Q&A with Cristina Riley of CPMG Architects

We find out from Cristina Riley of CPMG Architects what is most important to consider when planning flooring for a project

What has been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on?
The John Pye Luxury HQ in Old Bond Street, London, was a particularly rewarding project. The client was fantastic to work with and I was able to design a welcoming, bespoke showroom with luxurious finishes, details and lighting. I am really proud of this design, as the final version was exactly like my original vision.

What’s been your most challenging project and how did you overcome the problems?
Every project has its challenges, but they differ with each one and for each sector. For example, the concept for the Kitty Café brand, for which we have now designed two sites, has specific operational requirements, which can be challenging when each floorplan is a different shape. The most challenging project I have worked on is the refurbishment of the students’ union within the Portland Building at the University of Nottingham. Creating a wayfinding and branding strategy for so many different users and occupants was not without its difficulties, but we did so by strategically using colour, flooring, graphics and lighting.

Introducing a modern feel to such a traditional building also presented challenges, as the building’s characteristics are an important part of the campus’s heritage and we didn’t want to eliminate its historical architectural features. Instead, we introduced new lighting, signage, furniture and finishes to make the building brighter and easier to navigate. We also incorporated more usable space to bring it up to date with the university’s needs for more modern technology.

John Pye Luxury’s HQ in London includes bespoke brass logos with a marble floor and a stunning herringbone wood floor

What are your most important considerations when planning a flooring project?
Firstly, it is essential for us to consider the practicality of the flooring products being used. Is the flooring suitable for the environment it is being specified within? Is the slip rating high enough? What is the longevity of the product? Is it easy to clean? These are all questions a client will usually ask when looking at the design. With these things in mind, it is also important to specify a floor that is aesthetically appropriate for the space. We often use the floor to define ‘zones’ within a space, as we can subtly indicate breakout zones, or we can direct users through an area by creating a ‘path’ set out through different colours.

What are the key factors and trends to take into account when designing floors in the 21st century?
Sustainability is essential when it comes to modern floor design and at CPMG we aim to use materials that are made from recycled materials wherever possible. Thankfully, a lot more companies now use recycled content, which we are really supportive of. Flooring that has a long lifespan is particularly important for education and healthcare projects, as well as those that are easy to clean.

John Pye Luxury’s HQ in London includes bespoke brass logos with a marble floor and a stunning herringbone wood floor

What type of floor would you install if there were no restrictions in terms of budget or anything else? In other words, what’s your fantasy floor?
My ‘fantasy floor’ would be interactive, which can change to form natural environments, creating the illusion of feeling like you are walking on water or sand, but without looking too artificial.

How important is technology in floor design? Are smart floors a significant trend?
Smart floors are becoming more and more popular, particularly for wayfinding strategies or branding projects, where we are now seeing logos featured on the floor in entrance areas. Smart floor solutions are currently quite expensive, but as time goes on and as the technology advances these will become more affordable. Hopefully, they will also be offered in a variety of aesthetically pleasing finishes.

The flooring at the George Porter Building in the University of Leicester incorporates wayfinding

Do you feel that more significance is given to flooring design than in the past?
No. There are simply more products available, and as technology has advanced different types of flooring are a lot more accessible to us as designers. Designers from previous generations were certainly interested in floor design, but the technologies and materials just weren’t available. In previous generations, decorative flooring was often designed in buildings with significant importance or wealth, such as royal or religious buildings. This was usually done through handmade techniques, such as hand-knotting carpets or rugs, hand-painted stone, mosaics, or patterns using real wood. These finishes represented wealth, so held great significance, such as the floor of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Modern working environments and public sector design has changed significantly in the past few decades and at CPMG we are always designing to the needs of modern-day society and technology.

What’s next for flooring – what will be different in 20 years?
Interactive flooring and smart floors will certainly advance. Hopefully, we will be able to use ‘green floors’ inside buildings, just as we have seen living walls arrive with the new biophilia trend. I think the boundaries between internal and external spaces will fully interact. In fact, we are already starting to see this with finishes that look and feel like natural materials.

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