As a discipline, it is interesting that design, in all its aspects, is both a trendsetter and a trend follower.
Trendsetting is driven initially through a small number of visionary individuals, progressively attracting a following until the once-unique becomes the norm. Similarly, design developments will often mirror demand, through an increase in aspiration to emotional fulfilment, or to respond to a social or commercial need.
There was a big growth in entries to the New Designers awards this year that sought to capitalise on social and environmental requirements, while satisfying commercial objectives. Very few entries approached their subject with a blank canvas in denial of the present economic climate.
The majority had recognised the need to recycle existing building stock, ranging from the conversion of a multi-storey car park to a disused brewery. Even those projects that had come from a design-inspired base sought a practical application focused on sustainability, through the use of materials such as recycled plastic and glass.
This year, most projects also seemed realisable. With little or no adaptation, they would have fulfilled a need, be that social – such as a venue for local artists to exhibit their work – or a commercial destination such as a nightclub and bar.
Irrespective of the hoped-for improvement in the economic climate, environmental and sustainability pressures will increasingly invoke a desire to recycle and reuse.
The standard of entries in this year’s Spatial Design Zone were exceptionally high and clearly in step with the outside world. This is extremely encouraging and reflects the quality of the guidance students are given.
As construction cost consultants and project managers, it is important to us that the aspirations of entrants are seen to be achievable, and in selecting our finalists and, ultimately, the winner for 2009, this was a key factor. However, achievability does not mean inspirational design concepts are rejected as incompatible with everyday needs.
Our winner, Francesca Loam, showed great design flair and originality while, at the same time, not only recycling and reusing the existing building upon which it was based, but developing and enhancing the key elements of that building so that the final product was greater than the sum of its parts.