A great idea can come from anywhere. Payette believes this, and our philosophy and culture defies singular authorship. At various milestones of a project’s “life” in the office, project teams hold an Alcove Discussion – a firm wide interactive presentation to test ideas, pose a question or to get feedback on a particular issue. Alcove Discussions are integral to our design process and the recent transition to remote work hasn’t changed this – a testament to our IT team and the energy, inspiration and design thinking mindset of our talented office.
This past Thursday we held our first ever Virtual Alcove Discussion for the University of Hartford’s New Academic Building. While it is difficult to replicate the experience of “being there,” the team who ran the discussion provided an engaging and thought provoking presentation.
The New Academic Building will support significant expansion in Health Sciences, in particular the University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program and the introduction of a new, traditional four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, in addition to other new programs in the health professions at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The building site was selected to showcase hands-on learning. Located prominently at the center of the main academic green—the heart of a prospective student’s introduction to the University—the building will be set into a gently sloping lawn, taking advantage of the campus’ bucolic topography to create a destination and activity hub for students and visitors alike. The challenge of the site called for a bold intervention resulting in a building that is both a singular object in the landscape and the landscape itself.
Our first virtual alcove discussion was a thoughtful, lively exchange about how the building connects and relates to adjacent buildings and green space; a study of meadow, path and place; and the decision process for landscape and building material selection that reinforce the design concept. Having presenters included on the video stream provided a human connection and afforded a similar experience to an in-office presentation. Participants quickly learned that they could contribute thoughts and comments through the Chat and the Q&A functionalities built into the software utilized for the presentation, and that they were also able to “raise their hands” to provide audio commentary.
Over 50 people attended the alcove discussion, along with a few Payette pets and kids, participating virtually in the collaborative process by asking questions and sharing ideas. The discussion inspired several other teams to request Project Showings and Alcove Discussions in the coming weeks. We are looking forward to refining the process and continuing the high level of office engagement in design discussions, despite our geographic separation.