressed children and accompanying adults, some of whom are clearly hoping to play themselves.

Fast forward five months and I’m lying down, staring through a square of Plexiglass built into an Escheresque soft-play space named The Idol (2015), in London’s economically deprived borough of Barking. Straddling contemporary art sculpture and functional space, The Idol is the jewel in the crown of the £14m Abbey Sport Centre and is predicted, in its first 10 years, to engage more than 700,000 local young children and families.

The Idol, an art sculpture and playspace by artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd in Barking, 2015. Photo Credit: Emil Charlaff
The Idol, an art sculpture and playspace by artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd in Barking, 2015. Photo Credit: Emil Charlaff

Designed by Turner Prize-nominated artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, acclaimed for her anarchic, playful group performances, the soft-play space has departed from generic primary colours, instead reworked with black-and-white, sci-fi overtones, taking its title from the mythology of an effigy discovered in Dagenham believed to date from around 2250 BC. Raisa, a 10-year-old girl, tells me: ‘The see-through bit makes you feel like you’re going to fall. But the slide is the best, it gives you an adrenalin rush.’ I ask her about the design. ‘Some of the pictures up the wall are cool, but a bit scary and odd,’ she replies.

Commissioned by Create, The Idol is part of the £14m Abbey Sports Centre. Photo Credit: Emil Charlaff
Commissioned by Create, The Idol is part of the £14m Abbey Sports Centre. Photo Credit: Emil Charlaff

Franky, seven, agrees. ‘I like the slide when it goes bumpy because it makes me feel weird.’ He adds: ‘I like feeling weird.’ Chetwynd was commissioned by the charity Create, whose interest lies in infiltrating artists and designers into social projects in different ways. ‘It had to be functional, stimulating and interesting to adults, but also cut the mustard as a critically acclaimed artwork and contemporary sculpture,’ Chetwynd tells me. I ask what would she like the children to feel as they use it. ‘I’d like them to feel pride that it’s in their area, like civic pride.’

The Idol takes its name from an 2250 BC effigy discovered in Dagenham. Photo Credit: Emil Charlaff
The Idol takes its name from an 2250 BC effigy discovered in Dagenham. Photo Credit: Emil Charlaff

‘The presence of play in art emerges periodically,’ says Ralph Rugoff, director at London’s Hayward Gallery, where Höller has a survey show this summer. ‘It goes in cycles, and this definitely seems like a moment.’ In 2009, the art commissioner Artangel hosted the one-day conference called There’s an Artist in the Playground that examined play’s connection to adult concerns, which included, in the words of the marketing material: ‘responsibility, risk, fun, recovery, politics, inclusion, conflict, environment, belonging, being’.

Carsten Höller’s Isomeric Slides cascades down the Hayward Gallery, part of his major summer show Decision. Photo Credit: The Artist and Luma Foundation, Arles, Photo David Levene
Carsten Höller’s Isomeric Slides cascades down the Hayward Gallery, part of his major summer show Decision. Photo Credit: The Artist and Luma Foundation, Arles, Photo David Levene

Notable British artists concerned with play include Gary Webb, whose Squeaky Clean (2012) is a permanent playground and interactive public sculpture in Greenwich’s Charlton Park, and Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, who presented Sacrilege in 2012, a life-size, inflatable, bouncy-castle replica of Stonehenge. Artist Katarzyna Zimna published Time to Play: Action and Interaction in Contemporary Art in 2014, a book that links 20th- and 21st-century art with studies of play, games and leisure, and the theories of Kant, Gadamer and Derrida. Last year’s Glasgow International Festival saw Play Summit, a threeday event curated by artist Nils Norman and Assemble, an 18-strong collective working across the fields of art, architecture and design. The remit was to explore the state of play in Scotland and beyond, and the event was attended by Chetwynd, who cited it as inspiration for tendering for the Dagenham soft-play commission.

Snake by Carsten Höller, 2013. Photo Credit: The Artist and Air De Paris, Paris, Photo: Marc Domage
Snake by Carsten Höller, 2013. Photo Credit: The Artist and Air De Paris, Paris, Photo: Marc Domage

Enshrined under Article 31 in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the importance of play is deadly serious, although not always valued. In Britain, as funding has dropped for play provision, the science has surged ahead, showing that quality play stimulates essential brain ‘plasticity’ and is an essential pathway to cognitive, developmental and physical growth. Where play doesn’t occur, brain cells rigidify, in a process referred to as ‘synapse elimination’, with chronically play-deprived children experiencing mental problems, restrictions in brain growth and depression. The leading theorist on children’s play, Bob Hughes, goes one step further, connecting it with the survival skills of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Made From Scratch builds play spaces to children’s designs
Made From Scratch builds play spaces to children’s designs

One of the main reasons for play deprivation, and a clear casualty of modernity, is the drastic reduction of ‘roaming’ – the extent to which children’s play and travel is negotiated autonomously of adults. It has been reduced by fears of traffic, children engaging in risky activity and ‘stranger danger’. Into this vacuum, adventure playgrounds, more than any other play spaces, are the unsung heroes, compensating for children’s restriction. Completely free to access, they provide a range of activities, including opportunities for physical risk, and offer an authentic space to experiment and self-learn.

Made From Scratch has so far built eight playgrounds and one adventure playground
Made From Scratch has so far built eight playgrounds and one adventure playground

Children at Northworld Primary school take part in building thier own playground
Children at Northworld Primary school take part in building thier own playground

The first was created in Copenhagen in 1943 by landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen, and was known as a skrammellegepladsen, meaning ‘junk playground’. In England at the time, children were playing on bombsites, building dens and re-playing war, and inadvertently dying because of collapsing walls and unexploded devices. When the English landscape architect and philanthropist Lady Allen of Hurtwood saw the skrammellegepladsen in 1946 during a lecture tour, she realised Britain needed dedicated play spaces. The first UK junk playground (later called adventure playgrounds) opened in 1948 in Camberwell, south London, on the site of a bombed church.

Iraq’s first adventure playground, created by Made From Scratch, in the Kurdish town of Halabja
Iraq’s first adventure playground, created by Made From Scratch, in the Kurdish town of Halabja

Today, with British councils decreasing funding both for playgrounds and art initiatives, ‘utilitarian’ arts projects such as Chetwynd’s The Idol might offer a new hybrid way forward.

But can the art world and the play world integrate with integrity? ‘The problem is that artists can possibly do damage if they don’t understand about the science of play,’ says Jess Milne, who for 11 years managed Hackney Play Association’s Play Training Unit, and who is also a qualified art teacher. ‘And I mean that in the sense of creating things for art and for themselves, rather than for children to look at, and work with and see through and generally participate in.’

Assemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: AssembleAssemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: Assemble

Fergus P. Hughes defined play in 1982 as ‘freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated’. Yet despite all the scientific advancements made in understanding what play does and how it affects the brain, many adults still find it hard not to take control. ‘It’s very difficult to remove the adult and the adult’s ego,’ says Milne. ‘It’s the same for everyone – parents, playworkers, artists.’

Assemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: Assemble
Assemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: Assemble

Yet art and play share the same goals, according to Gemma Mudu, co-director of social design enterprise Made From Scratch, which builds play spaces to children’s designs.

‘Artists and children are each absorbed in a line of enquiry, questioning the role of existence,’ says Mudu. ‘Both are getting to grips with the nature of being and expressing it through different ways. We see great potential for cross-fertilisation with artists aware of play sensibilities.’ Lizzy Longtale, her co-director, agrees: ‘In many ways adventure playgrounds should be seen as ongoing art installations.’

Assemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: AssembleAssemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: Assemble

Set up in 2011, Made From Scratch has already built eight different playgrounds and one adventure playground, with seven further builds in the pipeline. Their budgets are small – the average cost for a playground is between £30,000 and £70,000, with smaller playgrounds costing £15,000. ‘We invite kids to take inspiration from landscapes, art galleries, paintings, sculptures and immersive spaces so that they’re not just thinking about the conventional format of play structures,’ says Longtale. ‘A special project is Made from Scratch’s work on Iraq’s first adventure playground in the Kurdish town of Halabja.

