New London Architecture

Five minutes with... Joy Nazzari

Monday 26 September 2022

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly

David Taylor meets Brazilian-born proptech entrepreneur Joy Nazzari about Showhere and her work for DNCO on designing ‘place purpose’ environments that meet human, not just developer needs.

David Taylor  
Is that Joy? 
 
Joy Nazzari  
It is - how are you?
 
David Taylor  
I'm good. How are you doing?
 
Joy Nazzari  
You have caught me at a very exciting time, David. Very, very well, indeed. 
 
David Taylor  
Why is it so exciting? 
 
Joy Nazzari  
The studio is really on fire right now with a lot of different things going on. Tonight, we have a party for our London Design Festival exhibition on the Metaverse. So, there's a lot of fanfare and press going on for that. We are launching our New York studio on Monday. We have a new DNCO website going live. And there's a lot of Showhere product development going on. So: as a studio there's a really incredible vibe and buzz. It's very exciting.
 
David Taylor  
For people who don't know about Showhere, could you just describe what the offering is, in a nutshell?
 
Joy Nazzari  
Absolutely. Showhere is the Real Estate Sales and Leasing presentation platform. Basically, what we've done as a studio is, for many, many years – literally going back 20 years in my career – we've always created these interactive sales presentations for residential and offices, projects, mixed use; all sorts. And really, instead of editing these interactive presentations, building something new technically every time and then supporting many generations of apps and different things for different clients, we've created one business, one company that has a single platform, and then we onboard our clients onto that platform. And anytime we update that platform, everybody who's on it benefits from the new product development. So basically, it's an extremely flexible and dynamic way for property businesses to sell in our current times and for our current requirements. We were very fortunate to have it in place, in effect perfectly placed for the pandemic. Our clients on that side, brilliantly, include Related Argent, Brookfield, British Land and the like. British Land specifically has their whole commercial and retail portfolio on the app, which is pretty cool! They're walking around town with this app and in their marketing suite. They're powered by this technology, which is pretty fantastic. It gives them a lot of capability and power.
 
David Taylor  
And what's the main secret to its success, would you say?
 
Joy Nazzari  
I think it's really identifying pretty early that our clients are pretty tired of in effect re doing and remaking technology every time they have a major scheme. A lot of our big clients are supporting multiple different types of tech across multiple different big schemes. And really, for us, it was like, well, just give them you know, sort of the one ring to rule them all. And that's really what we wanted to do.  It's kind of a function of the real estate world historically, that every asset has its own P&L, and therefore, you end up getting these different types of things that are, I suppose, from clearly architects, that's kind of a no brainer. But things like technology, there was a real issue of efficiency across projects that was resolved using something like Showhere. In the case of British Land, specifically, they were managing at the time, something like, 250 PDFs for all of their agents and all of their internal asset managers. And it's sort of like, who has the latest PDF, and has that been updated? And now nobody needs to have any PDFs; they just open one single piece of technology, and everything is up to date; all the latest information's in there, their marketing team can effect that remotely, which is really powerful for them. 
 
David Taylor
Now, I'm told, as a Brazilian-born female, you felt like a bit of an outsider in property and tech circles for many years. So, you've implemented some, I quote, 'amazing policies' to ensure inclusivity within your own company. Can you enlarge on that? What sort of policies do you mean? 
 
Joy Nazzari  
Gosh, I think certainly, the Black Lives Matter movement, you know, just let the scales fall off all of our eyes. We were all getting enlightened more and more every year. But that moment was certainly very poignant. And I think some of the interesting things that we've done - it's worth noting, we're 56% female, actually, which I think is pretty cool. And it's not that we in any way, select by bias, but it's a huge shift in the 17 years of our business, it used to be really, really difficult to find female designers. And I think there has been a shift in terms of how design schools are actually pushing women to actually take designer jobs, as opposed to project management jobs, so thankfully, the industry I think has moved on. But we have implemented a couple of things specifically around how we hire. The first thing we identified was: we have to educate, right? We all have to educate ourselves, and start to understand where we might have biases that are creeping in. It helped quite a lot to ask our recruiters, that was a really specific thing we've done. We've asked our recruiters to strip out names and identifiable information. And we just look at CVs without any information about the individual. And it's quite an interesting thing. I mean, the music industry has been doing this for many years; you get a concert performance, musicians who have performed to directors behind the screen. And it sort of makes sense to me that you should be able to look at a designer or certainly a developer, or a coder's work, without actually knowing what their name is, or what their sex is or how they identify themselves. So that's something we've tried to start to do. We've also been very keen to get involved in different ways to try and promote – bringing people in from unexpected avenues.

So, for example we've just become a supporter of Creative Lives in Progress. It hasn't been announced yet, but Creative Lives in Progress tries to get underprivileged, or less represented, people into the design industry specifically. I think that's quite fascinating, because the design industry does tend to somehow become very white and middle class. So how can we, as a studio working with the built environment which is serving all of society – how can we actually really do that very well from a one-point perspective? I think we have learned a lot through the pandemic. As a team, we've bought a lot of books and done a lot of reading and tried to understand the incredible benefits of diversity and how rich that makes you in terms of different points of perspective. And we've seen that really bear quite a lot of fruit internally.  
 
