We’ve incorporated our blog into our new website. Same unique combination of posts about chocolate and bicycles, design and architecture but in a shiny new wrapper: brainstormoverload.com/blog We hope you’ll drop by and linger as long as you like.
A few photos from Swedish style blog victor.blogg to fuel micro studio daydreams.
Today two magazines found themselves in ironic juxtaposition on my desk. Together they reflect the seismic shift happening in the creative professions and a question we’ve been pondering for years. What kind of environment best inspires creative endeavor?
The Sept/Oct issue of Architecture MN (You can pick up a copy at the AIA offices in International Market Square.) pursues one answer to this question by featuring several beautiful, local workplaces of the super-size variety. Two advertising agencies; Carmichael Lynch and Modern Climate, and two architecture firms; Cuningham Group and Ellerbe Becket show what can be done by a professional with a substantial budget to house an army of creative talent.
The cover of the November issue of Dwell on the other hand boldly proclaims a glorification of the live/work option. Of course buying a home like those featured in California, Ontario and Japan might cost as much as renovating a Minneapolis agency but both strategies can be achieved on the relative cheep so the exercise is really to explore the differences in the two directions.
Simple day-to-day choices compound to take us in unexpected directions over the long-term. Will media conglomerates get bigger and bigger until they are the heartless but efficient equivalent of industrial agriculture? Will a vast population of nomadic, independent contractors coalesce into the much predicted 1099 culture? I suspect the human tendency to push at the extremes combined with a Darwinian expectation that no niche goes unfilled will cause both options to come true. The only question is where do you do your best work – fancy agency, humble home office or someplace in the middle? We’re volunteering the term “micro-studio” for that middle ground and hope to share the creation of ours in future posts.
Carmichael Lynch by MS&R (navigate through “portfolio” to “offices”)
Modern Climate by 20 Below Studio (project not featured and the site is challenging)
Cuningham Group by Cuningham Group (project not featured but their work for Hunt Adkins is)
Ellerbe Becket by Ellerbe Becket.
The American Institute of Architects convention in Minneapolis begins today and continues through Friday (Nov. 5). There will be lectures and a large exhibition hall full of the kind of shinny objects that architects find irresistible. You can follow the convention on Twitter: #aiamnconv
Also making the scene at the convention will be the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (notice that landscape architects have a full on “society” while architects have to settle for just an “institute” but that’s a topic for another post). BrainstormOverload was delighted to help ASLA-MN prepare to make a strong impression at the convention. We helped develop the concept and designed presentation boards and t-shirts featuring Theodore Wirth as the central theme for the year. To learn more about Theodore Wirth, who has had a lasting impact on parks nationwide, click on the image above for a larger version. It will be a yearlong campaign so watch for more.
If you find yourself flipping through the September issue of Dwell magazine be sure to stop on page 79 for a look at a sweet, small studio space at a home in Sweden. Designed by Elding Oscarson the studio is detached from the rest of the home but is connected by an outdoor patio space. This would be a nice arrangement and a very reasonable commute. On page 22 Dwell also purports to have a slide show of “home workplaces” on their website but I can’t find it. Let me know if you do because I’d like to see the collection.
When you work for a big agency you sort of have to take the projects that come your way but it has been really exciting to be steering BrainstormOverload in directions of personal interest. Recently we’ve been working on projects in the cycling, athletic, landscape architecture/urban planning and environmental arenas.
This recently completed project for Automated Logic Corporation falls into the last category. It runs as a kiosk rather than online and it’s the first design work we’ve done for delivery on high definition screens (1080p) which was interesting – also the first touch screen design which was even more interesting. This application called Eco-Screen (built in Flex by Creed Interactive) will be displayed nationally in the energy efficient and LEED certified buildings in which ALC installs super efficient environmental controls.
We were striving for a sophisticated skin that would look and function in a cool way while on display in these high-tech lobbies. Inspired by the iPhone GUI everything is very tactile and dynamic. Modules respond to user input and the graphs are all generated from live data about each building’s energy usage. Layers of each graph can also be turned on and off by the user. This project got even more interesting when the first installation turned out to be a grade school in Texas requiring a skin that is much more icon driven (screens 4 and 5). The entire project was an exciting challenge and ALC was terrific to work with so we wanted to share the results.
Photographer Jim Brandenburg takes his home studio seriously enough that he had David Salmela design it (along with the rest of the house) and it looks like an amazing place to work. The irony of course is that Brandenburg, a renowned wildlife photographer, spends lots of time traveling to spectacular locations outside his studio. This is probably the most classic case of having one’s cake and eating it too that has ever come to my attention and while a lesser man would be jealous I can assure you that I am merely green with envy.
Even if a gorgeous, two story studio bordering the Boundary Waters is not in your budget at the moment now is a great time to listen to the architect himself talk about it. David Salmela will be speaking at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis on Wednesday, July 14th at 7:00 p.m.. Also speaking will be Tom Fisher who is Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota and the author of two books about Salmela’s work. They’ll be signing copies of the first book and talking about the second which is due in spring 2011. It’s sure to be inspiring for anyone in search of quality space. See you there.
