Two Minutes With // ICRAVE

Hello!  We are excited to release our recent interview with Elizabeth Von Lehe, of ICRAVE, based in New York, NY.  Known for creative, high-energy environments that actively engage visitors, ICRAVE has mastered the art of experience design, melding operational, digital, and physical elements across a spectrum of diverse spaces.  Helmed by Lionel Ohayon since 2002, ICRAVE has designed award-winning hospitality, airport, development, and healthcare projects, partnering with high profile brands such as W Hotels, MGM, Disney Dream, Hilton, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Summit Series, and OTG.  Spanning a number of industries, ICRAVE’s notable projects include Le District, LaGuardia’s Delta Terminal C & D, The Summit at Powder Mountain, STK Restaurants, Provocateur, and more.  With expertise in architectural design, strategy, and lighting, ICRAVE is credited with reinventing the modern day airport experience, reimagining cancer care, and transforming New York’s Meatpacking District through creating some of the most iconic nightlife of the last decade.  Check out their website for more great projects.

Images courtesy of ICRAVE.

VT:  Your mission statement is “foster curiosity in the world around us”.  How do you usher this principle into your daily routine and projects?

EVL:  Our designs work on all scales which means building in moments of surprise that enrich the experience.  Creating designs in spaces that think about every touch point force us as designers to think of novel ways to make the everyday extraordinary.  Our process always starts with strategic engagement -- we question the norm and seek ideas that will move the needle for our clients.

VT:  Tell us about the Imprimatur event series that ICRAVE produces.  How did it come about and how does it inspire and benefit designers?

EVL:  Imprimatur is ICRAVE’s interactive event series that provokes ideas for the brave and creative curiosity.  We’ve been hosting Imprimatur events for the past 3 years as a way to explore topics within and beyond our design work.  From small salons on education to a rooftop dinner exploring the future of food, our events allow us to foster creative dialogue, highlight innovation across disciplines and showcase our curatorial mission.

VT:  Airport design combines many areas of design expertise such as hospitality, retail, transportation, etc.  How can studying different types of expertise inform your design choices?  Do you see any trends from other industries being incorporated into airport design?

EVL:  Merging of areas of design expertise is a relatively new practice for airports.  Our firm got its start in hospitality:  restaurants, nightlife, and experiential entertainment.  When we expanded our work into airports and infused tactics of hospitality design into the traveler experience, we crafted a detailed user experience that worked at the human scale, and helped ease anxiety.  It was a big breakthrough for the industry.  For students just beginning their careers, I would encourage learning about as many fields as possible -- giving you a broad selection of skills to create novel design solutions that solve experiential problems.  One of the biggest trends that is making its way from hospitality into airport design is the smart integration of technology -- going beyond the iPad ordering station to interactive entertainment and lifestyle solutions that extend beyond the airport.

VT:  Branding and guest experience are big focuses in your projects.  Do these two aspects influence each other?  What other focuses do you find are important to keep in mind when designing?

EVL:  We truly believe that the experience is the brand, meaning that the guest experience is baked into the full design process.  With our approach to design, brand and guest experience go far beyond influencing the design -- they are at the table, and part of the full development.  Just as the experience is integrated into the design process at ICRAVE, we also focus on amplification -- how our spaces will continue to grow, evolve, and speak to people long after they’ve opened.


December 2nd: Steelcase's Janet Davis

Join us this Friday at 12pm to hear Janet Davis from Steelcase. 

Steelcase is the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world, founded in 1912 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their furniture is inspired by innovative research in workspace design. The company produces office furniture and architectural and technology products for offices, education, health care and retail industries. It has facilities, offices, and factories in the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Australia.

In an era of unprecedented complexity and volatility, the study of resilience has emerged in which many areas of practice are working to understand how systems, organizations and people can adapt to stay fit within an environment of constant change. Design the physical environment to help bring a diverse range of people, resources and tools together into close proximity, create places with a modular structure that can easily be integrated and develop a feedback loop for the physical environment that allows organizations to learn what is working and what is not.


November 18th: Susan Drew

Join us on Friday at 12 PM to hear Susan Drew from Clark Nexsen.

