Hannah Corlett

Hannah Corlett is the founder of architectural and urban design firm, HNNA. The projects she works on today, you may get to see 10 years from now, which means she spends a lot of time thinking about the future and how to design for it.

Designing The Future
Designing The Future

Designing The Future

Ep
87
Jun
15
With
Hannah Corlett
Or Listen On:

Designing for the future.

Hannah Corlett is the founder of architectural and urban design firm, HNNA. The projects she works on today, you may get to see 10 years from now, which means she spends a lot of time thinking about the future and how to design for it.

In this episode, Hannah and Chris discuss what that future might look like for everyone and how urban designers and educators play in an integral role in shaping it.

What exactly is urban design? As Hannah puts it, “urban design is the stage that sets the framework for architecture to pop in like pieces of a jigsaw.” Cities don’t necessarily grow organically; there are key design decisions that have to be made beforehand. That’s where urban design plays a major role.

It’s a very forward-thinking industry in that all of its pieces and parts have to fit into the movement of certain cities or buildings.

So how exactly does Hannah think about the future and design’s role in it? Well, to put it simply, she doesn’t really stop. She’s constantly thinking of things even in her sleep, so much so that she’ll wake up from a dream and have new design ideas or solutions.

Recent events with the global pandemic have shifted our entire world indoors, online, and disconnected from our communities. But Hannah sees a unique upside to this.

Breaking from routine, or typical day-to-day activities, has given her even more freedom of thought. She finds herself being more efficient, and even more attentive to the details like sending proposals.

As an educator, she sees this same phenomenon happening in children and her students: questioning the norm and thinking outside of the box.

It’s this combination of thinking ahead while questioning what’s in front of you that Hannah encourages her students and colleagues to do.

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Episode Transcript

Hannah:
It's super interesting in terms of education. Because both my children were in high school and they are getting pretty much the same education I got 30 years ago. And I felt it was reasonably irrelevant then. And they do seriously questioned it, but I love that they questioned it.

Greg:
Hello and welcome to The Futur Podcast. I'm your producer, Greg Gunn. And I'm very excited for you to listen to this episode. It's about design, but it's a bit different than what you might expect from us. Today's guest is the founder of an architecture and urban design firm. The project she works on today, you may get to see 10 years from now, which means she spends a lot of time thinking about the future and how to design for it.
In this episode, she and Chris discussed what that future might look like for everyone and how urban designers and educators play an integral role in shaping it. I really enjoy listening to this one because it felt like this warm light bulb in the darkness of a new reality we've all been thrown into. And I think you might like it too. So please enjoy our conversation with Hannah Corlett.

Chris:
For people who are tuning in, who have no idea who you are and want to learn about you. Can you introduce yourself and tell us what it is that you do?

Hannah:
I certainly can. My name is Hannah Corlett. My company is HNNA. We're a studio that combines architecture with urban design. And we also combine research and theory with practice. So we have a big theoretical edge as well as a lot of real scale built work. And we feed them off each other. The London scene is such that there's a lot of architecture firms, but there's not that many who do urban design. And those that do are quite big scale. So we're the alternative options, should we say, in that we question what everyone else is doing, try and think outside of the box or should we say edgier than the norm. I like to think that as maybe everyone thinks they have of themselves, I don't know.

Chris:
Well, they'd like to think that, but maybe it's not real. So I think a lot of people, maybe most everybody that's listening to this can understand what architecture is. You live in something, you go to something. But the part that is maybe a little bit more mysterious to me is what is urban design?

Hannah:
Yeah. If you imagine that the idea of a city, they don't necessarily organically grow, a lot do, but there's a degree to which people have to make really key decisions, all sorts of scales. And that might be the scale of your house. It might be the scale of your streets. It might be the scale of the little small town village that you live in. It might actually be on a city wide scale. But they're all design decisions, like exactly how buildings integrate, what materials you use, how streets are laid out, who decides where it's pedestrianized, the whole grain of it.
If you think about the Romans and their big long roads and the effect that that's had on some cities and then the medieval value organic streets where you get wonderfully lost in, almost maze-like conurbations, it's all because somebody had a vision about how things should be set out. So the urban design is the stage that sets the framework for architecture to pop in like pieces of a jigsaw.

Chris:
In cities that are already established, is it about redevelopment or how do you apply what you do to cities that are already established?

Hannah:
Well, if you're in a situation where cities change. For example, most cities started off with a kind of industrial base, but then they become added into, and that industry actually ends up immigrating, say in the case of London, the Thames is no longer used as this spinal piece of infrastructure, is actually precede thing to look at. So the edges of the Thames have changed completely from a working location to place that people want to live.
Now, as you decide on the built work and the framework around that, obviously the functions of that space change. So someone has to decide what's important to retain because it's important to the history of London, what grains actually no longer work, because it was about getting shipments off boats and into streets and is now about people wanting best of you as possible with the Thames. So it's very much about morphing as often technology, transportation, basically the way we live changes. We have to make sure that we preserve often the essence of what's great about a city whilst adapting it so it works well.

