Offices

September 1 2014

In our working lives, we are in many ways still stuck in the age of the Industrial Revolution. When the masses worked in factories, the office support personnel worked the same hours, or at least “regular working hours” and commuted daily to central offices.



Perhaps there was a sense that all workers needed to be under the watchful eye of the Master and therefore they needed to gather in one place to be supervised, like kids in school? Are we not past that phase?



We are challenging every single person to take responsibility for his or her own working environment. Let’s stop behaving as if we were still in the 1780s, looking for the masters to recognize our office sucks. Yes, it sucks, but what are you going to do about it?



At The Cool Hunter, we have been writing about interesting offices for a decade. Luckily, we are now well past the “ping-pong table in the hallway, M&Ms in the bowl, beer in the fridge” - stage of office enhancement, and we are actually seeing some real, meaningful change in our working environments.



But it is still too focused on just the so-called creative sectors (are there still sectors that are non-creative??) and the office-space upgrades are often seen as just gimmicks or additional perks , not something crucial that actually affects the results of our work.



Science is now proving this short-sightedness wrong, and we are calling for everyone to take charge. Do we even need an office? What we need to do is focus on results, not on hours worked, or worse yet, hours being in the office. Where-ever we work, we will be more productive and happier when we work in an environment we love.



Let’s start tomorrow

Let’s all start tomorrow by looking at our own working environment and coming up with at least four ways in which we can change it for the better ourselves. Bring in that new plant, or that favourite piece of art, or the comfy red chair, or the cool desk light, or the oriental carpet. See if anyone notices?



We bet the entire office will start to change once someone cares enough to start it. We cannot wait for the employers to take it on as they will likely see it as a cost. It does not have to cost a single penny to the employer and, when it does, the positive results will far outweigh the costs.



And, in the end, why are we even looking at it as an additional cost when all indicators point to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, better morale, higher creativity and so on?



Central offices, open plans

Today, with the nature of work significantly altered, we still commute to central offices as a residue from the days of the Industrial Revolution. We now spend our days in open-concept offices wearing headphones to cut out the distractions, and texting and emailing our co-workers sitting just beyond our cubicle.



According to some estimates, nearly 70 per cent of us now spend our days in open-concept offices, a bad idea conceived and promoted by the American mechanical engineer Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) who called people “units of production” and promoted maximum efficiency at almost any cost.



Open-concept offices were designed for productivity of both workers and space but we know now that they have failed on both accounts.

What exactly is the point of gathering up – at great cost to the environment and ourselves – daily in a boring office building, if the one thing that it gives us - being face-to-face with our coworkers - isn’t even relevant any more, or isn’t possible or natural in a distracted and stressed out environment?



There is now significant scientific evidence that open-concept offices are not good for productivity, do not increase workplace happiness and in fact fail by any measure to meet the needs of today’s creative, focused, results-oriented team. And this applies to workers of any age, including the multi-tasking younger generations.



Clearly, today’s workplaces need to change quickly. We have had time to reconsider ,and yet so many of us are still working in environments that are not stimulating, interesting or helpful in any way to produce the results we are expected to produce.



And of course, our working habits ARE slowly changing, but not at a speed or scale they should and could. We are working at home, free-agenting, telecommuting, flexible-work-daying. But in many cases, we also need to gather in an office.



Many organizations around the world are taking a serious look at the nature of work today and coming to the same conclusions: What matters in a project-oriented, results-oriented, collaborative workplace is the tone that the environment sets. Just like packaging matters in products, the package inside which we create our product, be it ideas or services or products, affects how we feel about our work. And our role within the company.



We have all read about the famous example of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, that Walt Disney built with the proceeds from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The entire campus on the site was custom-designed by Ken Weber with the help of Walt and his brother Roy, and purpose-built in 1940 for the process of animation, with ideal natural light conditions, theatres, sound stages, inking rooms, a state-of-the-art commissary, and lots of green space and benches. It was a campus designed to encourage creativity, efficiency and collaboration. It was an ideal working environment



Another famous example with similar goals is the Pixar Campus in Emeryville, California, custom-created with Steve Jobs’s personal supervision in 2000 . From central gathering places and all-encompassing services to individually personalized offices, the Pixar Campus (owned by Disney) has become the destination  for all who want to witness a cool, caring and fun workplace.



These are exceptions, of course, as both are large, creative companies and fature new custom-designed buildings. Most of us will not have the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful experience. But we can do a lot about our own environment. Let’s all – both employer and employee - start paying attention to the office.



Why are we working where we are? Why are the offices the way they are? Could we all sit down and brainstorm ideas about quick, inexpensive ways to make changes? What if we all came in one weekend and painted the walls? What if each of us really put some effort into creating our own space to mirror our own interests and passions?



