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31 August 2017

HOK’s Anthony Fieldman Talks Smart Workplaces at Metropolis’ Designing for Wellness Summit

The design principal for HOK in Canada shared his thoughts on workplace design at Metropolis Magazine’s Designing for Wellness Summit.

Anthony Fieldman joined moderator Whitney Austin Gray (Delos), Ron Goetzel (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health), Julia Goldberg (BuzzFeed) and Mo Gawdat (Google X and Solve for Happy) on an Aug. 24 panel discussion titled “Productivity: Myth or Math.” The panelists explored how workplace designers are shaping and championing the cultural movement toward health and well-being.

View the one-hour panel discussion on Metropolis’ Facebook page.

Highlights of Fieldman’s comments below:

On the importance of engaging the senses in designing spaces:

“Designers are often enamored by how something looks or an abstract idea about spacemaking or placemaking. But it’s important to remember we have at least five senses, and the places that are most memorable to me are the ones that engage senses we don’t often think about when we’re designing. Smells, for example, can uplift us—like when someone walks into a meeting with a cup of coffee and it shifts the entire room. Think about a bakery. The same is true with sounds. Acoustics are one of the most expensive metrics related to productivity. … There’s a constant learning mode with the senses, and I think we need to focus more on the non-visual elements of spaces.”

On allowing the brain to do its best work:

“The way that we get to the finish line is by intensely focusing on a task and then removing ourselves to let the brain take over. … That’s why we all get inspiration in the shower or at the gym—the brain is constantly thinking about things that we set in motion. Our job as designers is to set them in motion and then let the brain do what it does best.”

On the phenomenon of employee burnout:

“Time is elastic. You will always find time for what you love or believe in. Aside from the number of hours in a day and the fact that you need sleep, burnout usually comes from not understanding an organization’s mission, your place within it or your personal motivation for a task. … Millennial workers look for workplace fundamentals that are all emotional, including mission alignment and feeling valued.”

On the challenges of building workplace community:

“It’s important to understand your client’s needs to create an effective space program. But it’s how you deal with the in-between spaces that truly creates the opportunity for community. We can’t create community. I like to use the term ‘productive collisions,’ which are those unscripted moments between spaces that you program to create a loose fit that allows for casual engagements that you could not possibly have envisioned to happen.”

On how architects can continue to shape a space after a project is completed:

“The entire fee structure for the design profession traditionally ends at the point when a building comes alive. But 90 percent of a building’s life-cycle costs happen after it opens. There’s all this energy around getting a building to open and then the creative minds that helped form it are no longer part of its continued well-being. That’s unfortunate because we specialize in partnering and creatively solving complex problems in real time. Sometimes we’re the tacticians but often we’re the thinkers. … Some people don’t know what they need until they are in a space and using it. It would be a gift to allow designers to continue raising the ‘children’ they gave birth to. I visit all of my buildings once a year, making sure clients are still happy and, at times, troubleshooting. Striking a partnership and developing a friendship with your clients goes a long way to staying engaged throughout the life of a building.”

Watch the panel discussion.