Tel Aviv Architecture + Design

by on April 23, 2015 - Leave A Comment

In the winter of 2014-2015, I took a two week trip to Israel where I participated in the program Livnot U’Lehibanot, a Hebrew term that translates as “To Build and Be Built”. This program is based in the historic town of Tzfat in Northern Israel and offers an integrated experience of volunteer work, hiking, and community building. During this trip, I helped construct stairs for a home for trouble teens, engaged with residents at a retirement facility, and hiked throughout Northern Israel. While the majority of my time was spent in Tzfat, I also ventured out on my own to explore other regions of the country. Architecturally, one of the most significant places I visited was the city of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv, or Tel Aviv-Yafo, was founded in 1909 and is currently the second most populated city in Israel. Known for its financial presence and vibrant nightlife, one often overlooked aspect of the city is its architecture. Amid the hustle and bustle of this sprawling metropolis sits an area designated as the “White City”. This term refers to a portion of about 4,000 buildings that were constructed in the 1930s in a unique form of the Bauhaus building style.

Israel Architecture 2

Originating as a German art institution, founded by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus school integrated traditional curriculum with a unique blend of fine arts and modern design principles. This academic style later evolved to become a full-on movement that placed an emphasis on Modernist concepts and techniques. The Bauhaus movement was significant in architectural development and remains attributed as one of the most influential components of modern design. So how does this European-based design process correlate to Israel?

Following the 1930s Nazi invasion of Germany, many German Jewish architects and Bauhaus students fled Europe and resided in Israel, bringing their artistic talents and training. This influx of European culture led to an evolution of the Bauhaus style by creating an architectural fusion of Modernist principles and the Mediterranean climate.

Modernism, as a whole, represented breaking away from traditional views and ways of interacting with the world. While these characteristics were portrayed internationally through many facets, architecture was one of the most common threads. This time period proved to be significant in the development of apartment buildings and other urban complexes and Tel Aviv was no exception. However, dilemmas posed by the Mediterranean climate forced the “traditional” European Modernist style to adapt to its surroundings. Considering the brutal summers with high temperatures and harsh sunlight, it was crucial that these residential buildings be constructed to withstand such factors. One of the most notable approaches was the use of white paint as a reflective surface (hence the name “White City”). Other techniques included replacing large windows with smaller recessed glazing, to minimize heat transfer and glare, and replacing sloped roofs with flat ones to develop roof-top gathering spaces. Buildings were also raised above ground on pillars, creating play areas below and allowing wind to blow through voids and cool the apartments.

However, despite these various building initiatives, the standard concrete used throughout projects remained ineffective at cooling apartments during the unbearable, hot summer days. As houses and apartments became so uncomfortable this time of year, residents began to utilize the city and neighborhoods around them. This lead to a more social, communal aspect of the city with residents spending more time outdoors and meeting at coffee shops, playgrounds, restaurants, and the sea. It has been speculated that these developments contributed to the friendly, communal lifestyle still prevalent in Israeli society and culture today.

Israel Architecture 3

Israel Architecture 4

Israel Architecture 1

Posted in: Design, Design Trends, M+A News, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , , , , , ,

2015 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria — A Collaborative Effort

by on April 16, 2015 - Leave A Comment

For those of you unfamiliar with Enterprise Green Communities Criteria, it is a sustainable certification program specifically designed for use on affordable housing projects. Last week marked a big milestone in the continuance of this widely used system, as Enterprise officially released the 2015 version of the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria.

The 2015 Criteria marks the culmination of a year long process of reviews and revisions from partners across many different disciplines all contributing to an enhanced end result.  It is this collaborative effort that is at the heart of the new criteria, which contains much refinement of existing credits, as well as the creation of new credits that align with the direction of green design in the industry.


Over the past several years, fueled by a growing generation of internet and social media savvy professionals, the architecture, engineering, construction and development industries have seen an increase in collaboration from all aspects of a project.  Professionals that normally wouldn’t talk with each other during the design process are getting the opportunity to learn from each contributor’s expert knowledge base.  Architects get to hear from the facilities manager, engineers get to learn from the owner, everyone is sharing their ideas with an end goal in mind – increasing the quality of housing for the end users.  While this may seem daunting to some and invoke the opinion of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” more knowledge only seeks to enhance the decision making process.  It is this notion which has seemed to fuel several of the changes in the 2015 Green Communities Criteria.

2015 Enterprise Green Communities Criteria

Source: Enterprise Green Communities (click to visit)

The most widely revamped section of the new 2015 Green Communities Criteria surrounds Integrative Design Process, which relies primarily on early collaboration from the entire team in the planning of a project.  Enterprise Green Communities believes that “a successful integrative design process facilitates the design and development team’s achievement of their objectives throughout the project life cycle.”  With greater descriptions on Goal Setting (credit 1.1a) and Criteria Documentation (credit 1.1b) and new sections dealing with Designing for Project Performance (credit 1.1c) and Resident Health and Well-Being (credits 1.2a & 1.2b), the new 2015 Criteria helps foster a unified team throughout the design process.