‘Initially we had to deal with the community representative who dreamed of a neat, sterile, Disney fairground,’ explains Longtale. ‘Explaining loose parts theory – the need for an infinite variety of materials for children to play with, such as sand, timber, pipes, tubes and fabrics – was challenging. He kept saying, “When are you going to take all this rubbish away?”‘ The playground is in its final stages of completion before handover to the community, when it will support play for up to 80 children. Ironically, Made From Scratch had to travel to Iraq to work on an adventure playground. Longtale says: ‘There is no funding here anymore for new community adventure playgrounds, so we work on playgrounds in schools. But we always try and link the children up with local adventure playgrounds that already exist.’

Assemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: Assemble
Assemble’s Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock takes shape. Photo Credit: Assemble

Assemble, the co-curator of Glasgow International’s Play Summit, has created the Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock, an impoverished area of Glasgow. Delivered in collaboration with Create, the project has helped bag the collective a nomination for this year’s Turner Prize. Hadrian Garrard, director of Create, remains on the playground’s board of directors. ‘This wasn’t about making a pretty artwork,’ he tells me. ‘Assemble was interested in getting the right set of conditions for a community space. The Turner Prize nomination picks up on the opportunities for artists and designers to move into territory managed in the past by government authorities.’

Architect and Assemble member Amica Dall explains what attracted the group to this territory. ‘We’ve always been very aware of the limits of what you can do with design, and of how much design is asked to do that isn’t necessarily in the realm of design with a capital ‘D’. I would argue for a more expanded notion of design. For example, systems have to be designed, organisations have to be designed, arguments have to be designed. These things add up to make situations and environments that are not just physical. In many design situations, all the critical decisions have already been made by the time the architect gets involved. Doing self-initiated work is a way to be part of more stages of the process.

The Brutalist Playground, a collaboration between Assemble and artist Simon Terrill at the RIBA. Photo Credit: Photo by Tristan Fewings Getty Images For Riba
The Brutalist Playground, a collaboration between Assemble and artist Simon Terrill at the RIBA. Photo Credit: Photo by Tristan Fewings Getty Images For RIBA

‘The adventure playground is the epitome of that approach because while we are creating an environment where physical things need to happen, there has also been the human aspect, the organisational aspect, the financial aspect, the legal aspect, the political aspect. All of those ducks have to be put in line to create this environment. I think that’s common to a lot of our work: creating the conditions of possibility and being responsible.’

Assemble’s interest in play has also led it to collaborate with artist Simon Terrill on The Brutalist Playground, at London’s RIBA this summer which recreates in foam the concrete playgrounds designed for post-war housing blocks.

Ralph Rugoff has commissioned many artists to create site-specific environments at the Hayward Gallery. I ask him whether it would be good for such artists to create municipal spaces in the public realm. ‘People in the design world can be a bit abstract, while artists are very attuned to the way we experience things. So there is a role,’ he concludes. ‘Although,’ he adds wryly, ‘it might work best with those who play well in teams.’

Mudu is also optimistic about the potential of artists, as long as they prioritise play. ‘It’s such a balance. If it’s about art coming into the community, the priority is the art. But if the primary focus is to have a quality play space, then the priority is the play.’ With health and safety fears rising and funding being cut, play deprivation is likely to become more endemic in the UK. Perhaps, if play was rebranded to seem to be the serious issue it is – ‘self-learning’ – those who hold the purse strings might give it greater importance. ‘Most people think play is a leisure activity,’ Mudu continues. ‘For adults it’s about extreme sensation and about getting some form of pleasure. For kids it’s a necessity.’

From Rusty Van To Cosy Home – DIY Camper

Thinking of dumping your old and rusty van? Think again; because you may turn it into a cozy home that too without visiting any specialized auto or van shops. Our DIY Camper project is just right for the ones who are finding difficulties in getting a suitable home for themselves. These days high range apartments

The post From Rusty Van To Cosy Home – DIY Camper appeared first on iCreatived.

Best of #ModernMonday: Designing Bars, Hotels, Restaurants, and More

Single Shot in Seattle.

From the humblest cafe to the biggest hotel chain, what are the universal principles of good hospitality design?

@TRMarchitect: Guest/customer comfort is paramount. They need to feel at home anywhere they are.

@RashanaZ: Understanding your customer or the guest experience. You have to know who you’re designing for!

@aileenkwun: Great hospitality design will both make you feel at home and away on an adventure.


Ian Mankin’s New ‘Britannia’ Fabric Collection

So you guys know how much I love a stripe, right? I know: borderline obsessed! No surprise then when I write how hard I am crushing on Ian Mankin’s new ‘Britannia’ fabric collection as the brand is known for their iconic stripe patterns. Britannia is the most extensive collection to date from the British fabric house and it launches at Decorex this September. I like the introduction of the intense, dark blue to the brand’s more pared-back wider palette. In total there are 15 new fabrics in the collection as well as 15 existing and recoloured classics. The best part? They all mix together to create an effortlessly stylish array of navy, red and neutral tones that’s perfect for creating a nautical look even in the darker autumn and winter months. Can we please discuss that incredible indigo stripe? So good. I love the idea of using Ian Mankin’s fabric to create a luxurious bed canopy like this – so indulgent and with a wonderful mix of grad-meets-modern. All of the fabrics are woven at the brand’s Lancashire cotton mill, and the signature stripes, checks and plains come in a range of weights and weaves. One of the unexpected highlights […]

The post Ian Mankin’s New ‘Britannia’ Fabric Collection appeared first on Bright.Bazaar.

Council Supports Solar Power in Coal-Centric Louisville

(AP Photo/Brian Bohannon)

The number of solar-powered homes and businesses in Louisville has grown rapidly in the last three years, at a 70 percent rate from 111 in 2012 to 189 this year. The Courier-Journal reports that though the number is still relatively small, it shows great progress since 2008, when only two solar-powered homes or businesses were reported by Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E).

And solar is also gaining support from public officials. Last week, the Louisville Metro Council passed a resolution in support of solar power, and is considering an ordinance that would help with solar energy financing.

“Over 30 states have done this, and progressive states and communities have made this work, and I think we should, too,” said one council member, who’s also pushing solar-powered street lighting.

Advocates for solar power in Louisville hope to engage younger people in what has traditionally been a big coal state.

“I think it’s kind of sexy to be able to create your own energy on your own property,” Colleen Crum, co-chair of a council committee coordinating the Solar Over Louisville campaign, told the Courier-Journal. “There is a personal pride to say you are doing the right thing.”

Despite the city’s progress, it still ranks last of the 50 biggest cities for solar’s value to customers, according to a report from North Carolina State University. The region’s history with coal-powered electricity is a major barrier to overcome for solar policy. Nonetheless, the council’s solar power resolution is a big step toward new energy policies.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the math, and getting the math to add up,” Maria Koetter, the city’s sustainability director, told the Courier-Journal. “That’s harder due to our historically cheap energy.”

Shop Houzz: An Elegant White Kitchen (67 photos)

Struggling with the best way to bring modern and traditional together in your kitchen? Perhaps you’ve got modern appliances and traditional cabinets, or maybe you want to add classic style to your modern-day kitchen. Whatever your traditional-meets-modern design dilemma is, transitional may just be the…

Developing the Cure for Corporate Welfare

Michael Shuman says Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market is an example of a “pollinator business,” a smart economic development model. (Photo by Eugene Kim)

Philadelphians don’t exactly need another reason to love the Reading Terminal Market, the city’s one-hundred-plus-year-old iconic public market, but here it is anyway: The whole place is 100 percent self-financed.

Not only are the tenant vendors local, independent businesses, tenant rents and sales cuts fund 90 percent of the Market’s budget. The rest comes mostly from an annual fundraiser that brings in about $100,000. Contrast that with General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, General Electric, Boeing, Amazon and 42 other companies that received more than $100 million each in state or local incentives from 2007 to 2012, according to an independent study by the New York Times.

The study found that state and local governments gave up $80.4 billion in incentives to “attract and retain” businesses for the purposes of “creating jobs.” It’s a number that author and local economy expert Michael Shuman is sure is actually much higher.

“There’s so many reasons why that is a dumb way of economic development,” Shuman says. “The most important of it is the growing mountain of evidence that the best and more important economic development comes from locally owned business.”

Shuman has written four books on local economies, most recently The Local Economy Solution, which came out in June.

“What I was responding to this time was how there were many groups who are doing good work on local economies, and their first impulse is to try and go out and raise foundation money to support their work, while many economic development departments are still stuck ponying up public dollars for economic development,” Shuman explains, citing the aforementioned New York Times study as well as a study he led himself.

