Gallery: LIVE WEBCAST: Join Inhabitat for the ‘Big Ideas in Small Space...


Ford Motor Company and the Chicago Architecture Foundation have joined forces to bring you yet another amazing live webcast, following up on their successful Design with a Conscience discussion seen here just last month. We’re extending a special e-vitation to Inhabitat readers to join us for ‘Big Ideas in Small Spaces: Proportion in Design‘, a panel discussion where leading Chicago architects Diane Atwood of the Atwood Foundation, John Gately of Jahn, Gensler‘s Carlos Martinez, and legendary car designer and Ford’s group vice president of design and chief creative officer J Mays will be discussing how architects and automotive designers can maximize aesthetics and functionality to create innovative designs that are comfortable, efficient, and beautiful. We’ll be live streaming this discussion on, and our esteemed panel will be discussing similarities between their creative processes that have led to some of Chicago’s most famous buildings and the design of super comfortable compact cars like the new Ford Fiesta and the elegant Ford Fusion. Join us live on June 6th to participate in this design discussion. We also encourage you to take part in the conversation by submitting your questions for the speakers below in the comments! We’ll be sending Inhabitat t-shirts to selected question submitters, so join in!




Big Ideas in Small Spaces Panelists

Diane Atwood, Director at the Atwood Foundation

Diane Atwood is the Director of the Atwood Foundation and serves as Trustee of the University of Chicago Medical Center, School Year Abroad, and Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation. She was formerly the Chairman of Atwood Enterprises, Inc., and a Principal at Atwood Architects. She received her Master’s in Architecture from Princeton University in 1980 and her B.A. from Harvard University in 1977.

J Mays, Group Vice President of Global Design & Chief Creative Officer, Ford Motor Company

J Mays is group vice president, Design, and chief creative officer, Ford Motor Company. He is responsible for shaping the global design direction of Ford Motor Company’s Ford and Lincoln brands. During his career at Ford, Mays has managed and developed the design language of multiple vehicle brands, successfully leading the effort to develop the single, global Ford design language that now applies to most vehicles the company produces around the world. Mays joined Ford Motor Company in 1997 as vice president, Design, and was named group vice president in 2003. In 2005, he took on the expanded role of group vice president and chief creative officer. At Ford, he continues to make his mark. The all-new Fusion is a culmination of the design edict that Mays brought with him when he started at the company. Mays believes that customers develop an emotional bond with their vehicle; the design needs to inspire that. “To me, the most important reason people buy a car is the way it looks. You don’t want customers to justify a car based on logic; you want them to justify the purchase based on emotion. It’s a bit like falling in love with a spouse. You don’t fall in love for practical reasons. You fall in love for emotional reasons. The practical things have to be there – but that’s just establishing trust, the price of entry. Ultimately, you need the emotional side to come through, just as it does in a relationship.”

Over the years, Mays has received numerous professional awards and recognition for his designs. Mays’ design philosophy and a cross-section of his vehicles were the subject of an exhibition called Retrofuturism: The Car Design of J Mays at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2002. Mays received the Harvard Design School annual Excellence in Design Award in February 2002. In September 2002, he received the Don Kubly Professional Attainment Award from the Art Center.

Carlos Martinez, Principal & Regional Design Director, Gensler Chicago

Carlos Martinez is a Principal and Firmwide Design Director for Gensler. Using his design talent and innovation planning training, he works in the Chicago office and on a global level to inform and enhance Gensler’s design of memorable and compelling places. Martinez is acknowledged as one of the industry’s innovative and influential designers. His focus is on creating places that enhance the user journey and interaction with space. He has been Design Director on many award-winning projects. As a professional committed to social responsibility, Martinez aligns his artistic talent with several important charitable organizations. He is a past Chairman of the Board of Directors for DIFFA Chicago. Martinez rounds out and sharpens his practice with an appointment as Adjunct Professor of Design at the world-renowned School of the Art Institute of Chicago and through his design affiliation with Niedermaier, a contemporary furniture manufacturer. Niedermaier commissioned him to design a line of furniture that received national attention in House & Garden’s “50 Things to Love about Chicago.” In his formal training, Martinez earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Ohio State University and his Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jonathan Gately, Associate Principal Architect of Design, Jahn

Since starting with JAHN, Jon has worked closely with Helmut Jahn and Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido on the initial development of the design process. During this iterative process the programmatic, spatial, and compositional relationships of the design intent are studied through the collaborative exploration of three dimensional computer models, physical models, hand sketching, material research, and graphic composition.

