Austin Crowley made a big impression when he and Patrick Burke, AIA paired up on a panel discussion, “The Experienced Designer & Emerging Professional“ at the interiors+sources annual Design Connections conference last February. As a follow-up, the magazine’s cover story for August 2019 featured Austin as one of five up-and-comers in architecture and design. They asked him to share a few ideas:
Please describe your background and career with the interior design world. How did you get to where you currently are (include position/company name)?
My attention has always been focused on design, whether I was aware of it or not – be it an album cover, a lobby, a facade, a city. All of these elements inspired me to take up drawing. While going on to study architecture at New Jersey Institute of Technology, I worked as an intern at several NYC architectural design firms such as Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Upon graduation joined Michael Graves Architecture & Design’s Princeton office in search of an integrative design firm that was innovating at all scales – from large scale architectural masterplans to product design. The Michael Graves office has incredible design leadership, and I am more than excited to participate in the innovation as we continue to expand our design outreach.
What kinds of projects are you working on now? Which one(s) are you most proud of?
One of the most interesting projects I have been working on is a 750,000sf workplace design project near Washington DC, where our client was looking to design their own “workplace of the future.” This prototype has been developed as a high-tech workplace for a new wave of creative employees, and the design has put a strong emphasis on flexible work areas as compared to the more traditional defined work areas. Similar to parks or cafés that encourage interaction in urban areas, the impact of collaboration spaces in buildings is a trend very close to the hearts of younger employees whose productivity feeds off increased collaboration and communication.
I can guarantee this trend will continue to grow over time as companies look to attract the next generations of workers who care deeply about these values, and as technology becomes even more accessible. Following a heavy initial research period prior to design, this workplace has built upon these methodologies not only to develop our own insights as a design firm, but also to create a new vision for the future of our client’s company.
What challenges you most as a younger designer? How do you address these challenges?
My biggest (and favorite) challenge as a younger designer is the growing impact of technology in design. I spoke on a panel at the 2019 Design Connections Conference alongside Patrick Burke, a Design Principal here at MGA&D, where we discussed workplace collaboration between different generations and issues caused by the technology gap. By the end of the panel, we realized that the generation gaps are essentially not all that different, and even though methods of communication/documentation have developed over time, we are all still working towards one common goal: improving our built environment through design.
What does it mean to you to be a design disruptor? How are you suggesting new ways of doing things in your design work?
A design disruptor will innovate on multiple levels. This entails not only design aesthetic, but also how we lead and collaborate as a team, the way we strategize and collect data, how we visualize our ideas, and many more aspects to make sure we remain on the forefront of design innovation.
I have been working closely with a colleague at MGA&D to establish an in-house “Tech Team,” a technology-focused initiative to push the boundaries in design technology and implementation into our projects. Too often “disrupting” is presumed to have a negative impact, but for me disruption serves as a means to new ideas and breakthroughs for design firms. We have received very positive responses from our clients in tying this technology to our design process, and we will continue to explore cutting edge design strategies for future clients. Our staff also sees the benefits of this technology as a more environmentally friendly approach to design presentations, and even project coordination.
What do you think the design industry needs heading forward? And, where do you see design heading?
As we are now deep into the age of technology, our spaces must be designed for maximum infrastructural flexibility (not physical flexibility) to reflect ongoing development of technological systems. Smaller and smarter devices, smart products, and sustainable materials will continue to improve every day and our designs need to keep that in mind if we want to produce quality spaces that last over time. However, we must also be sure that technology and humanistic design (a core principal to our approach MGA&D) can merge together in our designs, not overpower one another.
What’s next for you?
Upon passing the remainder of the ARE’s and becoming a licensed Architect, I plan to continue my passion for research-driven design and the impact of technology on our built environment. As designers, we have a great responsibility to go far beyond the initial sketch for the buildings we imagine. What are the key forces at play? What cultures, communities, users, sustainable objectives, or technological aspects are we dealing with? All of these questions establish valid beginnings to a creative design solution.
WANT TO KNOW MORE:
CLICK HERE to read more on the Interiors+Sources August edition, and their feature article with Austin Crowley