An Interview with the Here East Meeting Pod Designers\

Meet the designers Nick and Jack as they discuss the inspiration, design and construction process, to create the three meeting pods of Here East.

The extended interview with Jack and Nick

Describe Hawkins\Brown’s relationship with Here East?
Nick: We're the architects and lead designers for the project - so we developed the designs alongside Here East and the consultant team. One of our interests is in innovative workspace design, and this is something we have brought to the design of Here East. We're interested in how to create environments that bring people together to stimulate ideas. We are also passionate about collaboration with other designers and specialists, which can help develop new ways of looking at the world. So collaboration has been an integral part of the design process, and it’s also one of the on-going aims of Here East after it opens.

Jack: So we've worked really closely with Here East to ensure that we create the range and quality of spaces that they were after, and deliver on their ambition for the site.

How do the pods reference and relate to the area's industrial history?
Jack: This part of East London has always had a strong relationship with manufacturing, and this is still true, although it has evolved. Many of the traditional large scale industries which built up along the canals have now left. But they've been replaced with an amazing network of small scale industries, artists and makers.The workshops around Hackney Wick and the Lee Valley lend themselves to these types of uses.

Where are the pods situated in the building?
Nick: The pods are located in the atrium spaces - there are three of these along the west facade. We agreed with Here East very early that the atria spaces were not just entrance receptions - they are much more than that. Surrounding each atrium are the tenant units, where these smart innovators will be developing future technology. The atria spaces are where they can meet, and collaborate. 

What’s the meaning behind each pods name?
Nick: One of the great things about the maker movement is that it allows people to examine how materials can be used in new ways.
We decided to celebrate that by developing an approach for each atrium around a single, common material - so we have the steel mill, the timber yard and the fabric factory.The internal features have been designed to explore these materials - and each unique pod would show off the materials potential.

“With this project we are trying to strengthen this pattern, and celebrate making - in all its forms - in the construction of the pods.”

Where did the concept for the pods come from?
Jack: There are a few areas within the atria where we can create collaboration space, and the most striking ones are the suspended meeting pods hovering within the tall space.They're the space where tenants can come together and create new ideas - they're like the shared brains of the building. We wanted these meeting pods to embody the ethos of Here East and the maker movement, in the way that they are made and the way that people use them.

How do you begin to design/concept the pods?
Nick: One way that we imagined the pods was as colourful, unique nodes - like electrical resistors - within the surrounding network of spaces. And each pod was to be a unique design. So we started developing the designs through a series of physical models, sketches and digital images, thinking about how each pod would be experienced from inside and outside the building.

Jack: We also thought about the unique properties of each material and how we can express that, so we worked with materials suppliers and samples to develop that further.

What is Hawkins\Brown’s relationship with ES Global?
Jack: After we had developed the pod concepts and designs, we worked with ES Global who are fantastic specialist in this kind of unusual structure.
Together with ES Global we worked through the detailed designs, which they then fabricated and installed on site. It was another great collaboration which has a been a theme of the project.

“We wanted these meeting pods to embody the ethos of Here East and the maker movement.”

How does the design process work between Hawkins\Brown and ES Global?
Nick: The process relied very much on the computer generated 3D models. We developed a parametric model to explore the design, so we could rapidly alter the pod elements from the angles of and spacing between the timber fins to the arrangement and material choices for the infill panels. ES Global had developed their own construction model which focused much more on the construction detail. There was a constant dialogue between ourselves and ES Global through sharing models allowed us to fully explore the design and ES Global to develop and ensure its construction.

How would you like to see the pods used?
Jack: They are typically seen as meeting spaces but we like the idea that they can be versatile. Whether its meetings, workshops or presentations, we're now looking at developing furniture that can be adaptable enough to accommodate a number of uses.

“There was a constant dialogue between ourselves and ES Global.”

What makes these pods unique?
Nick: I think the design and construction process is particularly unique. Using advanced parametric 3D modelling tools to develop the designs and generate the production information meant it could then be sent straight to a CNC milling machine for fabrication which is an innovative, unique and emerging process.

Which is you favourite pod and why?
Nick: We can’t decide! They're like children to us - we have to love them all equally regardless of how difficult they can be!

Jack: We like the steel pod because of a minor obsession with metals - the aesthetic of a riveted fuselage is really great. We like the timber pod because of its unique stretched and twisted form - which was the most challenging to design. We like the fabric pod because it's bulbous fabric cushions are bonkers!

“I think this embodies what Here East is all about - new ways of making things.”

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