This week, Frame founder Robert Thiemann joined a group of the jury members for a public Zoom live judging session to discuss takeaways and insight from the judging process.

What was the red thread connecting our September Interior of the Month and four honourable mentions? Human-centric design. Of all the trends represented in the over 150 spaces submitted for consideration, our 15-strong jury felt this focus was the strongest. Even while the commended projects span institutional, show, hospitality and residential design, they were each celebrated for emphasizing and respecting the user experience.

RETURN TO HUMANITY

‘The term that I’ve been using is “Return to Humanity”,’ said Royce Epstein, A&D design director at Mohawk Group. ‘We’ve been living through this digital revolution for the last 25 years and we’re starting to become so overwhelmed with technology, consumed by the data on our phones. . . swiping and scrolling all day. Humans have forgotten that we are nature – we belong to nature. Our senses need to be engaged with nature: that’s what they crave. In all aspects of design we need to reengage our senses, especially touch.’ ‘How do we get back this sensation of feeling safe and grounded?’ she asked.

In all aspects of design we need to reengage our senses, especially touch

It explains why the winning project, Leeds’s Maggie’s Centre – a structurally impressive healthcare centre built by Heatherwick Studios to help support cancer patients's wellbeing through biophilic design – resonated so deeply with the jury. Asked to consider the innovation, functionality, creativity and sustainability of the projects, the diverse team of industry experts spent September poring over imagery and information to identify outstanding interiors.  ‘I’ve spent a lot of time in cancer hospitals, and so I felt very connected personally to this project,’ shared Epstein, a cancer survivor herself. ‘Architectural space can be demoralizing to people especially if there isn’t connection to natural light and some of the more humane aspects of our culture. I thought it was an outstanding project in terms of the visitor experience and what they would gain from this space.’ ‘[With the existing site], they didn’t remove one of the few green patches in the area,’ mentioned Lavazza design manager Florian Seidl. ‘They multiplied it and made it grow. The whole building and structure almost grows out of the ground.

UABB Longgang Exhibition Hall in Shenzhen by Atelier XI earned scores of 7.91 for Best Use of Light and 7.84 for Exhibition, respectively. Photo: Zhang Chao

The bright, industrial SCH52 Loft in Berlin scored 7.65 for Large Apartment. Photo: Marcus Wend

Gusto 501, a bar and restaurant constructed from terracotta and steel received 7.89 for Best Use of Material. Photo: Nic Lehoux

A CASE FOR MATERIALITY

The majority of interiors evaluated in September were completed pre-COVID. However, it is this year’s extraordinary circumstances which even further accentuate the value of human-centric design. ‘You can link [this trend] to this desire to slow down and protect yourself and control what you can,’ commented Florian Seidl. ‘We see this pop up throughout our cultural products.’ ‘I think it’s interesting that in these different projects, we see a connection to nature,’ replied Shannon Pringle, interior designer at Bernardon, ‘but it isn’t something that we can control. I think there’s a familiarity to nature that comforts us – it might be why we’re attracted to the projects that express that.’

I think there’s a familiarity to nature that comforts us – it might be why we’re attracted to the projects that express that

Collectively the jury members appreciated the rich materiality present in the spaces – natural materials being one way to connect to the earth, Pringle pointed out. Partisans’s Gusto 501, a Toronto restaurant, garnered attention for a technically and visually striking terracotta wall with integrated lights. Adidas global brand design director retail Jelle Sapulete believes that Batek Architekten’s Berlin residence SCH52 Loft illustrates how spatially powerful using very humble materials in an abstract way – and leaving parts of the construction exposed – can be. And Justin Bridgland, More Design Office co-founder, praised UABB Longgang Exhibition Hall by Atelier XI. He, like his co-jurors, admired the dialogue that a single design gesture was able to start in an old industrial building: ‘To be honest, in awards, this is the kind of thing I look for: a clean, concise idea that’s well executed.’

A clean, concise idea that’s well executed is what I look for in Awards

ON POST-COVID PURPOSE

‘During the judging process I was thinking wow, this was the world a few months ago. And now we are in a completely different [mindset]. At the same time, I was really missing these spaces and thinking I want to go back to these places – when you look at these beautiful [projects] you cannot think about a future without public spaces. That will not work. I think it will be good to think about intimacy for the future,’ thinks Matteo Renna, Rituals’s design specialist concept and development, ‘and investing more in making these spaces safe. People need to go back to meet each other.’ ‘Right now, the only reason for me to want to go out is to meet people or to make that experience count,’ followed Sapulete. ‘Maggie’s Centre would be like number one on the list as a place [to go], because its a place with a purpose. It will make the world better. For me, that for me is the most important thing.’

Hero image: Submitted in the category of Healthcare Centre, Leeds' Maggie's Centre earned a chart-topping score of 8.88 out of 10 in the voting process. Photo: Hufton + Crow

Meet our October Interiors of the Month jury here.