What if we set a goal to fix what ails our working environment? And, more important, how long are we willing to do nothing and pretend it does not matter? - Tuija Seipell.

Images via our offices section


 

 

 

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Food

August 27 2014

Texas-born, Atlanta-based chef-turned-restaurateur, Ford Fry, continues to enrich Atlanta’s dining offering.

Earlier this year, his Rocket Farm restaurant group opened its fifth restaurant, St. Cecilia, in The Pinnacle building in Buckhead, in the space previously occupied by Bluepointe.

To design the establishment that has room for nearly 200 in total, Fry selected Meyer Davis Studio http://www.meyerdavis.com/about/ of New York, established in 1999 by Will Meyer and Gray Davis. Fry has used the same studio for his King + Duke restaurant.



Meyer Davis’s work on prestigious retail and hospitality projects includes the revamp of W Lakeshore in Chicago and Paramount in New York, plus Oscar de la Renta’s boutiques worldwide and John Varvatos stores in New York and Las Vegas.

St. Cecilia’s most redeeming feature is the scale and the satisfying feel of pattern and repetition. The first impression is that of order without severity and spaciousness without the unwelcoming feel of coldness.



The space is high, the sightlines clear and wide with lots of natural light. Seating and tables, shelves and bottles, and rows of pendant lighting fixtures all add to the sense of harmony and tidiness, yet there are spots of whimsy and little surprises at every turn.

Bits and pieces of mementoes, old medicine bottles, old books, a plank of aged wood, a darkened painting leaning against a wall, a stuffed bird on a side board.



These details neutralize the newness and create a comfortable visual link to something old and somewhat Mediterranean, an appropriate context for the Italian-inspired menu.

And of course we love the black-and-white colour scheme, always a harmonious back drop for creative sparks.

In addition to St. Cecilia, Ford Fry also operates JCT Kitchen, No. 246, The Optimist, and King + Duke, all in Atlanta. He is rumored to be planning his sixth and seventh restaurants in Krog Street Market and in the Avalon in Alpharetta, Atlanta. Tuija Seipell



 

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Architecture

August 23 2014

We are not quite sure how long we can stand feeling this envious but, for now, our envy is directed sharply at the owners of the gorgeous 500-square-meter (5,382 sq.ft) Parisian property, recently overhauled by designer François Champsaur.



The Marseilles-born, Paris-based designer was faced with a double challenge. The family has owned this apartment for generations, yet Champsaur’s brief was to make it “unrecognisable,” as he is quoted as saying in a magazine article.



Also, the apartment is located in the Trocadéro neighbourhood with views of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine, and it carries a historical weight as a representative of an era. Champsaur did not want to destroy these historical underpinnings in the process.

Like the proverbial sculptor, he removed everything that wasn’t the apartment, including walls, false ceilings, doors and staircases. Narrow corridors, thick walls, heavy doors and dark corners disappeared.



The beautiful, U-shaped open space circling an inner courtyard was then carefully outfitted with just the right replacements: Light-weight walls and partitions, open sight-lines, minimal colour, custom-designed furnishings and lighting.

The cool old-world feel comes from the white framework, and of course, the view. You have no doubt your are in a storied, fabulously aging, historical space, but it is also a decidedly and classically modern luxury home.



Champsaur even convinced the owners to heed the call of their almost-empty-vessel surroundings. Used to living among numerous valuable and ornate objects in every room, the owners now agreed to select only key pieces that give just the right touch of decoration, tradition and opulence.

Many of the pieces of furniture, such as the Mars chairs by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, are also sculptural and demand visual scarcity around them. One of our Our favourites is the green leather banquette seating designed by François Champsaur. We also love the undulating dividers made of both wood panels and wood slats and strategically placed to emphasize not so much the division but the unity of the spaces. - Tuija Seipell.

Food

August 16 2014

Although there is not a samovar in sight – neither anything resembling the ornate boiler of tea water - the two-month-old Samovar tea bar in The Mission area of San Francisco is most decidedly dedicated to tea. This is the fourth Samovar in owner Jesse Jacobs’ little empire (the other three are also in San Francisco), and clearly different from the others which are more traditional tea houses.



The Mission Samovar is a feast for the eyes and soul in its fine minimalist balance. What is NOT there makes this altar of tea-time contemplation so incredibly beautiful. The antidote to the bustling, loud, constantly connected coffee shop, this is “a retreat from the rat race” as Jacobs said in a magazine interview.