Chris:
So in that example that you talked about the Thames from a place where people worked and now where people might want to live, is it big governments, municipalities that then hire your firm to reimagine and redesign how people are going to interact with the Thames?

Hannah:
Well, interestingly we're working on a project at the moment on what's called Greenwich peninsula. And if you look at the map of the Thames, it's almost like the finger that protrudes out on what would be the right hand side. It had an industrial life for a long period. But it's actually quite well paced. It's just opposite Canary Wolf. It's really well connected. But it's been a no man's land for various different reasons. And in that case that a client who isn't a government body, but is a developer has decided that they would  to take it on as a big project. And they employed us with another large architect to look at the whole master plan of that.
And then we worked on that for several years and then HNNA were employed to do a city block parts of it, which is now the heart, called the design district. And again, we work with the councils for that. It's very important to them that we provide jobs for example, that we provide affordable housing that we work in, the requirements that they have for the community in their borough. But actually the developer is the one who's proposing the designs because it's a blank canvas in many respects. So you're dealing with some existing structures, but not many because they're being redundant because they're industrial for quite some time.

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So in the case of the project that you're talking about, the developer purchased the land and then they work with you and whoever you guys partner up with to figure out how better to use this. And there's all kinds of requirements. So then do they then need to make sure that the city and the residents of the adjacent communities all get behind this? Is that the balancing act is you have to walk?

Hannah:
Yeah, you do need to do, as well as working with the government, we did public consultation. So it's important that we present the work, but also are available to have conversations with the people who have concerns or queries, or really just interested in moving into the area or live adjacent to it. So we do do that because it can be a difficult thing to do in theory. So often it's better to just put proposal down and talk over proposal. So people aren't trying to imagine what it is your words mean on paper.

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So I'm trying to relate this to something that I've seen, and I live in the suburbs. So the bigger city, urban planning, I'm not witnessing firsthand on a day to day basis, but I remember a few years back there's a popular strip, an outdoor mall, Third Street Promenade. And they hired architects to reimagine the mall and how people move from the beach to the mall and to the anchor. And there was a lot of discussion and you could hear about city council meetings. Because city of Santa Monica is very strict about what they allow you to do.
Many years later, they built this thing. And I think it was an interesting idea from the top, the bird's eye view, it looks and feels like a surf board. So I think there was some idea there, but the actual implementation it and how people are using it, it's like they miss the mark somehow but nobody's going to the mall anymore these days. So what are some of the challenges that you have in dealing with all the different interested parties so that you can do something that you know is good for the environment and for the people in the communities and still get it through? Because I think that's got to be one of the biggest challenges.

Hannah:
It isn't a big challenge. That example I think is a really good one because you've got a piece of paper and you've got a plan and you sort of sketching away, and who the hell is going to see the surfboard unless they're in helicopter. But understanding what works in a city by walking around a city and using a city, but also the interesting thing about urban design, which you don't necessarily get with architecture, architecture, you do your designs and maybe within the three, four year period, they get built. With them design, you're designing for 10, 15, 20 years ahead of time. So it's not enough to understand what it's doing now, how it's working now, but also seeing the same way we change in family setups and the way that transportation's moving forward, in the way that we work.
Look now, I think we can all say that we're probably going to be even more reliant on digital interfacing than we are in physical interfacing. What does that mean for our streets? What does that mean for our public spaces? All of that anticipation you have to propose for a time that in effect you never experienced. It can't be for now, we have to project it forward. And the problem with a lot of legislation and a lot of counselors is that they judge everything by now. So they know what they like and if it's a bit similar to that, or if it's not offensive, should we say, it can be let through. But it doesn't mean it works. It doesn't mean it's clever. It doesn't mean in it's going to improve people's lives.
So a lot of it is actually not being dictated to by what is a safe thing to do, but actually proposing some things slightly out there, but having really strong arguments and really intelligent consultants when it comes to traffic engineers or environmental engineers who can put such a strong case that's really bloody hard to argue it. So that's the approach we take. It's not a case of, we know that got through, so we'll copy it and make it pink, God forbid.

Chris:
Okay. It got really interesting for me. You were talking about the things that you do today, you might see in 10 years, so you have to be a futurist, you have to be able to look at where things are going. And then you also mentioned about what's happening with this global pandemic. So I think the two ideas can merge together. So I wanted to ask you this question. I think if nothing else, because of the destruction of natural habitats and how global we are in terms of moving around, we're just in, I think potentially a series of viruses and diseases spreading throughout the world. So how do you then take that information and plan for that where we still need to be around other people and physical space and not be trapped at home, but what do you see happening 10, 15, 20 years from now, if you were to implement a plan today?