Leveraging an Expanded Team

Having an expanded set of stakeholders involved it’s easy to get off-track, however there are several ways to help maintain the focus of the team:

1. Have a strong leader steering all of the meetings. Having agendas and priorities for each meeting are a must to make sure time spent is valuable. Time is one of the most precious commodities to any professional.

2. Set goals early and with the entire team. Making sure everyone feels they had a part in setting the path for the project keeps the team on track for the remainder of the project.

3. Establish personal priorities for the end user and owner. This can be something as simple as “only use products from a certain manufacturer,” or can be as big as “the percentage of energy efficiency that will be attained.”

4. Be prepared to share your expertise but also be willing to listen to team members on areas in which you’re less familiar. The more knowledge being shared, the better informed decision making will be during the design process.

While highly sustainable and green projects can be complicated, a strongly led team with a collaborative, holistic approach to design is more advantageous. The 2015 update to the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria has done an excellent job of supporting team collaboration and success. Throughout the criteria document, you will find online resources and recommendations from others who have fully embraced the collective effort needed for these projects. Through the 2015 Criteria update, design and construction professionals will continue to share ideas, fine-tune the process and pave the way for innovation in the sustainable community.

Posted in: Commentary, Design, Design Trends, Expertise, Sustainability Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Change Management Part I: Cultural Change

by on April 10, 2015 - Leave A Comment

We hear it from our clients and experience it in our own office – workplaces are evolving, and it is happening quicker than you can snap your fingers. Younger generations, particularly Millennials and the newly deemed, Gen Z, want to work differently and have more flexibility than any generation before them. Just looking at the single fact that 51% of them prefer to talk to co-workers face to face, has major implications on how an office must be structured to attract their interest, let alone keep them long-term. Having four generations in the workplace means companies have to find a balance to keep everyone happy. As architects and interior designers, we are constantly researching how to tackle this dilemma because it not only affects our internal office culture, recruiting, and retention, but also our clients’ efforts in those arenas.

Creating an envious office environment is more important than ever, especially considering the increasingly transient nature of professionals in upcoming generations. However for many in the moment, there is nothing scarier than change. To combat this fear which manifests in the form of employee rumors and leadership anxiety, you need to change the mentality by focusing not only on the physical change, but addressing the cultural change as well.

In 2010, M+A designed and transitioned to a new location, going through a cultural change ourselves. Through this intimate experience we learned that, while the unknown can be hard to adjust to, it’s also full with rich rewards in the form of: brand integration, social connectivity, collaborative space office-wide, and a rejuvenated culture. As many of our clients continue to embark on this journey of change, we continue to learn the best practices to create forward thinking workplaces that, aside from being attractive to younger generations, are more efficient and functional. These practices include:

– Workflow improvements
– Integrated branding signage
– Collaborative workstations
– Technology integration
– Teaming zones
– Amenity integration

Changing locations or updating an office space is without a doubt a major project, but transitioning the cultural changes that happen simultaneously as a result, needs to be addressed with the same level of attention and care. Herman Miller reports that 70% of change initiatives end in failure and culture related changes can be the most challenging and unpredictable, possibly because the intricacies are often overlooked or overshadowed by construction or the other physical elements of the transition. Cultural change must be handled through an organized process, so that it can be more exciting than daunting. Then you’ll find that projects involving elements of change management are actually the most rewarding. They instill in your employees trust and confidence in your leadership and make them less fearful of future change.

Change management can mean a lot of things for a wide variety of scenarios, but it’s vital when moving to a new location, consolidating into one location, rearranging existing space, or updating an existing work environment. And remember, share your vision for the project. A vision and its intriguing potential is something for employees to get excited about. When communicated correctly, it can help bring new life to a workplace and reinforce the meaning of company brand to employees.

* Be on the lookout for Part II of this blog where we’ll dig a little deeper and share our process for helping clients manage their facility and cultural changes.

Leave Your Comfort Zone Blackboard Concept


Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Expertise, People, Workplace Culture Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Designing Justice Facilities for Security and Efficiency

by on March 31, 2015 - Leave A Comment

After a three year decline, the United States inmate population increased in 2013 to approximately 2.2 million in state and federal prisons and local jails. Having the largest prison population in the world takes a toll on not just correctional facilities, but also courthouses and law enforcement centers. Designing justice facilities that support staff, heighten safety and security, and run smoothly – making best use of taxpayer dollars – is increasingly vital.

“Justice facilities are challenging, in that they need to be accessible and secure at the same time. These buildings’ purpose is to serve the public and the community, so they should be inviting and easily accessible to the public. But at the same time, in light of recent actions, security concerns have now become a pervasive part of American life—which directly affects building design,” said architect Jim Mitchell, who’s specialized in municipal design for most of his 34 year career.

US Prison Population

Local prison population not included, click for source

Leveraging design to support operational procedures and enhance security is critical in these types of facilities to maximize the use of detention staff and also allow staff to efficiently flow to areas when needed. According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2013 there were 9.9 inmates for every correctional officer. And in courthouses there are a variety of occupants at any given time, from inmates to jurors, yet few security personnel. To successfully support operational staff these techniques greatly depend on the building type and different user groups that will use the space, however “placing building entrances in such locations that they may be visible from manned control locations, the use of cameras and closed circuit television at all entrances has become the standard,” said Mitchell.

