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Beneath the Surface Blog

Thursday Salute to Originals: Spinning Sculptures

GPI Design - Thursday, January 22, 2015

Over the existence of our Thursday Salute blog series, we’ve highlighted a number of sculptures, photographic pieces, and even Mother Nature’s own artwork. But we don’t often come across an original that combines all three, with a twist!

John Edmark boasts quite the resume: artist, designer, inventor, and professor at Stanford University. And with his keen design eye and Mother Nature’s mathematical algorithms, he creates stunning sculptures. These pieces are noteworthy in their own right, boasting intricate precision and texture. But when set on a turntable and photographed with high shutter speeds, the sculptures transform into mesmerizing animations, twisting, writhing, morphing, and moving as if they were alive.

Fibonacci Zoetrope Sculptures from Pier 9 on Vimeo

A lot of science, mathematics, and precision goes into these trippy creations. But we think Edmark sums it up the best: “Much of my work celebrates the patterns underlying space and growth. Through kinetic sculptures and transformable objects, I strive to give viewers access to the surprising structures hidden within apparently amorphous space.” And for that, we salute you John!

Thursday Salute to Originals: A Twist on Traditional Taste

GPI Design - Thursday, January 15, 2015

Here’s one of the stranger things you’ll see today: utensils that mimic the sensation of eating – without the use of food. Yeah, we told you it was out there.

Eating Utensils Proef Design Knoppert

Though an odd concept, the idea does bear some thoughtful merit. Eating is as much a social experience as it is a necessary one to sustain life. Some people, unfortunately –like those with permanent feeding tubes or certain illnesses - can never experience the joy of eating.

Recognizing this problem, creator Louise Knoppert decided to develop a collection of tools, called Proef, that can help those who are not culinary inclined still experience the sensation of eating.

Taste Eating Utensils Proef Louise Knoppert

The strange utensils (there are nine total) are actually well designed, and specially fashioned to stimulate the mouth in a variety of ways; they aren’t just flavored sticks of plastic. The Sponge tool, for example, sucks up any flavorful liquid which can then be squeezed out with the mouth. Vapor tool uses atomizer technology to create a fine flavored smoke. And the Foam utensil creates a bubbly substance with burst of flavor and a tingling sensation.

Taste Tools Designed by Louise Knoppert

Though we’re not entirely sold on this idea (can these tools really successfully mimic the joy of eating?), we do appreciate the message behind it, and Knoppert’s use of thoughtful design to engage the typically unrelated sensation of taste.

Combining texture, taste, and trendy aesthetics, these odd tools are certainly unique. But for now, at least, we’ll offer our most hearty salute for originality, and happily stick to the trusty fork and knife!

Image credits: Design Milk, Louise Knoppert

Thursday Salute to Originals: Attention to Detail

GPI Design - Thursday, January 08, 2015

Attention to detail is a learned skill that can be cultivated; things like using memory cards, puzzles, honing math skills, and image memorization. In the office it may mean getting organized, limiting distractions, avoiding rushing, or putting on the headphones to give that wall section detail 110% of your brain power. This skill is so critical to the design and building profession, for many of us it seems engrained since our first design course.

Even in our tightly controlled design world, you will come across people who will simply try to rush to get the job done and do not have the energy or time it takes to make it perfect. Why not take a little more time to try to really nail those details? If you take a step back and allow yourself to analyze every aspect of every project, you may find this positive change doesn’t drive you mad, but may lead to better outcomes.

Here is a fun task to test your attention to detail. As you scroll down you will see a few photos of flooring. Do any of these look particularly different to you?

You guessed it (or maybe not, depending on how distracted you were!). The top right picture is actually a glass floor with miniature people holding up the glass floor. 

Action Figures Supporting Floor by Do Ho Suh

Tiny People Holding Up Floor

This flooring was designed by artist Do Ho Suh from South Korea. His theme as an artist is creating architecture that emotionally affects the viewer by relocating objects permanently in an active space. For example, a staircase suspended from a ceiling that was not an original intention.