Hannah:
I think there's lots of things we can learn from this current situation. I'm very fortunate that I have a garden, but it puts me in an advantageous position with regards to, currently in London, if you're gathering in large groups. So even if you are frat friends who stopped on park benches and been asked to move on. That means that we're not designing affordable housing the right way because it often doesn't have outside space that families can use. And that all the parks and new public areas where people can exercise are actually busier than ever right now. And more people are cycling.
So the shared space that is open to everyone, and isn't about how much you can afford to buy in terms of gardens or flat sizes that have to be really valued now, because I think it's come into its own, but also people are starting to appreciate it and use it in ways that they should have been doing for a long time.
And we're probably all becoming healthier, let's be honest, as a consequence of it. Not just because the bars are closing, but there's sorts of reasons. And I feel there's a lot of things. I don't know about you, but I spend my days on meetings in a interface and that ordinarily I'm busy traveling around London. And I don't drive, I've never driven. I've never even had a driving lesson. Very anti-car. So basically everything I do tries to edge out the cars. But hopefully people are realizing that we don't need to move around the city as much. So if you actually take the footprint of roads and think, well, maybe we could arguably get less of them, or they could be shared surfaces, because they're not used all the time. And therefore they become areas where, when I was a child, we used to play in the streets and that never happens now.
If we rethink our common spaces. So not necessarily our flats, and having our flats, we thought is obviously something we need to do if we confine to them for months on end from a public realm point of view. So our shared space, because it's quite an equalizer. Anyone walking on the pavement has the same experience regardless of their socioeconomic background, or I think it's really important that we start to value that and we really start to make it work, not just for vehicles and the like but actually value is really usable space that gives quality to our lives.

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I guess one of the side benefits or actually are a couple in terms of this pandemic. And it's hard to find those with all the gloomy news that you read and see every single day, is that less people on the road, less pollution. We see some images of animals returning back from nature, like turtles on the beach, monkeys in Thailand, it's just like where are all the humans, what has happened here? And bears in parks.
So there's that part. There's less people moving about. So it's like the return of neighborhoods, like where I live, I live in the suburbs, I'm seeing a lot of my neighbors these days, we're all reevaluating-

Hannah:
No, we're not allowed to touch.

Chris:
Right. Six feet away, but I see them and I see them moving around the neighborhood. It's actually really nice that we've had to slow down to take a look at how we can telecommute to video conferencing like I'm talking to you across thousands of miles and we're going to make it work. And is there a physical equivalent to that? You talked about recapturing roads and using that, you talked about public spaces that should be available to everyone, despite whatever socioeconomic ladder you are a part of. How else might... Okay, let me just ask you a really boring question. How might a mall be rethought in the future? Are they even necessary then?

Hannah:
We have to be aware that culturally we've moved in different directions. A lot of people don't shop because they need the stuff, they shop because they want to socialize, they want to experience the prominence that Victorians used to do. There's lots of reasons where we do things for reasons that aren't always just the commercial reality of the thing.
And so I think taking things down to their basics means that we can still give that quality of space, but maybe we can give it without having to drive to the mall. Maybe there's a way of introducing some of the qualities back to a high street, for example, that more people can access by foot and can have a crossover life. I think the idea that we've become quite car dependent and put everything collated and it's no longer mixed up in the way that we are now all using our local shops because we can walk to them because we can't get, our internet deliveries. We're actually seeing our neighbors because we're home during daylight. And I think it is reintroducing this idea of community. And I for one, this is all profile whereby the center of cities that have offices and they aren't used except during the day and all the houses in residential areas aren't used except at night.
So we have massive redundancy for different parts of the town for 12 hours or so a day because we're switching from one to the other. And in that setup, we've also got a housing crisis and people, small businesses are really suffering because they're having to pay huge amounts for commercial rates and people are going a little bit mad because they're spending the entire time commuting.
Now we can rethink it and therefore people should leave their house not because they have to, but actually because they want to. And so things like the mall maybe has the idea that it become something enjoyable. We should build on that. What other things are enjoyable and we should make those much more accessible to people and we should use our space differently and not have this thing whereby we're constantly commuting from A, which might be the city centered to B, which might be a residential.
Just think we need to mix it up a bit more and make it so that people have access to different facilities, but they realize that they don't have to use them almost religiously between Dolly Barton 9:00 to 5:00. And then you have this other life that you can take on that's, your free time. Because I think spatially, it's really exciting to question what we're doing and why we're doing it, which is great. God, I've been wanting this radius, so it's good. We think we can be much more efficient and we can actually aim for quality rather than the base level of keeping up with the Joneses or doing what we think we should do because for generations, that's what we've been doing.

