The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd

Analysis

Better together

The merger of Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Perkins+Will enables both firms to work together to create smarter buildings driven by human behaviour, Sanne Wall-Gremstrup and Phil Harrison tell Stu Robarts


When Perkins+Will (PW) bought Schmidt Hammer Lassen (SHL) in early 2018, the US behemoth knew it was getting the Danish firm’s expertise in human-centred design. For SHL, it was a chance to develop that expertise further.

“It’s always been core to us to take a hard look at human behaviour,” SHL’s managing director Sanne Wall-Gremstrup tells CLAD. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve our understanding of how people and spaces coexist, as it drives productivity, joy and health.”

Tracking and gathering that sort of data has become easier over time, but it’s something that Wall-Gremstrup says SHL has been able to accelerate further under PW’s ownership.

“We’re currently involved in projects where we’re making use of advanced sensors in our pursuit of learning more about how people use buildings. We used to simulate it, but now sensors empower us to explore things in real-time with real data.”

Among the metrics the sensors are being used to track are things like movement, acoustics, temperature and light. By applying custom algorithms to the data collected and combining it with subjective data from users gathered through surveys, questionnaires, and observations, SHL are able to develop their understanding of how people behave in, perform in and appreciate space. They are then able to modify spaces accordingly.

“As an example, in the common spaces of libraries, we can tell if people are concentrated or stressed,” says Wall-Gremstrup. “When stress arrives we can offset this through, say, reshuffling interiors and work processes. Then we validate the prototype, and if it works, we stick with it and capture the learning, and if it doesn’t, we’ll try something different. It allows us a life more in beta, always dynamically testing and pursuing perfection.”

 For PW, the acquisition was never simply a matter of asset gathering – in SHL they saw a firm with both a similar philosophy and, as CEO Phil Harrison explains, the ability to render complicated ideas into its space-making with “elegance and beauty”.

“A lot of this comes out of the Danish ethos – they’ve been at it a long time – the ideas of democratic architecture and democratic space, the philosophy that space is for citizenry and that buildings serve a larger purpose than just being for the owner or the person that happens to occupy them at a certain point in time.”

By way of example, Harrison cites SHL’s Dokk1 project in Aarhus, Denmark – a library and public square, the place you go to get your passport and driving licence, a pre-school and an arts and culture venue.

“It transforms the idea of what a library can be,” says Harrison.

Wall-Gremstrup also cites Dokk1 as a good example of SHL’s approach – specifically in exploring the impact of its architecture on the experience of its users.

For the Monroe Blocks masterplan project in Detroit, meanwhile, SHL have been using energy performance, daylight and people-flow simulations to understand potential massing and to inform elements such as the location of entrances and lift capacities.

And, for the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, SHL have been using weather scenario simulations to assess site resiliency and how to adequately protect the building against extreme sea-level rises.

“We’re just scratching the surface on all the technology components entering into the design field, says Wall-Gremstrup. “It’s tremendously exciting and we’re going to learn much more about building materials, upcycling, recycling, intelligent lighting, energy consumption and how to deliver sustainability goals.

“We can use these insights to fuel our essential belief that quality architecture enhances people’s lives. Now, it’s smarter, faster and comes at a lower cost. It’s not that everything becomes scientific, it’s more that our creative decisions become better informed.”

The innate human-centredness of SHL’s design will be something PW can draw upon with the practices now working alongside each other in New York and San Francisco studios – and for Harrison, who has led the company since 2006, it’s a timely opportunity.

“Just in the last couple of years, I’ve seen a notable shift where most clients – or at least the clients we want to work with – are very focused on how buildings are used and experienced as the primary design driver,” says Harrison.

“The qualitative, experiential and environmental aspects of space have become that much more central to most client’s missions. It’s a fundamental shift.”

Although PW and SHL will continue to work separately on plenty of projects, they will also work together – with each taking the lead where appropriate – on certain projects, including an upcoming mixed-use development in Toronto and a mixed-use masterplan in Vancouver.

