IIDA Perspective - Spring/Summer 2015 - 20
a conference, and all the pieces that move give real
time content to Cornell Tech they can learn from
how people are reconfiguring it.
Is that a project that you're looking at expanding
and using elsewhere?
It really is in some ways related to the Imagination
Playground or the TED theater because they're all
as much about the magic of things packing up and
moving as they are about permanence.
Your office is known for having a playful sense-
employees are even encouraged to bring their
dogs to work.
Dogs are totally encouraged. What I look for in
employees is a key skillset, and one of the absolute
most important elements is a sense of curiosity.
We recently came out with a book called What If?
which looks at how curiosity drives our work.
In design, I think it's the exploration, it's the
questioning, it's the playing that's key. We have
a group of quite dissimilar people here. Very
cross-disciplinary. It allows a plurality of
personality and talents to experiment and play
and collaborate. Our office is in some ways a big
3D playground with materials from all of our
projects. Keeping a sense of curiosity and play alive
in our work is something we're very focused on.
We bring people in to talk to us and inspire us
about what they're working on. We're constantly
bringing in new craftsmen and artists and
materials, and we're intentionally setting up teams
with a range of influences to avoid what I think is
the worst possibility for someone doing an interior
space: knowing the answer before you begin.
If you're applying a style without thinking about
what the real goal is and without digging into the
research, you miss the whole play part of it, you sort
of bypass that.
Do you have a formal program to bring
in people from outside the firm? Or just whenever
you feel there's someone that can contribute
to the conversation?
In the past we have had a series of organized
lectures and talks, but now it's much more
informal. We recently had an artist come in and
talk to us about decorative finishes. We invited a lot
of interesting local craftsmen from Brooklyn and
had a kind of furniture fair on our seventh floor
recently. It tends to be driven by what we're looking
to explore at that given time.
One of the things that seems to be happening
more and more throughout the industry are firms
looking at ways to expand what they're doing.
You have firms like IDEO who are working as the
lead on architectural projects, you have design
firms who are moving into strategic consulting
and branding. It seems like everybody is moving
into different spaces. You have written a number
of books, you've worked in theater-was that
a conscious decision you made, to expand what
the studio does?
I think no matter what we've expanded into, there's
a very distinct point of view. That's what's most
important to me, that there be an authentic point
of view. The driver for us has never been about
expansion or diversification. It's been about loving
new challenges, much more of an attitude and an
approach than a style, and a belief in deep research.
It was five or six years before we did any real work
in playgrounds, where I was putting together a play
coalition to understand it. In theater, it was five
years before I did any work-I was just meeting
with directors. I'm slow to look at expansion as
anything other than "Where are we going to get
the most creative engagement for our team and
create the most positive effect in the world as
designers?" I think honing in on your own very
specific DNA and not letting the world rub off those
eccentric edges has been key for us.
OF DAVID ROCKWELL
Rockwell's latest book
stems from his interest
in play and possibility.