Chris:
Do you think what's happening right now in the last a month and a half, two months is going to help change perception and resistance to some of the ideas that you're talking about?

Hannah:
I learned a lot of people are saying, I don't want to go back. [inaudible 00:19:33] you're hearing the same thing, but parents who actually sharing the kids more, rather than being in a almost relay race of passing the Baton. They're actually enjoying it. And I think actually enjoying spending time with each other, because part of that Baton passing is that you don't see each other. And I think people are actually finding that not commuting means they're much more efficient and that they can go to more meetings because they don't have to travel between them. They literally turn one off and turn another one on. So I think lots of people will start to question it.

Chris:
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about how we're going to respond? Because there's been a mix of reactions from, at least here in America, where people are marching with guns and banners saying, no, we want life to return to normal. And I always feel like just as humans, we struggled to be present to the moment to what's going on instead of embracing that we're having new challenges with, how do I deal with the kids for 24 hours a day versus just rushing back to whatever normal is. I think there's an opportunity here to re-examine how we work, how productive we have to be and what family life might mean. So are you optimistic or pessimistic about how the world might respond to this?

Hannah:
I think the issue about routine is that it makes us quite robotic. And through that monotony, we don't get to step out of our situation and question what we're doing. Now for lots of people, this is a disastrous time. There are some people from an employment point of view, from a health point of view from just being entirely reliant on seeing their family physically interacting with their family or islanded and standard in a very difficult situation. So for that reason, obviously I think it's really, everyone's looking forward to the end of this, but having stepped out of our running tracks, we should take this opportunity before stepping straight back into them to see if we couldn't live the life we had before a little bit better. And I'm optimistic that it probably... It depends, I think if it's quite short lived, we can very easily snap back.
But I think if it continues for say another month or so, I think there'll be enough duration that people reset their timescales, their thought process, their routines to actually try and readjust when they go back to not snapping straight back. And that's what I hope for because I think there are lessons to be learned, not least the environment is thriving whilst we are grounded as it were at home. I heard the results that they said that even in this condition with us reduced, we're still not meeting the climate demands, we need to stop global warming.
So we're being optimistic whilst not changing the way we live. Now I think this pessimism, which has changed the way we live because of the reality that as humans we're not infallible. Hopefully we will actually start to respect other species on this planet as well as ourselves and potentially look after ourselves and our own health just as we look after the health of the planet.

Chris:
Just side stepping here in terms of the projects that you're working on because I was looking up your social media accounts and projects that you're working on. How has this shutdown self-quarantine impacted the construction of the projects that you're working on? How are you guys adapting or dealing with this?

Hannah:
Most of the construction that's on site has actually paused, but in most cases people have found a way. For example, we working on the design district at the moment and there's 16 buildings, all being constructed and actually quite a really tight time scale. And by eight different architects and HNNA are there as well as being the urban designers, we are doing two of the buildings and we coordinate the seven other architects. And it's been a really exciting period and a lot of the buildings, the structure is up and that we're just about to get their clouding. And so to be paused on site seemed quite dramatic, but at the same time the spaces are getting tenants and those tenants have fit out requirements.
So if you take the building, if you actually furnish it and make it suitable for whoever the users are, that was due to start about now anyway. So that work is going on and I think what will happen, which would be great is that it wasn't having a lag, we'll just jump straight through having the finishing going on as soon as the buildings are complete.
And I don't think we'll see an end date having a significant jump back, which is good. One of the things we've had is that the design was done specifically for startups. So when we were working on the master plan and HNNA were doing the ideas for this unusual variety of workspaces that would be a very varied offer to a lot of different users. We knew that we wouldn't know who those users are because startups, you can't market to them two, three years ahead of time because they won't be startups in two, three years.
So we actually knew that we had to imagine forward and engage with who the users were. And we did that by offering it very mixed spaces, not only building to building and they're all different forms and materials in terms of their outsides on their insides, but they also have very different spaces within them. So across floor to floor, there's a lot of variety.
And the people have seen those in the form of the shelves of the building that are up there, and they've actually been able to walk around them. And so they've been able to excitedly say, we'd love to take that space. So we wouldn't have been able to commission the fit out without the users. So in some ways, the need to get the buildings up and running, to get the users and then the users to say what they want and then fit out the buildings, was an elongated process. And we're using this downtime to really catch up in terms of that design. So I think for a lot of people it's really problematic, but I think for the design district, in some ways we're using the time to its best advantage.

Chris:
So contractors and supplies, that's still happening? People are still able to go on the site and do stuff?

