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 7603     
 
 
 
News stories: 1 - 30 of 7603     
 
 
 
company profile
Company profile: Barr + Wray Ltd
Founded in 1959, Barr + Wray is recognised as a world-leading provider of spa design, engineering, and pool and spa equipment.
videos
BluGalaxy a Division of Blu Spas
Blu Spas
This animation showcases the beautiful concept design of BluGalaxy Spa.
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 project to restore Houson’s Memorial Park is ongoing
Thomas Woltz
"I am very proud of stewarding the largest public space to be built in Manhattan in a century"

The Wall Street Journal’s Design Innovator of the Year on designing the gardens at Hudson Yards and looking to the Native Americans for ideas on how to create a resilient future

Interview: Elizabeth de Portzamparc
Elizabeth de Portzamparc
"We need to stop the destruction of our world through predatory practices. We need to think of the future"

The architect behind Nimes’ Musée de la Romanité on designing to counter loneliness and the need for more cultural buildings

The Big U aims to protect Lower Manhattan from floods
"Funding woes and murky timelines are common problems. It can be easier to make a difference one small project at a time"

From parks designed to mitigate the effects of flooding to warming huts for one of the world’s coldest cities, these projects have been designed for increasingly extreme climates

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Interior designers Knight Associates clad the cycle studio in mirrored stainless steel
"We’ve designed the space so that the atmosphere is intimate"

Les Mills’ new studio spaces at its iconic Auckland City Gym showcase a trend away from masculine ‘grunty’ gyms to something altogether different

CopenHill urban ski centre
"It was born from the sheer anxiety of having to submit something brilliant in a very short timescale"

How a moment of desperation led to BIG’s CopenHill, the clean power plant that’s doubling as a skiing and leisure destination. Magali Robathan speaks to the architects that made it happen

The hotel features two restaurants and two bars, including the Julep Herbal & Vermouth Bar
Olga Polizzi is director of design for Rocco Forte Hotels and also owns two of her own hotels
"On Via Sistina, everything breathes history. At the same time I wanted to reflect the modern hunger for the fantastical - Tommaso Ziffer"

Following the highly anticipated launch of Rome’s Hotel de la Ville, Rocco Forte’s director of design reflects on a fascinating project

features
José Almiñana
"We are committed to designing evocative landscapes informed by the best environmental science"

The Andropogon principal on pushing the boundaries of landscape design for the benefit of humans and nature

Culture: Alexander Schwarz
Alexander Schwarz
"Our aim was to create a place celebrating public space and accessibility"

The opening of the James-Simon- Galerie on Berlin’s Museum Island completes two decades of work for David Chipperfield Architects. The lead designer talks us through the building

The Ryan Fieldhouse and Water Athletics Center, Evanston
"Most clients are very focused on how buildings are used and experienced as the primary design driver"

The MD of Schmidt Hammer Lassen and the CEO of PerkinsWill tell us why their merger will help create smarter buildings driven by human behaviour

cladkit product news
Atelier Alain Ellouz launches handcrafted precious stone lighting collection
LYRA has a sleek, cylindrical design complete with an elegant brass dimming switch
Megan Whitby
LYRA, GAMA, MONA and ATHENA are the first pieces from designer Atelier Alain Ellouz’s new.édition collection of handcrafted stone lighting ...
Móz Designs columns anchor the world’s largest indoor aquarium
The design of the columns was inspired by the sea
Magali Robathan
After a two-year renovation, Oakland-based metal experts Móz Designs have unveiled their inclusion in Georgia Aquarium’s new shark gallery. Located ...
LianTronics’ glasses-free 3D Star Trek LED screen attracts attention
Magali Robathan
LianTronics’ giant curved LED wall with stunning glasses-less 3D spaceship display effect has attracted many on the street of Chengdu, ...
cladkit product news
Christie laser projectors power new Five Senses Bubble dome theatre
The dome aims to integrate technology with arts and culture
Magali Robathan
Christie® GS Series 1DLP® laser projectors are delivering vivid and lifelike visuals in a new dome theatre located in Xiong’an ...
Painting with Light pushes boundaries to create unforgettable visual concepts
The team combines lighting, video, sound and special effects, with scenic and architectural elements, to create unforgettable visual experiences
Megan Whitby
Belgium-based light and video design studio, Painting with Light, will translate the story of your location into a visual experience, ...
Matteo Thun grows Allaperto collection with new suspended outdoor armchair
Megan Whitby
Allaperto, the lounge collection spawned by the partnership between design studios, Matteo Thun, Ethimo and Antonio Rodriguez, has been expanded ...
cladkit product news
ASPA International launches handheld UV-C light disinfection lamp
The compact plug-in product can be used easily in a commercial spa or domestic setting to disinfect surfaces with UV-C light
Megan Whitby
For over 30 years, ASPA International has designed and built high-quality spas for the hotel, health and wellness sectors. During ...
Siminetti unveils first glimpses of Mother of Pearl decorative surfaces inspired by the four seasons
The new winter design is finished with naturally occurring hexagonal patterns found in snowflakes
Megan Whitby
Siminetti has collaborated with British designer Chrisanna London to create a luxury Mother of Pearl decorative surface range inspired by ...
Cosm unveils Experience Centre with ‘one of a kind’ LED dome
The new Experience Centre houses a 20m LED dome
Magali Robathan
Cosm, a global technology company that builds end-to-end solutions for immersive experiences, has unveiled its Experience Centre which houses a ...
x
Sign up with CLAD for regular news updates