There are moments in life and then there are moments. Moments that you dare to believe will come around. Moments that take your breath away. Moments that take you into another world and change your perspective. These moments are fundamental to moving us forward and elevating our thinking and being to the next level. I recently had such a moment.
During the onset of COVID-19 my colleague and I received a call from a health-focused technology company. One of their clients had an opportunity to expand and they were looking for a design company that could assist them with the design and shop fit. We were tendering against a few other companies. The dream was big – 1000 sqm including an academy, and of course the budget was limited.
We met at the new premises in De Waterkant, and when I met the COO of the company there was an instant alignment in thinking and concept. My colleague had the same experience with the Technical Directors. It is only when I look back in time that I see how instantly aligned we were. Often when you are in the moment you do not always appreciate what is actually happening and where it may take you.
That following Saturday morning I called my colleague and said to her that we need to meet to put this concept together, that we could not afford to waste time and that this work would change our lives. She laughed at me and told me to come over as it was the only gap she would have in the week, as both of us were busy during those months of COVID when people were trying to make their spaces work 24hrs a day.
We sat that morning over her desk playing with tracing paper and looking for a concept that would pull the brief together. I was getting to grips with their brand and what it meant, and kept looking at the M in their logo.
Enrica, an architectural designer and I discussed in detail what they did and how the smile changes someone’s face, their confidence and just fundamentally how someone feels about themselves. We discussed how everyone hates visiting the dentist and the fear that goes with it, and how we could get people in touch with their organic nature and make that feeling come alive in the space.
The next thing we were drawing curves and more curves and more curves. Creating flow from a box. There in that moment the new clinic was born. A place that draws you in, takes you on a journey and creates an experience like no other. A harmonious setting that simply changes your experience of ever visiting the dentist again.
The moment of the presentation arrived – over Google Meets of course. I had been working on pulling the concept together, mood boards and trying to find a central theme. Enrica continued to work on the layout and making sure that we could fit in all the disciplines and services.
Presenting online is not easy as we have all learnt as you tend to miss a lot of nuances and communication but inspired by the M of the logo I knew they would love where we wanted to take the project. We had had a preliminary meeting to discuss the layouts, and our potentially new clients seemed to really like where we were taking the brand and the customer experience.
They promised to get back to us and we waited on tenterhooks uncertain of the outcome, yet something inside of me felt that these people were special and that the alignment between all of us was magical. Enrica and I must have spoken hundreds of times in those weeks leading up to us hearing if we been successful or not. It was so funny as we imagined getting the work, imagined not getting the work and realising that we were so excited to make this a reality.
Then the news came! Oh boy the elation of it all. Much excitement… and then the news we had ten weeks to design, plan and execute this project. And so began… COVID level 4. And one by one we fell.
First it was Enrica who really was so ill. This was an enormous challenge and I have never learnt so much about architecture than in those weeks. I was drawing on walls and drawings and learning about detailing that an interior designer is not mostly asked to do. I had had COVID at the beginning of the year, fairly badly and had recovered.
Then whilst Enrica was ill my trusted right hand also fell ill, so now the technical drawings that needed to be being amended were being marked up and sketched by hand. We were short-staffed on site. Stock was an issue. And all the while our clients were paying rent. Then our client, now dear friend Helen, who was spearheading the project fell ill. It felt like a domino effect.
In all of this, our project manager and main contractor managed to solider on on-site – both of us making decisions and calling things to make the deadline – as our clients were paying rent. Our suppliers were incredible at finding ways for us when there seemed to be no way. It felt like during all the stress of what was happening around us we were pulling closer together and finding a way through it and reverting back to good old-fashioned execution and design – the days before technology made us more productive.
Somehow in the four o clock mornings and our loved ones making us coffee we found a way to bring the vision of this beautiful space together. Somehow in the toughness there was beauty. There was learning and most importantly there was friendship and good intention. These were some of the best moments I have had on a project, and these are people that I will call friends forever.
I wish I could relay the experience and beauty of this project not just in the outcome but in the way in which we have all connected on our journey. Rediscovering the art of our work, the beauty of coming together when we were needed, holding each other up when one was down, focusing on the value of our purpose and most importantly never giving up – that would have been the easy way out – and something we could never do.
Never give up on what is in your heart, if the road twists, follow the bend, it may just be leading you to a better place. This last month we were nominated as finalists in The Loeries Awards for this project. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. We may not have won on the stage, but we did win in life! Oh, we did!