Hannah:
They're not, we're not allowed to go on site, all our meetings with the contractors and the sub-contractors and looking at drawings and marking up drawings, they're all done digitally and remotely. And with regards to physically implementing anything on the sites, they've literally closed. But I don't know how necessarily is affected in the States, but I would say over half the majority of construction sites have done that because they just weren't able to guarantee people safety.
And I've heard from other practitioners that their sites are starting to organize themselves to start again. So it's looking right now things that are getting back on track. Interestingly I teach at the Bartlett, which is the school of architecture for university college, London. And we have an awful lot of international students and all of our teaching has gone online, I've been giving lectures online, we've even did some workshops, we did our presentations, final module presentations all online. And one of the great things about that was we knew that there are incredible international critics who had been housebound.
So we just contacted them all up and said, look, would you be free between nine o'clock and 1:00 PM to be a critic for our students. And we would never have got someone to be flown over from the States or even from France, but we were able to remotely get a plethora of amazing critics. And the students were like wow.
And they've actually been great about switching to using digital interfaces to interact with me. And I've probably been able to doing it, to make sure that they're reassured that it's business as usual. But they're going to see their families, which a lot of them haven't done. So there's advantages and disadvantages, but I think most people are really innovating how to make sure that they make the best of the situation and they ensure that when this period is over, that they can start where they left off. But with potentially ahead of the curve in some respects, there are just new ways of doing things.

Chris:
We're going to take a quick break, but we'll be right back.

Greg:
Hey, Greg Gunn from The Futur here. That's right, it's me again. Now The Futur's mission is to teach one billion creatives, how to make money doing what they love without feeling gross about it. Now, maybe you're in school, but you feel like you're not getting what you need, or maybe you're like me and sold all of your internal organs to pay for private art school tuition. But it's been a while and you want to sharpen up some of those skills. Well, fortunately for you, we have a bunch of courses and products designed specifically to help you become a smarter and more versatile creative. Design courses like topography, logo design, and color for creatives, go deep into the design fundamentals that you need to know and command in order to be successful. Check out all of our courses and products about learning design by visiting the futur.com/design.

Chris:
Welcome back to our conversation with Hannah Corlett. I've taught for a number of years myself in terms of the face-to-face, hands-on just seeing humans and seeing how they react on micro-expressions. It's very hard to replicate that online because you're seeing people in the size of a thumbnail and it's tiny. And I can't tell  what's happening there. And I'm a big proponent for online education. It's what my business is built on. So it sounds to me  you've made the best out of a situation and you're able to tap into the brain trust of these people who normally wouldn't be available. This sounds  a tremendous value add. We had talked about how physical spaces in urban planning may be impact, or at least how people are thinking about it. But in terms of the education space, since you're an educator herself, what lessons can you learn from or apply moving forward, now that you have this online experience, how might you go back to school and maybe permanent and make some changes or not?

Hannah:
It's an interesting one because we're devaluating because our academic year starts in the end of September. So it's not necessarily a gray area, shall we say, but we don't yet know if we're able to start again. So we're actually looking at parallel briefs and how to adjust so that we can offer either way a really strong course. People prepare lots of money for education now, and I know it's exactly the same in the States. And you often get one stab at it. So you need to make it the absolute best offer and the best use of time for the people who are investing heavily in it. And in some respects, I absolutely agree. When we do design work, pinning things up on the wall, seeing things physically, being able to compare across drawings, which is very difficult if you're tied to pages on a screen, and that's been difficult.
I know our students who've been heavily reliant on making digital models. When in workshops using expensive digital printing material and laser cutting, et cetera, I actually had to do, little bit older, I had to do a little tutorials, those things you could do at home. Do we introduce them to physically making with the cutting boards and scalpels? So there are advantages to or if there are ways that we've overcome things. And I think actually having a closer physical interaction that doesn't involve transportation. So those regular catch ups is definitely maintained so the students don't necessarily have to go a week if they're in trouble and they can just contact me.
And I think actually having a brief that looks a little bit more globally so that people don't necessarily need to come to London, no sites in London, it's been an interesting challenge because you make much more global comparisons about same conditions, which we actually asked the students to do, but we do it with London based site because they're international students.
And so actually getting the idea of us having to judge as critics and as tutors if the countries that I may have never been to, that they might actually be in choosing sites, I find that fascinating. It means I'm actually forced into much more than the educated to other than the educator role, which is something I love. So there's different aspects of it in regards to the positive, negatives. But I think a lot of what people get from university education is not what I teach them, but actually the international makeup of people coming to a new city, new campus and interacting with each other and making friendships.
And as someone who has two almost teenage children, I think that reliance on the phone, on the screen and not physically interacting with people, not picking up on the nuances of people's, I say their body language, et cetera. I think that's a skill that's important not to lose. Even the thing of public speaking is actually very different if you're doing it in a room full of 50 people than it is if you're talking to your own phone. So there are some things that I think we shouldn't see that we can easily replace because as human beings or as people who are adaptive to lots of different situations, sometimes outside our comfort zone, it's important to ensure that we get that complete crossover.

