In his paper “Flexible Architecture: The Cultural Impact of Responsive Building,” Professor Robert Kronenburg, PhD of the University of Liverpool summarizes flexible design in architecture as something “that adapts rather than stagnates; responds to change rather than rejects it; is motive rather than static.” With the advent of technology, innovative communication and transportation models, and the ever-evolving relationship between live/work environments, the world is evolving at a rapid rate. The need for this kind of design in architecture has gone from dreamy and futuristic to current and necessary. We started Wrapped, a design collective focusing on unique artwork that can be easily brought to a variety of mediums because we saw the need for design and art to be feasible and scalable. We have always been of the opinion that contemporary architecture must absolutely be flexible if it is to remain relevant, and can do so by incorporating changeable elements (such as moveable walls and adjustable ceilings), multi-purpose spaces, and open designs that maximize freedom of operation.
The essential benefits of flexible architecture are undeniable, but how does design, with its thoughtful combination of artwork and branding, play into this new paradigm? Simply put, flexible architecture requires equally flexible design. A space that can be transformed according to the changing needs of the tenant must be complemented and enhanced by an ever-evolving and flexible design. We know that art has the power to increase creativity, productivity, enhance employee morale, and encourage open dialogue. Artwork and design—both interior and exterior—set the tone of any given space and inspire a sense of pride in the workplace. At Wrapped, we do this in a myriad of ways, and have always been committed to existing on the cutting edge of artwork and technology. However, in creating flexible design, it is important to maintain a feeling of integrity and seriousness to balance the inherently more playful nature of something “flexible.” Having a clear overall vision for a space, creative use of video art installations, and interchangeable art collections can all assist in the development of a flexible yet serious design plan. Modern art collectives like ours will combine all of these techniques with future-facing design to create spaces that are simultaneously modern and timeless.
Somewhat counterintuitively, design loyalty to a simple branding vision (company colors and core aesthetic for example) is integral to developing flexible design. As a space evolves according to business needs, and imagery changes to reflect current trends, it is essential to maintain a fundamental sense of identity. The number one challenge faced with flexible design is cohesiveness. Each of our art advisors at Wrapped start by asking the client to answer the question, “who are we and what is our purpose,” as the starting point for any design element. Those identifying principles are the foundation of all creative decisions in the flexible design process. We are lucky enough to be able to work with the same developers over the course of many projects. We start to get to know their taste and understand what is essential to their brand. They might, for example, favor a modern California aesthetic and warm colors. As we make art for each of these developer’s projects, media and style might change, but we ensure that our designs are paired with a consistent core aesthetic. This allows all of the buildings in the developer’s portfolio to feel unique yet cohesive. With a simple branding vision in mind, cohesiveness within ever-changing structural, media, scale, and style elements, is achievable.
Digital art is one of the most exciting and dynamic elements that can be utilized in flexible design. With digital art museums emerging all around the world, including Atelier des Lumieres in Paris and Digital Art Museum in Tokyo, the advent of digital or video art is not only sensational but has established itself as a respectable artform. This format opens a door for flexible design previously unimaginable. While the screens may remain static, the content can constantly evolve, thereby transforming the space dramatically. At Wrapped, we are merging our traditional, hand painted elements with video, animation and other elements to create content that is emotionally engaging. To this end, content can render the workplace as a peaceful and soothing atmosphere when energy is high. Or it can change the space into a dynamic and stimulating environment as the day progresses. Digital content can set the tone for the whole building and foster a sense of real pride in the workplace for the employees.
Digital content can also serve as a way to transform the flagging retail landscape into a hip and alluring environment. Gensler has utilized screens to “wow” clients and transform the shopping experience into interactive theater. The content on the screens becomes as important as the spatial design itself and, as the content is constantly changing, it is the ultimate application of flexible design. Companies are turning to art collective’s like Wrapped for subscription programs for digital art to bring the dynamic quality to digital media.
Finally, an easy way to create a flexible design is to deliberately select artwork that, like moveable walls, can be rotated and interchanged to accommodate an evolving space. This can be achieved in several ways. If the company has the means to acquire a permanent collection, then select works can be curated into revolving shows and rearranged to compliment the flexible architecture. A permanent collection can be an excellent financial investment and allows the business to interact with the community. Even in permanent collections, artwork can be rotated on a quarterly basis and changed to reflect flexibility of vision and developing trends.
We live in the most exciting of times when it comes to art. Technology is allowing artists to create and distribute art in ways never dreamed of. Art has gotten more personal. Once a thing for theaters and galleries is now available in everyone’s pockets and purses. Even with all the technological change, one thing is absolute: art is timeless and necessary. We are committed to providing visually stunning solutions that cater to a wide variety of needs that are present and emerging in modern architecture. We feel like this is best done by providing flexibility for art to come and go. At the essence of art, of fashion, is change. By keeping up with the “now” art can be at its most impactful and inspirational