Rick Cook on the need for sustainability, wellness and resiliency in design

You might as well look at three billion years of evolution to see how problems are solved instead of thinking we're going to do it in the next three days.
– Rick Cook

Since being established in 2003, COOKFOX Architects have gained a reputation for being proponents of architecture at the intersection of sustainability and wellness, which co-founder Rick Cook says is more pressing now than ever.

"Our current studio is LEED Platinum, but it's also the first WELL Gold certified project in New York," he explained to CLAD in an interview by way of example. "Which has much more of a focus on human health and wellness and ways that we can achieve those. And, go figure, they're now topics that we're all going to be focussed on moving forward."

Future wellness

Cook was talking from his home overlooking the Hudson River, social distancing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and suggested that the current situation would draw wellness in architecture into sharp focus.

"We're all going to be very interested in our health – and there are technologies that are showing some promise for how we can continue to provide healthy environments when we gather together – but a big blanket statement for COOKFOX is that we like to go back to nature under the theory of biomimicry. You might as well look at three billion years of evolution to see how problems are solved instead of thinking we're going to do it in the next three days."

Sustainable beginnings

Needless to say, this is a far cry from when he and Bob Fox set up the firm with a simple desire to pursue beautiful, innovative and sustainable design.

The firm's mission to "create environmentally responsible, holistic and biophilic architecture that fosters occupant wellbeing and a healthy urban landscape" is now particularly pertinent, but Cook explains that he rather stumbled upon the concept of sustainability through his work in the late nineties designing the Ross Institute Center for Well-Being, which educates students to become effective global citizens

"The thought at the time we did the Centre for Well-Being was that the world of architectural design had been really obsessed with the visual," he explained. "The way we conveyed the art of architecture was through pictures in magazines, but the way you experience architecture is with all of your senses."

"Around that time, the US Green Building Council and the LEED rating system were founded and they were really focussed on energy and carbon. We had a global perspective, but it was really focussed on energy.

"So, when we all started making buildings that we tried to ensure were better for the planet, it was really about energy, technology and how we could reduce the carbon footprint. But what we stumbled on was that when we made buildings better for the planet, we could make buildings better for people."

Benefits to business

COOKFOX recognised that the energy costs for a typical company in the US was a tiny fraction of the cost of running the business, whereas its people could account for anywhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of that cost.

"If you could increase productivity, you could more than pay for the stuff that we were interested in. Radically cutting the energy – where the cost for a company is 1 per cent – that's nothing. But if you can impact productivity by 1 per cent, you can have a huge economic impact," explained Cook.

With that in mind, the firm started pitching in terms of human health, wellness and wellbeing, but it was the output of these that captured the attention of prospective clients.

"The funny thing is that it wasn't so much that people really cared that much about people's health as much as we'd like at the time," Cook said. "It was that there was a lot of competition for the best talent, which there still is today, so we started to talk in terms of recruitment and retention – and when you talk about recruitment and retention of talent, people really listen."

Varied projects

Today, COOKFOX's work ranges in scope from small "jewel" projects and single-family homes to complex urban transformations and large institutional and commercial spaces. All, however, are built on the firm's underlying principles.

Its 150 Charles Street residential development in New York, for example, saw the adaptive reuse of a massive abandoned warehouse made of concrete, brick and glass. The firm sought to integrate the development with the natural and historic environment of the West Village and, as a result, it features biophilic elements throughout, as well as over 30,000sq ft (2,800sq m) of landscaped space, including green rooftops, planted terraces and courtyards.

The mixed-use 550 Vanderbilt development in Brooklyn was designed to integrate nature for the health and wellbeing of its residents, with natural materials like wood and stone used to create an inviting, tactile experience that transitions residents from the street to their homes.

And One South First/10 Grand, a residential, commercial and retail development in a converted sugar refinery also in Brooklyn, not only features a gym, a café and common areas for its occupants, but also a roof garden with greenery and outdoor recreation space.

An evolving vision

As these projects show, COOKFOX remains true to its original vision, but that vision has been – and continues to be – distilled and refined over time, not least recently during a project for Oxford Properties, of which Google is now a tenant.

