21 Oct 2020

BCO NextGen Design Competition: Getting Involved




Annabel Koeck, Associate at Grimshaw Architects


#BCOvoices is a new series of blogs by the BCO. We’ll look at the impact of Covid-19 on the commercial property industry, along with broader topics. If you would be interested in contributing, please contact chane.scallan@bco.org.uk.

In 2017, I made the decision to take part in the BCO’s inaugural NextGen design competition. Our challenge was to imagine, and then design, ‘the office of 2035’ and answer questions about both what it would look like, and how it would support the way we work. Little did I know then, that those questions were only going to get bigger.

I’m proud to say that our team, Team 88mph, won that first competition. It was an opportunity that allowed me not only to meet my peers and introduce my work to the industry, but to learn from new perspectives, test the boundaries of what I can do – and, incredibly, do it all in a safe environment. It is an opportunity I remain incredibly grateful for.

This year, the BCO is bringing back it’s NextGen competition and asking our industry’s brightest young minds to re-imagine what the post pandemic workplace looks like, in just five years’ time. The stakes are higher, the time frame more immediate – but the challenge is just as irresistible as the one I signed up to.

With the final deadline for entries approaching, it felt appropriate to reflect on some of the lessons I learned from my experience two years ago.

“Parameters are the things you bounce off to create art”*

The BCO is asking NextGen members to consider the most pressing issues affecting the here and now – from the global pandemic and tackling the impending climate crisis, to addressing ongoing issues around equality and inclusivity.

The competition provides a unique opportunity to set your own parameters and decide what challenges you want to focus on. A response to this competition is a chance to create your own future - whether that be a response that is specific to a location, to a challenge, to an occupier, to an age group, or sector.

This year we’ve also faced one of the biggest challenges our industry has ever seen: the coronavirus pandemic. But, this challenge also opens up opportunities for more creative solutions. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and try something new.

The benefit of new perspectives

Stuck at home all day, many of us have lost the opportunity to learn from colleagues and external mentors, meaning our networks may feel more limited than ever.

Taking part in the NextGen Design Competition provides an excellent opportunity to do something about it and connect with new faces – whether colleagues you’ve never worked with before, peers from other firms or external consultants. I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised that the consultants I asked, and didn’t know very well at the time, were so interested in working on an unpaid, hypothetical competition! So make the effort, understand their perspectives, broaden your network in the built environment sector, and work in the interstitial space between all your specialties to really innovate.

What are you waiting for? Make sure you sign up and get involved here before entries close on 29th November.

*Quote from Neil Gaiman, English author

Article originally posted on LinkedIn by Annabel Koeck as part of the #bcovoices series.

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