If it isn’t broken…it should be.

April 15, 2014
“Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” – Mark Zuckerberg  

Dreyfuss & Blackford Design Principal, Jason A. Silva, AIA, LEED AP has a confession.

While it sounds counter intuitive and frankly, quite scary, more and more often I find myself looking for ways to break things. Now, let’s be clear. I’m not talking dish throwing or window smashing. Rather, I’m talking about critically examining and “breaking” what is best described as “the system”, i.e.: the way we have always operated in our work environment.Simply put, I am looking for new ways for people to work. And I am not alone. My colleagues at Dreyfuss + Blackford Architects are right here with me. Turns out there are others in our local community in that same camp. Innovators getting the same wild-eyed looks from the establishment. Individuals engaging in a process of disassembling and analyzing every aspect of that “system”.

 

The Shop at VSP Global

Enter VSP’s The Shop
The synergy began when I was introduced to Jay Sales and Jeff Ferreira-Pro, the innovation strategists and idea curators working out of the Hacker Lab in Midtown Sacramento. These two took a healthy fear of inaction and began to change the course of VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision care company in the United States. As the project-based think-tank was about to expand and move, Dreyfuss & Blackford was invited to be a part of one of the VSP projects: the conceptualization, formation and testing of the new innovation lab: The Shop.

Then, when I learned The Shop was moving into the former Vogel Chevrolet showroom on the corner of 17th & I Street, I knew something great was going to happen. Dreyfuss & Blackford originally designed this modern glass box building in 1956. Inherently multifunctional, the building has had many uses since then. To now become a high-functioning think-tank and prototyping lab for VSP…serendipity.

 

Breaking Stuff
Back to the notion of breaking stuff. If “the only thing that is constant is change” (Heraclitus) is combined with the rate of change with technology (Moore’s law), we can only stay ahead of the curve with innovation and experimentation. This is where The Shop becomes the tool.

 

The Shop is:

  • flexible
  • buildable and breakable
  • a learning space
  • part of the experiment

On the inside, The Shop is a space to incubate innovative projects that involve technology. For example, VSP is working with Google Glass on multiple fronts – from integration with prescription eye-wear to applications in patient care (link). Adaptability to any project demand is required. Everything in the “office” is on wheels or glides across the smooth floor, making the space completely user-adaptable. A portion of the space is arranged in project bays and when one project needs more room, the team can expand into the larger open space. The flow is about reflective and introspective interruption. There are frequent team discussions around white boards, which seem to be everywhere. A dry-erase marker in your pocket is a mandatory accessory.

Repurposing the showroom's large open volume with flexible components. Repurposing the showroom’s large open volume with flexible components.

 

On the outside, The Shop showcases technology and innovation, highlighting the emerging talent in the midtown community. By building a hub of collaborative innovation and sharing with other creatives, the goal is to attract talent that might otherwise move to Silicone Valley. Build it and they will come.

The first thing that strikes most people as they pass by the space is the array of tall corrugated cardboard structures inside the two-story space. This innovative structural wall system achieves adaptive space nirvana. Traditional furnishings are designed to stay put; exactly what The Shop did not want. Tables and walls have wheels; whiteboards are portable and hang from hooks on every surface. But with an open space, and only glass between the sidewalk and the IP (intellectual property), visual separation and security were a must.

Enter the .wav partition (another story for another post). Using triangular cardboard tubes adhered to flexible wool felt, a serpentine,  lightweight wall becomes user-adaptable – the key to making your own space. The possibilities are endless.

 

I believe architects are artists of practical possibility and The Shop is a perfect platform for creative collaboration. Working with this (ahem) visionary client and advocate for the Sacramento tech and creative community, I knew we had arrived. Dreyfuss & Blackford is on the frontlines. What a great place to be…and a great excuse to break more stuff.