by Calvin Chua, AADipl 2011
17 April 2013 Balmond Studio, London   I have been working at Balmond Studio, founded by Cecil Balmond in 2010, for slightly over a year now and the experience has been more than holistic to say the least. Working on design projects, writing articles, discussing new initiatives and debating over theoretical issues, are just some of my experiences.   Beyond its design, what I find interesting about working in Balmond Studio is discovering the way the practice is fundamentally managed and shaped through the constant bustle of activities and projects. Based on my observation and experience within the practice, I have listed some thoughts on how an organisation can constantly engage its staff and maintain a high level of creative output.   With the rise of the post-industrial era, corporations have been experimenting with developing the right working environment in order to increase their staffs’ productivity and creativity. From linking interior colour schemes with business psychology in the early 1990s to the recent slides and ping-pong tables found in the workspaces of Googleplex, offices have been designed to simulate the notion of fun and leisure, in the hope of increasing one’s output.   However in Balmond Studio, there are no staff working on yoga balls or meetings conducted on astroturfed carpets. Instead, the studio is simply a typical office space, filled with rows of tables laid out with PC desktops, sketches and drawings; and shelves stuffed with reference books, project files and physical models. What the practice offers in experience is not via playful spaces and objects but rather through the direct involvement in projects and decision-making.   In addition to commissioned architectural and art projects, employees at Balmond Studio are actively involved in developing and managing the content of two key initiatives, Thinking-in-Practice (TiP) – an online publication – and Learning-in-Practice (LiP) – an academic engagement with universities globally.   TiP, features essays, interviews and reviews by contributors from various fields, ranging from art and architecture to mathematics and philosophy. Each online issue is comprised of articles contributed both internally and externally by invited writers, carefully researched and curated by the studio.
Through TiP, a research culture is developed within the practice where staff are encouraged to contribute to the publication by researching on a topic of their interest. In addition, a network of knowledge is established through exchanges with academics and practitioners from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.   Learning in Practice (LiP) on the other hand engages university students by introducing new design approaches through workshops, lectures and juries conducted by the studio team. After recently completing a series of workshops with a group of engineering students from the University of Bergamo over a period of three months, the studio will be starting a workshop next at Istanbul Bilgi University.   The experience of the workshops is as much a learning process for the office as it is for the students. The active lunchtime discussions about students’ work and debate over what materials to prepare for the next class generated a healthy dose of intellectual exchange. More importantly, LiP provides a platform to experiment with new approaches towards academia and practice where it tries to blur the boundaries between what is taught in school and what is applied within the professional field.   What is interesting about Balmond Studio is not its experimentation with publications and teaching per se, but the way the practice is managed and its effect on the working environment as a result of these initiatives. By constantly developing new initiatives and projects, the team is constantly engaged and involved in making key decisions, rather than being simply a cog in the wheel.   Indeed, the non-linear thinking of Cecil Balmond goes beyond the creative output of a building and a sculpture, it is extended throughout all processes within the organisation. By cleverly tapping into the fundamental desires of creative workers – the need to be constantly stimulated with new ideas – the practice is able to constantly generate and evolve its pool of ideas for creative production.
[caption id="attachment_1123" align="alignnone" width="360"] Workshop
Image Credit: Calvin Chua[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1122" align="alignnone" width="360"] Models
Image Credit: Calvin Chua[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1121" align="alignnone" width="360"] Staff
Image Credit: Balmond Studio[/caption] For more information: Balmond Studio TiP