"When we did the research for the new Google headquarters, there were three overlapping things that came up over and over again about the workplace of the future," said Cook. "One was wellness, another was authenticity and the third one was flexibility, which you can substitute for resiliency."

"We talk about resiliency from natural disasters, in environmentally responsible work and, now, we're all going to be confronted with resiliency in the way we work."

This idea of resiliency is a more macro concept for providing insulation against many individual threats as whole – be they from the climate, to health, against economic upheaval or anything else – and Cook sees it being the next major trend in architecture and beyond.

interview  COOKFOX Architects  sustainability  wellness  resiliency 
Since being established in 2003, COOKFOX Architects have gained a reputation for being proponents of architecture at the intersection of sustainability and wellness, which co-founder Rick Cook says is more pressing now than ever. "Our current studio is LEED Platinum, but it's also the first WELL Gold certified project in New York," he explained to CLAD in an interview by way of example. "Which has much more of a focus
ARC,DES,CLD
COOKFOX's work ranges from small
More news
News stories: 1 - 30 of 7785     
 
 
 
News stories: 1 - 30 of 7785     
 
 
 
company profile
Company profile: Myrtha Wellness
Myrtha Pools was founded in 1961 in Italy by the engineer Giorgio Colletto and through research and development has become leader in the swimming pool industry and has created an international brand.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
The Fangshan Tangshan Museum
Decq has been recognised for raising the profile of women in architecture
"Things have improved, but not enough"

On women in architecture

Interview: Ole Scheeren on why 'form follows fiction' in his work
According to Ole Scheeren, the best buildings are the ones that tell us stories
"Economic value can be achieved by a sense of generosity towards the public domain"

The architect behind Beijing’s CCTV Headquarters and the Taipei Performing Arts Center talks form, fiction and fantasy with Kim Megson

The three cultural organisations are set around a flexible public space
Jakob Sand
"Maybe a project ends up looking like a BIG building, but there’s no blueprint. If you have a good idea, we will look at it, whether you’re an intern or a partner."

On BIG's French adventure

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Contrast between light and dark spaces has been used at the Rtiz Carlton Kyoto
"The difference between a hotel and a ryokan is that a hotel is more public and a ryokan is less intense and more intimate"

Across Japan, architects are giving traditional ryokans a modern makeover with surprising results. We take a look

The area features iconic artworks, including the To Protect and Serve mural by Noni Olabisi
Gabrielle Bullock studied architecture and fine art at the Rhode Island School of Design
"I’m one of 424 black female licensed architects in the US. We represent 0.2 per cent of the profession"

Architects must reflect the world they design for, says Perkins+Will’s director of global diversity

A bronze mesh allows sound energy to reach the hall’s walls, improving the acoustics
"It’s a privilege to have completed a scheme of such importance to the cultural identity of Antwerp - Stuart Mills"

SimsponHaugh’s latest project

features
Mikyoung Kim
"Nature isn’t rigid. It’s open-ended; that’s its beauty"

The Boston-based landscape architect on blending art and science to design creative spaces that bring communities closer

Marble and bronze create a “sense of masculinity,” said Fu
Fu has a masters in architecture from Cambridge University
"I wanted to go deeper than the stereotypical concept of lanterns, junks and temples"

Drawing on his childhood memories for the St Regis Hong Kong

cladkit product news
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
cladkit product news
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
Eco Resort Network conference to convene in Mauritius this May
The event will be hosted in the Mauritius in 2024
Megan Whitby
Hospitality industry event Eco Resort Network is set to take place at the Ravenala Attitude Hotel, Turtle Bay, Mauritius, from ...
Eden project uses drones to spell out climate change warning
Magali Robathan
Almost 300 drones were used to signal an environmental message above the Eden Project’s biomes, during the UN Climate Change ...
cladkit product news
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
CSI Design Expo Americas 2024 announces new Attractions & Entertainment Technology Zone
The event will allow buyers and suppliers to meet
Magali Robathan
Cruise Ship Interiors (CSI) invites cruise lines, shipyards, design studios, outfitters, and suppliers to take part in CSI Design Expo ...
x
Sign up with CLAD for regular news updates