Beginning about eight years ago, Shuman and his colleagues began compiling data on statewide economic development programs in the U.S. Choosing 15 states, largely rural given a secondary focus on food systems, they analyzed the three largest statewide economic development programs in each. Of the 45 programs they studied, 26 were giving less than 25 percent of their incentives to local businesses. Sixteen programs were giving 90 percent or more of incentives to non-local businesses.

And yet, there is “a growing universe of self-financing businesses that were undertaking the functions of economic development,” Shuman says. He calls them “pollinator businesses,” self-financing businesses that serve other businesses, whose mission is about building a great local economic marketplace. Reading Terminal Market is one of them, featured in the book.

The first thing you have to do, Shuman says, if you want to support “pollinator businesses,” is to shut down all of your existing economic development programs that are dedicated to “attract and retain.”

“Those are a dead end,” Shuman asserts. “Then you take some of the savings and perhaps you invest in some local entrepreneurs getting pollinators going. Many of the pollinators that I write about are interested in either helping startups elsewhere get going or deploying some kind of franchise model, so you don’t have to start from scratch on most of these things.”

He categorizes them into five different fields — planning, purchasing, people, partnership and purse pollinators. Purse pollinators, for example, include credit unions like Vancity, in Vancouver, British Columbia, which Shuman features in the book. It’s one of the largest credit unions in North America, with 500,000 members, providing 38,000 local businesses with credit, partnerships and technical assistance. (It’s not in the book, but check out this lending model created by a food co-op and credit union.)

One example of a partnership pollinator model is used by Tucson Originals, a local restaurants’ association in Tucson, Arizona. As one of its services to members, Tucson Originals offers pooled procurement. They survey members annually to find out the top 25 products that every restaurant uses, and then coordinates cumulative purchases from bulk suppliers. It’s a way to give small — and particularly minority-owned — firms a more equal playing field with large corporate chains.

“Many of the entrepreneurs in Tucson Originals are Latino sole proprietors,” Shuman notes. “There’s no conceptual reason why any of these programs, even if the existing ones are not targeted at low-income, or of color, could not be redesigned to do so. In fact, the more challenging the economic circumstances, the more one needs a pollinator design because you basically don’t have the resources to pay for economic development as usual.”

There remain some important kinks to work out with pollinators. “Most of these pollinator models, while they have a theory of self-financing, they haven’t quite done it yet,” Shuman says. For example there’s Reading Terminal Market’s annual fundraiser.

“We also don’t know how well they’re going to survive a crisis, a change of management, a strike, a shortage, whatever,” Shuman says. “I kind of warn people that most of the models that you read about are probably not going to be around in five or 10 years. That’s the bad news.”

“The good news is,” Shuman continues. “People are learning from them, people are adapting models and figuring out what went wrong and do better the next time.” Some of the pollinators Shuman writes about in The Local Economy Solution learned from failures he wrote about in his earlier books.

The bottom line, according to Shuman, is that even at the state and local level, public policy right now is systematically subsidizing big business to the disadvantage of small business. “Cities cannot coherently have strong economic development if they continue to do that,” he says.

Part of the response will have to come from civic engagement, one way or another. Shuman points out a need for transparency about how much incentives go to local versus non-local business might help, or more accountability about how much gets spent in incentives per each job created after the fact.

“Another approach, you might call a libertarian approach,” Shuman says, “Is to just get rid of all of it. I’m deeply sympathetic with that. It’s clean. It gets rid of a lot of corruption in politics.”

4 Cities Get $3 Million Each for Placemaking Projects

(Credit: Fairmount Park Conservancy)

Often, placing a sculpture in a public square, or hanging a painting in a community center right before the ribbon-cutting ceremony are part of the “finishing touches” of urban planning. But arts-and-culture-focused nonprofit ArtPlace believes that familiar timeline needs to be tweaked.

“Arts and culture are too often left out of community planning conversations,” said Jamie Bennett, ArtPlace America executive director, when announcing the six U.S. communities that would receive a total of $18 million for creative community development-driven projects. “These six organizations will demonstrate the unique value that artists and arts organizations can bring to the full spectrum of community development priorities, including community resiliency, economic development, housing, open space, public health, and youth opportunity.”

The winners include Cook Inlet Housing Authority in Anchorage, Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia, Jackson Medical Mall Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi, and Little Tokyo Service Center in Los Angeles. (Two non-urban grantees are rural Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership and the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project in New Mexico.) They were selected from 21 finalists chosen earlier this year.

Each will receive $3 million over the next three years through ArtPlace’s new Community Development Investments (CDI) initiative, with the goal of holistically connecting placemaking to economic development and neighborhood revitalization. The grantees will also receive help from PolicyLink with researching and documenting the projects so lessons can be shared beyond each community.

In Philadelphia, Fairmount Park Conservancy promotes the role that green spaces play in improving city-dwellers’ lives. “Building upon the rich history of arts and culture within Fairmount Park, we look forward to working with Philadelphia’s extraordinary local artists, arts organizations, and cultural institutions as we infuse arts strategies into our efforts to enhance and activate our city’s parks and recreational spaces,” said Executive Director Kathryn Ott Lovell.

Projects are expected to kick off in October, with community meetings and cultural asset mapping. You can read more about the winning projects here.

“Our fundamental proposition is that arts and culture must be at the core of every conversation we have about community development in this country,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation and chairman of the ArtPlace collaboration. “When this happens the dialogue is richer and more inclusive for the long-term visioning a community needs to remain vital and healthy.”

Profile: Maarten Baas


Words by Emily Martin

With little more than one month to catch the Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth (until 23 October), an exhibition showcasing some of the world’s best contemporary furniture designs alongside traditional pieces at the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s stately home, I was excited to see celebrated Dutch designer Maarten Baas’s Clay chairs featuring as part of the exhibit. ‘For a few years I’ve been a little under the radar; until 2009-10 I was working really hard and was very much “in the picture”,’ says Baas who, after creating a legacy in less than a decade, has stepped out of the limelight to focus on select projects.

Does this exhibition signal a comeback? ‘I have been cooling down a little bit. I’m very much enjoying the whole glamour thing [of] not being there anymore. Or rather it’s smaller and more human-sized,’ he confirms in a strikingly down-to-earth manner. A surprising trait for someone who became a high-profiled and established designer when relatively young.

Baas dramatically entered the design scene during the past decade, after graduating from Eindhoven’s Design Academy, with his Smoke series (2002). It was swept up by Marcel Wanders’ Moooi label and quickly became a worldwide success, with supporters including Dutch trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort and French designer Philippe Starck.

Knuckle candlestick holder (2000). Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann
Knuckle candlestick holder (2000). Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann

‘When I was a child, design wasn’t such a known profession. You are not aware that things are designed,’ Baas says as he recalls what led him to furniture design. ‘It’s not in the scope of things, like a rocket scientist or a fireman. But I always wanted to do something creative like working in theatre, being a writer or a photographer – something like that.’ When Bass was 14 an older friend went to study architecture and when he saw his friend’s chair designs for part of his course ‘I thought, this is the kind of job that belongs to me. It was the combination of something creative, but with certain restrictions, and from then on I had my focus,’ Baas continues. He then applied to study at the Design Academy.

Although being lauded after graduating from the academy in 2002, Baas’s first design success occurred while still studying, with his candleholder Knuckle (2000). ‘I started to think about the restrictions there are with a candle holder, and I thought the main one is that the stand is at a 90 degree angle, which is the same as the foot of a crow,’ he says of his design inspiration of its three-footed base form. Both Smoke and Knuckle brought Baas commercial success, but it wasn’t until Clay Furniture came to the market (2006) that he regarded himself as an established designer.

‘The Clay Furniture is a signature that very much defines my way of working. It reflects the expression I have in my mind when I make something,’ he says. ‘Smoke was my [commercial] breakthrough, but personally it really was Clay. It was very exciting to make something new after the success of Smoke, to come up with something that was new, playful and had such a different look.’

Maarten Baas’s stand at Milan’s Salone this year.Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann
Maarten Baas’s stand at Milan’s Salone this year. Photo Credit: Job Jonathan Schlingemann

Baas had invested large amounts of his own money into the collection and says it was a big risk that left him very vulnerable. He was also afraid critics would not view the collection in the way that he had aimed to express it. ‘I was very happy when that also became successful,’ he says of the pinnacle moment that made him ‘accepted’. In that same year the Design Museum in London displayed 18 pieces from the Clay collection. Several other museums showed interest in Clay, with the Röhsska Museet Göteborg, Sweden, the Groninger Museum, Netherlands, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada, buying pieces for their own collections.

