Every building has a need for storage. Whether it’s a grade school or a courthouse or an office building or a bank or a hospital, a structure’s need for storage is fundamental. That being said, it’s not a subject many architects/designers spent much time learning about in school. It just… is.
Being a creative person, I always imagined there being an inherent tussle between the artistic yearnings of architects/designers and the more mundane restrictions imposed by clients and their staid demands. How did one conflate Frank Lloyd-Wright inclinations and design savvy with by-the-book blueprints and obligations? To what degree is that true? What about as it pertains to storage specifically?
Turns out, that sort of conflict is rare in general, and almost non-existent when it comes to storage.
Naida Mirza has been a professional designer for a while now. With a BA in Interior Design and loads of real-world experience, she’s learned to appreciate her business for the exotic animal it is. Today, she is vice president and principal at ASD|SKY, an architecture and design firm. She works out of the company’s Atlanta office.
“[At ASD|SKY], we focus on contextual design. The solutions we provide are always born out of the needs of the project,” she said. “We do a lot of different things, including corporate headquarters, banks and financial institutions, restaurants and retail, and more. The creativity of a particular design usually depends on what region you’re in, the type of project and, of course, on the personality of the client.”
Mirza points out that West Coast tech firms, for instance, are more open to “creative” design ideas because innovation and experimentation are in their blood. A legacy bank, on the other hand, tends to opt for a more classic plan. In any project though, Mirza notes, a strong client relationship always helps fuel collaboration and mitigates any potential misunderstandings. “We all have our personalities, and those don’t change,” she said.
Planning for Storage
Naturally, that got me wondering about storage in particular. What, I wondered, did architects or designers learn about storage in school? Is storage creativity something that’s even on their radar?
Jeremy Davis is an architect with Brian Addis Architect LLC, in Ohio. As he recalls his school days, real-world applications – especially about storage – were rare. “Architecture school teaches you to manage your time. It’s really more about theory than anything else,” he said. “It’s all very high-altitude, very ‘big picture’ stuff. Storage wasn’t something that was ever even mentioned.”
Experience, though, is a great teacher, too. In Davis’s case, where the majority of the projects he works on are in healthcare, storage becomes something that is more important than clients sometimes realize. “As we get into a project, clients always want more and more storage. What they have is never enough. If you give them a 10 x 10 space, it’s soon too small. If you give them a 20 x 20 space, it’s soon too small.”
Davis notes that while storage is hugely important, it isn’t typically high on the list of priorities. “In my case, I’m focused on designing exam spaces, physician workspaces and those more operationally driven spaces. Storage is obviously hugely important to clients and is an important component to operations, but it’s often secondary to other concerns. It does, however, eventually fall into place during the design and coordination process with the client.”
Collaboration is the Key
Naida Mirza doesn’t hesitate when she tells me that there was zero emphasis put on storage when she was in school. She, too, remembers the highly theoretical nature of her initial instruction. Only when she got out in the real world did she begin to add practical experience to the mix. She learned along the way that it does indeed take collaboration to make a project come together.
“My Patterson Pope rep, Gene Reilley, has been invaluable in teaching me about storage,” she says. “He helps me find solutions that I wouldn’t have, otherwise. Take a high-density shelving system, for instance. Gene helped me understand the importance of floor loading. Little tips, and the education we’re able to provide to the client about storage matters, are huge.”
Jeremy Davis agrees that having partners who are storage experts contributes to his success. “It’s important for us to be able to offer solutions, and that’s what my partners do,” he says. “Instead of me adding a whole bunch of wire shelving, for instance, I can tap into their expertise about innovative designs and options. The right storage solution can maximize a space. It really shows the importance of collaboration amongst people with different specialties.”
Mirza knows that at the end of the day it’s all about designing the best facility she can for a given client. “Creativity – in storage and in general – can be expressed in a number of ways. Sometimes it’s products and sometimes it’s in how you work with a client. Every relationship is different. Having a partner like Patterson Pope – and Spacesaver – is a great thing to have, certainly.”
It Takes a Village
There are superstar designers, technically oriented designers, and generalists. Some excel at general construction, while some are gifted in detail work. There are architects who feel at home designing for banks and those for whom only the more exotic will inspire. Then there are professionals who get all jazzed about things like high density shelving, compact storage, modular casework and optimal medical records storage. Marrying creativity with client demands, in the end, is easier than one might think. It’s about relationships – just as it has always been.