Meeting the Microgrants Recipients: Part III

Announcement | December 8, 2020

The Research Microgrant Program supports small, focused research projects proposed by CRTKL employees by investing $50,000 to support research projects across the firm. The microgrants recipients, selected from a pool of 34 total applicants, were awarded for their excellence by a global expert jury from academia and the design industry.  These individuals and teams will spend the next four months investigating their research topic, supported by internal mentors, the Research Fellows and guided by curriculum sessions led by the expert jurors.

Microgrants are an opportunity for us to develop new knowledge that covers a broad research agenda. The program is meant to be a safe space to ideate, fail safely and directly implement findings into our projects, business or culture. We are looking for the next big idea, insight or small adjustment that enables us to change the way we think.

Today, we’re talking to Nikita Malviya and team Ekatrina Dziadkovskaia and Gustavo Sbardelotto about their research projects and the road ahead.

Nikita Malviya – What is the optimal mix and concentration of industrial, commercial and residential uses in mixed-use destinations?




Ekatrina Dziadkovskaia & Gustavo Sbardelotto – What new workplace typologies could be triggered by a global pandemic?




Tell me about how you came to choose your Microgrant topic.

NM: I chose this topic because a lot has been established about how to create or build mixed-use districts but very few successful examples of mixed-use buildings that combine places of production with commercial, and residential. It is important to re-define places of production that are not just limited to industrial manufacturing but also include uses such as product designing, urban agriculture, knowledge centers, digital labs, dark kitchens, and more. I am very interested in understanding what is the spectrum of production and how can we design buildings that are places of production, multi-level interaction hubs and places to reside

ED/GS: Quarantine! Our cities were massively disrupted, each of them in a unique way. Places like London, which have a high density of commercial property in the centre, ended up deserted at their cores. This made us think about the office as a critical typology that would have a major impact on the large cities’ dynamics. Considering that we learned several lessons from working from home, which will not simply go away when this virus is gone, we wanted to research what is going to stay for good and reshape the way those who have office jobs work.

How does your idea better prepare our industry for a resilient future?

NM: To harness creativity and innovation, there is a need of industrial activity in all its modern forms to be integrated with places to live. COVID-19 conditions have further exaggerated the idea of creating resilient environments that offer flexibility for different uses, proximity for local interactions, diversity and resilience, sustainability, and a strong vision for the future. We need spaces for local producers to grow their businesses, urban hubs for entrepreneurs, and uses that attract young talents within the city neighborhoods. Therefore, this idea will be a chance to explore the missed opportunity to design buildings as places that host a diversity of uses and help prepare our industry for a resilient future.

ED/GS: Cities are resilient by nature. This becomes more evident when major cultural changes happen, what was the state of art is disrupted, and the only way out it to rapidly adapt. The COVID-19 pandemic made all of us work, live, and socialize in ways that perhaps we have never experienced before. Our research is an opportunity to analyse and forecast the impacts the widespread change in the office work modus operands will have in our cities. The output of our research hopefully will enlighten opportunities in the real estate industry.

What types of people will be most affected by your idea?

NM: Overall, the idea will positively impact designers, urban planners, private and public sector clients, and communities that are undertaking development in urban environments. The research will help solve for private and public sector clients that are looking for ways to adapt to “new normal” post-pandemic, to deliver unique/innovative spatial solutions and to align with future demands of dwelling and working within the same place.

ED/GS: Those who have office jobs and their employers. More broadly, large metro areas. The change in the office jobs will change the way people experience their cities and all neighbourhoods’ dynamics will change, not only the CBDs.

What is the importance of this program at CRTKL?

NM: For me, this program gave me a great opportunity to learn and better understand build environments from the industrial/manufacturing perspective. The program will help strengthen the firm’s position as a thought leader in planning and urban design, given its legacy in designing mixed-use districts and large-scale master plans. Additionally, the multi-disciplinary nature of the program has further supported and strengthened cross-collaboration efforts across the firm (including workplace, retail, mixed-use, hospitality, residential, placemaking, user experience, and more) and outside (including sessions with professionals, experts, and researchers).

ED/GS: Research Microgrant is a great opportunity to have support from our company to research ideas that are unrelated to current projects. These are the grassroots for shifting our design processes towards a more investigative path, and for enhancing CRTKL’s creative culture.