This month, we put questions to a few architects and engineers in the region to learn more about the work they do. They gave their take on what’s happening in their industries. We thank those who answered our questions.
Tracy Jordre, AIA, LEED AP
Share an industry trend you’re noticing and how it’s impacting your company.
I’m a firm believer in not following trends, instead really focusing on best practices that are time-tested and proven to be effective for our client’s needs. Having said that, I certainly research and review what is trending to see what may impact or likely transition into a best practice as we all continue to learn, evolve, and grow in our knowledge and expertise.
A current trend that I do believe is transitioning into a best practice is the concept of creating softer spaces that transition the gap between home and the office. Knowing that we’ve all learned how to work effectively from our homes has validated the need for our offices to provide us with more ways to work within our office buildings.
The idea is that we all have three offices now: the work office/desk, your home office and a “third office.” For some, that may be a table at Starbucks, it may be in a vehicle or possibly another location within your office building that provides you a different type of opportunity to sit and work at. Recently, the most requested is a softer seating area that provides a more residential look and feel for greater comfort. Ultimately, we’ve learned how to work differently over the past few years, so our offices need to be able to adapt and grow with our changing needs and expectations.
What’s a recent project that you are most excited about?
For the past few months, my team and I have been working with a client who owns a large corporate office building. Although it has great bones and the client made significant investments in premium office furniture solutions, there was minimal thought and consideration put into integrating branding and inspirational elements within the design solutions.
We quickly realized that very few people within the multi-story building truly knew and understood the purpose and values of the company, so we accepted that we had a daunting task in front of us. Our team spent numerous hours researching the history of the company from its inception to today, all the while thinking of ways that we could creatively incorporate the company’s story in a meaningful way for guests and staff alike.
Due to this being a very large effort, we created an architectural branding standards document, a road map for this company to be implemented at this location, as well as at their other facilities to convey their story and legacy. Over the past couple of months, several spaces have been transformed with new finishes, lighting, graphics, video walls and intentional storytelling, and the result has been absolutely awe inspiring!
What’s the best thing about working in the industry today?
Post-pandemic, our office spaces have fundamentally changed and evolved at a rate never experienced before in our industry, and that is extremely exciting! I specialize in designing for workplace well-being and creating office spaces that bring inspiration, joy, and wellness into our everyday lives and right now, that has never been more meaningful and more desired. Clients are realizing that recruiting people back to the office is extremely challenging, so creating an office that is a “Destination of Choice, not of Obligation” has really opened design discussions.
Aligning well-being design principles to experiential design outcomes has resulted in offices breaking boundaries and transforming into exceptional spaces where users can truly enjoy being at work, thrive and perform at the highest of levels.
With that said, as an industry we are also starting to better understand how to design around neurodiversity and multi-generational users. The addition of these design discussions has elevated our conversations with our clients to ask better questions and listen much deeper to their responses. I feel very blessed to be an architect right now.
Shawn Senescall, AIA,
Grand Forks, ND
What’s a recent project that you are most excited about?
The Career Impact Academy in Grand Forks, which is the new career and technical education school for the Grand Forks region, has been such a pleasure to work on. The greater Grand Forks community has supported the project in unprecedented ways, both financially and through thought leadership. The project will not look like any other high school in the state, responding to the unique programs and educational opportunities inside its doors.
Students will be engaged in hands-on learning in Building Trades, Automotive, Precision Technology, Aviation, Medical Careers, Culinary and many other programs. I believe the project will be a differentiator for the Grand Forks region, not just through the architecture but through the way the community has embraced the project as its own reflection of its values and priorities for education of the future.
What is something you want people to know about the architecture industry that they may not know?
Some people think architecture is simply making a building look beautiful, but it is so much more exciting. A great architect wakes up every morning and asks themselves – how can I bring great spaces to my community today? Great spaces don’t mean just pretty buildings; these spaces force architects to ask themselves and their owners things like, how can this building be healthier for its users? How can we reduce our carbon footprint? How can this building be efficient for its users to help improve operations and customer experience?
We also ask, how can this space be so comfortable and welcoming that people go out of their way to come and use the space? All these questions are unique to projects and take a team to solve, including many engineering partners and, of course, the client. When the team can execute the right goals and objectives for a project, the result is so much more than a beautiful building.
What direction do you see the industry moving toward in the next five years?
With the development of AI (artificial intelligence), faster and faster timelines, and growing cost in the building trades, owners will be looking for creative architects to deliver exceptional, unique buildings that can be done as inexpensively as possible. This is where the real creativity is met. With the push of a button, AI can simulate any environment you instruct it to, but it doesn’t understand how spaces make people feel and it can’t be a steward of the client’s dollars.
Architects have an immense opportunity in the next decade to differentiate themselves through their ability to listen to people and create buildings that respond to their individual and specific needs. Architecture isn’t pushing a button and getting a pretty picture, it’s a process and a journey that takes time in order to have exceptional results.