As a staple in the Houston design scene for 65 years, McCoy Rockford is invested in keeping ourselves and our clients up-to-date on the latest design trends and advances in our home city.
To help us get to the root of what’s happening with design locally, we invited principals from the best architecture and design firms in the city to sit down for a round table discussion. Together they discussed some questions surrounding the most recent developments in Houston design.
In this video from the recent Houston AIA Power Hour hosted by McCoy Rockford, seven of the most prominent design experts in Houston weigh in on the question:
Brian Malarkey, Interior Architecture Team Leader at Kirksey Architecture was the first to give his answer.
“We're starting to see, just with the tech space project, we're starting to see really interesting traction among big energy companies. Who, let's say they have a secret project that they need to separate from the rest of their company, get it out of the office," Malarkey said. “They’re actually looking at co-working spaces to do that.”
“So, what we had worried about initially with a space like that is the security aspect of it.” Malarkey went on. “They have gotten their minds around that and it doesn’t seem to be an issue with them anymore. So, that is going to be an interesting transition, seeing how co-working here in Houston, especially with big energy companies and big security-driven corporations like that, how they start to adapt and how they start to get this younger generation coming into their offices.”
Stephanie Burritt, Managing Director and Principal at Gensler spoke up next.
“If you look across Houston right now, look at the number of mixed-use projects that are just taking off for the first time in the history,” Burritt said. “It started off with City Center, which…re-branded itself from Town and Country to City Center. It’s a live-work-play kind of community. So I think it’s a re-alignment of some of those kinds of spaces…If you look at a square-foot per-person sort of mind-set, I think the square-foot per-person mindset is still there, it's just been re-allocated in a different kind of way.”
“We talked about earlier, giving people a reason to come to work or come to any environment for that matter. I think what everybody is looking for now, is a densification of those things to happen…it’s a time saver, right? If they can have live-work-play all in one place, they're happy,” she explained. “And you see an Urbanization happening in Houston, for the first time in many many years there's more people moving in to town, than out of town.”
“I think over the next few years…we'll see a more mixed-use projects taking place, which will be a tremendous blend of all of our hospitality pieces, blending in with our workplace pieces…combining with the places where we choose to live. And I think that will be cross-generational,” Burritt finished.
“I think the mixed use that we see in the real estate on a macro scale is translated also in each work-place environment. There is a mixed-used within that office,” Filo Castore, Principal for the DLR Group began.
“At the end of the day still, there is a budget. Every client will tell you this is how much I have. So where do you invest that money?” he asked.
“We see a big trend where these break rooms are front and center” Castore said. “There is acoustics, there is privacy concerns, so those become these great islands in an office where everybody congregates, but then they can go away. And maybe your work station is not 6 by 8 anymore, it's maybe 4 by 6…So there are some of these mixed-use where, you don't have to leave the space, you can take a nap, you can play, you can coffee-boost.”
“When you start looking at these images, first question, what looks different from across the nation?” asked Kathrin Brunner, Senior VP of HOK. “It's looking like my family room. All these projects, they are looking like my living room. So if you look at the way we define space, it's just fluid. It's not defined anymore.”
“Our lobbies, to call it a lobby, is actually I think a mistake. Because they become a workplace extension,” she continued. “If one of our clients, one of our clients in the energy corridor, really didn't have enough food choices around them. Okay, hire a food truck every-other day…Or they realize they are really close to a bike path…Okay, let's set up in the garage a bike shop, with a bike repair, and free bikes.”
“Our clients, they understand their workforce, their place and the limits and the opportunities very much,” Brunner concluded. “And with the densification that we are all seeing, there is also much more of a deliberate choice. Our clients are choosing to locate, and are choosing to build.”
Kristin Ledet, Principal and Director of Interiors at FKP Architects rounded off discussion on the topic.
“We have a lot of clients that are prioritizing budgets for healthcare right now. They're trying to spend all of their money on what impacts a patient. So they're trying to really densify some of their administration areas…But it is not the cultural norm to do this 'hoteling' concept, or collaboration in an executive-type area,” Ledet said.
“They’re trying to embrace the young generation coming up, but they've got a lot of physician and recruitment packages that are based on the square foot-size of their office,” she explained. “And to get them to move to the highest and best hospitals around the country, that's part of their package, and part of their deal. So it's a little back-and-forth with executive leadership, and real-estate folks trying to densify them. But they're not quite ready for that work environment…we're seeing the trend to want to go there...they're not quite there yet.”