With confidence buoyed Baas continued with new projects and launched Sculpt (2007) at the Milan Salone. A regular exhibitor at the Salone, Baas also exhibited in other major shows around the world and in 2009 he won the Designer of the Year award at Design Miami.

‘That was a great achievement and I felt very honoured to have that at 31 years old,’ he says. ‘And it is the reason why they gave me the award why I’m so happy to receive it.’

He explains that the judges as they awarded Baas described his design career as a ‘movie, which was flowing from one scene to another’.

Clay Chairs, part of the Make Yourself Comfortable seating exhibition at Chatsworth House, until 23 October. Photo Credit: Chatsworth House Trust
Clay Chairs, part of the Make Yourself Comfortable seating exhibition at Chatsworth House, until 23 October. Photo Credit: Chatsworth House Trust

The comments delighted Baas: ‘That is exactly what I wanted. Every exhibit I made I saw as chapter in a movie, which is what they saw too.

I was very happy to be recognised like that.’ And being interested in film, Baas introduced his project Real Time (also 2009), bringing a new dimension to his work, filming actors performing as a functioning clock. The project included the film Sweepers Clock, with two people sweeping rubbish piles resembling the moving hands of a clock. In 2010 Baas launched an analogue version, the numbers being painted in real time, but as an i-Phone app.

‘When I was still at the Design Academy Eindhoven I was more interested in theatre design, but when I graduated it went totally into the product world,’ says Baas. ‘The Real Time series is actually a mix of design, film and theatre. I was happy to find a way in which these disciplines could be combined.’

Though stepping out of the limelight, Baas continues to exhibit at the Salone, among others, and this year showcased the LEDS Clay collection (a collaboration between Baas and Bertjan Pot). But he says ‘success’ brings with it a new meaning. ‘I don’t have ambitions like building the biggest building or wanting to be a designer with my own brand. My ambition is more on a personal level, which it to remain where I am now (with nice projects).’

Joined up thinking


Words by Veronica Simpson

Photography by Gareth Gardner

Those taking part were

Nicola Osborn, Director Morey Smith; Martin Cook, Director BDP; Colin Allen, MD (Southern), Morgan Lovell; Matthew Kobylar, Director, Arney Fender Ktasalidis; Pernille Stafford, Director, Resonate Interiors; Stuart Dommett, EMEA Marketing, Intel; Daphne McMahon, Designer, Morgan; Natasha Bonugli, Director, BDG; Cherill Sheer, Director, CSA; Theresa Dowling, Chair and FX Editor

Stuart Dommett is an IT man turned marketeer (EMEA Marketing, Intel) with a mission to transform our workplaces into technologically enabled hubs. On his business card he describes himself as an ‘IT evangelist’.

So his ulterior motive was fairly clear in suggesting FX hosts a gathering of design professionals whose main expertise is office architecture and interiors: a desire to recruit designers to his mission for total ‘workplace transformation’. But he discovered that designers are far from tech-phobic. It’s often the complex relationships between – and very different IT requirements of – different departments that gets in the way, not to forget the phenomenal cost of workplace overhauls for businesses of a certain size. So what can – or should – designers do to transform the often clunky, IT disabled, workplaces of today into the connective workspaces of tomorrow?

Martin Cook, Director BDP
Martin Cook, Director BDP

Stuart Dommett (SD): ‘We’re pushing workplace transformation, particularly wireless technology. We see three components to getting this put into the corporate sector. First it’s IT. But they can’t do it on their own. Second, they need HR, which (mainly) talks about the company culture – what kind of company do we want to be, what do we stand for? Third is facilities, because IT doesn’t have the budget to pay for the [refurbishment of] office space…[This is] why I was really interested in getting designers into this conversation because that’s the key pillar. Really the fourth is finance, because they pull all the strings. IT needs to push, but we also need facilities to understand that they have a role to play in advancing productivity and the new style of working, because there’s a lot of frustration from people saying: “I can’t get the same level of tech that I get at home”.’

Stuart Dommett, EMEA Marketing, Intel
Stuart Dommett, EMEA Marketing, Intel

Martin Cook (MC): ‘We have clients that have genuinely tried to join the dots with technology and IT issues, and all the issues that go with the business model, but the refresh programme to upgrade the whole business is a huge issue. The question is how do we get different parties to talk to each other [and coordinate]. If you’re a new start-up, you don’t have those issues.’

Nicola Osborne (NO): ‘But not every company is filled with 22-year-olds. You have to accommodate a mix of working styles. And not every department needs the same level of sophistication.’

Pernille Stafford (PS): ‘One of the problems also is that the power is not keeping up with the tech.’

Nicola Osborn, Director Morey Smith
Nicola Osborn, Director Morey Smith

Natasha Bonugli (NB): ‘….and the cable management.’

Matthew Kobylar (MK): ‘When we talk about having better kit at home, I do in some ways. I’ve got a touch-screen Windows 8 and it’s so intuitive to me to move things around. Why I come into the office is because my monitor is bigger there. Touch is going to transform the way we work. I need that thing (he points to an imaginary monitor) to come down here (gestures to desk).

When I was younger I was drawing. Now I seem to be using Excel all the time.’

Daphne McMahon, Designer, Morgan
Daphne McMahon, Designer, Morgan

SD: ‘It’s interesting. Now we have wireless docks. Anyone can use that desk because they can wirelessly connect to it. It’s wireless gigabyte.

So you’re getting much better performance. Also it has “Identity Signature”: it knows who you are. As you’re opening up your laptop you’re already connected. Wireless charging for laptops is coming. Have you seen HP Sprout? It’s a monitor with a camera over the top and it projects on to the desktop. You can use that, and interact with it… Why can’t I use that as a meeting resource? How can that now become part of my collaboration [toolkit]?’

Pernille Stafford, Director, Resonate Interiors
Pernille Stafford, Director, Resonate Interiors

NO: ‘Talking about how tech moves forward, it’s also about how human interaction moves forward, alongside technology.’

PS: ‘That’s the thing, you don’t want to loose the human interaction. You don’t want tech to take over so we’re not talking to each other.’

MC: ‘I was presenting to a senior group recently – an unusual mix of corporate and academia – and the CEO was talking about [his desire to] encourage collaboration. The problem he has is that with graduates from last year he has to push them to talk to each other. So I say: “That’s great. There’s even more argument for you [older] guys to be working with them so you can lead by your example.” But they don’t [learn], they just sit next to each other and text; they don’t talk.’

Colin Allen, MD (Southern), Morgan Lovell
Colin Allen, MD (Southern), Morgan Lovell

Colin Allen (CA): ‘Don’t you think we’re getting vulnerable to IT? I was recently working with a large organisation, all laptops and iPads. Something went wrong back of house. All of their contacts were lost. There was no connectivity. Emails disappeared. They were paralysed. For two days they couldn’t communicate with one another. They couldn’t even phone people because they had all these numbers but didn’t know who they belonged to. It occurred to me that’s risky!’

PS: ‘But wasn’t it the same in the old days? You lost your diary/notebook, you’d never get it back. It’s gone.’

SD: ‘All my information is available on four machines. All four machines associated to me. Every contact I create on those machines is shared across them. I’m commonly known as a cloud resident in IT.’

MK: ‘Again that’s really being led by home. I only got comfortable with [iCloud] automatically backing up my pictures and contacts when I changed to a new phone.’

SD: ‘I would say gesture is the new thing; projecting on to a _ at surface – you can interact with Sprout like that. I can be sharing a photo and moving it around and resizing it, and not touching the computer because it’s all 3D.’

MC: ‘One of my colleagues came back from Shanghai with this little device: a projected keyboard. It cost him £40. He sat there tapping the table… Another of my colleagues – a product designer – went to Maplin and for £50 got this device that reads hand gestures. He says it’s just too sensitive, too accurate, but the fact that you can do it at all is amazing.’

PS: ‘But does it help your working day, is it slowing you down because you’re so interested in the technology? Or is it benefitting you?’

