Tag Archives: Commercial Interiors

Our New World of Work

At Hickok Cole, we believe in the power of the office to unite, motivate, and inspire. Beginning this month, we’re initiating our phased transition back to the physical workplace—this time in our new NoMa headquarters near Union Market. The irony of designing and constructing our new workplace while working remotely is not lost on us. But it did present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine how we work while incorporating WFH lessons learned in real-time. Through discovery sessions with leadership, team workshops, and staff surveys, our designers created an environment that represents who we are and serves where we’re going. With a fresh perspective and a renewed appreciation for our firm culture, we look forward to exploring our new world of work and a return to togetherness. Welcome to the new Hickok Cole HQ.

How we focus

As challenging as the pandemic was, remote work taught us a lot about how we work and in what conditions we thrive. While we missed being surrounded by colleagues, for some of us, the ability to tackle focus work without interruption proved highly conducive for our productivity. In consolidating staff from across three floors into one open studio, we knew acoustics would be a major concern. This drove the incorporation of reservable and impromptu focus rooms of all shapes and sizes to accommodate heads down and group work without disrupting the rest of the office. In our studio space, the sawtooth ceiling features acoustical panels designed to absorb sound (in addition to show-stopping skylights). Combined with soft surfaces on our workstations, flexible soft seating, and white noise throughout, the space is well-equipped to maximize creativity while minimizing distractions.

How we collaborate

As designers, we know how crucial the support and expertise of our peers can be. Our new open studio blends service and market expertise across the floor to expose staff to a variety of people, projects, and experiences to keep them inspired. Along the perimeter, several touch-down spaces provide teams the flexibility to discuss and observe project work away from the restrictions of their desks. These spaces are designed to encourage impromptu conversation and provide a visual representation of the collaboration we craved during the pandemic. Through a combination of digital and physical display boards, project work can be prominently featured or pinned up for review—increasing the cross-pollination of ideas, exposing teams to new techniques, and showcasing how each individual team contributes to our mission to do work that matters.

How we connect

The office is a platform for ideas to collide and a place to learn and grow, but it’s also a community. In response to our new hybrid work policies, we amplified our creative, home-grown culture through intentional touchpoints that support bringing people together both in the office and from home. With the thoughtful integration of video conferencing technologies, wifi, and charging stations throughout the office, hybrid teams of all sizes have what they need to work seamlessly. And for the in-person gatherings we love—like our annual Art Night, lunches with colleagues, and weekly staff happy hours—the design team incorporated a platform stage inspired by our old space, a flexible cafe with bar and banquet seating, and a new private terrace. While we’ll miss the memories of our Georgetown stoop, we know the opportunity to forge new ones in NoMa are tenfold.

Come see for yourself.

Connect with Director of Business Development Laura Roth to schedule your tour. Can’t wait to host you in our new home!

Hickok Cole Celebrates Second DOEE Grant as Director of Sustainable Design is Appointed to HUB Board

In partnership with Redbrick LMD, Arup, and DPR, this grant will support the study of embodied carbon for a new office building in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 20, 2021) – Today, Hickok Cole announced it received a $10,000 Building Innovation Design Assistance Grant towards the Embodied Carbon Lifecycle Analysis of an office building at the Saint Elizabeths Campus in Washington, DC. Funding was provided from the Green Building Fund through the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE).

Set to begin immediately and completed by September 30, 2021, the grant will facilitate early design assistance supporting the analysis of embodied carbon for Building Number 2 on Parcel 17 at Saint Elizabeths. Embodied carbon will be tracked and priced in three structural systems and building envelope details, thereby providing Redbrick LMD with sufficient data to minimize embodied carbon in the project at hand. Long-term, these insights will offer members in the local development community a model for assessing embodied carbon in their own projects. The ultimate goal is to establish a broader framework for future building valuation, including the development of carbon neutrality resources, policies, and code.

“We’re honored to be the recipients of this grant and to have the support of the DOEE once again. It’s a privilege to be selected to contribute our research and insights towards achieving DC’s progressive climate goals,” said Holly Lennihan, RA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and Director of Sustainable Design at Hickok Cole. “We’re especially thankful for forward-focused partners like Redbrick who are committed to promoting sustainable development and pursuing decarbonization strategies to secure a bright future for this historic campus.”

The project team includes structural engineers from Arup and high-performance construction experts from DPR. Arup will take the lead on documenting the structure with low embodied carbon concrete and cross-laminated timber; Hickok Cole will generate building façade details with similar criteria. Data will be managed using modeling software, One Click LCA. Following this study, DPR will conduct a cost comparison of the three structural assemblies. Final project deliverables include a report summarizing the activities undertaken in pursuit of reducing embodied carbon, a copy of the Life Cycle Analysis, and standard information contribution towards an official case study.

The announcement comes following Holly Lennihan’s appointment to the Advisory Board at the DC Building Innovation Hub, where she will act as one of the primary high-performance design experts. Under her leadership, Holly and her team have won a series of state and federal grants focused on sustainability, resilience, and urban ecological systems including a $20,000 grant to explore net-zero energy potential for 800 9th Street in July of last year.

