AV and interior design: a meeting of minds?

  • For the third year in a row, I have been sitting on the judging panel for the CEDIA Region 1 Awards. These reward excellence in system design and installation in a range of different categories, including home theater, marine projects, and integrated homes. This year there were over 90 entries, which was a record, and their geographical spread was broader than ever, with submissions coming from as far afield as Mumbai, Lahore, and Johannesburg. (Region 1 embraces Europe, the Middle East, much of Asia, and Africa.)
  • The judging panel is split 50-50 between technology writers (of whom I, somewhat reluctantly, consider myself one) and professionals from the fields of architecture and interior design, working for publications such as idfx and RIBA Journal, and representing associations like the BIDA.
  • When we first all met three years ago, there were frequent outbreaks of discord among the panel. We (the technology people) favored the systems that were most impressive or innovative from a technical point of view. They (the architecture mob) couldn’t work out why anyone would want to live in these spaces, and favored rooms that were aesthetically beautiful (but which, perhaps inevitably, had system designs that were predictable or, worse, significantly flawed).
  • Last year there was an outbreak of entente cordiale. Still some arguments, yes, but there is no doubt that both sides had shifted their positions toward the center. The geeks felt able to put on architect’s glasses when judging the entries, and the opposite was also true.
  • This year, emerging from London’s Cumberland Hotel into a crisp Spring day after the judging, I reflected that it had almost been too nice. It was as if we were all old friends meeting up for our annual reunion. We cracked jokes, exchanged stories and, almost as an incidental, chose some Awards winners. So deep was the consensus in the room that only two or three categories even had to be put to a show of hands.
  • In part, this must be because AV installers are getting better at working with architects and designers. And while the CEDIA Awards program is focused, of course, on the residential space, I believe the same is happening in the commercial world. But I also think the bonhomie of our group is simply a result of dialog. When we first met, there was mutual respect, but we didn’t fully understand one another. Now we do.
  • If ever there was a case for raising both the level and the frequency of meetings between the systems contracting world and that of architecture and design, then the CEDIA Awards judging process makes it succinctly. Now more than ever, we need to know that the needs of AV are going to be considered at the start of the building design process, while architects need to be assured that we can add value to their buildings. Let’s talk.

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