SD: ‘Has everyone heard of the term millennial? They’re people aged between 25 and 35. A 35-year-old in large corporations is probably on the fast track, probably very senior. They are decision makers. These people are now in power. Over time that mix of millennials is likely to increase, and one of the forecasts is that office populations will be 60 per cent to 70 per cent millennials by 2025. They approach things in very different way.

‘A millennial’s approach to problem solving is to search for the answer, then engage in a forum to see who is more of an expert. I don’t do that. I’m not of that generation. Most companies don’t allow social media in the office. That’s social media. It’s that side of things that will come to the fore, and if I use that as an advantage, then my tech has to be designed to support that.’

MC: ‘The difficulty still is that when you look at a massive investment, like a total upgrade, the supply chain is wrong. It’s not accessible enough. The whole industry is geared to making it complicated. I can get into my own bank account quicker than into our workplace IT. For example, I say to people: why are we still buying fixed phones?

NB: ‘Yes, everything can be redirected to your mobile phone.’ PS: ‘But you still have to charge everything.’

CA: ‘The issue is not wireless. If you can get a battery that lasts for two days you’re laughing. In the next five years, that will be the biggest [evolutionary leap]: power and battery.’

SD: ‘So, wireless into desks: is that happening?

CA: ‘No.’

NO: ‘You have to drive that [as a designer].’

Theresa Dowling, Chair and FX editor
Theresa Dowling, Chair and FX editor

CA: ‘Some companies are struggling just with wifi. Even if different parts of the company want to make the gesture towards taking IT to the next level…people aren’t trained [to understand the complexities].’

NB: ‘It’s not just what’s on trend and the latest thing, it’s what’s going to be the right tech in the space for the right people.’

MK: ‘I’ve done a lot of strategy work where you get facilities and HR lining up, then technology is a bit off-kilter. They might not know it. All they are concerned about is hardware, infrastructure. They’re not concerned about how users are going to interact with these things. I feel the real obstacle in creating transformative workplaces is that the people in charge of IT are really not forward thinking about what the workplace needs.’

NO: ‘You have to push them and challenge them…the problem is often the lack of knowledge about the technology across the board. We can sit in a meeting and talk about wifi then someone pipes up: there’s a security issue with wifi et cetera. The problem with pushing boundaries is not just our knowledge but the client’s knowledge. We need specialist knowledge and bringing that all together to find the right solution for the client.’

Theresa Dowling (TD): ‘When you go to clients, who is the one with the most influence? Who is driving the technology agenda?’

MC: ‘For most corporates, real estate [an office move/expansion] is often the catalyst.’

PS: ‘When you have a CEO with loads of vision and they want to take things forward, they still need an IT department that supports that.

SD: Why does the IT department exist in first place? What’s their role? They’re put in there for one thing: computing came in to give you a competitive advantage. We’ve got to get back to that because that’s their role. They need to make their business competitive, agile, flexible, to be able to adapt to the marketplace. They need to give business something it couldn’t have without them. They have got to stand up and fight for things instead of locking everything down.’

NO: ‘When can we get rid of a static PC please? Can we change the thought processes around that?’

SD: ‘When you stop buying them!’

NO: ‘I think we can talk about all this remote technology for the rest of the afternoon and we can talk about people moving around the office. But we hear that everybody still needs a desk with a static PC on it …OK, not everybody…’

SD: ‘I have multiple devices. The average number of devices employees have today is 2.2…

CA: ‘I’ve heard it’s 1.7.’

Matthew Kobylar, Director, Arney Fender Ktasalidis
Matthew Kobylar, Director, Arney Fender Ktasalidis

SD: ‘What we’re seeing is far more people moving up to three, four and five devices. It’s certainly going up. There is a role for a fixed desktop. But then it needs to be capable of interacting with different things. So it’s about how do I use it in different configurations?’

NO: ‘Which sounds great in theory but we still have humans to deal with. We can say: share your desk. But how efficient would that be? Everyone works differently. Everyone has an affiliation with their desk in a different way. Some people are very comfortable about going to work on the roof garden, but there’s always someone who will say I can’t think unless I’m at my desk. It’s not an age thing at all. I’ve conducted forums with media companies with a cross section of ages, and it doesn’t matter.’

PS: ‘On a trading floor, it’s very unusual for them not to be at their desk with a bank of screens.’

SD: ‘Or a call centre – though more innovative ones have people at home.’

CA: ‘We ran a seminar with someone from Google’s office. They will have 650 people at its new place in King’s Cross. Someone asked them: how many workstations are you providing? The answer was 650. And yet most corporates are saying, why pay £50 a foot for unoccupied space when we could have £2m extra profit on to the business.’

MK: ‘Space as a cost in business is not very much. Staff is the biggest cost. So…give them their own desk, if that makes them work and makes them happy.’

SD: ‘How many clients lead with [the emphasis on] employees and workforce style?’

NB: ‘They don’t, we lead on that.’

SD: ‘How many times, if they haven’t done so, do you talk to them about how design affects productivity?’

NO: ‘You’d usually pitch that anyway.’

SD: ‘How do they measure that?’

MK: ‘Measuring productivity is the holy grail! What you have to look at is the Indicators of Productivity – staff engagement, staff morale, wellbeing, absenteeism, what’s your social network within the office. Those are indicative.’

SD: ‘Is there a lot of tech being required for conference space?’

PS: ‘There are loads more conference-call meetings than ever before.’

MS: ‘But conference space is not presentation [driven], it’s collaborative.’

NB: ‘More and more people want to share.’

TD: ‘Leaving aside all the practical details, how do you think we’ll be living five years’ time, 10, 50? Will there be an office?

NO: ‘There has to be an office?

NB: ‘It may not be called an office.’

PS: ‘It might be called the hub or something.’

Cherill Sheer, Director, CSA
Cherill Sheer, Director, CSA

NO: ‘I don’t think technology is going to make us obsolete. Even if we all had implants this conversation wouldn’t be the same if we were all dialling in. You don’t connect in the same way…the landscape of the office will change. So it may not be called an office. And maybe companies will start sharing office space – it won’t be just this company’s building here and that company’s building there; it may be big incubators for lots of businesses.’

MK: ‘What’s the purpose of the office of the future? I have to say I do believe that 25 years from now there will be gigantic corporations like Intel and Microsoft and Yahoo – though maybe not Yahoo – or it will just be one and it will be Google, and there will be loads of small firms that Google will want to buy. There’ll be this barbell economy with a few big firms and lots of small ones and not a lot in between. The workplace is where all of that dissemination, that culture of information, happens.’

NB: ‘Maybe we could get to a point where you do your work elsewhere and the office is just a social environment, where you come to exchange and relax.’

NO: ‘Designers always respond [to market shifts]. But we also push the boundaries.’

CA: ‘You have to challenge your clients… You cannot be expected to be an expert in everything, but if you get people to talk and discuss the issues, then you can pick the right solutions. I say, what makes me successful, what makes my staff happy, is a great business to me.’

SD: ‘So, if I was to summarise the debate about IT and office design with one headline, it would be: design community pushing boundaries but being kept back by modern companies’ approach to the workplace.’

Agreement all round.

New UK HQ for Warner Music from Woods Bagot


Words by Emily Martin

Images by Gareth Gardner

Project Info

Client: Warner Music UK
Interior designer: Woods Bagot
Size: 6,225 sq m
Duration: Nine months
Cost: Not disclosed

Music and design have long had a close affinity and is something recognised by music giant Warner Music UK. It wanted new, ‘exciting’ spaces that were attractive to artists and employees, after deciding to bring the company’s various record labels closer together.

Warner Music commissioned Woods Bagot to do a major refurbishment and fit-out project on one of its three new spaces in Kensington, London, transforming it into Warner Music’s new London HQ. It is home to the company’s key labels, including Atlantic, East West, Parlophone, Rhino and Warner Bros.

A bespoke chandelier is made of glass bulbs and microphones
A bespoke chandelier is made of glass bulbs and microphones

‘We worked closely with Warner Music to deliver a new music hub for its business, providing it with a strong presence and a new “shop front” in Kensington,’ comments Emma Smith, senior interior designer at Woods Bagot. ‘The new space creates an environment that celebrates and showcases Warner Music’s current and historical artists, as well as helping to attract new talent.’