“Our inspiration is not to have a single style or a single methodology across the firm, or even a single voice, but a recognition that we’re much richer and that we have greater excellence in our work if we embrace a notion of diversity,” says Harrison.

“This goes for the people in our firm, our clients and the places in which we work. And we think having a Danish voice in a diverse organisation in which you share certain core principles that may be put into practice by different people makes for a richer design conversation.”

Schmidt Hammer Lassen

Completed buildings 

Skanderborg Town Hall, Denmark (2016)

Thor Heyerdahl College, 

Larvik, Norway (2009)

Vendsyssel Theater, 

Hjørring, Denmark (2017)

Malmö Live, Sweden (2015)

ARoS Museum, 

Aarhus, Denmark (2004)

Ongoing projects

Monroe Blocks, Detroit, US

Fisketorvet Copenhagen Mall, Denmark

Sports and Culture Campus Gellerup, Denmark

Dahlerups Tower – Carlsberg Byen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Seaport World Trade Center, Boston, US

Perkins+Will

Completed buildings

Albion Library, 

Toronto, Canada (2017)

Historic Emancipation Park, Houston, US (2017)

National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, US (2016)

Northwestern University Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center, Evanston, US (2018)

Shanghai Natural History Museum, China (2015)

Ongoing projects

Destination Crenshaw, 

Los Angeles, US

The Meadoway, Toronto, Canada

The Stage, London, UK

Suzhou Science and Technology Museum, China

Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
company profile
Company profile: Willmott Dixon
Willmott Dixon delivers the social infrastructure that people depend on in their daily lives. We partner with our customers to focus on the services they want to provide, not just the building we construct, and we are committed to achieving a higher social purpose through our work.
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
Sangha features an indoor and an outdoor pool. Guests are given personalised programmes
"The key to a happy and successful society is a philosophy that places wellness at the heart of everything"

Calvin Tsao and brother Frederick are reviving the Chinese culture of physical and mental wellbeing with their Octave Living development company, as Christopher DeWolf discovers

Six Senses is opening the Zil Pasyon resort on the private island of Félicité, Seychelles, later this year
Craig Cogut founded Pegasus in 1996 and serves as chair and president
"Urban retreats are hard to find. There’s a segment of guests who’d welcome Six Senses hotels in urban locations"

Three years after Pegasus Capital bought Six Senses, how close is the private equity firm to realising its goals for its first spa and hospitality investment? Pegasus’ founder Craig Cogut tells us what’s been achieved and what comes next

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
The interior showcases a mix of reclaimed industrial features and was designed by Studio C102
"We’re passionate about market disupters – companies with conviction and a will to change"

The founders of new microgym 1Rebel

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

The design features raised walkways to protect the jungle floor
Heather Henninger (left) and Nathan Stevenson (right)
"Our goal is to be one of the largest dedicated green wellness communities in the world"

A new green wellness community for Mexico

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub
I want to use engineering to push the limits of expression
"We want to impress a child with this design and find elements that excite them. I want them to think, ‘Wow, this is where the Meridian Line passes through!’"

The controversial Spanish architect opens up about his critics, what inspires him and his £1bn vision for London

Shawn Hausman and SHD principal Jessica Kimberley created the interiors
"We tried to take over in a friendly way"

The Standard’s first London hotel is bold, fun and full of surprising touches

cladkit product news
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 ...
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 ...
Ojmar introduces battery-free electronic locker to cut carbon footprints in health clubs and spas
Ojmar says the batteryless lock is easy to install and features a user-friendly interface
Megan Whitby
Smart lock manufacturer Ojmar has released the OTS20 Batteryless – the first battery-free electronic locker lock on the market. The ...
cladkit product news
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
cladkit product news
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
The Leisure Media Company Ltd
The Leisure Media Company Ltd