David Taylor
So Last question. I enjoyed watching your TED Talk in Bath, and specifically, your talk about places needing to be designed from a sort of human-centred perspective. And also, your comments about placemaking versus place purpose.  Firstly, could enlarge a little bit on that? Or even shorten what you said (laughs), for this purpose? But also: where exemplifies, do you think, some of the principles that you extol? Where exemplifies that best, currently on the planet? 
 
Joy Nazzari  
Fantastic! So, firstly, I'm really proud of the studio that we coined this term place purpose. And you know, purpose is getting a little bit of a hard time as a word generally, you know, if you're a chocolate manufacturer, can you really have like a crazy human-centred purpose? But actually, I've really held steadfastly on the word ‘purpose’ for the place industry, because it creates, it forces us to create a reason about what are we trying to create here, that is more than just square footage of offices to lease or flats to be sold. And it gives you a very different perspective, which actually helped me later on to do this sale or leasing. The genesis, I suppose with place purpose came from many years of doing branding and marketing for places. We would come in and all of the architecture and the place creation and conceptual stuff was done. And then it would be like: “Hey, Joy and hey colleagues, come in and tell us, you know, how we can sell this place to people”. And what we learned actually was that the process was: hey, with this much planning, we can get this much space, that creates this much value for us, this is how much it's gonna cost to build. I'm being a bit cynical about that. But I think it is actually done. First of all, it is definitely done as a spreadsheet first of all, before any developer and investor chooses to buy a piece of land. So, what ends up happening is an architect is handed that sort of valuation, and then they have to design to that valuation. So, what we like to do is really successfully with a few clients is we like to get involved, actually, even before the architecture happens. We say: “hey, what is the market desiring right now? What does the market need? Where's the world going?” And when we come to market this, what are people going to actually intrinsically care about? And can we actually build into that? So instead of actually sort of plastering on some polished branding and marketing, we're actually talking about doing some of that customer R&D early on. And it sounds very basic. I mean, we do that in all other industries. Market research customers research is totally standard. But actually, it's not standard, oddly, in our industry, is my belief. The first chapter of the place, the book that we wrote that is that that TED talk is, is sort of based around, the first chapter is tell the story, in the introduction, actually, about the time…we'll be sat in rooms where everyone around the room is talking about what should be made here. But actually, no one is asking questions like: what do people actually need? We like to create the little moments where we talk about the human before we actually talked about, I suppose the valuation, of course. Of course, they have to work too. But our view is that what the outcome is that you create a place that is inherently more desirable. And the more desirable it is, the higher the value is of the place, and the more people want to be involved.

So: a couple of great examples of that. We had such a great time working with Related Argent through the pandemic on Brent Cross Town.  That was quite an experience because it was literally April 2020. And no-one had diary meetings anymore. We had access to the top brass at both Argent in the UK and Related in New York. And it meant that we had such a rich and dynamic process to be able to create something that everyone really bought into and then it kind of was able to then trickle through every single collaborator on that project.
 
David Taylor  
Yeah. Is this what they call the ‘flourishing index’?  
 
Joy Nazzari  
Yes, Yes. So, we were very heavily involved in developing that idea. We're very proud of being involved in that. I remember saying to a friend in the industry saying, “Hey, we're getting involved in Brent Cross”, and the person said to me, “oh, golly, that's pretty off piste, Joy, you know, that's going to be hard work”. And I was like: “Oh, I love that, because for us that's the absolute perfect challenge”. So, what was really special, and has been really special about Brent Cross Town is that they have this public space that they're basically dedicating to play, playing fields. And they'll utilize the playing fields. And instead of saying, Brent Cross Town is a blah, blah, blah, this many square feet of blah, blah, blah, and we'll have a mixture of la la la, we basically said: “No, let's make a place that is about play, and what does that mean to people throughout their lives? What does it mean for kids? What does it mean for the elderly?” You don't have to be directly involved. But even just as a community to see play, you know, it's very team building for people in work experiences; let's make play be this sort of place purpose at the heart of Brent Cross Town. We developed the line a 'Park town for future London'. And I love that line, specifically, because I can remember a call between London and New York, all the top big wigs at the Related Argent businesses, after being directly involved in coming up with that place purpose. We're creating a place that has a park at its centre, and play being the benefit that people get from that. So, I would say from a place purpose, exemplary standpoint, for me, that was a lovely experience. And everything just falls out of that. So anyone that they get on board, to develop a new building, or to create something, they get this manifesto, which has four different key points that we helped them write. And we lead a very rigorous program process to develop really tangible things, not marketing guff. This is what we're actually doing here. And then all their partners then get that as the way to inspire what they're going to output, which is really exciting. 
Images: Brent Cross Town

David Taylor
Well, congratulations on all this work. I mean, I can hear the enthusiasm in your voice and see it in the time that we've spent talking. It's a world record for five minutes with I think (Laughs)
I think yeah, I think it's into its 12th or 13th minute (laughs). 
 
Joy Nazzari
(laughs)
 
David Taylor
No, but thank you. Thank you so much for your time. It's very interesting, your name, even your name is Joy, right? Which is sort of nominative determinism, if I've ever seen it! Because that's what you're seeking to find in the places you design. So, congratulations again. 
 
Joy Nazzari  
Many thanks David! 
 
David Taylor
Thanks a lot 
Watch Joy’s Ted Talk


David Taylor

Editor, NLQ and New London Weekly



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