About Hickok Cole
Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. We’ve called DC home for more than 30 years and are proud to have designed some of the area’s leading sustainable projects, including the American Geophysical Union’s net zero energy renovation and 80 M Street SE, the first mass timber commercial renovation in the District.

Small Towns, Big Ideas: Coworking Trends for Post-Pandemic Success

Much like the rest of the world, the coworking industry had a tumultuous 2020. Coming off the heels of WeWork’s collapse in 2019, it entered straight into a pandemic that didn’t exactly welcome strangers working in close quarters. But, over a year later, with vaccine rollouts moving at warp speed, coworking’s future is bright once again. The pillars that make up the original model – community, flexibility, and convenience – are exactly what the workforce is seeking in their return to the physical. In fact, according to CBRE, 82% of companies will favor buildings that offer flexible office space and shared meeting space, especially as they test out long-term hybrid work policies.

That’s not to say coworking won’t look different upon our return. The original model provided tenants a standard set of amenities designed to appeal to a wide audience, a catch-all strategy that didn’t consider industries requiring more tailored solutions. This next generation addresses what the modern workforce craved throughout the pandemic and accelerates the trends driving coworking well before: hyper-niche, hyper-curated spaces that attract and cater to targeted tenant types.

Communities seeing some of the most exciting new offerings are smaller markets like Richmond responding to the ongoing influx of mobile workers and creative talent migrating out of major cities. Our local team of coworking experts – Studio Director, Jessica Zullo, NCIDQ, IIDA, Senior Designer, Patrick Gegen, and Interior Designer, Jordan Camp, IIDA – share some of the trends and providers helping shape the post-pandemic flexible office landscape in RVA.

The Home Grown Hero

Beyond serving as office space, coworking is leaning hard into its ability to foster a sense of belonging within communities, seeking to expand opportunities for member bonding outside of the 9-5 window – especially for those new to the area. Convenience, inspirational design, and dynamic programming that serve member interests are key. At Gather, the Richmond-based coworking platform, each location pays homage to the city with design details specific to the individual neighborhood and its history. Programming caters to their membership of start-ups and entrepreneurs while engaging with the community through cross-promotion of local brands or Richmond-based services. Some examples include headshots by a local photographer or pop-up gallery events that feature local artists and provide a unique venue for members to meet with clients.

The Social Club

Following a year (or what feels like decades) in near isolation, many are anxious to make up for lost time. Richmond’s Common House, a local gathering and social hub, offers a coworking model emphasizing exclusivity on top of convenience and shared interests. Their members-only cultural experiences are designed for entertainment – spa and fitness services, wine tastings, live music, fine dining – all offered under one roof. These curated environments act as third places for both business and social pursuits, injecting creativity and lifestyle into the work experience to expose clients and colleagues to an additional layer of brand identity, status, and personality.

The Test Kitchen

Though essential to a typical coworking environment, the standard combo of open office, private huddle rooms, and shared conference amenities overlook the needs of entire industries – industries whose membership would benefit from specialty tools, technology, and spaces they don’t bear the brunt to finance and maintain. One of our favorite new examples is food hall, Hatch Local at The Current, a Richmond-based residency program catering to a rotation of food and beverage startups under one roof. Off the heels of a pandemic that made the restaurant industry particularly vulnerable, this coworking concept allows up-and-coming chefs and entrepreneurs to conduct market research and gather intel from consumers in a high-traffic area before committing to a retail front of their own. Members also have access to a commercial kitchen, office, and storage space as well as mentorship and advisory opportunities.

The Impact Incubator 

Beyond physical resources, the networking and mentorship opportunities available in a coworking environment grow ten-fold when offered among like-minded professionals. At the Collaboratory of Virginia (CVA), nonprofit organizations work alongside each other in a neutral shared space designed to facilitate innovation and collaboration among members and prioritize efficient use of networks and resources. In addition to receiving consultation or mentorship, members benefit from the exchange of information and experiences of others within a shared community which helps build stronger platforms by uniting support around similar causes.

The Frequent Flier

Remote work has granted us an unprecedented level of flexibility – in our schedules, our furniture, and just about every inch of our lives. Untethered to our desks, we can work from anywhere, in our beds or at the beach. Even as we return to the physical workplace, that level of independence remains of paramount importance and some professionals will maintain the transient habits they’ve grown accustomed to. To accommodate those workers, we anticipate a greater need for coworking locations that offer daily or even hourly rates for drop-in guests.

On-demand services like LiquidSpace, connect professionals directly with a temporary desk or office space in the city of their choosing, including our fan favorite, Gather. This agile model serves mobile professionals with tasks that require focus like participating in an interview or when they need specific tools like photocopiers. Even workers who do have a designated office space may look for a third-space or touch-down location for off-site collaboration or retreats. Finally, short-term rentals allow coworking brands to capture unleashed space while exposing them to a new set of clientele, ones that could easily convert to long-term members down the line. Because now we know that so long as there’s Wi-Fi, nothing can stand in our way.

Mass Timber’s Moment: What’s Next for CLT?

The 80 M Street SE mass timber addition will be the first of its kind in Washington, DC.