Chris:
You brought up some things that, you just remind me of it. Students oftentimes learn more from their classmates than the instructor. And so if we're living apart now learning online and connecting that way, how might they recreate that experience or can they, or is that even possible?

Hannah:
Well, for my tutorials, I've been definitely encouraging people to sit in on each other's tutorials. So to see other people's work. If you're talking about urban design, you're talking about the way that the city works. You get somebody from mainland China and you get somebody from the Shetland Islands in Scotland and their approach to urban design is completely different and they can learn a lot from seeing each other as much as they can from me commenting on the specifics of what they're doing.
So the whole idea of teams or Zoom or whatever the platform may be, that it's not just one-to-one, it actually does allow that integrated. And it wasn't that long ago when phone calls, you couldn't really do a conference call because technology somehow didn't seem to be able to do it.
So it's fantastic that technology has made that jump. But I think that the collective idea to not necessarily being your education that you learned from, but hearing the education of others or even hearing people present their own ideas and getting knowledge from that is really important. So I do a lot of either recording tutorials so that people can look at each other. So inviting people, it's a little bit difficult with timescales. Occasionally give people tutorials, not realizing it's 1:00 in the morning and then, sorry.

Chris:
But that's also the beauty that it's being recorded and broadcast it. So a little bit of it is time neutral. So the person who is getting the critique needs to be there, I think so they can interact with you, but other people can watch it whenever their brain is most awake and alive. And if you miss something.

Hannah:
Definitely.

Chris:
And this is what I get a lot, which is somebody will listen back to critique over and over again, and they'll hear different things because usually the first way you hear something, sometimes is defensive like, God, digital understand me. My teacher doesn't really get what I'm doing, but then after that wears away, maybe the second, third time that they can truly hear what you're trying to say.

Hannah:
Even recently when we did our digital quiz, I had that experience because the students were presenting and obviously they're nervous as hell because you've got celebrity quizzes. We usually have great critics, I pride myself on great critic. But suddenly you've got people that you've only read about on the books on the recommended reading list. So they were a little bit overwrought and some of them became very nervous and they actually ends up sending me messages saying, Oh my God, I felt like that went terribly. I was really nervous. I was like you can listen back, it was really good.
I said, the idea of calming down and looking record is really important. I think that it's funny that you're saying that about that exchange as well and the timescales because at HNNA, for a long period, we did quite a lot of work in the middle East, and we actually won the Iraq parliament. We did economic housing with you and habitat. And the time difference there was such that they started earlier.
So I actually had quite young children at the time, so I would kick off quite early and then finish early when they came home from school, because I was matching the day for the people in the middle East. And they also had Friday off and Saturday offers, their weekend. So I took Fridays my teaching day. So I managed to work through that schedule and for a number of years in a way kept that. And it worked well for someone who's juggling children and work, it was actually blessing, slightly better, being more in sync with the school hours than the 9:00 to 5:00 was good.

Chris:
Okay. So this is a very personal selfish question for me in that I'm hearing you as an entrepreneur, a person who runs her own firm, and also as an educator and as a parent, how are you balancing all this? Because I found when I was teaching, it's all consuming. I would give my students everything I had, and then I neglected my business. How are you managing that?

Hannah:
It is difficult. I'm a single mom too. So it adds to the mix.

Chris:
Oh my goodness.

Hannah:
First, I have great kids. I wouldn't last five minutes with terrible children, I have to say. And I have actually been both running my practice and teaching for a number of years. I think if I was starting out doing all three together, that would be more difficult. I think I'm fairly efficient in making sure that I do what I do in the time available really productively. But I also almost never have done time.  I'm constantly thinking of things. I dream, my dreams consist of new design ideas or solutions for things. Very mentally active, such that by the time I get to do something, I know what I'm doing. And I think just the experience of done it for a long time.
I think potentially when I started my practice, had children and then started teaching all in one go, I probably would have struggled. But I nailed one or the other and then moved on and added to the stack, I'd say. Well, at any one time you can feel guilty that you're not doing the other two things marvelously. But that always happens.

Chris:
And do you get equal fulfillment from being a teacher and from working on commercial projects?

Hannah:
I mean like a variety. I think that I really love working with young people who haven't had the years of commercial restraints holding them back. I really love that. And I really enjoy not having those constraints myself too. So working not for specific clients or specific blood budgets or regulatory authority constraints or I think when I do that and then I go back to my practice, it makes me question there is more. So a little bit like, we were talking about COVID-19 taking you out of the situation makes you question how you do things, where you do things, whether there's ways of doing things better. I think actually being taken out the box in teaching and having that freedom of thought. Bringing that back into question, it means that I definitely innovate more or become more efficient or actually I'm able to reconsider a proposal that on Monday I thought it was great, but by the next Monday my mind is opened up again and I've reconsidered it.
And I think children were are a bit like that because they didn't see the world like I see the world and that's fabulous. Being around people who just saying why is the sky blue and why is my bedtime nine o'clock? And that whole thing of questioning it, as I say, keeps your brain open and it's really nice to see the world out of other people's eyes. So I think the three together are really nice combination.