In addition to the highly edited selection of teas and scones, the central focus of this Samovar is the peaceful, almost prayerful atmosphere brought out by the exquisite surroundings.
The thick, white walls, against which hefty white shelves are suspended appear old and slightly weathered. And on the substantial shelves, in harmoniously spaced rows, sit the thick, white cups, custom-created by ceramists at Oakland’s Atelier Dion.



These handle-less cups are meant to be cradled in the hand, held and enjoyed, as opposed to held with the pinky pointing skyward, or clutched like a beer mug.
These cups informed the design of the store, skillfully executed by the style masters at San Francisco’s Arcanum Architecture.

The limited assortment of black, green, herbal and iced teas plus masala chai and matcha, is not made from dustings out of dangly bags with hot water poured on. Instead they are ceremoniously yet swiftly. - Tuija Seipell.

via Spotted SF

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Design

August 10 2014

A science and engineering museum’s café project inspired interior designer and photographer Anna Wigandt to create a cool space for enjoyment and study, but she also invented a few products of her own.

The Science Cafe & Library is located in Wigandt’s home town, Chişinău (formerly known as Kishinev), the capital city of Moldova on the river Bîc.



The main features of the self-serve café and library are the jigsaw-puzzle table and the book displays.

The table’s inspiration, according to Wigandt, was German astronomer Johannes Kepler’s 1596 book, Mysterium Cosmographicum (Cosmic Mystery) that dealt with the proportions of celestial bodies.



The modular table’s various configurations allow set-ups from small: each café visitor can form their own work table, to large: lecture groups to gather around one big table.

The surrounding book displays  are divided into eight topic areas ranging from Shipbuilding and Astronautics to Nuclear Science and Biological Engineering, each identified with the striking lettering.



The greatest achievement in this project, however, is the lighting. The designer ended up inventing a few engineering marvels of her own in the process. The chandelier was created specifically for the space out of 408 actual test-tubes. The same tubes were used for the pendants hanging from the meatal rigging above the table.



The celestial darkness of ceiling give the entire space an aura of being outdoors, under midnight sky. We also like the hexagons, chevrons and honeycomb patterns on the walls and floor. - Tuija Seipell.

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Music

August 7 2014
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Art

August 4 2014

CJ Hendry is an exceptionally talented artist. Plain and simple. She has blown us away and created a major reaction among the art-buying public.

Her large-scale, black-and-white, pen-on-paper images are simply astonishing. They are so incredibly detailed and perfect that it is hard to believe that they are in fact unique, one-of-a-kind works of art, and not reproductions of a photograph.


 
CJ Hendry’s creative process starts with the selection of the object, continues with taking more than 100 photographs of the object to discover the shadows and angles that best present the object, and then starts the painstaking two-week process of transferring the selected image onto paper with a pen, one scrible at a time.

We have never seen work like hers, and we have never ever encountered a response similar to what the reaction to her incredible work has been. And we are now her exclusive agents.

As soon as we post an image of one of her pieces on Instagram, it is reserved and sold in a few hours.

We have written about her work before, and were the first to show her work at our art exhibition in Sydney

But her current project of creating massive (1.8 x 2.4 m), photo-realistic, original pen-on-paper works of shopping bags of iconic brands – from Tom Ford and Hermes to Lanvin and Chanel - really has had us gasping for air.


 
Each piece is absolutely stunning and art buyers are competing to own them. Each piece is painstakingly drawn by CJ Hendry with only pen and ink. Each takes about two weeks to complete and there will be only one of each image.


 
The series of IT Bags will include 12-15 bags in total. Serious art collectors get in contact

CJ Hendry is exclusively represented by thecoolhunter.

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Art

August 2 2014

Like shiny specks of sunlight reflecting off of a lake or a field of snow, San Pierre’s three distinctive pieces of wall art convey a sense of illumination, transparency and tension.
 
Each piece consists of a gentle halo of shimmery thread, circling a digitally printed disk of graded pastel color.


 
The 3D aspect of these 100cm x 100cm works draws attention, and attracts light in interesting variations.
 
At different times of the day, or in different lighting conditions, the work appears slightly altered. The shadows of the thread grow longer and darker, the colour in the centre more intense.


 
There is a folk-artsy quality to the threadwork, but the neon-hued digital printing pulls the viewer into an entirely different direction. It’s this unexpected mix that creates a feeling of controlled tension.


 
The artist is London-born and –based San Pierre, who attended Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication studying product and furniture design and graduated with Honours at the age of 21. For the past 15 years, he has worked in fashion and advertising while developing his unique experimental artistic style.



The centre of the piece is digitally printed, then mounted to Dibond. The thread forms a thin pattern around the edge of the entire print. The thread has a slight shimmer when the light catches it.
100cm x 100cm.