Just last month, over 1,300 tons of mass timber arrived on site at 80 M Street in Washington, DC’s Capitol Riverfront district. Having completed its journey from the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Eastern Canada, the timber was hoisted atop the commercial office building and, over the course of a few short months, will result in 105,000-SF of additional leasable tenant and amenity space. The 80 M Street renovation, the District of Columbia’s first mass timber and glass vertical expansion project, is a triumph for a number of reasons, the most crucial of which is its signaling to the real estate industry the possibility for further development of its kind.

The culmination of extensive research and a lengthy entitlement process including the approval for code modifications and community review, 80 M Street came to fruition under the guidance of a client with vision and the collaboration of an invested project team who saw the sustainable material’s long-term potential. And the potential is endless, insists the senior designer behind 80 M Street, Tom Corrado, LEED AP, who, in partnership with John Lang, AIA, a senior associate at Hickok Cole, has been exploring the next opportunity for mass timber development in DC.

“We’re at a point where every conversation we have with a client begins with mass timber,” Tom stated. Having witnessed the rise in remote workers this past year, and well aware of the housing crisis in the District, Tom and John venture that timber could reconcile these issues.

Due to its pre-fabricated nature, timber construction takes approximately 25% less time to build, resulting in faster lead times and improved quality control.

“Residential construction is primed for timber, especially when you need housing fast,” comments John. Having specialized in residential design throughout his tenure at Hickok Cole, John is an advocate for affordable and attainable housing and sees it as timber’s next step. “The module for housing is smaller than office and timber construction excels on shorter structural systems. Better still, mass timber comes in pre-fabricated panels that speed up construction and reduce the amount of labor on-site. Consequently, that usually means improved quality control.” With labor costs skyrocketing and skilled labor dwindling, this could ultimately help drive down or at least steady rent prices, he pointed out.

“Not to mention the biophilic element and connection to nature these residences would provide,” adds Tom. “Humans are not meant to live in these 600-SF boxes. We need access to greenery and sunlight. And just being surrounded by wood accomplishes that – it’s definitely better for you than concrete and dry wall.”

With the increased attention to health and wellness due to the pandemic, John explains, it’s obvious that the housing industry will require a shift as well. “That includes everything from better HVAC systems and ventilation to availability of outdoor amenities and remote work accommodations. But, we’ve also seen how drastically our presence impacts the planet. With nowhere to go this past year, the roads were clearer and so were the skies – we can’t ignore that.”

Studies show exposed wood has resulted in improved mood and productivity levels for building occupants.

It’s true that our definition of a healthy lifestyle has expanded to include a focus on climate change and reducing our carbon footprint – and that of buildings. It’s especially true when you consider that the construction and building industry accounts for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions annually. Not only is wood the only building material that is 100% renewable but as they grow, forests actually sequester nearly 13% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions per year. As a result, buildings made from wood store that carbon throughout their lifespans.  

The case for timber is clear and has been made countless times. So, if it seems so obvious, then why has it been so challenging convincing developers and building owners to pursue mass timber construction? As is usual with the early stages of any new technology, the biggest hurdles are cost and the associated risks (including a decent learning curve in this case) with being the first. But, as Tom points out, we’re not the first. We’re not even close – at least not globally. In fact, most of Europe and Canada, and even parts of Asia, including China despite its robust steel economy, have been investing in the material for some time now. In West Coast states like California and Washington, where timber is easily accessible and often cheaper, experimenting with timber in a variety of project types including schools, hotels, and even entertainment venues began almost a decade ago.

“We’re looking into medical office buildings as well,” Tom added. “There’s been a shift in the medical community away from single practitioners occupying a portion of a larger building towards several providing care under one roof. We predict folks will be going to a single location for all their health and wellness needs in the future so why not create a better environment and improve the user experience holistically?” Mass timber can improve air quality and acoustics, and has been proven to elicit a positive human response from occupants.

The current premium on mass timber is driven by a lack of readily available resources on the East Coast and subsequent low demand. One solution is for jurisdictions to alleviate costs by offering incentives like tax credits.

Now that timber has made it to the nation’s capital, the question remains: how can we propel the timber movement forward? Cutting down costs is one way – but that comes with increased supply. One of the biggest factors contributing to the premium on wood is limited resources on the East Coast. “We need to make the case for forests on this side of the country. Areas in the northeast like Maine and Vermont are well suited for it,” says John.

The next step is understanding the International Building Code and navigating jurisdictional zoning laws and safety regulations. “Form your project team early on, involve local representatives and jurisdictions right away, and educate the community,” Tom suggests. “Every project is different, but it only takes a few early adopters to remove uncertainty from the equation.” From there, he says, the knowledge is public, and you now have a pool of experts who can take the lead on the entitlement process or negotiating code modifications, as needed.

“It’s true that sustainability alone isn’t enough of a motive for development to occur, especially if the dollars don’t lean in your favor,” says John. “And developers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of these costs. That’s why it’s crucial to have an open dialogue with your jurisdiction.”  Putting your cards on the table and seeing how your goals align can prompt the introduction of sustainable incentive programs, tax credits, grants, and other forms of government support.

“The results are in on timber. We should no longer be concerned with early adoption,” Tom contended. “In fact, our biggest risk is being last to get on board.”