Do Ho Sun Suspended Staircase

Sometimes when we overlook details we begin to make mistakes that can hurt us. It is best to slow down and take the time to notice the details because the outcome can make or break the design and build of a project. We salute our artists and designers who produce a piece of art that not only is something to be viewed, but makes us think about improving our own work practices.

Image sources: MyModernMet, Sculpture Research, Gizmodo, Garages123, Epoxy, Garage Solutions

Thursday Salute to Originals: 365 Days of Surfaces + Light

GPI Design - Thursday, January 01, 2015

In 365 days, our team has accomplished many things both personally and professionally. A growing office family and increasingly challenging projects kept us on our toes, which is just how we like it. Looking back, here are the major project highlights from this year that really stood out for us:

1. One Lake’s Edge

Backlit Onyx Wall Mitered Corners

Three words: Double. Mitered. Corners. This graceful soaring wall isn’t just comprised of the obvious front panels. No, the backlit honey onyx on this stunning feature wraps the returns, and then winds onto the back - a simple move when drawing a few extra lines in a floor plan, but a totally different story in person. Double miters in backlit onyx are difficult to fabricate, nerve-wracking to ship, and extremely fickle to install. Luckily our detailed shop drawings nailed all of the relationships, so our install team kicked it into high gear to follow those parameters and keep the install running smoothly. These corners are a feat in themselves.

2. Ocean Prime

Backlit Wood Bar Wall Panels

The backlit wood bar walls had a stringent completion date for the high-profile restaurant opening. Even though the wood is sanded to the thickness of a fingernail, it’s a challenging surface to illuminate as we react to natural graining and pattern densities. (Mother Nature has been known to throw us some curve balls!) This project was heavy on the installation side, both literally and figuratively. We had to evaluate each piece in full scale in order to tailor the lighting to it. And then our install team had to lift these extremely fragile and humongous panels – some spanning 10 feet long – setting them in place with only millimeters of room for play. Not to mention, this installation fell right after the One Lake’s Edge wall above, so our crews had to be uber-prepared to ship all the right customization materials out months in advance.

3. The Mansions at Acqualina

Backlit White Onyx Wall Ceiling

Although picking a favorite project is almost like picking a favorite child, this project was arguably our crown jewel for the year. Custom sourcing the onyx involved some long days and dusty trips in the quarries. A challenging ceiling suspension system, designed to visually disappear and meet strict seismic requirements, kept our team very busy during the engineering phase. The work was so worth the reward as the designers and owners came to cherish the backlit onyx feature as much as we do.

We discuss our integrated process often, and it’s easy to simplify it into neat phases of design, engineering, fabrication, and installation. But on a true day to day basis, what did it take to get there?

  • Countless team meetings
  • Over 400 hours of overtime work during our installs
  • 95,000 frequent flyer miles
  • Tens of thousands of coordination emails
  • Hundreds of conference calls
  • Approximately 10,000 cups of coffee (Santa brought us a new Keurig machine!)

Looking into 2015, we’re already filling up schedules with high profile projects, including a high rise tower in Philadelphia, commercial building in D.C., and an office complex in Boston. We’ll be able to share more of those details once we are deeper into the projects, so stay tuned to our blog and Instagram feed for sneak peeks (both will be highly featured on our new website debuting in a few weeks).

Cheers to fresh opportunities as we ring in the New Year! We will be back in the office tomorrow, gearing up for yet another 365 days that are sure to fly by.

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Ho-Ho-Honut

GPI Design - Thursday, December 25, 2014

An unexpected spin on the Christmas dinner

Meet the Ho-Ho-Honut. Combining the classic staples of a holiday feast, this savory treat may just be every designer’s dream - from compacting the footprint of a meal to paying homage to classic ingredients to maintaining an iconic form.

