The Future Design Workshop
The Fisher & Paykel Series
Sydney, NSW, Australia
A group of 21 top Australian architects and interior designers came together in Sydney this month to attend the Fisher & Paykel Future Design Workshop.
Kennedy Nolan, Wolveridge Architects, WOWOWA, Edition Office, Clare Cousins Architecture, Templeton Architecture and Matt Gibson Architecture + Design were among the group of leading designers who joined the occasion, along with The Local Project as the exclusive media partner for the day.The event marked the third time Fisher & Paykel have hosted the workshop, which is organised to cultivate a two-way conversation between the local design industry and Fisher & Paykel’s senior industrial design team around the future of new products and the kitchen itself.
Mark Elmore, General Manager Design at Fisher & Paykel, and four senior industrial designers flew in from the design centre in New Zealand to be a part of the workshop, which was held at the Fisher & Paykel Sydney Experience Centre. Introducing the day, Mark gave a brief background into how Fisher & Paykel have deliberately sought to actively engage with the design industry globally to ensure their products are meeting the needs of the world’s best architects and interior designers.
The Future Design Workshop, he explained, was developed from the same driving force behind the Fisher & Paykel Case Study Program, which sees the company collaborating with designers on projects around the world, providing unprecedented insights into how architects, designers and their clients use their kitchens and the Fisher & Paykel products. Running the Case Study Program globally and bringing together groups of local designers at the Future Design Workshops also gives the industrial design team the chance gain personal understanding of how local designers may respond differently and have different needs, questions and feedback.
This system of active consultation with the design industry is a unique aspect of Fisher & Paykel’s design approach, and throughout the day the designers attending the workshop commented how rare it is for their perspective to be sought out in this way. Ben Robertson, founding director of Melbourne-based architecture practice Tecture, said ‘I don’t know any other supplier in the field who is asking for our feedback – and before the product is even completed. It’s also been really exciting to hear ways that they’ve designed products to allow make them work in different situations.’
The workshop was structured around four smaller groups, each with a member of the senior industrial design team, focusing on everything from the refrigeration platform, to the visual brand language, technical information and cooking products. As is to be expected when bringing together a group of leading designers in their field, the conversation ranged far and wide, with questions and discussion on both sides providing an exceptional opportunity for honest, productive collaboration.
In the refrigeration workshop Mark Haydon explored the new soon-to-be released Column Refrigeration range, giving the designers insight into the product and the opportunity to ask questions on everything from the hinge system, to the functionality of the variable temperature zones, to the panel thicknesses for integrated fridges and freezers. Mark in turn had questions for the designers around their experience with the refrigeration options currently available, and the potential interest in new products being considered for development.
Senior Designer Simone Stephens talked through the technical resources available through Fisher & Paykel’s Kitchen Tools program. Covering everything from the information needed for planning through to installation, Simone explained how their design team are working to provide key information about new products as early as possible, as they recognise that building projects typically take one to two years from planning through to completion. The workshop also provided valuable information for the architects and designers around alternative installation guides that are available, offering them a wider range of flexibility in their work.
Meanwhile, in the cooking workshop Mike Jensen and Adam Moody discussed ideas around modular cooktops providing more flexibility, and preferences among the assembled designers for materials and finishes used on the products. Following the workshop, Mike was enthusiastic – ‘It was really valuable as this session gave us confirmation of our thinking, which is good because it shows that we’re aligned with what the industry is looking for, that we’re seeing the same things.’, he said.
This consultative approach has already influenced the products in the works – the first Future Design Workshop held in Sydney three years ago provided the feedback that while the designers loved the refrigeration options, there was no refrigerator of an ideal width for a two-bedroom apartment kitchen. Based on this observation, the Fisher & Paykel design team have been developing a narrower option, creating a family-size fridge more appropriate for an apartment. The soon-to-be released range of all-black ovens was another ‘classic example’, says Mike, ‘of us drawing on what the architects and designers were calling for, and using that to not only influence our designs but to support the business case for developing the product too’.
Befitting a workshop focused around both design and the kitchen, the day was punctuated by a special guest talk and an abundant, delicious shared social kitchen-style lunch cooked by the Experience Centre by in-house cooking specialist Cassie Heneghan (on Fisher & Paykel appliances of course.) New Zealand interior architect Rufus Knight of Knight Associates, who worked on the Fisher & Paykel Sydney Experience Centre four years ago when he was with Fearon Hay and who will be collaborating on designs for future Experience Centres, discussed how the New Zealand landscape has influenced his work locally and abroad, sharing stunning imagery of his projects and the awe-inspiring natural environment of New Zealand. Enjoying this insight into a top interior architect’s work, feasting around a long table, sharing food and conversation all highlighted what the day was all about – the changing but central role of the kitchen as the social and functional heart of the home.
As Mark Elmore explained at the start of the day, Fisher & Paykel’s mission is ‘to be the world’s most human centred appliance brand’, a principle that seemed perfectly encapsulated in the Future Design Workshop. By making the unusual step of bringing their senior industrial design team out from New Zealand for a day working with some of Australia’s leading designers, the commitment to the benefits of this collaborative, conversational attitude to design was clear. Judging from the success of previous workshops and the response to this most recent Future Design Workshop, we will be seeing the results of this approach in kitchens across Australia in the near future.