You’re working on a residential project. It’s a big project and you’re the lead designer. It’s early in the design phase and you’re thinking about ways to bring light and views into the design. You need some inspiration so you open up a web browser and Google away.
An hour and a thousand web pages later, your eyes are red from staring at the screen. Despite all that consumption, you’re feeling more overwhelmed than inspired. Sound familiar?
Ah, the plight of the modern architect. Sure, you can find images galore on Google, Houzz or Pinterest. But the Internet can only take you so far.
Sometimes you need to get outside for fresh ideas. You can take a walk outside. While that’s good for clearing your head, it’s not a focused way to get work done. You can visit an art gallery. But that’s too conceptual plus you can’t really bill that time to the project. You can visit a manufacturer’s showroom. But you want to be inspired, not sold to.
What you need is someplace in-between the art gallery and the product showroom, where you can let your imagination wander without a sales person breathing down your neck.
Fortunately for you, some forward-thinking manufacturers and distributors are developing innovative approaches to bring the physical experience back into the design process.
The 7 Tide experience
I recently toured the 7 Tide experience center in Boston. 7 Tide is a collaboration between AW Hastings, the New England distributor of Marvin windows, and Clarke, Sub-Zero and Wolf’s New England Distributor.
7 Tide is an “experience center”, not a sales showroom. In fact, you cannot purchase any products at 7 Tide. Instead, the focus is on providing designers and homeowners with a first-person experience with their products in a real-world context.
Focus on design
7 Tide’s main focus in on design. As Barbara Bradlee, the manager of 7 Tide, states, “7 Tide is all about personalization, customization and experience”. It’s intended for designing and inspiring, not detailing and specifying.
The physical layout of the space embodies this principle. Everywhere are full size mock-ups and creative exhibits set in a residential context. For example, all of the stoves and appliances in the Clarke side of the building are fully operational. If you want to see how well a Wolf range bakes a pie, as one visitor did recently, feel free to bring it in. They may draw the line at a full Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s worth a shot.
Clarke also has an in-house chef who, in addition to providing cooking demos, offered me a delicious goat cheese hors d’oeuvre right when I entered. It’s one thing to flip through product catalogs, it’s another to experience the end product first-hand. My stomach fully appreciated the experience.
Likewise, on the Marvin side, windows make up most of the decor. There’s an fully exploded Marvin window sculpture, similar to Damian Ortega’s Cosmic Thing sculpture.
I particularly liked the dining room styled conference room located in the middle of the space. Enclosed in wood-clad Marvin windows with complementary wood interior, the room provided a nice warm residential feel. Had I more time, I would have felt right at home sitting down at the table and getting some work done. Alas, I had to move on as there was much more to see.
One interesting facet of 7 Tide is how technology is seamlessly integrated into the experience. Need a big screen to show clients your design? No problem. Want to test out different window combinations in real-time and at full scale? Sit down in the “living room” while a staff member uses their proprietary app to quickly present all the possible combinations.
While the “living room” is perfect for viewing sizes and styles, there’s a separate material library for looking at finishes and trim. Using an interactive table, you can assemble a palette of material samples while simultaneously visualizing your window or door in real-time. Enter your email address and the resulting assemblage will be emailed to you. In the works is an enhanced digital experience that will follow along and record your product and material selections as you go.
The Sub-Zero / Wolf side includes a media lounge with a 16’ x 9’ screen. Architects and designers are welcome to bring their clients in to use the technology for design sessions.
Though we have a whole range of technology and resources at our fingertips, there’s something about seeing a design on the big screen. If you don’t have access to this kind of technology in your office, 7 Tide is happy to let you access theirs.
Plan your experience
If you’re in Boston, I highly recommend stopping by 7 Tide, even if you’re not currently working on any residential projects. The concept is well executed and the technology enhances the experience without overwhelming it. Congratulations to the AW Hastings and Clarke team. I suspect we’ll start to see more experience centers as distributors and manufacturers catch on to the concept. This is great news for us architects and designers.