The reception follows a shop-front aesthetic
The reception follows a shop-front aesthetic

In addition to the modernisation and refurbishment of the existing building that celebrates the distinct identities of each label, Woods Bagot needed to create a flexible work environment that ‘strives to cater for the needs of the business and its people’. This was a critical feature from the outset, with Warner Music requiring the design practice to provide a solution that would be ‘responsive to a diverse range of work styles, which would in turn give individuals and teams the freedom to choose from a menu of different spaces that met their needs’.

The existing sweeping staircase was retained and restained, and a graphic of an airship added to the wall
The existing sweeping staircase was retained and restained, and a graphic of an airship added to the wall.

Woods Bagot’s solution was to design multifunctional spaces and maximise on space effectively. Across the general office and floor levels one to five the design scheme takes on various forms – from fully built to semi-open and open spaces – that are equipped with enabled technology suited for task, from listening to music tracks to communal brainstorming.

A number of social spaces have been included in the scheme to allow for ‘reflection and refresh’, with staff encouraged to spend time away from their desks.

Looking down from the atrium to the cafe, which has flexible, modular seating, and a vinyl flooring integrated with the Warner logo
Looking down from the atrium to the cafe, which has flexible, modular seating, and a vinyl flooring integrated with the Warner logo

On the ground floor a reception was created to represent Warner Music’s core values, of expressing the music industry without feeling like a corporate office. Woods Bagot used a ‘shop front’ approach to the design scheme, thanks to a glass frontage, with passers-by drawn in by a warm and inviting atmosphere and use of a considered palette of materials. A magnificent chandelier, created using 80 glass light bulbs and 28 retro microphones, also features in the space.

From the cafe and bar are views up to the ‘heart of the business
From the cafe and bar are views up to the ‘heart of the business

Bespoke poster displays – with planter bases – wrap the inside of the curved facade celebrating the success of Warner Music artists and connecting the public with the business. The chandelier hangs in front of an existing brick wall filled with portraits of major artists from key labels.

The first floor includes a bar and fully functioning restaurant to create another meeting space, which is sited at the foot of the atrium. ‘A significant space in the design is the shared atrium on the first floor, comprising a communal cafe area, which can also be used as a performance space, gallery and bar,’ explains Smith. ‘Continuity of the design language, which creates a feeling closer to a club space than a typical office, links all the floors of the building.’

A breakout area on level 4 features branding elements in stylised displays
A breakout area on level 4 features branding elements in stylised displays

Designed using new and reclaimed furniture and finishes, the space connects to the ‘beating heart of the business’. Visitors and staff can view the creative and innovative work Warner Music produces on the ascending floors, thanks to the high level of transparency.

But while they are bright and airy spaces, lighting levels on each floor are subdued, ceilings are exposed, retained timber floors stained black, and black-painted window frames are surrounded by a distinctive deep green finish that runs along the perimeter of each floor. The project incorporates recycled and reused materials throughout.

A studio for use by artists
A studio for use by artists

Much of the existing infrastructure was kept and repurposed. The reception desk was reclad, the timber floors were stained, and office furniture was reused. Additional furniture was largely sourced second-hand, online or from vintage collections, and enhanced. Sustainable materials such as plywood were used on the new joinery elements and furniture, while reclaimed timber planks were used as cladding on feature walls and in the artists’ lounge.

‘We took considerable care with the planning and fit-out implementation to minimise the impact on Warner Music’s daytoday operations,’ says Smith. ‘We are delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Warner to create its new HQ in the UK.’



Graffiti Life

Less Claritin, More Allergy-Free City Parks?

Researchers looking at how public space landscaping affects allergy sufferers studied Garcia Lorca Park in Granada, Spain. (Photo by Ikimashoo)

Park lovers prone to allergies could have a way to enjoy outdoor public spaces without heavy medicine doses. Researchers from the University of Granada in Spain assessed trees in Granada’s 10 largest green spaces and found that some were setting off sneezy misery more than others. Pollen allergies are high in the city.

Led by botany professor Paloma Carinanos, an allergy sufferer herself, they studied how plants in urban green spaces influence the air quality of the area and health of residents. According to a press release about a study they published last month in the Journal of Environmental Quality:

What the researchers found was surprising. Many of the most common trees in Granada were among the trees causing unhealthy or hazardous air quality. Carinanos also found it surprising that the design of these green spaces thought about landscaping, climate, and fashion criteria, but didn’t think about pollen problems.

From their findings, the researchers have made suggestions for planning future green spaces. Their recommendations are to make sure that all citizens can enjoy the great outdoors with clear eyes and dry noses. Carinanos says that in the future, urban green spaces “will become ‘comfort islands’ inside ‘urban heat islands.’” She wants to make sure these comfort islands are “for all citizens without exception.”

U.S. Transportation Officials Cheer On Ambitious City Planners

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Local bike and pedestrian planners have long had a complicated relationship with the federal Department of Transportation. It is often incredibly difficult to pay for ambitious infrastructure projects without the U.S. DOT’s help, but because the feds haven’t yet codified much of those ambitious, next-generation street designs, ambitious municipal projects are ineligible for funding.

At least that’s the story risk-averse engineers like to tell advocates and their bolder colleagues. But in a recent attempt to change attitudes, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a laundry list of common funding and design misconceptions aimed at local and regional planners.

The report highlights five major funding misconceptions. The FHWA points out that federal funds can, in fact, be used for protected bike lanes, road diets and local road networks. Cities and states can also draw from far more funding sources for biking and walking projects than just the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The DOT also provides walking and biking funding via channels such as the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, the National Highway Performance Program and more.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials design guidelines have long been the federal standard, but the DOT report reminds people that they’ve endorsed other options as well. Perhaps most important for ambitious active transportation planners, projects designed using the progressive NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) Urban Bikeways Design Guide are still eligible for federal funding.

Though these are simply clarifications of existing rules, this report nonetheless is an important step forward for streets planning that could clear the path for more and better bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Having the federal government tell risk-averse local bureaucrats to be more creative with their projects and use more federal money seems huge.

To get a better sense of what exactly this could mean for city transportation planners, I put the question to two traffic engineers, Don Pflaum with the City of Minneapolis and Dongho Chang with the City of Seattle.

“Nationwide it is [a big deal],” says Pflaum. “Any time the federal government provides clarity on an issue that’s a good thing. You may have a more conservative engineer who rides on standards who says they won’t sign off on something that doesn’t perfectly follow guidelines.”

Chang echoes Pflaum’s sentiments.

“This report provides more education and removes that barrier where something’s unknown. Some people don’t want to try something new unless it has acceptance. When U.S. DOT says, ‘this is approved and here’s some examples,’ it helps to get everyone on the same page,” Chang explains.

That said, neither of them think the report will make a difference for bigger agencies like theirs that have already installed protected bike lanes and other next-generation infrastructure.

“This definitely helps the smaller agencies that don’t have the resources or expertise,” says Chang. “Larger agencies like Seattle are fairly familiar with the requirements and flexibility … But this is really furthering the conversation and helping the profession at large.”

Ultimately, Pflaum says the guidelines expand the range of tools available to engineers, which will help cities implement the best infrastructure for a given situation.

“Sometimes the crescent wrench gets the job nine times out of 10. Sometimes you need that special wrench to get the problem done,” Pflaum says. “Anytime we get more options or more tools in the tool box that’s great.”

Get Our Latest Ebook: “Solving Segregation”

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The U.S. is pretty stubborn when it comes to its predilection for segregation. As a nation, we have clung to the myth of the melting pot when in fact the fabric of our communities looks more like a jigsaw puzzle. Most white Americans live in majority-white areas while most Americans of color live in areas that are majority non-white and tend to have lower median incomes.

Housing patterns reinforce economic patterns in a non-virtuous cycle of opportunity breeding opportunity, and the opposite. If we want to create cities of opportunity for all, we must start with fostering integrated neighborhoods. So far, we are falling down on the job big-time. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of U.S. residents living in high-poverty areas nearly doubled, to 13.8 million from 7.2 million. Meanwhile, affordable housing in mixed-income or affluent neighborhoods is scarcer by the day, and more of us are spending too much of our income to keep a roof overhead.

All of this points to a need for cities to get serious about new approaches to community development and housing. With this in mind, our latest ebook, “Solving Segregation,” contains seven articles that together offer a compelling portrait of an urban nation slowly — finally— taking steps to dismantle the systems that have, for too long, kept us remaking our jigsaw puzzle of separate and unequal.