80 M is scheduled to deliver in the fall of 2021, just a few months after construction launched in March.

Want to explore mass timber for your next project? Contact Laura Roth, Director of Business Development, to schedule a conversation with the team.

Express Yourself: Communicating Purpose with Experiential Graphic Design

The American Gas Association’s headquarters uses clever interpretations of industry symbols to connect with members, including pipeline-inspired aerial moss and burner grate artwork.

From visioning with clients and designers to coordinating with fabricators and artists, Rebecca Kelly, Art Director for Hickok Cole Creative, and our resident Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) expert, orchestrates a team of creatives to bring delightful, educational, and emotionally compelling content to every project. Today, Rebecca shares her insights on the value of thoughtful EGD strategies and why right now is an excellent time to reevaluate how brand is expressed throughout your space.

Understanding Experiential Graphic Design

Simply put, Experiential Graphic Design is the intersection of graphic design and the built environment. By communicating through a variety of static and digital graphics and content solutions including signage, wayfinding systems, and artwork, EGD brings environments to life with engaging and memorable experiences.

Express Yourself

Whether it’s through a welcoming reception experience, interactive exhibits, or a colorful mural, the main driver behind EGD is to improve day-to-day experiences for the end-user. In a corporate environment, EGD contributes to overall satisfaction and improves retention by reminding employees of their value and the many ways they contribute to their organization’s overall mission and culture.

The National Association of Broadcasters’ headquarters prominently displays photos and messaging in high-traffic areas meant to inspire employees with their mission and vision.

As employers look towards a return to the physical office, Rebecca recommends they reflect on their evolution over the past year working remotely and whether the incorporation of EGD strategies could make the transition back more comfortable for their team. “Think: How has this time away changed our culture and what can we do to re-unify and motivate employees?” she suggests. “This is an opportunity to generate excitement and give them something to look forward to. Something that makes them proud when they step back into the workplace environment. Being back will feel like a luxury.” She adds that it’s okay to start small like, “procuring new art that supports your company culture or prominently displaying your mission statement in a high-traffic area.” However subtle, what’s important is that these visual cues connect to the brand and evoke a sense of place and community.

Likewise, EGD can help distinguish multi-family properties. A branded lobby is an expression of the residence and provides a glimpse at a potential lifestyle. “There’s definitely a cool-factor associated with certain design concepts,” Rebecca adds. “You’re signifying a brand and creating a place that resonates so that by the third or fourth apartment tour, prospective residents can easily recall the details that made your property special.”

The Altaire Apartments logo is subtly woven into various interior design elements, alluding to the community’s elevated lifestyle.

Going Beyond Signage

A common misconception is that EGD focuses solely on graphics and signage but it’s really the whole experiential package and can extend to the subtlest of details. Often, the EGD team seeks elements from the interior design they can respond to in their marketing materials and collateral. Sourcing inspiration from the texture and materiality of a design concept and re-interpreting them for graphic assets creates another touch point that reinforces or complements the brand.

In some instances, uncommon materials can be woven into experiential design. Patterns, tactile elements, and origin all have a story to tell. Rebecca recalls working with a GSA client to source fabrics from the various countries that they serve as a way to layer authenticity into the project. These colorful textiles became featured elements in an exhibit design, creating an emotional connection for teams to their shared purpose. Other examples of expressing your brand include using sustainably sourced, recycled, or local materials. “These small details combine to tell a cohesive story and a tangible articulation of your brand. It’s about practicing what you preach,” she adds. 

While EGD is an effective storytelling tool, sometimes it’s a matter of bringing beauty into a space, making it a cooler and more enjoyable experience. A parking garage is the perfect blank slate and often-missed opportunity to bring a brand to life. To complement the multifamily marketing package for Kingston McLean Crossing, hand-painted botanical murals were located at each level for wayfinding and improved resident experience.

A parking garage at Kingston McLean Crossing takes advantage of ample wall space with a botanical mural that reinforces branding and brings life the underground environment.

A Cohesive Story: From Start to Finish

For maximum impact, plan to engage a creative team early in the design process. “When we work together with the design teams early on, we’re able to weave storytelling opportunities into the design in a more integral way,” explains Rebecca. “Each decision informs another and through collaboration, we’re able to trigger creative innovation and expose opportunities to strengthen the entire experience.”

Each touch point serves a purpose. Throughout the design process, think about the end-user and envision their perception of the environment. Consider how they might interact with it and how each touchpoint might make them feel. The most effective EGD projects are human-centric. Whether attracting a future resident, communicating with an employee, or welcoming a guest, EGD serves to immerse people in an engaging and custom environment designed to educate, orient, inspire, and entertain.

Art + Progress

The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond Hickok Cole’s doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world – from curators and artists to developers and more – with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.

Our final Art Month panel, Art + Progress, examined how a renewed focus on social equity and justice in the arts is impacting creative communities in our region. Host Peter Nesbett, Executive Director at Washington Project for the Arts was joined by Cara Ober, Founding Editor at BeMore Art, Sandy Bellamy, Director of the General Services Administration’s Percent for Art, and Charles Jean-Pierre, a Washington, DC-based artist.