Digital print on photographic paper mounted to Dibond.
M2 silver plated nuts and bolts.
Blue/Pink/Yellow thread.
Exclusive to thecoolhunter

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Design

July 31 2014

Many of the trends we are seeing – and liking - in retail, hospitality, services and even urban planning, deal with smaller size because a strong, growing segment of us is tired of Big.

We want small, independent, pop-up, mobile, local, rogue. But – and this is an important but – we want it served up to us in a professional manner, we do not want amateur fumbling even from the smallest providers.

In essence, we want what we cannot have from the mega-malls, big boxes, airports, big brands or grocery giants. And that leads to another important ‘but’. We want small BUT we still want the big, too. Nothing new here, but it still seems that many brands, marketers and researchers have a hard time dealing with the fact that we are not black-and-white, either-or. We are both-and, plus a little extra.

You cannot divide consumer habits into age categories or behaviours the way you could a decade or two ago. We are indeed picking and choosing from each basket, and we will continue to do so, but we are choosing small significantly more often than we used to.

It is hard to imagine someone whose ideal living environment - city, town or village – would be a vast expanse of gigantic malls where global brands offer indistinguishable wares in boring lookalike stores, or where cavernous big boxes ply cheap goods stacked up floor to ceiling. Acres of parking lots; people always in cars. And actual “living” taking place separately in isolated enclaves, and working in yet another isolated location.

More and more frequently, we envision the ideal living environment as something quite similar to a traditional small town or vibrant village. Or a neighbourhood with people, services and work all within walking or biking distance.

We believe that this trend is going to get stronger and stronger, and it will be good for the businesses that understand their niche and offer their customers true value: something that is worth their money and time.

Small businesses are the essence of such neighbourhoods and towns. They are the glue that makes it all stick together. They bring people together, they create small oasis of lovely interaction.

But just like in the traditional small town, today’s small businesses must try harder. From the startup on, they must earn their place in the circle. The merchants and service providers in the old towns were professionals of their trade. They knew their customers, they respected them and they worked hard at earning their trust. The same is true today.

This trend, as we said earlier, is nothing new. It has been brewing for a long time in step with our overall dissatisfaction with the big, faceless brands and their outsourced, hopelessly horrible “service.” When Seth Godin wrote about the topic in 2005, we all took notice. Yet today, almost a decade later, it is still only a trend. But we believe it’s time has finally come.

Big brands offer smaller

One aspect of this trend is seen in the behavior of many big brands that are opening smaller-scale stores, restaurants and hotels that are more intimate, offer a more tightly edited selection of products and services, are targeted and tailored to meet individual local markets, and usually also pay more attention to design and local tastes.

Boutique-scale businesses

We are also seeing a renaissance of boutique-scale businesses; stores, hotels, restaurants and services that do not plan to grow bigger, only better. These are often one-store or one-hotel operations that gain a dedicated, loyal client base by understanding their customers better than their bigger competitor chains.

Unfortunately, many of these become so successful that the bigger competitors want to buy them out in order to either remove them from the market or to gain some of their halo. Usually, with such buy-outs, the aura of the independent, owner-operated business disappears and the previously so loyal clientele moves on. The heart is gone from the business and the clients can see it.

Pop-up

Of course, another much-talked-about aspect of this trend are pop-ups. Any brand worth their reputation has opened pop-ups by now, but it is still an appealing proposition for both brands and customers. Pop-ups liven up neighbourhoods, malls and streets with new, temporary offerings. They give big and small businesses an opportunity to test markets, products and services. They give businesses a chance to benefit from temporarily empty spaces. And they liven up potentially dead storefronts.

Pop-ups will still continue although we are also seeing some fatigue as some businesses now use pop-up as their chance to have regular blow-out sales and other repeating offerings that dilute the surprise factor and excitement of pop-ups. Perhaps there will be a new, more exciting reiteration of the pop-up that will bring back the excitement?

Mobile

In the manner of the ice cream truck, milk man, shoe-polish box and hot-dog stand of the past, mobile offerings are also growing around the world. From food carts and mobile cafes to bike services and mobile pet spas, new, exciting businesses are popping up as mobile carts.

Many cities have been forced to alter their laws to accommodate these temporary, mobile businesses that often do not fit under the laws created for permanent, bigger operators. We think this is all to the good. While laws and regulations are necessary, they need to become much more flexible and nimble to adapt to startups and small operators that add desirable flavor, colour, excitement and convenience to their surroundings.

