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PSFK Conference Speaker Interview: Eoin Billings

One half of Billings Jackson Design shares his inspirations and professional strategy in the lead up to his talk at the PSFK New York Conference 2011.

Stephanie Pottinger
Stephanie Pottinger on March 28, 2011.

Eoin Billings will be one of the speakers at our upcoming PSFK CONFERENCE NY 2011. A founding partner of Billings Jackson Design, he is responsible for architectural project work, and has worked as an industrial designer in architecture for twenty years. Eoin won the graduate’s Gold Medal from the Society of Designers in Ireland in 1991 and went on to run major projects for the in-house industrial design department at Grimshaw where he met his business partner, Duncan Jackson. Collaboration is key to Eoin’s professional approach and he runs regular design strategy workshops, drawing from a wide network of experts to fast-track the design development process. He is particularly interested in developing methods where craft, tools, materials and technology can be exploited to improve the time to manufacture and the quality of solutions. In anticipation of the conference, we bring you a few thoughts from Eoin:

Tell us about the personal experience or moment that inspired you to pursue design and focus on the built environment:

I grew up surrounded by drawings, models and samples from my fathers workshop. While we were building Lego spaceships under his drawing board he was detailing construction drawings for Sir Norman Foster’s latest creation or Sir Nicholas Grimshaw’s newest cladding system. He is a major inspiration for me. Design was a given for me, but the real moment came when I could put a name on what I wanted to do. One of my closest friends’ family set up Industrial Design as a full time university course in Ireland. I never looked back from the day Noel Mulcahy explained what the course could lead to. It seemed endless and fabulous!

What is the most exciting challenge that Billings Jackson Design is addressing right now?

We are forging a new skill in one of the oldest industries in the world, the building industry. We have spent the last 20 years pushing at the rudder of a massive ship and she is slowly turning. Clients are beginning to appreciate that Industrial Design and product development skills have a valuable contribution to the successful design and construction of large infrastructure projects.

What other projects are currently inspiring your work?

I am fascinated by how firms like Asymptote, Gehry Tech and Future Systems have harnessed digital technology and their projects have been driving a cross fertilization of technologies. Ship builders are forming vast 3 dimensional building structures and 3D software is allowing teams to plan construction scenarios in a virtual environment, curved steel panels are being tooled, formed and fired in a matter of hours rather than weeks.
The Architects in Vorlberg, Austria approach of crafting individual details while generating unique and appropriate to context buildings is a story I keep repeating to our teams. They built up a high level of trust with the client through the repeated experience developing well crafted details with the builders, suppliers and craftsmen. This has resulted in some of the best built projects I have seen.

Where do you find inspiration outside of your industry?

The artists Anish Kapoor and James Turrel have been an important inspiration.

What emerging trend, idea, or technology are you excited to see develop in the future?

The pressure of cost and program are preventing architectural teams from really innovating. I see design teams and the building industry getting closer to the craft of making repeatable, high quality solutions for building elements. This is leading to opportunities for innovation and progress.

Thanks, Eoin!

Eoin will be speaking at PSFK CONFERENCE NY 2011. Come listen to like minds as they share their ideas to make things better on stage and off. Find out more about the full lineup of speakers at the PSFK CONFERENCE NY 2011 here.

Thinking...