If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art + Progress.

Our definition of progress is changing

“Today, progress is increasingly about issues of inclusion, accessibility, social equity, and justice,” says Peter Nesbett, Executive Director and Keeper of Imaginative Futures at Washington Project for the Arts,“which puts the attention on the context of art, and the biography and experience of the artist, as much as on the object.” Technology and social media have increased access to the artist themselves, carrying the artist’s voice and the messages behind their work further and than ever before. A recent example of this phenomenon is the reach and impact of the street mural at Black Lives Matter Plaza here in DC. Sandy Bellamy, Director of the General Services Administration’s Percent for Art program touched on the project’s virality, noting “it inspired people to emulate that particular work of art and express its simple yet complicated notion that Black lives matter.” 

Artwork, within the context of current events, politics, and today’s human rights issues, helps to tell a more holistic story by increasing exposure to a diverse set of voices and experiences. So as these experiences influence the artist, so does it influence their work, making it impossible to appreciate art without appreciating what’s happening in the world around us. “I’m finally at an age where I can recognize patterns in my work,” commented Charles Jean-Pierre, AKA JP, a DC-based artist. “And I feel like we’re in the same position as we were four years ago, heading into the 2016 news cycle. I feel like our Black bodies are politicized. But I think globally, darker people have been suffering and it’s not just an American problem. People are dying everywhere at the hands of people that look like them so I think this climate is based on racism but also on power dynamics. And that’s where I use my works to try to understand.” Today’s definition of progress calls on everyone to share in the burden because of how frequently we witness it’s presence – or lack thereof.

The message behind art can withstand the test of time

Governments have long commissioned artwork to reflect the ideals of the people in power. Sandy makes the argument that because of the lifespan of most public art, it’s important to commission culturally diverse artists and promote culturally diverse perspectives within our society. “When you look at neoclassical architecture and artwork in DC, there’s a lot of white men on horses, very few women and even fewer works commissioned by artists of color,” she adds. “But that doesn’t reflect who we are as a people today.” 

This is an opportunity for artists to break through the noise of divisiveness and realize the true definition of America. “Artists have always had the ability to speak directly to the soul and that will reveal the truth and the underlying humanity that we all have,” she says. “The more perspectives we have and the more artists of color at the table, the faster our journey towards embodying the true sense of freedom and democracy will be.”

Cara Ober, Editor at BeMore Art agreed, adding “By their nature, artists are comfortable saying things others are not capable of and they’re able to do it in a way that resonates.” She shares that the magazine’s community based and community accountable approach to local art has lent more people a voice when they want to express themselves while highlighting diverse talents and raising their profiles. 

How to create more equity within the art world

Working as an artist in a region with no shortage of established museums is an incredible privilege and undoubtedly provides inspiration to many. But Peter notes that they’re also seen as a point of contention in that they “embody the structural biases of the nation that gave birth to them.” “Museums have the most power of any entity in the art world,” Cara explains. “They have the power to legitimize careers. They have the money and the resources to invest in them and therefore it’s the job of museums to provide context and education and explain to people what they are seeing.” She pointed to declining attendance and membership as proof that these institutions are losing sight of their audience and the types of works today’s museum-goers hope to see. 

The hierarchy of decision-makers in the art world, including museums, elite galleries, and private curators, can create a barrier for contemporary artists seeking to broaden their reach. One solution to create a more democratic landscape is by expanding our approach to public art programs to increase representation and participation. “I’m currently working on a project with the Haitian Embassy where we’re commissioning Haitian artists to come to DC to create a public art installation,” JP shared. “I operate from a global perspective and from a place of privilege as an artist with an American passport. When I’m abroad, I’m constantly told how lucky I am to be an American so I leverage my privilege and access to help more people to create.”

Sandy adds that she’s working on a project that enlists the community’s perspective to make sure the work that’s installed reflects their lives and individual experiences. “I see it as a pragmatic decision. It’s important to meet people where they are instead of just plopping a work of art in their community selected by people who are not members of that community,” she explains. “Each property we commission art for has its own group of stakeholders made up of teachers, principals, architects, members of the ANC’s, and even high-schoolers. They select artists from a very diverse database of every demographic you could think of. And to me, they are perfectly capable of selecting outstanding works of art for their own community enjoyment.” 

Buying Art, Demystified

The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond Hickok Cole’s doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world – from curators and artists to developers and more – with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.

Our second Art Month panel, Buying Art: Demystified, focused on making the art buying process more approachable for novel collectors. From assessing quality and determining your style to spotting up-and-coming artists, DC creatives and art experts shared insight on building your collection while reflecting on the value of art beyond the physical object. Host Laura Ewan, Marketing and Communications Director at Hickok Cole was joined by Schwanda Rountree, Founder of Rountree Art Consulting, Philippa Hughes, Founder of Curiosity Connects Us, Angie Shah, Director of Marketing at Shah & Shah Jewelers, and Regan Billingsley, Founder of Regan Billingsley Interiors.

If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art Buying, Demystified.

Understand what value means to you

Like with most big purchases, you have to do your research before pulling the trigger. Whether through Instagram or by visiting galleries, increased exposure to a wide variety of art is the best way to identify what style and mediums you’re most attracted to–and what you’re willing to spend. 