Also part of the mobile, portable phenomenon, are the various dwellings, hotels and businesses housed in repurposed shipping containers. The Illy Café in New York in 2007 garnered a much attention  and a multitude of reiterations of the idea now pop up daily.

Helping

One valuable consequence from striving for smaller, portable, mobile, inexpensive, sustainable pop-up is that many forms of temporary housing options, portable clinics, schools and water purification stations and so on have become not just curiosities but real solutions in far-flung places and/or difficult conditions to help in areas of catastrophe, extreme poverty and environmental crises.

As poverty has often turned out to be the mother of invention, we believe that this is one area where sometimes even the silliest-seeming ideas can actually be transformed into real relief and smart solutions where they are most needed. As we who have everything in excess “play with our food”, perhaps we will in the process find ways  – and the will – to relieve suffering everywhere.

We also believe that our exasperation with conspicuous consumption – that is partially expressed in our desire for everything smaller – has also helped to bring about a new kind of helping culture. We are starting to consider the consequences of all of our actions as companies, teams and individuals, rather than doing whatever it takes to momentarily satisfy our desire for the next fix for our inner emptiness, or to blindly and impotently try to meet the shareholders’ relentless demand for bigger profits.

Local

The small mobile business is tied to another aspect of this trend – locality.  More and more people want to buy local, not just food but other products and services as well. And while it is difficult for a small, new operator to compete with the prices of an established, strong brand, we feel that local businesses and local initiatives will continue to grow in popularity.

What we do know as well is that whether a business is local or small, it still has to meet the needs of today’s demanding clientele.

Many small operators seem to believe that just because they are passionate about their business and because they want to do it, customers somehow owe them their patronage. That is not the case today, and it never was.



We will not part with our time or money – at least not repeatedly – if we are not getting great service and great products. Being small, local or independent will carry a business only so far. A loyal customer base will not develop out of pity or shame.

Professional branding is also a given today. And that does not necessarily mean having to spend a lot in the creation of logos and package design, although it may mean those as well. What it does mean is that if you are going to succeed, you will need to be able to charge a premium price. And to charge that price, you need to look and behave like a brand that knows who it is and what it does and why it exists.



Clear messaging, cohesive visuals, well thought-through customer experience, professional staff – all of these are important. And yet, you can achieve all this without having to appear or behave like a pretentious branding exercise with a fake story and dumb logo. It is all about knowing who you are, what you offer and why your valued customers should spend their time and money with you. All the basics of business still apply.

Rogue

The last aspect of the Small is the New Big trend that we’ll cover in this article is what we’ll call Rogue concepts. They incorporate many of the other aspects of the trend with the added appeal of a grass-roots initiative.

Concepts such as Diner en Blanc, Helsinki-born Restaurant Day, Cleaning Day are part of this.

The Rogue concepts add the empowering angle of people taking to the streets, creating their own “brands”, doing it their way, breaking the rules.

This, perhaps more than any of the other aspects, speaks to the true core of the entire trend. We are tired of giving our power – and time and money – to the Big Brand. There’s an undercurrent of sophisticated protest. Call it idle nonsense of the well-heeled, if you like, but we think it is part of a serious undercurrent. The world of Wall-E is not quite as absurd as we’d perhaps like to think and the power to change it is in our hands. - Tuija Seipell.

Images 1,2,3 - Happy Bones Cafe, NYC, images 4/5 - Grey Goose Pop up bar in Edinburgh., Image 6 - Intelligentsia coffee van, Image 7 - Sigmund Pretzels, Image 9 - LA Distributrice - Montreal, Image 10 - Omotesando coffee - Japan, Image 11 - Velopresso Mobile Espresso bar, Image 13 - Box Park - London, Last image - Homer Wine packaging

 

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Art

July 28 2014

Francoise Nielly's massive, colorful portraits are delicious to look at. Even more wonderful – and particularly infuriating to those of us who have timidly dabbled in painting – is to watch her create them. She, in her confident, strong hand, wields her painting knife shaped like a miniature garden trowel, and makes painting look easy like cake frosting.

She paints her vivid, passionate canvases — some as large as 78 x 25 inches (195 x 62 centimeters) -- from black-and-white photos, further proof of her unfailing ability to interpret light, shadow, hue and tone by applying brilliant colors and daring strokes.

Born in Marseille, brought up near Cannes and Saint-Tropez, and now living in Paris, Nielly is at home among bold contrast and dazzling light. To add to her likeability, here is the list of her loves: Life, wide open spaces, sushi, blue lagoons, the Internet, humor, books, Paris, New York and Vancouver.

Six of her prints are available exclusively through TCH online store - 1000mm x 1000ml & 1200mm x 1200 metallic print on acrylic.

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