When Pendleton Clark founded the firm in 1920, his days were spent reimagining spaces for institutional clients.  Perhaps only in his dreams did he envision the firm that exists today: a fully integrated architecture and engineering firm with more than 430 employees, 10 offices, a reputation for excellence, and clients in markets ranging from infrastructure to K-12. Since it's founding, the firm has emphasized measured growth and financial stability, strategically moving into new markets and locations to create a company their clients can rely on.

Clark Nexsen believes that partnership with their clients, colleagues, and communities is fundamental to the effective pursuit of transformative design. Their team of planners, architects, engineers, and interior designers partners with our clients to shape ideas that transform our world.

Visit their website here.


Two Minutes With // Blitz

Hello!  We are excited to release our recent interview with Seth Hanley, of Blitz, based in San Francisco, California.  Blitz is a full service architecture and interior design firm, specializing in commercial and residential design.  They fully believe in allowing the unexpected, even unwanted, events to change you.  You have to be willing to grow, and growth is different from something that happens to you.  You produce it.  The pre-requisites for growth:  the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.  This goes for their projects as well.  They delight in the process of discovery.  Be sure to check out their website to see some great projects.

Images courtesy of Blitz.

VT:  Blitz’s website says that context and climate are important considerations in projects.  Why is it so important to relate spaces back to their location?  What kind of research do you do to inform your designs?

SH:  We design for clients with global offices.  It’s important to understand where you are in the world and convey a sense of what’s important there.  We’re often chasing the vibe of an organization.  That means understanding the people that work at an organization, but also the unique characteristics of their location.  All this rolls-up into design.

Understanding the geographic and climatic component of a project site and responding accordingly, even in interior architecture, is both good design and environmentally responsible.  Our projects respond to light, and maximize views.  In an urban context leveraging the city outside the window can really activate an interior design.

Research can include site and context analysis, building analysis (if we’re working in an existing building), and ultimately client research.  The projects are, after all, for them.  Product research is also an important component that relates to location -- learning about regional or local building practices and material availability informs your design but also makes you a smart designer.

VT:  Your projects are made up of four components:  site + urban planning, architecture, interiors, and furniture.  How do you integrate all these components so that your designs are unified and seamless?

SH:  We want to identify opportunities early on in the design process and leverage them.  It starts with site and relates to context, everything from access to light and views.  Then there’s the building we’re working in, what does it have to say for itself?  We’re fortunate to have worked in and re-purposed great historic buildings in San Francisco and we want their story to shine through our work.  Understanding the building shell as a framework is critical to launching your own ideas.  The interior design is about people, how they are supported to work, collaborate, and socialize.  Understanding activity is critical to designing a successful interior space.  Furniture literally supports this effort, and is critical to human health and comfort, so we work closely with clients to understand their work styles and posture needs.  Variety is key here since many of the workers we design for are no longer tethered, the freedom to roam with a laptop makes anywhere a possible venue for work.

VT:  Every workplace has a different culture and atmosphere.  How is branding expressed differently amongst your clients?  Are your clients requesting different approaches to branding than they did 10 or 15 years ago?

SH:  Integrating a brand into a space is NOT about plastering the company’s logo and brand colors everywhere.  More often than not an online, print, or product identity fails to transfer successfully into built space.  But all of our client’s spaces have a strong brand identity that derives from each organization’s culture (back to the vibe) and energy.  Space can embody an organization’s principles and still reference the brand, and in fact creates a much stronger connection to it when the basis for the design is the organization itself. 

VT:  When you designed One Workplace HQ in California, you combined an office and a showroom into one environment.  What were some of the challenges that you faced in combining these two types of spaces?

SH:  This combination actually makes perfect sense.  When we embarked on this commission it was clear that One Workplace wanted to “walk their talk” and the idea of the working showroom resulted.  What better way to understand the product than to see real users at work?  Of course these same people also sell the product so a visit to One Workplace can be a truly interactive experience.  Ownership and executives all sit in the open office, there are no offices.  Meeting rooms and coffee / food stations are public and open to visitors.  Furniture solutions are used extensively to meet practical design needs such as storage, so there aren’t traditional back of house spaces which make a client tour really a 360-degree experience.