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Design Discussions with Robert Norwood

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Get to know Robert Norwood, Principal/Interior Design Lead at NBBJ Los Angeles, through this thoughtful conversation that is part of our ongoing series Design Discussions.

What inspires you personally and professionally?    

Beauty and Craft, in the context of nature, art, and the built environment.

How do you stay current on cultural trends that affect design?

As a Design Practice Leader, my work is across multiple markets and across geography and cultures of the project types, domestic and international. This creates a critical dialogue and creates unexpected linkages among the project types, whether corporate, sports, healthcare, science, hotels and other types of projects the firm engages in. Also travel, not just for the projects, but personal – which is generally about regeneration.

An example of the notion around layering in interior spaces.

What’s next for the future of the design industry?

There are three major shifts that I see influencing Interior Design: 1. A need for layered experiences. By that I mean the purposeful integration of art installations, graphics, furniture, objects and accessories as complimentary finishing touches to create comprehensive, fully choreographed environments and immersive, varied experiences. 2.As are trends, the lines between markets and typologies are further blurring, because we are now a part of a generation that experiences work, life and play as an integrated continuum. 3. Material explorations move from the “poetic” to the performative: the notion of blurring markets is pushing us to create interior environments and atmospheres that bring experiential qualities to space that may not have been typical (i.e. workplaces becoming more domestic in nature, hospitals become more like a hotel or retail in feel, etc.). Materials will need to perform the duty of supporting that “feel” while meeting all the physical performance attributes for maintenance, hygiene and life-cycle as required by those programs.

As a practice, we can enhance these types of design explorations by making sure that we create teams where creative intuition and experienced wisdom engage in a dialectic process, a process that relies on hands-on mentorship to ensure that fresh, creative thinking is enabled and that imaginative ideas are encouraged, contextualized, validated and nurtured to full realization by experienced experts.

Unbuilt Project: a mountain retreat in Wyoming

What one building or interior space do you wished you designed?

This question recalls an unbuilt project, sadly a victim of the great recession, a mountain retreat in Wyoming. It is one of my favorite examples of a well-conceived, relevant and resonant conceptual narrative, which explored scent and its relationship to spatial cognition and memory. We sought to capture the essence of place, through scent of a particular place in relationship to its orientation and context. This interest led us to engage with fragrance designers as we were choreographing the spatial and experiential journeys of the hotel, a conceptual narrative that would have guided the development to a comprehensive outcome where experience, expression, beauty and space all refer back to the ideas initiated by the narrative.

What are your most favorite things on your desk?


Robert Norwood
Principal/Interior Design Leader, NBBJ

A firm-wide, multidisciplinary design leader based in Los Angeles, Robert has spent his two-plus decade career crafting built environments rooted in strong conceptual ideas. He blends practicality and art, integrating a clear analysis of client needs with collaboration and clear communication of design ideas to resolve complex programmatic challenges. For more than fifteen years at NBBJ, he has worked across market sectors including corporate, commercial, hospitality, healthcare, sports, higher education, aviation and residential.

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