Clerkenwell Open

Q&A with Gurvinder Khurana, Director and Co-Founder at align

Clerkenwell Open offers an incredible panel of experts from the Architect and Design Industry who have been supporting and advising throughout the development of the free showroom trail event, taking place on 9th & 10th September 2021. We will be publishing a series of Q&A’s with our experts, giving you an insight into their career sectors, thoughts on the future of contract and interior design and why events like Clerkenwell Open are so important for our industry.

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This week, we had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Director and Co-founder of align, Gurvinder Khurana, about exciting new projects and how the workplace is continuing to change…

Please could you introduce yourself

My name is Gurvinder Khurana and, together with practice Director Nigel Tresise, I co-founded our design consultancy, align, in 2012. We’re based in London with offices in Exmouth Market – an area our proudly multi-national, multi-lingual team – from three different continents currently! – loves to work in. As well as lots of design studios, it boasts a ton of great bars and restaurants, as well as any number of interesting, independent stores.

Our practice works across interior architecture and design and our core business is about aligning our clients’ brands and businesses with environments crafted around real people’s wants and needs, seeking to balance brand expression with end-user ergonomics.

Our projects are in the mixed-use, hospitality and residential sectors, but our largest area of work sector has always been workplace design and strategy, which also makes up the majority of the twenty awards the company has won since launch for our creative work.

Please could you tell me about your area of expertise? Please feel free to include any specific current projects or areas of interest.

We offer a full spectrum of services within workplace, from strategy and space-planning to interior design, including everything from designing bespoke furniture to the stand-out detailing that is one of our practice’s greatest signature strengths.

Right now, our focus is on two major projects at different stages for large corporate clients. One, in the UK financial sector, has challenged us in a very positive way to reach ambitious targets in terms of energy use and sourcing, achieving a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, as well as a 90% level of local sourcing.

The second project, for a huge, global manufacturer, is about moving the first of a number of UK offices from a very traditional, static and workstation-based culture to becoming completely agile. The scale of change for the workforce has meant a huge amount of consultation to bring people along with us, on what is a truly radical recalibration, actively encouraging different ways of working via any number of differentiated, varied configurations.

What does the future look like in your area of expertise?

I think people are perhaps too busy being definite about the future right now, when the truth is that we are all in a state of post-pandemic shock still and won’t know for some time quite what the longer-term effects of the mass trauma we have all undergone will look like. There’s an evident tension already between people’s desire for the return to the known and the normal and a huge appetite for change, for example.

It’s the realisation of how unknowable the future is that will most probably be the main driver for the future. I think we will see the acceleration of much change that was already happening in terms of inclusivity and sustainability, with the main addition being an increased amount of clever designing-in of spatial flexibility. With so many boundaries blurring, all commercial facilities could simply become spaces, with the user determining the eventual use to be made of them.

What does the future of the contract and interior design sector look like?

A lot more like the hospitality sector! The advent of more hospitality-style spaces within workspaces and the increase in co-working spaces within hospitality has been happening for a while, but the more granular impact on furnishings and furniture is becoming more noticeable now too with hospitality’s emphasis on comfort and tactility really affecting workplace specification.

What is the importance of events like Clerkenwell Open to the contract and interior sectors?

Especially at this point in time, these events serve to remind us that we are a community and that there is a good amount of healthy glue that holds us together. There are huge benefits to face-to-face contact and meeting people for real in terms of relationship-building and putting the smile factor back into the working day. Swapping information and feedback in a continual circular exchange is a vital part of the lifeblood of our industry.

Certainly too, when it comes to seeing new products, the sensual aspects of touch and feel can’t be underestimated.

What are you most looking forward to at Clerkenwell Open?

The buzz, the excitement and above all the unpredictability of live events. I’m looking forward to re-connecting with old friends, making new friends and the real privilege of being able to be spontaneous again. I’m sure I’ll be smiling the whole way through!

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