Next City is a nonprofit with a mission to inspire change in cities. We are supported by readers like you. When you donate to Next City, you become a member — one in a growing network of urban advocates committed to creating more equitable, sustainable and inclusive cities. Ebooks like “Solving Segregation” are one perk of becoming a member of Next City. Visit our membership page to learn more, or if you are already a member, log in and download “Solving Segregation” today.

Can Treating PTSD Solve Urban America’s Employment Crisis?

Raquwon Erving remembers when he felt safe walking around the Chicago neighborhood where his family lived. It was more than a decade ago, before he was old enough to read the headlines. When I ask the 19-year-old what changed, he gives a three-word answer: “the murder rate.”

While it might not seem like it to Erving, the crime rate in the city of Chicago has actually declined since the 1990s, when he was growing up. But the level of violence that has persisted is concentrated in South Side neighborhoods like Englewood, where Erving spent his formative years. Last year, there were 872 acts of robbery, assault and homicide in Englewood — one of the highest crime rates of any neighborhood in the city.

“I try my best not to go outside,” says Erving.

He says that he began to keep to himself and stay off the streets a couple of years ago when a couple of his friends were shot and killed. “It was kind of traumatizing,” says Erving. “It made me think about college more.” His resolve became stronger last year, after his younger brother, Derrick, was shot in the hip while riding his bike.

“[I try to] stay safe, stay positive,” he says. “That’s why I’m going to college, so I don’t have to be in Chicago. I’m trying to get out of Chicago so I can make it.”

In August, after a summer working for the city through a teen job program, Erving left the city for Selma, Alabama. There, he began his freshman year at a historically black college, Concordia College Alabama.

“My Plan A is to try to make it to the NFL, because I’m a football player at my high school,” says Erving. “My Plan B is autobody tech. That’s what I took in high school.” He was recruited to Concordia after demonstrating his skills at the wide receiver and corner positions during his time at Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. (He scored three touchdowns in one game last fall.)

It’s not only Erving’s skills on the football field that make him exceptional. A report released this year by the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University found that 18 percent of Chicago’s 16- to 24-year-old non-military residents are neither enrolled in school nor employed, a group commonly referred to as “disconnected youth.” Work and college participation rates among youth in Chicago vary dramatically according to race, ethnicity and income. Black youth like Erving have the highest rates of disconnection in the city, with 28 percent of black 16- to 24-year-olds not working or attending school, followed by Hispanic youth at 16 percent and non-Hispanic whites at 9 percent. Fifty percent of all 20- to 24-year-old black male Chicagoans either don’t have jobs or aren’t enrolled in school — a troubling indicator for their future employment prospects.

Trend lines leading to today’s unemployment crisis among youth go back at least 15 years in Chicago. The number of working black 16- to 19-year-olds began to tumble after the dotcom crash of the early 2000s. By 2007, only 16 percent of black teens worked during the school year, according to the Center for Labor Markets and Policy report. Post-recession, the numbers plummeted even farther to 10.5 percent in the 2012-13 academic year. For young black men in particular, employment in those years had sunk to a single digit — an anemic 9 percent.

The Chicago statistics are lower than the national average, but that number is also creeping downward. Between 2007 and 2013, the national black male teen employment rate fell from 24 percent to 17 percent.

Changes in the labor market for youth across all demographics can account for some of this continued slump. Post-recession, young people are competing with retirees and underemployed 20-somethings for entry-level or temporary or part-time positions. But when blows like the Great Recession hurt the national economy, black Americans tend to be hit harder than other populations. Study after study shows that employers eye minority youth with thinly veiled wariness; low-income teens are less likely to be hired for entry-level jobs. But for a growing number of workforce development experts, these bleak explanations don’t tell the full story.

Often the ecological stressors in low-income, high-poverty neighborhoods are overwhelming. When traumatic events, like the ones Erving experienced, occur in childhood or adolescence, personalities and even brain chemistry can be altered.

“[In these neighborhoods] you’ve put together a situation that would affect anybody — family disruption or dislocation, concentration of poverty and lack of economic opportunity, and under-resourced schools, which act as pipelines to prison,” says Jaleel Abdul-Adil of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Urban Youth Trauma Center. “Then you add to that the fact that I might be shot and killed or traumatized just because I was walking down the wrong street, wearing the wrong color, and talking to the wrong person.”

Abdul-Adil believes fervently that there is a connection between this exposure to violence and the high rates of unemployment in neighborhoods like Englewood. Much of his work at the Urban Youth Trauma Center focuses on developing community-based best practices for what he calls “trauma-informed” approaches to preventing violence and improving outcomes for people struggling with behavioral and substance abuse problems. The approach is gaining traction as others realize its application to other arenas, including workforce development. The Urban Youth Trauma Center is a member of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), which has grown from 17 to over 150 affiliated centers since 2000.

“There are a whole lot of traumatized people who don’t report themselves as traumatized when they enter the workplace because it’s stigmatizing,” says Abdul-Adil. “Secondly, when traumatized people do enter the workforce in a non-trauma-sensitive environment, it doesn’t matter, because people want you to be able to do a job and to do it effectively. Nobody wants to hear a story.”

“I’m being a little dramatic in how I say that,” he continues, “but at the end of the day, people want to you to be able to perform successfully. If you went to a restaurant and someone came along and spilled water all over the table and they messed up your order … you might say, ‘I don’t give a damn about what your story is. I wanted a clean table and I wanted my food prepared properly. Everybody’s got a story, but I want my food, yo!’”

But What Does Trauma Have to Do With It?

In the early 1990s, psychologists proposed that the symptoms exhibited by youth growing up in urban settings affected by high levels of gun violence were similar to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Simply put, PTSD is an anxiety disorder that affects the body’s “fight-or-flight” response. Often developed in the wake of a person seeing or living through a violent or frightening event, it is most often diagnosed in veterans of war. The brain’s fight-or-flight response originally evolved to help humans determine whether a situation is dangerous or not. Once that part of the brain has been damaged, a person may begin having difficulty discerning threatening situations from nonthreatening ones. Subsequently, a person suffering from PTSD may become stressed or frightened in cases that don’t warrant such a response.

“Being totally hyperalert and ready to fight or run is adaptive in one sense and problematic in another.”

When the number of traumatic events that a child goes through begins to pile up, the damaged fight-or-flight response can result in defensiveness in everyday situations and the inability for a young person to deescalate conflict at school and in the workplace.

“I don’t care how much of a hardcore gang member they are, or how much they’ve abused substances, often [those things are] a reflection of a disruption in a developmental process,” says Abdul-Adil.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score is a popular measure among trauma-informed practitioners. As the number of traumatic experiences in one’s childhood goes up, the higher the likelihood for negative outcomes. One study about the effects of trauma in childhood found that an increased ACE score has a correlation with job problems, financial problems and absenteeism. In that study, 8.3 percent of people with no reported adverse childhood experiences had job problems compared to 18.5 percent of people who had four or more. The researchers argued that by identifying childhood markers of trauma early on, employers and healthcare providers could save some of the $44 billion a year spent on treating depression and the $28 billion a year spent on chronic back pain.

Using a trauma-informed approach means that practitioners start off learning exactly what a person has seen and experienced and then provide guidance in an informed way. “Whether you think kids are doing things because of bad decision-making or you think there’s been rewards for negative behavior — no matter where you start from, the trauma-informed approach will allow you to say, ‘This is how you link disruptive, traumatic experiences to [a person’s] development,’” says Abdul-Adil.

But identifying the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and behavior is new, even for people who are trained in workforce development.

“It’s always an irony when kids get into youth programs and the behaviors that the program is trying to help them with emerge and they are suspended or expelled,” says Robert Abramovitz, co-director of the National Center for Social Work Trauma Education and Workforce Development. The center trains New York-area social work students in evidence-based trauma treatments for youth. Even within this context, he’s observed social work and workforce development practitioners become perplexed by the reactions that some youth have to direction or critiques.

“Sometimes kids are triggered by something that seems totally innocuous,” says Abramovitz. “But they are actually automatically re-experiencing a trauma from the past and using survival strategies that were appropriate at that time. But of course, [these behaviors] are not appropriate at the present. So often the person in front of them hasn’t gotten a clue about what’s going on.”

“Danger and safety are primary preoccupations of traumatized kids,” Abramovitz continues, “meaning that every minute you are with these kids, they are expending an enormous amount of energy scanning the environment to make sure they are safe and that nothing bad is going to happen to them.”

