Currently in soft opening, Convene’s new Tysons Corner location (at 1800 Tysons Boulevard, within the corporate office center at Tysons II in McLean, VA) is our first conference center outside of New York City. With the help of award-winning architecture and interior design firm FOX Architects, Convene Tysons Corner is one of the most sophisticated, high-tech conference centers in the DC area. FOX project team members Sabret Flocos, Emily Macht, Laura Madge, Chris Kim & Marshall Morrison sat down with us to discuss the design strategy behind Convene’s highly anticipated new off-site meetings and corporate events space.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the Convene Tysons Corner conference center.
The inspiration for the Convene Tysons Corner space started with the merging of hospitality and corporate design. We wanted to ensure that we supported and enhanced the experience and Convene’s brand, while also tying into the uniqueness of the DC market. From an aesthetic standpoint, the finishes were a bit more tailored and controlled. From a programmatic standpoint, differences were immediately identified, such as the need for small break out areas, as well as a larger, more flexible space than was in New York. We provided a row of banquet seating outside of the conference rooms to allow smaller groups of four to meet. Seating such as this help enhance the activity and energy of the space. This is a good example of how providing choices in how one uses space, or how one works, can be incorporated into the design. Adaptive re-use was also important in this location as there were existing elements that were important to keep and work into the design.
What are the key differences between designing a space for business and designing one for leisure?
We’re noticing fewer differences in designing space for business and leisure as the two are merging more and more. People are doing “work” in “leisure” areas and vice versa, blurring the lines as to what constitutes these types of spaces. By providing people with choices, and allowing them to work where they are most comfortable, the result is happier and more productive people.
The desire for fully integrated and seamless technology is an extremely important component in both work and leisure spaces. This is especially true for a company like Convene as technology sets them apart from their competitors.
Your company tagline is “Enhancing your business through design.” Tell us some ways you did that with Convene Tysons Corner.
By working closely with Convene, we were able to create a space to support its business, as is our goal with every project. We do this not only through meeting the functional requirements, but through the experience and feeling you get when in the space. The space has a tailored and sophisticated aesthetic, with integrated technology, all of which reflect and enhance Convene’s brand, as well as the clients it is trying to attract. One important thing the team at Convene let us know up front is that the space, while maintaining their strong brand, must be able to showcase their client’s brand. That was the challenge; that client could change daily and be complete opposite types of business, industry, and/or culture.
How have the designs of workspaces and conference centers evolved over the last decade?
Technology, Choices and Senses, to name a few.
Technology is rapidly changing. It used to tie individuals to one place with no flexibility. Today it’s fully integrated and mobile. This leads to the idea of choices. People work in different ways. A great example might be in the way one would “break out” of a long training session or meeting. One person might want to sit at a high top table with a cup of coffee on their laptop, while another might want to sit in a lounge chair, perhaps with their feet up, looking at their phone, which is why we’ve provided spaces for that variety. Lastly, the inclusion of your senses into spaces. Convene naturally does this through food and beverage, but one of the great advantages to this particular site is the amount of natural light throughout the entire space – people are happier and more productive when they have access to natural light.
What are some new architectural or design trends that you’ve applied to Convene Tysons Corner?
Flexibility. We looked at a variety of scenarios in the main reception area. Whether it’s office space or meeting space, no one wants to pay for under-utilized real estate. We looked at millwork and furniture solutions to allow for both large and smaller meetings within the same space for maximum use. We avoided using trendy materials; instead choosing to use materials that are considered timeless. The space was designed with a variety of textures, such as carpet, wallcovering, wood, backlit acrylic, etc.
What is an often overlooked aspect in the design of a conference center?
Natural light, nourishment, flexibility, and technology are all often overlooked.
Convene has very specific requirements, which take these into consideration. We know that first floor, retail space for accessibility and presence is very important. Often, we’ve seen conference centers tucked away in a far dark corner, so it feels as if it was just left over space (which it often is). Food and beverage locations must be directly outside meeting areas, for ease of service and consumption. We’ve also seen other conference centers that don’t take into the account the need for meetings of different sizes with different technological needs.
What did you enjoy most about working with Convene on this project?
We enjoyed the fact that the Convene team is a fun, professional, educated group, which allowed for thoughtful discussions and the testing of new ideas and concepts. Everyone on the Convene team is so passionate about what they do. It was truly reflected throughout the course of the project.
FOX Architects Project Team interviewed for this blog:
Sabret Flocos, IIDA, LEED AP
Emily Macht, IIDA, LEED AP
Laura Madge, NCIDQ
Marshall Morrison, LEED AP