My brother gave me a great book by Ana G. Canizares entitled 500 Solutions for Working at Home. It’s 423 pages of solid inspiration organized by type, including studios design for personal use, architecture, design, art and services. Each case study includes not just beautiful photographs but details, square footage and floor plans. This book is full of clever solutions from humble to lavish. At $15 new / $8 used (at Amazon) your investment could be as little as one and a half cents per studio solution. Of course there is a ton of inspiration online but it can be hard to track down and usually won’t come with this level of detail so this book is pretty good way to augment your search.
The Minneapolis Park Foundation, College of Design, and Walker Art Center have teamed up to bring us a phenomenal lecture series, “The Next Generation of Parks”. Wednesday night’s conversation on New York’s High Line was the second of three summer events. If you didn’t get in the doors, or couldn’t make it, you missed something great, but you can find the full lecture here. Todd and I have been to many a lecture on the subject of design, landscape architecture, architecture, and planning. A few on bicycling, too. This, though, was far more than just your average power point presentation or ubiquitous “here is what I’ve done in the field” lecture. From the introduction by Cecily Hines and Andrew Blauvelt to the last word by Lisa Tziona Switkin and Robert Hammond, it was damn inspirational. Why? We’ll give you our top three reasons.
1. Not just envisioning potential, CREATING potential.
Robert Hammond appreciated the abandoned elevated industrial era ruin of a railroad in his West Village neighborhood enough to take action when it was slated for demolition in 1999. How many of us wonder about the things we see on a daily basis, but when they come crumbling down for surface parking we tell ourselves ‘there’s not much you could have done about it anyway, so don’t fret you didn’t speak up’? Like those cool abandoned grain mills in our Minneapolis skyline. Sure we envisioned a cool future for them, but when they were felled, ground up, and a slab of asphalt was put in their place. Not again.
Linear park in an abandoned elevated rail corridor? Of course. It is a no-brainer now. But, such was not the case before Hammond and his Friends of the High Line co-founder Joshua David, did something about it. Hammond and David used their entrepreneurial spirit to create a movement that resulted in an overwhelmingly successful public space, likely by every index imaginable.
2. Project process and tactical brilliance.
A lot of the process was no different than what developers, planners, or landscape architects do for every project (develop concepts, present to the public, attend seven bazzillion meetings, gain support, refine concepts…implement). But, a lot of the process WAS different. Hammond et al. recognized the power in branding and visualization early on in the project, and as they enter phase two and three, we would predict their savvy in the realm of communication and its power is going to prove to be a game changer.
Before beginning the project, they had a year-long photography project commissioned in effort to show people the life of the rail corridor thus making the space visually (and we would argue emotionally) accessible to those who usually just experience the steel undercarriage of this elevated line. For more project awareness, Paula Scher at Pentagram created a so-simple-its-brilliant logo. And, they held a design competition with phenomenal renderings by the winning landscape architectural and architectural team James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. (Full design team listed here.)
The game changer? Well, the area where High Line Section Three would be is also currently slated to potentially house twelve million square feet of development. Of course, the current plan does not include what could be the coolest end of the High Line.
Friends of the Highline are pushing for a temporary (and relatively inexpensive) walkway installation in this section. The renderings illustrating this temporary installation are gorgeous and compelling (and not available yet). If they are successful in receiving the okay on a temporary walkway they will create insurmountable public support. The public will LOVE IT and when Mr (Mrs?) Developer comes in to place what amounts to TWO DOWNTOWN SEATTLES (Hammond’s smart analogy), the outcry of “not to my Highline!” will be loud. Very loud.
3. 1+2 = 3 for us. Listening to Robert and Lisa describe what we imagine is the abridged version of the project process and game changing tactics resulted in a new vision of possibility for us.
We could list the numerous calls to action we felt last night as a creative duo, but let’s just leave it with the most inspiring. Believe in your vision, hone your technical AND tactical skills, and surround yourself with crazy brilliant talent who will make you better at your own work. Push the envelope in design AND process. The High Line raised the expectations of our own work and the possibilities for public space in the Twin Cities. We hope it does the same for you.
PBS has done it again. An intriguing look at intelligent people doing interesting things. Nothing blows up. There are no scantily clad women. No murders. No esp flashbacks at the scene of a horrific crime. And, there will be no commercials – hallelujah! If you are not used to television of this quality you’ll be delighted to know you have until Summer to work up to it. Start by checking out the trailer at citizenarchitectfilm.com.
“Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio is a documentary film on the late architect Samuel Mockbee and the radical educational design/build program known as the Rural Studio.” In short it looks like one of those stories that is simultaneously heart breaking and deeply inspiring. Reminding us of the power of our creative energies and how meaningful it can be to contribute them without thought of reward.