Jon has contributed to several international and domestic projects in the office, including competition entries for the Shanghai International Financial Center, Yongsan International Business District, and the Qiantan Area Development.Prior to joining JAHN, Jon was a founding partner of Object31 Image Consultants, where he was selected as an AIA Emerging Professional for his work on PEGBOARD, an exploration of the possibilities within sustainable housing development in Ghana.

Please join in this discussion by submitting your questions for the speakers in the comments below! We’ll be sending out organic, awesome one-of-a-kind Inhabi-Tees to selected question submitters!


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  1. yj June 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Regarding global design thinking in automotive design, can you speak to the presence of crossover vehicles (e.g., Honda Crosstek) which look like typical cars on steroids (with their large 18\” wheels) but offer no additional space and contrast this to more economical european based designs which are in a smaller form (E.g., smart car). Can you comment on these trends? Do these crossover vehicles serve a purpose or are they trend based?

    Also, I\’ve noticed that north american cars offer more gadgets and functions on the interior compared to the asian vehicles. It seems different countries use different criteria for optimizing the interior design space. Can you comment on this?

  2. Jessica Balsom June 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

    What is your approach for sustainably lighting a small space with little natural light?

  3. Indian Autos Blog June 6, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Hi Mays! This is Shrawan from India, I head I was wondering – Though the customer around the world today is global, there are so many different likes, tastes and preferences associated with each part of the world.

    A simple example would be the placement spare wheel. In places like India and China love on the back of their cars. However European would like them hidden in their boot as they may find it too imposing or brash if installed to the exterior.

    Doesn’t the ‘One Ford’ design then shortchange the customer in one region to be able to sell its product around the world? How do you deal with this aspect going into the future taking into account that regionalistic approach to product programs are now a thing of Ford’s past?

  4. Augusto Console June 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Posso acrescentar a linha de ´carros da Ford perguntando:
    Posso ter acesso a uma linha de montagem do Ford Ka, e um investimento de 2 carros Ka para montagem de 1 prototipo ?

  5. karlsmith June 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    What are the implications for automotive interiors as autonomous vehicle technologies are implemented?

  6. Cynthia A. Jones June 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    My question is how wind and solar power are being worked into existing technology, to make these power sources more available in cars and homes? Thanks so much.

  7. robert marie June 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    how does the notion on whether an idea occupies space translate into the design of car interiors?

  8. User1 May 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Isn’t thinking inside the box difficult than the other way round?

  9. buck3647 May 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Will indestructible monolithic concrete structures be the future of construction

  10. gothamgirl May 31, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Since pull out couches are an uncomfortable solution for house guests, what do you recommend for a guest bed in my small 550 sq foot apartment?

  11. gothamgirl May 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Since pull out couches are uncomfortable solution for house guests, what do you recommend as a bed for visitors for my small one bedroom?

    (If this discussion centers only around car design, please disregard).

  12. Robert Anderson May 31, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Given that buildings (typically bespoke) and autos (typically mass produced) have a completely different supply-chain model, how can architects and auto mfrs develop strategies for “mass customization” that might benefit both industries?

  13. blarson25 May 31, 2013 at 9:31 am

    What trends are you seeing for using thermoplastics in small space design?

  14. pkwbergen May 30, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    What colours, textures and materials make a small space seem larger, and how do you use them?

  15. EMGreg May 30, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I’m curious… at what point in the design process does actual material selection take place? Leather/vinyl/knobs/capped-material/carpet/electrical components/lightbulbs — Are there specifications to follow or are the specifications made after intiial design?