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think you were mentioning before that routine can make you robotic. And it sounds to me that when you're working with your students or being around your children, they question your default stance. So sometimes they're right and more often than not they're wrong, but hey, it's good to have somebody check you on that. And I think that's one of the benefits of teaching. The other thing that you mentioned that I thought, well yeah, I feel the same way is that you become more efficient because I think as creative people, we'll take 30 years to make something if somebody gave us that much time. But then you learn to work within the constraints of time. And you decisions faster. But the other benefit is you are forced to articulate your thoughts all the time to people who are so eager to know how you process the world, that you yourself become more aware of how you think and you can make decisions faster.

Hannah:
Definitely. And also I think if you have two other things you really want to do, nothing forces you into efficiency like that. If you're putting stuff off, you become very lazy and you can expand your gas into the void and making a cup of tea last half an hour. But if you've got loads of stuff you really want to do, whether it's watching a film with my son or whether it's getting back to a student who just sent me an amazing draft but it needs XYZ and then it'll be perfect or it's actually getting onto a new project because a client just phoned me yesterday with a cool site. I actually just get through it because I want to go on to the next thing. And I think if enthusiasm is a great, almost like adrenaline junkie drug isn't it? It's gets you through onto the next thing.

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now I have to ask another question here and I probably could ask you a gazillion question, but I want to make sure I get this in before we run out of time here, which is that, seeing how it is that you're planning how people live and work and entertain themselves 10 years, 15, 20 years into the future, you must have some crystal ball through research, through empathy, through observation.
So normally I would never ask a guest this, but tell me what the future looks like in 10 years because there's going to be a lot of creative people listening to this and they may benefit from the insight that you have to share with us.

Hannah:
Well, it's topical to now in some respects, but I've got a lot of friends of mine who are in media or who are graphic designers or who are architects. And it's been interesting, I guess the age I am, a lot of those people are running their own businesses. And so they're actually in positions of power to rethink. And the work that we're doing for the design district is actually workspaces and offering a lot of variety. And the idea if it's supporting startups and supporting creatives means it has to be specific to the way that they work. And that can be architectural and can be spatial. But I think it can also be about the way that you use space with regards to time. Often a lot of what we do as creatives, we can do at our dining room table, but occasionally we need to have some larger space or we need some better technology or really specific equipment, but we don't need to pay for an office that has all of those things all of the time.
So I think things like the design district where you can go and potentially share desks or hire rooms by the hour and as well as potentially having a much shorter lease. You've got a client who's given you a job for six months and that may mean that you can take the rest of the six months off, means you've hired spaced for six months. I think the flexibility that you need to be as a creative to have burst of energy specific needs and that they change over time. I think that should change the way that we work and the buildings that we work in. And that means architecturally, but I also think it means in the periods of which we rent space and use space and share space and potentially even share stuff. What's interesting is a lot of people, actually as collectives coming together as creatives. I've even seen on Instagram where people are posting other creatives they know in terms of advertising them or there's art creatives where people are actually selling prints. And some of their prints. If they sell five prints, they'll buy the print artwork of another artist.
I think that idea of supporting ourselves and having a collaborative attitude so that we can be more flexible, I think it will help our creativity. But where everyone's struggling, as you said, there's nothing like a creative to spend 10,000 hours for a client who only wants to pay you 10, not because you're being paid 10, but because you want to do something amazing. And so the idea that we can't do that because we're not set up to that or we can't afford to do that is a problem that a lot of us have. But actually, if we can change the way that we work and if we can somehow support each other, if we're not paying for huge offices or equivalent, we're not having to commit to leases that are five years long, I think that that may help us.
Because if you look at what we do in terms of contributing to GDP, the economy needs us, but it doesn't support us very well. And I think the sooner we support and appreciate creatives and actually don't realize that the needs are very varied, then the better I think economies will thrive and we really see lives being affected in a really positive way. Some people were also posting on Instagram, not on all this [inaudible 00:49:02], they were posting on Instagram and saying, anyone who says the artist doesn't need funding should question what they're doing in their downtime when they're reading a book and watching boxes and looking at various things on the internet for their pleasure, you realize that's a huge part of our lives. But we always somehow fighting for existence. It's very strange.

Chris:
That's a really good point. Especially right now because if we didn't have the internet, if there weren't places where we could stream things or be inspired by what other people are doing, it would make this period really, really difficult.

Hannah:
Absolutely.