Ho Ho Honut Christmas Donut

This catchy name is more than an advertising hook, it’s a delicious treat that’s gaining sweeping popularity in London. A quick glance at the ingredients:

- Sage-flavored dough

- Bacon and cranberry drizzle

- Sprinkled with turkey salt and roasted potato crumbs

- Topped with a sprig of holly

- Thick gravy filling

Gravy Filled Christmas Donut

“To start with it sounded a bit crazy, but classic flavour combinations, a wealth of baking experience and a bit of Christmas spirit have made it into something really special”, said Mark Godfrey, Owner of Godfreys of Hornchurch. The bakery, located in East London, currently sells these festively named treats in their shop only. If you’re in the area this season, be sure to taste one for us – and let us know just how scrumptious it is.

Happy holidays to our colleagues and clients, near and far! We are taking some time to celebrate our own meal traditions with friends and family (some with pierogies, soda bread, or pasta sprinkled into the traditional fare). Our office will be open December 29th, December 30th, and then back to begin the New Year on January 5th.


Thursday Salute to Originals: Recollections of Child’s Play

GPI Design - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Think back to your memories of building a childhood fort. This recollection is probably infused with connotations of warmth, coziness, tightly enclosed space, and found objects. While many artists express their work in clustered objects, this set designer and self-taught artist harkens back to the era of her childhood fort-building days as inspiration.

Taking domestic objects such as gauzy fabric, chairs, or top hats, Nicola Yeoman transports us into eerie scenes. There is something breathtaking about her meticulously arranged objects coming together with hazy lighting, purposeful composition, and an evocative context - a romantic organization, if you will. The works possess an air of domesticity, but also strangeness, offering much to ponder.

There are millions of words that could be written about the interpretation of these pieces and we would love to hear yours. For now, we’ll stick to the nuts and bolts by discussing the design tools used in Yeoman’s work. Most of the arrangements use suspension as the structure, with the strong exception of the cracked floorboards which seemed to have lost their battle with gravity.

The use of domestic objects places a level of familiarity and home, though the settings are often quite the opposite – abandoned warehouses, quiet forests, and empty rooms. This contrast of material connotations sets off a whole other dialogue.

This Thursday, we salute those creators who go beyond formal training and simply stick to the basics – such as modernizing the archetypal children’s couch-cushion-and-blanket fortress.

Image sources: Joshua Twentythree via Flickr Creative CommonsFeel Desain

Thursday Salute to Originals: Water Projections

GPI Design - Thursday, December 11, 2014

As buildings envelopes are intended to be impermeable objects withstanding natural forces, our environment is typically constructed to tightly defend against weather. We seal against moisture in every means possible – from flashing to pitched roofs to storm drains. When water is embraced as a medium for architecture, rather than a force to be withstood, it can entirely shift the meaning of space.

Water Projection Art Installation

In the Minamo installation, the team at Torafu Architects creates an intimate interior space to “let the water in”. Reflected liquid patterns grace the curved walls, shifting subtly like the motion of the sea. Color is introduced at times, opening up the possibility of the water to carry a sense of materiality.

There is little written about the execution of Minamo project, but that only enhances the mystery. The images convey of a sensation of being wrapped in light or hovering underneath the surface of water, forming compositions reminiscent of surrealist art.

This Thursday, we salute this team of architects for boldly flipping convention to stretch the limits of how water and space can interact. Next time it’s raining or snowing, think about how you can embrace that force as opposed to quickly running for shelter!

Video credit: Torafu Architects via YouTube

Image credits: Torafu Architects

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Door Handle

GPI Design - Thursday, December 04, 2014

The commonplace nature of the door handle has made it so expected that, even as a functional tool interacted with on a daily basis, it gets skimmed over in our minds.

Think about how many doors you opened just in your morning routine alone – you probably opened and closed a bedroom or bathroom door, locked up your front door as you departed, opened (a perhaps frosty) car door, then hastily turned the key to get into your office. We’ll bet that you don’t actively remember most of those door handles, but what if they had been made of something a bit stranger?

