Hello! We are excited to release our recent interview with Seth Hanley, of Blitz, based in San Francisco, California. Blitz is a full service architecture and interior design firm, specializing in commercial and residential design. They fully believe in allowing the unexpected, even unwanted, events to change you. You have to be willing to grow, and growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. The pre-requisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them. This goes for their projects as well. They delight in the process of discovery. Be sure to check out their website to see some great projects.
Images courtesy of Blitz.
VT: Blitz’s website says that context and climate are important considerations in projects. Why is it so important to relate spaces back to their location? What kind of research do you do to inform your designs?
SH: We design for clients with global offices. It’s important to understand where you are in the world and convey a sense of what’s important there. We’re often chasing the vibe of an organization. That means understanding the people that work at an organization, but also the unique characteristics of their location. All this rolls-up into design.
Understanding the geographic and climatic component of a project site and responding accordingly, even in interior architecture, is both good design and environmentally responsible. Our projects respond to light, and maximize views. In an urban context leveraging the city outside the window can really activate an interior design.
Research can include site and context analysis, building analysis (if we’re working in an existing building), and ultimately client research. The projects are, after all, for them. Product research is also an important component that relates to location — learning about regional or local building practices and material availability informs your design but also makes you a smart designer.
VT: Your projects are made up of four components: site + urban planning, architecture, interiors, and furniture. How do you integrate all these components so that your designs are unified and seamless?
SH: We want to identify opportunities early on in the design process and leverage them. It starts with site and relates to context, everything from access to light and views. Then there’s the building we’re working in, what does it have to say for itself? We’re fortunate to have worked in and re-purposed great historic buildings in San Francisco and we want their story to shine through our work. Understanding the building shell as a framework is critical to launching your own ideas. The interior design is about people, how they are supported to work, collaborate, and socialize. Understanding activity is critical to designing a successful interior space. Furniture literally supports this effort, and is critical to human health and comfort, so we work closely with clients to understand their work styles and posture needs. Variety is key here since many of the workers we design for are no longer tethered, the freedom to roam with a laptop makes anywhere a possible venue for work.
VT: Every workplace has a different culture and atmosphere. How is branding expressed differently amongst your clients? Are your clients requesting different approaches to branding than they did 10 or 15 years ago?
SH: Integrating a brand into a space is NOT about plastering the company’s logo and brand colors everywhere. More often than not an online, print, or product identity fails to transfer successfully into built space. But all of our client’s spaces have a strong brand identity that derives from each organization’s culture (back to the vibe) and energy. Space can embody an organization’s principles and still reference the brand, and in fact creates a much stronger connection to it when the basis for the design is the organization itself.
VT: When you designed One Workplace HQ in California, you combined an office and a showroom into one environment. What were some of the challenges that you faced in combining these two types of spaces?
SH: This combination actually makes perfect sense. When we embarked on this commission it was clear that One Workplace wanted to “walk their talk” and the idea of the working showroom resulted. What better way to understand the product than to see real users at work? Of course these same people also sell the product so a visit to One Workplace can be a truly interactive experience. Ownership and executives all sit in the open office, there are no offices. Meeting rooms and coffee / food stations are public and open to visitors. Furniture solutions are used extensively to meet practical design needs such as storage, so there aren’t traditional back of house spaces which make a client tour really a 360-degree experience.