“For some of my more novel collectors, the decision making factor is definitely budget driven,” says Schwanda Rountree, Founder of Rountree Art Consulting. “But, as a consultant, my primary role is to educate the client on what it is they’re purchasing, especially when justifying a larger price tag.” Apart from aesthetic, Schwanda says one thing to consider is sustainability. “It’s important for me to know that this artist is dedicated to their craft and their success isn’t fleeting,” she reflects, adding that if artists have shown in institutions, museums, or certain private collections, that up-ticks the value of their work.

Angie Shah, Director of Marketing at Shah & Shah Jewelers approaches her art collecting with a long-term perspective. “The longevity factor is important to me,” she shares. “I ask myself, is this going to continue to inspire me and challenge me? Can I live with this for the rest of my life?” She advises that new collectors look for artists with a distinct point of view and one that matches their own. “Every piece should be a reflection of someone’s taste, likes, and how they live.”

The bottom line is art buying is a personal process and ultimately we determine the value of having art in our homes. “We all have limited budgets but I chose to put my disposable income towards buying art,” says Philippa Hughes, Founder of Curiosity Connects Us. “You have to decide for yourself, How much of a priority are you going to put on this in your life? How much is it worth to you outside of the monetary value?”

Investing in art goes beyond the physical object

Buying a piece of art is an investment. But you’re not just investing in your happiness or the decor in your home. Your purchase has a direct impact and is a reflection of your values. “It’s bigger than just buying something. I’m an advocate for artists and believe in supporting their livelihood,” says Schwanda. “I have a pretty diverse collection in terms of medium but the common thread throughout is that all the works are made by Black artists and that’s important for me because Black artists are underrepresented in the collecting realm as well as in institutions.”

When you purchase a work of art, you’re investing in that artist, their profession, and the community they’re a part of. “Maybe your investment actually helped pay their rent that month,” Philippa says. “Even buying art at a lower level helps allow that artist to continue creating.” And while art is everywhere these days, rather than purchasing a commercial print, buying locally has an authenticity component to it as well as a higher level of transparency. “I see a lot of cultural appropriation in design and in art. When looking to add a new work to your collection, it’s important that you understand where it’s coming from and are sure the artist is being compensated appropriately,” adds Regan Billingsley, owner of Regan Billingsley Interiors.  

Resist the urge to impulse-fill your white space 

What comes first, the art or the interior design? According to Regan, both can be true. A piece that holds a lot of value for a client might determine how a particular space is designed. “I recently had a client who had a bunch of old charcoal drawings of New York that we transformed into panels as custom wallpaper in her elevator.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, Angie shared her husband’s recent experience. “Having moved into an office space where the walls were dark grey, he commissioned two large charcoal works of clouds specifically to contrast the office design.”

Whether or not you’re remodeling or just moving into a new space, Regan said to embrace the white space and be patient until you find something that you love to fill it. “I might sit with a dining room table without chairs for six months before I find the right fit. And that’s the same way I approach art.” She emphasized how possible it is to make an impact with just one special piece. “Back up in the space, look at your focal points and really work with that. You can have an entire room centered around just one piece if it elicits joy, especially if you’re working from home. Everything in your space should feel meaningful.”

Art’s Role in Commercial Real Estate

The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond our doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world—from curators and artists to developers and more—with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.

Our first panel, Art’s Role in Commercial Real Estate, focused on the convergence of private and public art to aid with communicating brand identity, distinguishing neighborhoods, and adding tangible value to properties and the communities that surround them. Host Sarah Barr, Principal and Director of Hickok Cole Creative was joined by Stacy Skalver, President of ArtMatters, Ryan Stewart, Senior Development Manager at Grosvenor Americas, and Robin-Eve Jasper, President of NOMA BID. 

If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art’s Role in Commercial Real Estate.

Communicate brand identity and make a good first impression

When trying to appeal to a particular target market, art can serve as a striking differentiator. Commissioned work in particular allows you to have more influence over what goes into your space and helps create an authentic environment. Stacy Sklaver, President of ArtMatters shares that her process begins by asking clients about their vision and mission. “Art is the first thing you see when you walk into an office or lobby and it’s the last thing you see when you’re leaving, so it should speak to who you are.” 

The right kind of piece can make a long-lasting impression and contribute to a unique experience for clients or visitors. Sarah Barr, Director of Hickok Cole Creative works frequently with artists on her projects. “Art can be used as a means for storytelling, especially when working on a repositioning project and trying to find ways to renew the space or make it feel different,” she says. “It’s important to think about what the experience will be like for people in the building but also how it impacts the streetscape and passersby.” 

The Belgard residence located in DC’s NoMa neighborhood

Invest in the community to ensure long-term success

A decade ago, graffiti was considered unappealing and devaluing, but in today’s urban landscape murals and even graffiti art have become ubiquitous. In fact, choose any city and a guided tour of street art is certain to be available — visibility that would be attractive to any developer. So what’s changed? For one, the convergence of private and public art in the form of lobby art galleries or entrance plaza sculptures has helped turn ordinary buildings into landmarks. 