Artist Rene Siebum of the Netherlands sought to bring this overlooked design object back to the forefront of experimentation. Using a standard door handle purchased from a hardware store, Siebum created dozens of iterations of the handle by changing materiality – recreating the handle in anything from wire to sand to wax. A single material change, in turn, shifts the visual and tactile reading of the handle altogether.

Melted Plastic


Iron Wire

“I first looked at how our sense of touch communicates with us, I realised the basic elements for our touch sense are texture, structure, volume and temperature," said Siebum. (source: Dezeen) The “Touch” exhibit was displayed at Dutch Design week in October.



As a team that works hands-on with materials every day, though mostly of the translucent nature, we appreciate these iterative studies on how changes in materiality alter perception. You just might find our office entry door graced with silly-string handles this week, and no it’s not an early April Fool’s joke! We salute Siebum in stretching the limits of materiality by using a simple, everyday object as the canvas; reminding us that "commonplace" doesn't have to mean "overlooked".

Image credits: Dezeen, Studio Rene Siebum

Throwback Thanksgiving: Possibilities on Your Plate

GPI Design - Thursday, November 27, 2014

This Thanksgiving, we're throwing it back to an original blost post we wrote for the 2011 holiday. As time passes the team here tends to do stranger and stranger lighting experiments with our foods (backlit PB&J, anyone?), but our fascination with lighting and texture certainly hasn't changed.

Original post: With Turkey Day just hours away, the team here at GPI decided to get together and have our own pre-Thanksgiving feast. While we were sitting around the conference table enjoying our meal, the talk of design came about (surprise, right?). But this conversation was a little different than our normal meeting dialogue. Instead of discussing shop drawings or lighting specs, today, we turned to a new topic of conversation: design within our food.

Through our conversation (and after we paused long enough from stuffing our faces to actually look at our meal), we realized that a lot of the materials we work with on a daily basis actually closely mimic elements found in our food. The veins in a slab of onyx, the undulating grains in a slice of wood, or the texture of concrete, are all things that make those particular materials desirable; qualities that add beauty and visual interest to the piece. But veins, grains, and texture can all be found directly on our dinner plate as well. And while taste is usually the main criteria upon which food is judged, there is so much inherent beauty within these foods that often go unnoticed.

Armed with this new-found design inspiration, what did we do? The only logical thing of course…we took our Thanksgiving meal and backlit it.

Above: Thanksgiving meal transferred onto our LED panel

Above: fun with cranberry sauce and snow peas

Above: Snow peas with LED backlighting (fine details emerge)

Above: whole grain bread with LED backlighting (warm color)

Above: cranberry sauce with LED backlighting (a mess to clean up!)

While we’re pretty sure the Pilgrims and Native Americans never meant for their Thanksgiving meal to glow, it just goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere…even on your own dinner plate. What inspiration will you find in your Thanksgiving meal?

Thursday Salute to Originals: Basecamp of Impressions

GPI Design - Thursday, November 20, 2014

Braving the cold weather in the Southern Alps is no easy feat. As Clevelanders, we have only been braving this winter’s cold for one week and it already feels awfully imposing! This dedicated artist must be either abnormally warm-blooded, or a zealous believer in nature’s beauty.

Camped out in the Alps at over at 2,000 above sea level, filmmaker Lukas Unterholzner (in collaboration with artist Flyles Planet) produced a stunning timelapse of a shifting landscape. Gazing at this short video is almost akin to cloud gazing or star gazing itself – except with the luxury of doing so from the comfort of your warm cozy home.

Basecamp of Impressions from Lukas Unterholzner on Vimeo.

There is much to appreciate about the beauty of the natural world. What strikes us most is that this video highlights the natural world moving in layers – the land, clouds, outer space, and natural light all move at different paces to form an intricate dance. We don’t often get that perspective when viewing a motionless painting or photograph, even of the most beautiful landscape. For using the power of video to its utmost capacity in showing change and progress, we salute these cold-braving artists in bringing a bit of this beauty back to the rest of us for our viewing pleasure.