Editor's Choice Projects of 2015

Dec. 1, 2015

Cheers to our favorites from the past year

We love this time of year: when we get to show off all those hidden little gems we didn’t get to highlight over the previous 11 months. The following three projects are great representations of how to think outside the box when it comes to their specific markets, and we have personally hand-selected them because of that. We’re also lovin’ the mix of the old guard and the new in this feature, and can’t wait to see what the latter churns out in the years to come. So here’s a big chin chin to all the successes of 2015 and the amazing projects that are surely coming down the pipeline for 2016!

The Bloc
New York City
Foz Design in collaboration with The Mufson Partnership (a NELSON company)

Sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of eyes…

I’ll confess: if I have to hear about one more “open office” and how “freeing” it is to the employee, I’m gonna hurl.

You’ve been warned.

We’re often asked as editors what we’re looking for when we decide on projects or products to cover. My answer is always very simple: something I’ve never seen before.

So when I received images of The Bloc, designed by Foz Design in collaboration with The Mufson Partnership (a NELSON Company), I knew we’d found something special. The new offices for this company, which specializes in pharmaceutical advertising, opened on their 15th anniversary this past July. It was also a celebration of the completion of Foz’s very first commercial design project.

“It was a pretty big endeavor for us,” said Fauzia Khanani, founder of Foz. The firm was forced to shift gears in terms of how they think about their profession, putting them on a different scale of practice with a new breed of client.

The interior is a big reflection of not just the company culture, but their decision to move downtown in New York City, as the Financial District continues to blossom into a haven for creative agencies. The Bloc previously maintained two offices (one in Flatiron, the other in Chelsea, about one block apart), with employees running back and forth between. Now they are all in one place for the first time in seven years.

“They’re sort of ‘uncorporate,’” laughed Khanani. The material selection of raw steel and wood evokes that notion, and also serves as a throwback to what the area used to be before Wall Street reigned supreme.

But what really caught my eye was the utilization of very bold lines and varying levels throughout the space, which Khanani used to give this open office a sense of organization and formality.

“I wanted those lines to move through the space and for your eye to continually follow that whether looking at the ceiling or looking at furniture, walls, or finishes,” she said, and differing floor heights expanded on that idea of allowing the interiors to dictate workflow and direction. “We wanted to come up with an idea for the space that allowed you to break it up into smaller sections in this vast idea of an open plan. Because you don’t want people to feel lost in that. So how do you do that without putting up walls?” she asked, especially with gorgeous 180 views of the East River to seize.

All private offices were pushed to the mezzanine levels, elevating them just above the workstations which are at eye level and then very low, informal meeting furniture was used. “It’s about finding equality in the quality of space for everybody,” Khanani added.

And this is one of the most original ways we’ve seen it done as of late. I hope this is only the beginning of a long career in the commercial design biz for Foz.

UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay
San Francisco Stantec Architecture

The UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay blends three facilities together under one roof, linked together not only by the exceptional care provided there, but also by the calming and whimsical environments in which it’s provided. The complex’s 878,000 square feet house a cancer center, children’s hospital, and women’s care facility—and while each maintains a separate brand and visual identity, they’re woven together with a unified aesthetic through artwork.

“Art is a healing modality. It creates a more emotional connection and it’s individually personable,” said Lynn Befu, principal of interiors at Stantec. “For this project, art was also used to engage with the community and patients aside from their medical and science mission.”

An art review board identified artists that would work with the hospital to essentially curate the space. “The works are distinctive and very specific to UCSF, its goals, and patients,” Befu added.

But the arts program at UCSF extends beyond the professional, commissioned pieces. Its Ernest H. Rosenbaum MD Art for Recovery program enables patients to process and express the intense feelings that arise in life-threatening illnesses—through painting, poetry, and more. Providing patients and staff a safe, therapeutic haven helps them find solace and support. The resulting creations are displayed alongside world-renowned works in the hospital.

“The mission is to provide healing beyond just the medical,” Befu explained. “We want to engage and heal holistically. It’s not just your body—it’s your life, your future, your soul, and your whole being.”

The site also recently hosted the 11th annual California Child Life Professionals Conference in early November. Its focus was the function of arts, play, and creativity in the pediatric healing process.

And although you’ll find various pops of color throughout the site, there are also several shades of green in the building operation. Having earned LEED Gold certification, it features a 90 percent landfill diversion rate, 4.3 acres of green space (one of which in rooftop gardens), 4-million-gallon-saving water conservation practices, and energy performance strategies that slash power use by 50 percent compared to an average U.S. hospital.

The work being done at UCSF is exceptional, inspiring, and beautiful—at least in the eye of this beholder.

Concrete Beach Brewery
Edge of Architecture

In recent years, there’s been a shift in the beer industry. Consumers are no longer content with just picking up a six pack of the cheapest brew; beer has to have a likeable personality and some good ol’ fashioned hometown pride.

So when Edge of Architecture (EoA) was called in by Alchemy & Science to design their Miami brewery, Concrete Beach, the goal was simple: to take the existing facilities and create a space that would speak not only to the brand, but the surrounding landscape and community.

“When they came to us, we asked where the name comes from, and they basically said, ‘There’s Miami Beach and there’s the concrete jungle which we live in. We want to bring the two together,” said EoA Founder and President Malcom Berg. “It’s more of a landscape of concrete reinvented. It’s not a green landscape, it’s much more urban and gritty.”

The result can only be described as refined industrial-chic. Behind a graffitied wall lies an oasis of concrete, metal, and wood. Cantilevered concrete tables flank a stunning floor medallion of the brewery’s mascot—a woman’s face radiating like the sun—while a curved bar made of concrete and burnt wood takes center stage to show off the current brews. Behind the bar, large doors that are kept open a majority of the time blend the outdoor patio with the interior tasting room, expanding the space.

One of the most eye-catchingly impressive elements has to be the rebarb and concrete walls. “The concrete was very important to us, so when we started demoing the walls, we said let’s retain them, let’s keep them on site and use them as part of our walls,” explained Berg. “We created a cage with the rebarb that kept unearthing itself as the walls were being deconstructed, and we filled it with concrete chunks that were coming up instead of rocks or something you’d find in another landscape. So this landscape is very particular about site and location. It’s very much bringing in the whole artistic community into the culture of brewing.”

The result is an eclectic space that is quickly becoming a popular meeting space for local patrons. Their Instagram account is constantly showcasing everything from game nights to costume parties to brewery yoga—proof that it pays to think outside the six-pack.

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