The hyper-awareness may be an important survival strategy for a teenager walking through a dangerous neighborhood on the daily trip home from school. But in a stress-triggering workplace situation like a job interview or a performance review, the teen’s red-alert reflexes could become a major stumbling block to future success. “Being totally hyperalert and ready to fight or run is adaptive in one sense and problematic in another,” says Abramovitz.

In this photo displayed at a Chicago memorial for Amari Brown, the seven-year-old is pictured with his father, Antonio Brown. Amari was fatally shot while celebrating July 4th in his neighborhood. (AP Photo/Christian K. Lee)

Abramovitz was trained in traditional child psychiatry and by the 1980s, had become fascinated by Freud’s notion of intrapsychic trauma. “In those days, there was a battered child’s syndrome and a battered women’s syndrome,” he explains, “but that was the problem. They were thought of as separate categories. What we know now is that there’s an overarching notion of trauma that says that the rhetorical thing you experience doesn’t matter. The body has one way of processing that type of threat.”

In the 1990s, he began collaborating with leaders in the field like psychiatrists Bessel van der Kolk and Sandra Bloom on developing and incubating innovative trauma models and theories. Their timing was prescient. Acts of domestic terror like school shootings seemed to be on a tragic uptick and ordeals like the September 11th terror attacks and Hurricane Katrina demonstrated a national demand for trauma-informed social work practitioners. In 2009, Abramovitz launched his center, which has since developed a curriculum of core concepts about childhood and adolescent trauma that is being implemented in more than 50 schools of social work around the country.

He says that adults have a tendency to tiptoe around the upsetting experiences that youth may be carrying around. One of the most important things that social work or workforce development practitioners can do when they begin to work with teens is to listen to what they say about what they have gone through. The act of scanning for a history of trauma can provide crucial insight into behaviors and guide treatment.

“Usually when people talk about workforce development, they’re thinking about skills training, particularly for youth,” explains Abramovitz. “They’re thinking about, ‘How do we really get them to really succeed in school? How do we get them interested in going to college?’ Those are laudable goals, but if you aren’t dealing with what happened to the kids, then you are missing the boat.”

Unlocking Employment

Raquwon Erving’s summer job came through One Summer Chicago Plus (OSP), a program within Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s summer jobs initiative One Summer Chicago. Through the One Summer programs, city agencies employed 24,000 youth aged 16 to 24 to work for $8.25 an hour doing everything from painting infrastructure, which was Erving’s job, to shelving books at the public library or helping with programs run by the Chicago Housing Authority and Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

One Summer Chicago Plus is an experimental twist on One Summer Chicago. Designed in partnership with the University of Chicago Crime Lab and first piloted in 2012, the program is an ambitious attempt to connect the dots between trauma, violence and employment. The program connects youth at a higher risk for violence with a 25-hour-per-week summer job, a mentor, cognitive behavioral therapy and social skills building. Through rigorous evaluation by the Crime Lab, OSP serves as a lab for learning how city employment programs can better serve at-risk youth and ultimately, reduce violence among youth.

“We set up the program to be a randomized-control experiment where we recruited youth who were attending high schools in high-crime, high-poverty, high-unemployment communities and encouraged them to apply,” says Evelyn Diaz, who served as commissioner of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services until the end of August.

The program’s curriculum in its first year included developing participants’ civic leadership skills and applying socio-emotional learning (SEL) techniques based on cognitive behavioral therapy principles. The techniques try to teach youth about how their thoughts, emotions and behavior might affect their performance in the workplace.

Around 1,600 youth participated in that first year. One treatment group worked 25 hours a week with consistent access to an adult mentor, while another worked for 15 hours a week and spent the other 10 in SEL. The SEL curriculum included emotion and conflict management, social information processing, and goal setting. A control group was not offered employment through the program.

The results of the 2012 experiment were published in Science magazine last December. University of Pennsylvania sociologist Sara Heller found a significant difference in violent crime arrests among youth who participated in the summer jobs program and those who didn’t.

“That study showed that 16 months after the kids got out of the program, the kids who got the intervention had 43 percent fewer violent crime events than those in the control group who did not get the intervention,” says Diaz. “This was a huge result. We got lots of calls from academics and other cities and reporters asking about what made the program work.”

Interestingly, the researchers found there was little difference in the rate of violent crime arrests between the jobs-only treatment group that worked with a mentor and the one that received SEL support. “One possibility is that the substance of the SEL curriculum — teaching youth to process social information, manage thoughts and emotions, and set and achieve goals more successfully — was taught equally well on the job,” writes Heller.

“You’ve got to start recognizing that the kids are not just bad and they’re not just mad.”

By structuring OSP as a study, the city is able to measure the program’s long-term impact. “For this program, the more we can learn about what models work for which kids under which kinds of circumstances means that over time we’ll have [increased] cost benefits versus spending [in other areas] to reduce violence.”

This year, the program is studying the impact that adult mentors have on youth, trying to understand why they seem to be so effective. It will also try to track OSP’s impact as the number of participants grows to 2,000. Next summer, OSP will be scaling up even more, to 3,000 participants; Diaz says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has committed to having 4,000 enrolled in 2017.

Erving says that he enjoyed his experiences with his adult mentor. They went bowling a few weeks ago — it was his first time. He says the mentorship gave him a free space to talk out his plans for the future. “We talked about all types of stuff like goals, what college we’re going to and our high schools, stuff like that,” says Erving. “It was nice, because you don’t get to meet new people everyday and I’ve met a new person. It made me feel kinda good.”

Breaking Workplace Silence

“We are not surrogate parents” is what one employer told University of Chicago researchers studying the role of employers in workforce development. The terse statement speaks volumes about the challenges of getting businesses to understand the specific social needs of young workers. The 2007 U Chicago study found that employers often resist engaging in special workforce development programs and instead, expect youth to quickly adjust to the norms of the workplace.

“Employers were challenged by the complications associated with simultaneously running a business, participating in a youth program, conflicting organizational cultures between business and youth organizations, and concerns about adolescent behaviors,” write researchers Jan DeCoursey and Ada Skyles.

They also observed that employers were unprepared to contend with cultural disconnects from the youth they hired. Both companies and workforce development providers “had difficulty expressing their thoughts about the influence of race and ethnicity on youth and employers’ experiences,” DeCoursey and Skyles write. Proponents of trauma-informed workforce development say that discomfort often leads to bias and misunderstandings.

“One of the ways that implicit bias works is that professionals who don’t understand where this behavior is coming from are generally harsher on kids of color,” says Abramovitz. “[Minority youth] see themselves getting suspended for things the white kids are just getting sent to the principal’s office for — if there are any white kids in the school.”

Abdul-Adil says the researchers’ findings don’t surprise him. He sees a need for more public dialogue about race, culture and the mixed messaging that youth receive. “We have to address the cultural norms of the neighborhood as well as the nation,” he says, adding that gun violence is condemned when the magnifying glass is on black communities, but glorified in pop cultural settings. “There are times when the country condones violence. You can’t have movies like Terminator or American Sniper and say you’re not promoting gun violence.”

To that end, Abdul-Adil advocates for focusing on the positive messaging already embedded in black youth culture. Last year, he wrote an article published in the Journal of Youth Development titled “Modern Rap Music: Mining the Melodies for Mental Health Resources.” In it, he calls for social scientists, community-based advocates and other youth development supporters to seek out pro-social rap and hip-hop — using Lupe Fiasco’s “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)” as an example — as tools for working with young people.

“You’ve got to start recognizing that the kids are not just bad and they’re not just mad,” says Abdul-Abdil. “Sometimes they have experienced traumas that have really gotten in the way of the successful development of their human capital.”

Plus, he says, alienating or silencing youth cultural expression only heightens the feedback loop of emotional trauma.

What all of the interventions share is a focus on paying attention to the experiences of urban black youth and providing guidance or support based on their experiences and needs. Practitioners are learning to listen.

“What can help is when you have more of a humane explanation as to why people are doing socially unacceptable things,” says Abdul-Adil. “It’s thinking of someone as a wounded human being versus a cold, sadistic nut. You have to put context on those anti-social behaviors, so [employers and practitioners] will be able to help people to reach across what seems like difficult or diametrically opposite perspectives and lifestyles, so people can say, ‘Well I actually see how you could have been me.’”

Our features are made possible with generous support from The Ford Foundation.