“The value of these kinds of art pieces help to place properties psychographically in the public mind. They experience a place in a way that’s emotional. Pow! Wow! DC has really come to characterize NOMA, making it known as the mural capitol of DC,” says Robin-Eve Jasper, President of NOMA BID. And that’s translated into a positive for the neighborhood and the city as a whole. “It’s impossible to value at the art piece level but generally, NOMA has contributed well over a billion dollars in fiscal revenue to the city over the past 14 years or so and if there was no identity here, I think we would have seen a much smaller effect. What’s great is that we can enable artists to really express their authentic vision while improving the connectivity and make unappealing spaces appealing.” 

Start early to tell the right story (and stay within budget)

As liaison to the gallery or artist and the client, consultants assist with many of the logistics — including installation and maintenance — associated with having an art program and are equipped with the knowledge and network to do so efficiently. They are responsible for sourcing artists and curating works that accurately reflect their client’s brand while adhering to their budget. But all of that takes time. Ryan Stewart, a Senior Development Manager at Grosvenor Americas suggests getting a consultant on board as early as possible to ensure the greatest return on your investment. “The longer the lead times, the more flexibility you have to commission pieces and the easier it is to work with the interior designers to ensure the artwork complements their design and vice versa,” says Ryan. 

Cost is an unfamiliar factor for many people purchasing artwork and one that usually goes underestimated. Stacy added that “too often what goes on the walls is the final consideration on a project which usually means there’s little budget left for what the client is trying to achieve.” Stacy stated that the earlier consultants get involved the better. “For many of our clients, this is the first time they’re doing something of this nature. Every medium is different and as consultants, we can advise our clients as to what things cost. We’re educators.”

Hickok Cole’s Richmond Studio Re-Locates to the Arts District Neighborhood

The 1,500 square foot space reflects the firm’s confidence in the revitalization of downtown Broad Street and commitment to securing a successful future for Richmond.

RICHMOND, VA – November 16, 2020 – Hickok Cole announced the opening of its new Richmond studio at 20 E Broad Street in the city’s Arts District neighborhood this fall. Since launching Hickok Cole RVA in 2016, designers had been operating from the Gather coworking space in Scott’s Addition but had consistently grown in size and were in need of a new space that could support their vision for the future. The new 1,500-SF location offers greater flexibility and improved collaboration with room for a material library and display drawings as well as a wellness room and dedicated meeting space to host clients.

“Our team is deeply rooted in Richmond and passionate about the Arts District neighborhood. We’re invested in this city and wanted our new space to communicate that,” says Jessica Zullo, Associate Principal and Director of RVA Studio. “A ground floor retail setting allows us to interact with pedestrians and contribute to the neighborhood experience. We’re urban designers at heart and relish being a part of this flourishing creative community in Richmond.”

The ground-floor storefront features large windows that showcase the open studio environment inside, which includes shared tables and seating. The hospitality-inspired design features artful lighting, open shelving, and the strategic use of carpet tiles as area rugs to showcase the original wood flooring.  A hospitality pantry featuring modern glazed brick tiles, concrete quartz countertops, and matte black plumbing fixtures serves as a sophisticated showroom for clients.

The team discovered the storefront while designing the adjacent Someday Shop and worked with Gareth Jones of JLL to negotiate lease terms. Arts District presented itself as the ideal location due to its proximity to galleries, Virginia Commonwealth University, and other design studios and small businesses. Construction began in April of this year and completed in September. Currently, all Hickok Cole staff are encouraged to work remotely with team members coordinating to phase schedules and following CDC guidelines should they need to be in the office for any reason.

“We’re so impressed by what the Richmond studio has been able to achieve in its four years of operation. Under Jessica’s leadership, they have truly integrated themselves into the community and developed the kinds of relationships we’ve built our DC office on,” said Mike Hickok, Senior Principal and Co-Founder of Hickok Cole. “Having recently announced plans to move our headquarters location to DC’s Union Market neighborhood, it’s fitting that our Richmond office would find itself moving to a creative community as well. The Arts District embodies our firm culture and poses an excellent opportunity to expand our long-established commitment to the arts.”

About Hickok Cole
Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. Headquartered in Washington, DC for over 30 years, Hickok Cole expanded its presence beyond the DMV area to open a Richmond Studio in 2016. After nearly five years, Hickok Cole RVA is proud to have designed some of the area’s most sophisticated interior projects including multiple Gather co-working locations, The Current, Brenner Pass, and the Wellsmith at Libbie Mill Midtown.

The Employee is Always Right! Why Your Workplace Has More in Common With Malls Than You Think.

Whether it’s a 20-person start-up or a solo-preneur, Gather Art’s District provides tenants the flexibility to grow and scale within the same four walls.

How many times have you heard that “the mall is dead”? One quick Google search using this phrase churns out several hundred haunting visualizations of abandoned storefronts, eerily vacant food courts, and pastel wallpaper curling off the walls. 

Recent conjecture about the demise of the office triggers a similar sense of dread among commercial real estate brokers and tenants as they envision a post-pandemic future. In reality, retail—just like any other industry succumbing to the wiles of the virtual landscape—isn’t going anywhere. It’s merely evolving, and the office is no different.