  16. kwazai May 30, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Personal Vehicle designs topics-
    It’s hard to beat the rush from driving something along the lines of 426 hemi 4 speed- when does that come back?
    I like the looks of an M6 McClaren- irrespective of it’s ergonomic comfort- how does that play in to defining current marketing conditions for the designer(s)?
    I’ve seriously considered a hybrid- a small ‘cola can’ hydrogen pulse-jet feeding a small Tesla turbine generator EV-hybrid towing a Battery trailer on long trips- reverse trike 3 wheel two seater( twin bathtub) as a commuter vehicle- anything along those lines in the future?
    What’s in the future of light weight batteries and ‘flying’ (aerogel semi trailers?) vehicles?

  17. kwazai May 30, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Mostly possible discussion topics from me/for me-

    – light PV rail/trolley(AI?) systems for public transport? dockable modules?
    – Interstate medians for heavy rail and long distance/high speed transit/hoa
    -landscape architecture- system integrated waterfalls, etc
    – elevator shafts, rooftops, basements as thermal elements for sustainable design (does the math work without the money?)
    – light weight poly and bowstring type greenhouse/porta-cochere type house designs as independent power/food production waste processing facilities-passive active solar? and similar net zero waste processing systems (mini evapo-transpiration modules?, commercial and individual bio-fuel \’insinkerator\’ setups?)

    -passive/active solar system designs- including CFD- what should the standard(s) be?
    – similar structural detail tools (google sketchup that would let a neophyte know it wont fall down.)
    – \’odd\’ designs- spirals, mushrooms, lemniscate and involute- nature inspired? practical math application areas (honeybee hexagons-light weight, dense packed (similar Bauchy(sp?) balls and most recently Graphene))- what others are available?

  18. voyager May 30, 2013 at 2:16 am

    Space-efficiency on the inside can yield all sorts of benefits “on the outside”. This requires out-of-the-automotive-box thinking in car design, literally. Why isn’t this happening? For instance, a great new vehicle concept like has been largely ignored by the industry despite having received massive enthusiasm.

  19. tailoi May 29, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    In high density areas like NYC, Sydney Tokyo, Hong Kong etc, the high end units are frequently only one bedders. I am interested in the latest design options for having the flexibility to convert a living space to a bedroom after hours but in a most stylish manner possible.

  20. bob137 May 29, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    For a smaller vehicle, instead of large trucks, or the medium size trucks as the Ford Ranger, or the Chevrolet Colorado, why haven’t these companies started building and selling a remake of the small size Ford Ranchero, and Chevrolet El Camino, since they were much better on gas mileage, and looked a lot cooler, than regular pickups do? Anew generation of car lovers, and truck lovers, have been waiting for such vehicles, but the only ones are sold in Australia?

  21. Jeannine Wang May 29, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    For Carlos Martinez: Please comment on how you utilize lighting to enhance the user journey and interaction with space.

  22. archisan May 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    After nearly a century of minimal development in our building envelope technology, designers are beginning to take cues from the automotive industry to promote better air and water sealing in buildings. Conversely, one of the problems with electric vehicles is increased battery drain during cold months due to usage of electric resistance heat. Are there any lessons the auto industry can take from the building industry in terms of increasing R-value of the shell or alternative heating technologies to address this problem? Are there any think tanks working on the engineering crossovers between these industries as well as the aesthetic ones?

  23. Madie49 May 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Hi, need to know how I can maximize very small living space with three of the four walls being glass or view walls, how to think the solid walls for kitchen backsplash, even closet space?

  24. Bob Ellenberg May 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    There is a lot of space in every house taken up with wall partitions that are usually 4-1/2” thick (or sometimes thicker for utility walls/chases). I think there are many ways to greatly reduce this space by utilizing thin wall panels and therefore increasing the usable space within a house of a specific square footage. It requires very specific planning for utilities, equipment access areas, wire and pipe protection, etc. However, like an automobile that is built to very exact specifications, there would be very little room for changes or flexibility in the design. Another major way to greatly reduce walls is for storage closets to be built more like a wardrobe box with thin solid walls that would slide into exact preplanned spaces.

    I am currently working on several contemporary house designs applying these ideas and calculate that the additional usable space will be 5-6%. What additional ideas might you have or new materials you know of that could be utilized in this way?

  25. rayd May 29, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    How do you prioritize feature sets (needs/wants/desires) when designing for small spaces?

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