Looking Through Time

by Robert Nieminen

Back in June of last year, I moderated a panel discussion of young professionals at NeoCon, hosted by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), in which we discussed what the world would look like in 2025. It was a lively and interesting conversation about what role design would play in shaping our lives, from technology, to the workplace, to healthcare, globalization, multiculturalism—you name it. (The video is available on our website, which you may have noticed has a brand new look, by the way.)

Interestingly, life in 2012 is probably not the way you or I imagined it would be 20 years ago, and how things will look 10 or 15 years from now will similarly bear little resemblance to the futures we paint in our imaginations. Yet, as each year passes, we are prone to look toward the future with a fresh set of eyes and a new resolve to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves.

As common wisdom dictates, however, gazing into the future requires peering into the past. So, as we planned this issue on corporate interiors, we thought it would be fitting to take a look back at the cubicle—a fixture in most offices for decades—and at its subsequent deconstruction in favor of the open plan office (see p. 50). In her article, Senior Editor AnnMarie Martin (note the new last name) talks not only with designers about how the workplace has changed and the challenges in designing office spaces for a new generation of workers, but she also identifies several products from a variety of manufacturers that offer great solutions for the open office plan—a trend that is here to stay, for better or worse.

As if by cue, IIDA President Peter Conant also revisits the past in his Association Forum article (see p. 68), as he encourages design professionals to take a moment to remember and to be inspired by two legends who both passed away last year, and who empowered all of us to reach higher: Steve Jobs and Ray Anderson. Conant writes that though we mourn the loss of Jobs, “we were buoyed by his ability to slice through conventional thinking and upgrade the status quo”; of Anderson he writes, “he set a standard of excellence, and showed countless companies that they could become responsible for their environmental footprint and still be profitable in business endeavors.” Like Conant, I challenge the next generation of designers to become innovators and make their mark on an industry that is relying on them to propel the profession forward.

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Interiors & Sources® is dedicated to the advancement of the commercial interior design profession. It connects design professionals with the projects, products, firms and associations that shape the built environment and promotes the value of design services in the creation of functional, sustainable and aesthetically-pleasing environments. Each issue delivers relevant and timely information that equips design practitioners with the knowledge and tools necessary to reach design excellence in their own practices. Editorial ideas and contributions are welcome from all members of the design industry.

Looking out onto the horizon of the sustainable design landscape, we are also seeing a quiet revolution taking place in the building materials and furnishings industry, as a brave new world of designers are demanding—and manufacturers are beginning to supply—transparent information about what, exactly, products are made of. As Peter Syrett with Perkins + Will predicts in this month’s EnvironDesign Notebook column (see p. 18), “a fully transparent building product marketplace now seems inevitable.” This level of transparency—direct disclosure by a manufacturer—will allow a specifier or consumer to fully evaluate a product for him or herself.

I, for one, hope Syrett is right, and that this isn’t just another passing gimmick to add to the long list of greenwashing sins committed by manufacturers in the hope that designers won’t see past misleading environmental claims. I personally believe transparency is the way forward, but if disclosure is up to the manufacturing community alone, will we just hear more of the same? Or will full disclosure of a product’s genetic makeup become a requirement for entry? To those of you who specify products and furnishings, I think the outcome is largely up to you.

If the past is any indication, however, I think we’re in good hands.