Chris:
Okay. So I wrote down some notes here. Just want to quickly recap and make sure I got it right. I think what you're talking about is the future needs to be more flexible. We need to adapt to what's going on. You mentioned startups a lot because they're probably on the edge of always figuring out the new, the next and that perhaps in creating maybe shorter periods of commitment that we are going to meet them with their needs and maybe this is a way for us to look at things.
There seems to be this theme of sharing and cooperative space so that we all don't have to own the one piece of equipment that we use every once in a while. And that could drastically improve consumption and pollution and trash and all those kinds of things. And so it feels like as with social media, things are getting shorter and shorter and shorter. You would normally read a long article, now you're doing 138 character tweet and that maybe our physical reality may somehow echo that too, that we can get in, we can try something, more ideas are being tried, more ideas fail. But that's probably where we need to be.

Hannah:
But I think if you actually think about how to innovate, how to change if we're labored over things, it's hard to be super responsive. It's hard to brainstorm and roll with new ideas really quickly. So I think that flexibility and variety and a support mechanism, whether it be by the state or whether it be one creative to another. I think we need to strengthen what we're doing because a lot of what we use, whether it be apps on phones or amazing things around our home or usually the innovation that came from a startup, not that many years ago. We have generations for whom there's been slight changes in technology and in the way that they function and now it's speeded up rapidly and we won't enjoy that unless we support the creative. So we're doing it.

Chris:
Yes. I read a phrase somewhere and it went something like this. We are now living in a time of the fastest pace of change ever in the history of humankind. Simultaneously, this is the slow as it's ever going to be.

Hannah:
Absolutely.

Chris:
Which is like wow.

Hannah:
Scary, isn't it?

Chris:
It's like career crazy fast, but it's going to get faster.

Hannah:
It's super interesting in terms of education because both my children are in high school and they are getting pretty much the same education I got 30 years ago and I felt it was reasonably irrelevant then. And they do seriously question it, but I love that they're question it. They actually say, how would I use this? Why would I not use Google for this? When do you ever hand-write anything mommy?
And it's true. And they'll be looking at me doing my accounts online or equivalent and they say, why don't we learn to do stuff like that? That looks really useful or really basic stuff. And things like cooking, they're really into cooking because they can see it's useful and yet they spend their days doing things they don't understand how it's useful to them because it isn't. We should be embracing technology to educate people and we should be also understanding that they can use calculators now in a way that they've never had access to calculators.
So actually understanding how maths works is possibly better than remembering how to do everything via mental arithmetic. So I think the speed of change establishment just absolutely have to keep up, legislation, schools, education, looking at transportation and the way that we should be massively taxing the polluters more than we are. All of those things, they really need to change because we're changing as a species so rapidly.

Chris:
Beautiful. Now there's something very calming about the way you say this because normally when I say something like that, people get scared. But your energy is so good about this, that things are changing. And we need to adapt and we should start to question what we do as part of our routine or habit because maybe they're not the best ways to do things moving forward.

Hannah:
Absolutely. But I think change for change's sake is actually really rare and that's what people are afraid of. Change usually happens because there's a need that isn't being met. And if we actually think about our needs being met, so really that's a positive thing. So I think it's that fear of change that, I don't know, came from the Luddites or whatever it was when technology first came in and everyone was smashing up the factory sales and going back to the farm. I think we're no longer there. I think we absolutely appreciate now that some things, some change is, we change in the wrong way and we end up probably not meeting that need or creating other problems as a consequence of the way that we meet the need. But if we assume that it's heading in the direction of meeting a need and we can reassess it, then it has to be a positive thing.

Chris:
Thanks for saying that and thanks for clarifying that because sometimes it could sound how somebody might process that. Okay. Wow. I probably could sit here and talk to you for another three hours, but I realize we're almost out of time. It was really fun. I was a little nervous talking to you, I have to admit. Okay, audience. I was nervous to talk to Hannah because she seemed so smart in doing things that is just way beyond my scope of understanding. And somehow I think I understand a few things now. So Hannah, thank you very much. It was a real pleasure talking.

Hannah:
Absolutely. My pleasure. And hopefully I get to talk to you again soon.

Chris:
Yes. Now if people want to look you up and either find out more about what it is that you're doing, how might they do that?

Hannah:
We have a website which is beautifully only six lessons long, which is hnna.co. My name is Hannah and you are listening to The Futur.

Greg:
Thanks so much for joining us in this episode. If you're new to The Futur and want to know more about our educational mission, visit thefuture.com. You'll find more podcasts, episodes, hundreds of YouTube videos, and a growing collection of online courses and products covering design in business. And we spell The Futur with no E. The Futur Podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. This episode was mixed and edited by Anthony Barro, with intro music by Adam Sandborne.
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor and rate and review us on iTunes. It's a tremendous help in getting our message out there and lets us know what you like. Thanks again for listening and we will see you next time.

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