Big Ideas & How To get them to Stick

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The conceptual design process for the Schrafft’s City Center blows my mind to think back on. I started at CBT in April of 2014 and shortly thereafter cooked up the initial candy concept for the lobby, bold and playful Confectionary Contemporary mixed with a Factory / Industrial vibe.

It was based on the history of the building, the notoriety of the Schrafft’s brand and the popularity of the lofty warehouse aesthetic. The feature image above was completed about two weeks into the design process by Brandon Haschig using Revit Cloud rendering software and not a whole lot changed from there on in. This one image essentially set the stage for the completion of a two year design effort. We developed the moves presented here and imagined other areas of the space not depicted in this view to fit the context, for example, the stacked wood cladding and antique flash bulb wall sconces on the elevator lobby, and the matte and gloss panels on the conference room side. It’s scary how fast you have to arrive at the Big Idea. That concept has to be strong yet flexible, unique yet simple and relatable, and specific although able to be carried out subtly in a number of ways if its going to Stick.

A few small details changed, but the finished project is extremely similar to the quick first pass imagery. Digital technology is forcing the industry to make quick decisions very early on because we have the ability to deliver virtual reality in a matter of days. If we get down to the nitty gritty, then you’ll notice the jellybean-like furniture was eliminated to improve queuing at the coffee bar, the exhaust pipe was hidden behind the charred wood at the fireplace for a more clean contemporary feel. In terms of lighting, we nixed the Edison bulb chandelier; there was a concern that the lights would swing and hit each other not to mention there was quite enough going on! Lastly, we pushed the design of the column cuff fixture. The original approach was a little too “studded collar.” It was meant to suggest the notion that the columns could be cleaned up, sandblasted to their natural concrete finish and transformed into a feature lighting element, a drastic change from the white drywall “pizza boxes” that concealed abandoned slab connections (see existing photograph below). Although, once something is rendered so literally it is difficult to justify continuing effort on additional design options.

I love the story that Rebecca Goldstein tells of her first week working with the Asset Strategy team. It was the same week I held a column charrette as our Bagel Friday gathering topic. Anyone who was interested joined for a quick intro to the project and the a brainstorming session of debating and sketching. She came up with the idea of the fiber optic strands of light threaded through and held taught by a decorative extension of the structural cuff. Rebecca went on to present this idea to the client and detail the unique custom treatment. A very proud moment.

Renderings in Design Development Compared with Finished Project:

Columns Before:

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Construction Progress:

2015-12-02_Schrafft's 214

Read the Blog Post: Returning the Candy Factory Glory

See More Photos of Schrafft’s City Center

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