With a human-centric philosophy toward residential and commercial design, Mike Shively and Lucas Goldbach create spaces that foster connection, promote happiness and connect people with nature and the world around us. En Masse Architecture and Design, formerly Mike Shively Architecture, translates to “all together” or “as a whole”—a newly launched rebrand that highlights the team’s commitment to collaboration and inclusivity. “It’s a very multilayered approach and there is no one-size-fits-all,” says En Masse design director and partner Lucas Goldbach about their process. He tells us about the challenges and influences that inform their work, their sources of inspiration, and the future of design in Chicago.
Tell us a bit about En Masse—then and now, post-rebranding. What’s changed and what has remained the same?
Formerly Mike Shively Architecture, our goal for coming into our new identity, En Masse, was more about encapsulating our approach in our branding and the name itself. Previously, the name did not allude to the fact that we are a larger, collaborative team, nor did it highlight the many ways we approach projects. The name En Masse denotes the all-together, collaborative spirit of our firm, and the colors and textures we applied in the visuals embrace our multifaceted approach.
Can you talk about the importance of a human-centric approach to residential and commercial design?
In terms of residential projects, our human-centric approach places a larger emphasis on the process versus the design solution. We’re always striving to tailor our communication style to fit the individual client, whether they prefer more visual or analytical storytelling behind the design. Some people need to let an idea sink in over time and the more a client has a common language or exchange with us, the more they are invested in the design and the process. That is very important to us.
For commercial projects, the most important thing to consider is scale, as you’re not necessarily solving the problems of a single person or a family. It’s on us to determine how to make a space feel comfortable for an individual or employee—whether it’s helping them thrive off of the energy of a collaborative open office or feeling safe to put their head down and focus in a private space. It’s a very multilayered approach and there is no one-size-fits-all; it’s about being part of a larger system.
En Masse works toward creating a fun, fresh and approachable “structured freestyle” atmosphere for employees, clients and partners. What are the biggest advantages and challenges in bringing this vision to life?
For employees, this type of work environment allows them to pursue projects and opportunities that are exciting to them in and outside of work, which challenges them and influences and informs their work. With a “structured freestyle” approach for clients, we’re able to adapt our process to each project and be more nimble to best suit the client’s needs.
In terms of challenges, it can be hard to set expectations at the beginning of a project when you’re still getting to know what that project or process may be. We have a general outline we follow, but we try not to get too far ahead of ourselves to ensure we’re implementing the timely information and creative ideation that supports our client’s goals. We like for clients to have full access throughout so they are woven into that process and can ask questions or request changes like they are an extension of our team.
Where do you look for inspiration?
All of our employees are inspired in different ways, and we are constantly learning and gaining new insight from our clients. As a firm, we also work on a range of project types so it’s interesting to note how commercial design can influence residential and vice versa. Personally, I like to branch out and look for inspiration beyond just interiors. Travel is key to help spark new ideas or see something from a different perspective. TV and movie set design is also really incredible to me, especially how they interpret space in really interesting ways. Additionally, fashion has been a huge influence and a great way to stay up to date on what’s new and next. I like to think of being inspired as something other than a divine act, it’s a practice and effort that you must continually seek out.
Where do you see the future of design—in Chicago and beyond?
The disposable nature of our society has removed the attachment to a deeper sensibility and quality at times. Even considering things like climate change, it’s important to appreciate quality and sustainability. We have such a phenomenal baseline and history of architecture and design in Chicago that I hope we continue to honor that which is inherently part of our current lives and embody that energy into our work with things like adaptive re-use and maintaining beautiful design and architecture.
What are you most excited about moving forward?
We’re excited to continue to do our thing in our way. We’ve gotten to a point where we know ourselves, and our team has come into its own. We’re excited to build on that foundation and expand our reach with this rebranding to put things into practice that we’ve been working toward for a long time. What comes through the door is always a surprise so we’re looking forward to seeing what new challenges we have to tackle. In terms of the work itself, while we have a strong local presence, we’ve garnered a lot of new knowledge and inspiration from rural and mountain homes. We’re excited to broaden our portfolio and continue to experiment with different types of architecture.
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