Office design has matured since the turn of the twentieth century, taking on various models like Taylorism circa 1904 and Cube Farm in the seventies and eighties with the dawn of the cubicle. The most popular and commonly used today is known as the Networking model. Often referred to as the flexible or open office, Networking has flourished in the past decade with movable furniture, semi-divided workstations, and seating arrangements designed to address the need for collaboration, privacy, and overall efficiency of space.

Flexibility has taken on new meaning since the start of the pandemic as employees working at home appreciate new-found independence in the way they work, when they choose to do it, and where. Likewise, employers have witnessed how efficient and productive remote work can be. Still, only 24% of professionals have said they want to work remotely full-time, though they don’t want to give up the flexible work option that technology has granted them at home. We surveyed our own staff and found only 5% would want to telework full-time if the option was available but none expressed an interest in returning to the office full-time either. It seems the most preferred option is somewhere in between, with the vast majority (85%) hoping to spend 1-3 days working remotely in the future.

“We have to give people a reason to come back to work,” says Patrick Gegen, Senior Designer at Hickok Cole. “When retail first saw a shift in sales coming from online channels, some brick and mortar sites shut down as a result, but eventually the industry learned to appreciate the value-add of in-store services and pivoted towards offering customers curated, branded experiences that made it worth their in-person visit.”

In-store activations and events like Instagram pop-ups or massive dance classes caused a resurgence in brick-and-mortar. So much so that even direct-to-consumer brands (those who sell their products online) like Warby Parker and Rothy’s have launched physical storefronts of their own. So, what’s the office equivalent? 

“People want a personal touch, they crave human interaction,” explains Patrick. “We’ve all proven that we can work from home and we enjoy it to a certain degree, but we’ve erased the impromptu catch-ups and run-ins, both of which stimulate and contribute to the creative process. Video calls and virtual conferences can’t replace the social experience we derive from the workplace.”

Bully Pulpit Interactive offers a variety of workstations that cater to the individual needs of each employee.

Company culture, networking, and social interactions with co-workers may be enough to drive workers back into the office building. But, according to Patrick, that shouldn’t mean employees return to the same space. Instead, he envisions a future landscape catering to employees who have the option to work remotely but who typically choose not to. That means the new office will be designed with fewer designated desks and more public spaces that facilitate connection while serving a breadth of functions: fewer private offices and more divisible space; multi-purpose rooms that break down for additional, smaller conference spaces or semi-private workstations instead of just hosting large group meetings; and amenity spaces equipped with charging stations and enough table space for several workers to set-up as needed. With the ability to work from home for heads down or quiet work, more centralized workstations will allow employees to congregate and collaborate easily while private spaces will serve those looking to retreat from distractions at home or who feel more productive in the work environment. 

“One thing that’s likely to affect how we interact with the office is our sense of balance and well-being,” said Melissa Brewer, Co-Director of Interior Design and a Senior Associate at Hickok Cole. “We’ve clearly grown accustomed to the flexibility in our schedules and the extra hours we’ve gotten back without our commutes. So how can we replicate this level of convenience in the office?”

A study conducted by FlexJobs identified work-life balance as the top consideration for professionals evaluating new job prospects, even outweighing factors like vacation days and salary requirements. The same study found that Gen X (40%) and pet-owners (28%) represented the top tiers of workers who wanted flexible work options – and that was before the pandemic. It’s clear that flexibility and convenience are top priorities for the next generation of workers and driving factors behind why employees today prefer working from home.

Melissa argues that convenience is the holy grail of office amenities and suggests office owners and employers take that into consideration when designing a new space or re-integrating their workforce post-pandemic. Offering services that benefit employees by allowing them to optimize their time at home makes them feel valued while allowing them to focus on work when in office. In fact, one survey found that providing employees with onsite clinics not only reduces medical care costs but the time they spend away from work traveling to and from their physician. Likewise, offering in-house services like onsite daycare and dry-cleaning contribute to greater productivity and comfort. 

Discovery, Inc. offers employees on-site access to medical clinics helping to improve productivity and job satisfaction.

“Employers that are ahead of the curve were already providing the things in life that help employees save time and feel appreciated–either directly in their building or adjacent neighborhood–before the pandemic,” Melissa continued. “Now that employees feel like they’ve achieved higher levels of work-life balance during quarantine, they’re going to want to preserve that when it comes time to return to the workplace. And I think employers understand that. They have lives too.”

Offering benefits that go above and beyond the standard packages will help entice new talent and a younger generation post-quarantine, as well as help retain current employees by demonstrating they care. Employers and office space will adapt to emphasize convenience and service so people can maximize their time spent at home as well as their time spent at work.

The pandemic has taught us that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to our work week anymore–and maybe there never was. Our internal survey shows that parents desire increased flexibility in order to devote more quality time to their families, while staff who live alone prioritize connection to their team members and the social side of work. Retail has adapted into a highly personalized experience and so too should our workplace. Each individual’s needs, tasks, and life circumstances vary greatly, and our new challenge is to design a space that allows each employee the flexibility to make it their own.

The French novelist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said it best, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” In short, like retail, the office isn’t going anywhere, it’s simply evolving.