Justice facilities also leverage a building’s design to control traffic and create intentional separation between the public, the occupants, and the staff, supporting appropriate interactions (or no interaction) between each user group.

Courtroom Entryways

1: Judge entry, 2: Jury entry, 3: Prisoner entry, 4: Public entrance (Click for larger view)

Let’s look a typical court room: an entrance is needed for the judge, another separate entrance is needed for the jury and court support, a third secured and separated entrance is required for the alleged person who is charged or awaiting arraignment, and finally, a public entrance is needed for those attending court.

Assuring only appropriate interactions helps eliminate potential conflicts that may occur between different entities. “The passive design is further enhanced by access control hardware at entry doors which are monitored by cameras and CCTV system to further protect against potential interface of separate parties,” said Mitchell.

Last, and definitely not least, maximizing the value of the building for the community it serves is constantly top-of-mind for the designer. Knowing that improvements will inevitably arise from state and federal laws concerning justice practices helps prevent the need to ask the public for additional funding. These facilities are constantly adapting to newer technologies and protocol. To address this Mitchell said, “designing a building that has a high net area usage, flexibility, and room for growth over the next 25 years or so” will make sure taxpayer dollars are well spent.

Posted in: Design, Design Trends, Expertise

7 Design Elements to Prevent HAIs

by on February 20, 2015 - Leave A Comment


Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) cost healthcare providers billions of dollars each year, not to mention the impact on patients and families. The CDC recently published its national report on HAIs stating that on any given day, approximately 1 out of every 25 U.S. patients has contracted at least one new infection during their hospital stay. However, there are ways to leverage design to prevent HAIs.

HAIs cost billions

The healthcare industry has made progress through its HAI Action Plan, but there’s more that can be done.

To fight these disruptive germs, why not start at the very beginning—with the building’s design?

Start with a conversation where company culture and design aesthetic are married with functional and purposeful elements. Conceptualize how each space will be used – not just by patients and providers – but by environmental service staff and visitors.

Asking questions about day-to-day functions are very informative and helpful, such as:

– What do their routines look like?
– What are their preferences? Daily challenges?
– What are any limitations within each user group?

This discussion helps designers create something that reacts to the reality about how each space will function. While not always easy, multi-disciplinary dialogue throughout planning and design allows the team to make the best choices and appropriately analyze the benefits and drawbacks of various design options.

During such a conversation your design team will have a lot of ideas in their arsenal. Here are seven design ideas that you will want to make sure are discussed. All of the elements below help establish a barrier for transmission of HAIs throughout healthcare facilities.

1. Hand Washing Placement 

Celebrate the sink. Position the hand washing station as a focus of the room, so that the patient can see when doctors, nurses, and family wash their hands. Hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of HAIs. This is not only important in patient rooms but throughout the hospital.

2. Cubicle Curtains

Being frequently washed and/or replaced, costs can creep up. Anti-microbial fabrics help, but curtains are prone to the transmittal of HAIs. Making rooms less reliant on cubicle curtains is one way to help tackle HAIs. For example: three-sided rooms only need one curtain, yet still have sufficient privacy.

By using sliding doors, curtains can be eliminated
Bing Cancer Center, 2012

3. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Air flow, filtration, velocity, and pressure are all critical. Operating and isolation rooms have drastically different needs than a patient room or waiting area. Based on the space, designers can make sure air flows in a way that helps limit the spread of infection.

Specialized areas have specific ventilation needs
Riverside Methodist Hospital MRgFUS Suite, 2012

4. Humidity

Keep humidity between 20-60% throughout the entire facility. Too much moisture grows bacteria and mold, making the risk for HAI much higher. Conversely, if a space isn’t humid enough there’s a higher risk of static electricity and ultimately, fire.

5. Maintenance

Frosted windows add privacy + high-level design
Doctors Hospital NICU, 2013

Studies have shown that maintenance is vital to inhibit outbreaks. And this doesn’t just include patient areas, but MEP systems and everything behind the scenes. Get environmental services or facilities staff involved in early decision making to make sure caring for your design won’t put you over budget. 

6. Horizontal Surfaces

Eliminating ledges and horizontal spaces where dust and dirt accumulate is a best practice. Evaluate horizontal design elements against functionality and realistic cleaning expectations.

7. Windows

Choose the right window and covering based on light and privacy preferences. Blinds add light while maintaining privacy, but they also collect dust and germs. Techniques such as adding frost to the window will maximize light and maintain privacy without blinds.

While higher design standards and building code requirements in the healthcare industry help, it’s important to recognize that these are minimum requirements. Studies have shown that best-practice technologies, materials, and design strategies, like the above, have decreased the risk of HAI transmission by lowering the amount of infectious agents in the built environment. To mitigate the physical and financial burden of HAIs it’s important to explore best practices that help defend your facility and its patients.

Posted in: Design Trends, Expertise, Healthcare Design, M+A News, Projects Tagged with: , , , ,