Earlier this week Fast Company announced the winners of this year’s Innovation By Design contest. And sure, before you roll your eyes, we'll admit that designers tend toward grandiosity when patting themselves on the back (see: Fast Co.’s “World Changing Ideas,” a whole other design competition with notably lofty aspirations), but design—especially in the built environment—has a direct, tangible impact on the physical world and good design should be celebrated. Here are a few of our favorite examples:
Stackt: Reimagining Retail
Brick-and-mortar retail has had a tough decade or so. First came the threat of falling into the ever-growing abyss-like maw of Amazon and Wal Mart. Then came a global pandemic. Despite all this, one fact remains true: people love to shop. There is an experiential element to shopping that Amazon just can’t replace (which is why, paradoxically, they’re now building brick-and-mortar retail outlets). Stackt embraces shopping as an event. Their pitch is simple: find an empty lot, build a bunch of hip small retail spaces out of converted shipping containers, sprinkle in some pedestrian walkways and food and drink options, sell a variety of flexible, affordable leasing options to local retailers and voila! It’s a shopping mall for pop up stores, and the whole thing will be gone in six months so you better come check it out while you can. So, when can we get one in Jacksonville?
Beloit Powerhouse: Adaptive Reuse
Credit: Studio Gang
We’ve evangelized about adaptive reuse before, but this project really stands out for its ability to demonstrate the value created by such projects, and for its on-the-nose symbolism. Built in 1908, the Blackhawk Generating Station provided power to Beloit, Wisconsin for 102 years by burning coal, becoming a local landmark. It was closed in 2010 and the building sat empty, still a cool looking building, sure, but that’s about it. Benoit College, however, had a vision for the old plant and architects from Studio Gang helped them bring it to life. They redeveloped it into a new campus hub, with a student union, fitness center, meeting spaces, etc. The local landmark is now contributing to local economy by enriching student life—critical infrastructure once again, and a beautiful testament to human ingenuity and adaptability. Have we mentioned we love adaptive reuse development??
ZZ Driggs: The Anti-Ikea
Credit: ZZ Driggs
Thanks to Ikea, most furniture today is designed and built with cost-first principles: How can we mass produce this product as cheaply as possible to beat our competitors on price? The end result usually combines cheap materials with short lifespans (planned obsolescence is the jargon euphemism) and a few hours of assembly labor offloaded onto the customer. ZZ Driggs builds furniture like it used to be built—solid materials, with craft, to last a lifetime—and following contemporary ethical and sustainable guidelines. So do many other high end furniture makers. What makes ZZ Driggs special is a rental and leasing program that not only makes their furniture more affordable, but also maximizes the utility of each piece. If a customer moves or no longer has a use for a piece, they stop renting it or return it. Since each piece is built to last, ZZ Driggs finds another customer willing to rent or buy. Just an all-around great idea that’s well executed. Bravo.
Check out the rest of the winners and once you're thoroughly inspired to contribute something beautiful to your local built environment, give us a call. We'll help you build it.
Credit: Benjamin Loyseau / © Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation
60 years in the making and a year after his death, Christo's dream of a wrapped Arc de Triomphe finally becomes a reality, and, in a few weeks, it'll all be over.
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