A Vibrant NeoCon 2019

By Gretchen

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From June 10-12, the 51st edition of NeoCon showcased the future of the commercial design industry. The global platform for leading companies in the sector is held annually at The Mart in Chicago. We headed there last week to check it out and enjoy some time in the Windy City. Product launches from nearly 500 top brands and captivating programming were just the beginning of this year’s immersive NeoCon experience.

Designed by Gensler Chicago and Forward Fruit Branded Environments, a new experiential outdoor area called The NeoCon Plaza spanned the length of The Mart’s South Drive. A hit with attendees, who used the space to connect, relax and recharge, it featured gorgeous views of the river and was a great illustration of how incorporating  outdoor environments into the modern workplace can be effective. This was a theme that was addressed within the NeoCon conference program, with sessions that focused on how designers can utilize the outdoors to work and collaborate while improving health and wellbeing. Leah Bauer, IIDA, ASID, IFMA led the presentation “Outdoor Workplace Evolution” with Assal Yavari, CID,  which explored the power of data in changing design culture. In addition, Todd Heiser, Principal of Gensler Chicago, and Paul Makovsky, editor in chief of Contract Magazine, explored the advantages of “The Outdoor Office” through survey data on the new workspace. They all reinforced the notion of biophilic design being the center of a happier and more productive workforce with fresh outdoor spaces.

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Each day of the show included a powerful keynote presentation from influential movers and shakers in the design world.  In the opening presentation “The Familiar and Unusual”, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch discussed moving away from corporate modernism and instead reflecting a unique narrative for each client’s vision through design. The following day “Stuff Matters: The Material World We Make” conveyed Ilse Crawford’s mission to center her projects around human desires and needs to make people feel right at home. Lastly, Liz Ogbu’s “Do No Harm” keynote spoke on her work to advocate for challenged urban areas through cross-disciplinary and human-centered design research.

Before we headed back to NYC, we wanted to enjoy some time out on the town! One night we opted for a dinner at Beatnik on the River, a Chicago favorite. Known as the “it” riverfront patio, the restaurant drew inspiration from the Beat Generation of the 50s and 60s and gave us breathtaking views of the Chicago River. The international cuisine and boho-chic interior space including a 1913 jewelry shop and Indonesian daybeds gave our team the most intimate and overall worldly experience to wrap up our final days. NeoCon 2019 exceeded our expectations and we are looking forward to coming back next year!

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