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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: Select Your Scribble

GPI Design - Thursday, June 19, 2014

The world of design is brimming with new developments in up-and-coming technology, product launches, and the next big ideas. Take the Scribble pen, for example. Any Photoshop devotee would be thrilled that the “eyedropper” tool has come to life, meaning that you can use the pen to grab a color from any real-life object and draw with that exact color. Move over Pantone swatches, this is instantaneous matching and finite control at its best!

With over 16 million hues and a programmable memory, the Scribble pen is admittedly awesome, certainly attracting a deserving share of hype. And it can be easy to get swept up in the bells and whistles of gadgetry, we know. (Let’s just say that the day we installed our on-site time-lapse cameras wasn’t exactly the most productive in history). But can this type of instantaneous and exact control actually weaken our relationship to those colors, textures, and materials which cannot be bridled?

A common reminder in our office is to take our eyes off the computer screen and back to the hard and true materials. Our surface materials are usually of the natural kind - rings of wood or layers of onyx formed over thousands of years. And while those characteristics can be shifted to some degree - you can tweak appearances and aesthetics with a lighting design change or framing method – those natural qualities are never simply repainted or redefined with an electronic paintbrush. Sure, the Scribble pen is a magic wand of an instrument that can open up creative possibilities, but it leads us to think there may be such thing as too much control over those possibilities.

Natural Pattern in Backlit Onyx Materials for Feature Wall

In creating backlit onyx and wood features, we navigate the concept of control through the design process almost every day. Without prepackaged sample boxes, SKU numbers, or catalogs of options, we hunt for unique translucent wood and onyx materials by traveling straight to the sources at which they were formed: the forests and quarries. Though is not always easy relinquishing the grasp when dealing with natural materials, interior designers and architects who specify translucent wood or onyx surfaces take the leap of faith that we will find a material in Mother Nature that meets their vision.

Backlit Wood Natural Texture Illuminated

Once we find the perfect material, the colors, textures, patterns, and inherent layers formed into the materials are workable only through changing the panel sizes or optimizing the best portions of material. There’s no editing involved, no magic eye drop tool that can ensure a Pantone-exact color match, no clone stamp that allows us to magically delete a vein running through the center of a panel. We simply work with Mother Nature and mold it using our artistic inclinations; it all comes down to a natural and human element which no machine can dictate. We can’t always select our scribble, and that constraint sets off a series of chain reactions that result in true originality.

Today, we salute the creators of the Scribble pen for not only harnessing one very cool design tool, but also for challenging us to think about how convenient technology can potentially limit more traditional forms of art. Because after all, there is creativity and ingenuity at the heart of every new invention. But it’s our responsibility as designers to keep that control from inhibiting our imaginations and ultimately, our figurative and actual scribbles.

Are you a designer working with natural materials? How does the process challenge your inherent role as a designer, to control and specify to a fine degree? How can technology affect the process of working with natural resources?

Sources: Inhabitat

Backlit Wood Walls Nominated for Lighten Up! Award

GPI Design - Tuesday, May 07, 2013

We are proud to announce that the backlit wood walls at the National Cancer Institute have been nominated for a lighting design award. The Lighten Up! LED Lighting Design competition is sponsored by Inhabitat, a popular design blog with a focus on sustainability. Our illuminated wood walls have been selected as a finalist and it is now up to public vote to decide the winner.

The GPI Design team takes personal pride in this project - it launched the development of our Oracles™ Translucent Wood Panels and we spent countless hours perfecting the details in our AutoCAD drawings, throughout the custom production, and during the installation process.  Many late nights were spent in creating this unique work of art!

Backlit Wood Walls LED Lighting Design

--> Click here to cast your vote for the National Cancer Institute 

(use the link above then click the green arrow below the writeup: "vote for this design")

Voting ends this Friday, May 10th. If you vote, leave us a comment to let us know! Thank you for your support!

Thursday Salute to Originals: Celebrating Our Projects

GPI Design - Thursday, January 03, 2013

As we welcome 2013, the team at GPI has been reminiscing about our favorite backlit projects completed in the last year and brainstorming on what experiences we can take forward into the new year.

From backlit 3Form desks in Cleveland to backlit exotic wood in Washington D.C. to a custom onyx barfront in Bahrain, here are some snippets of our past year.  Glancing at these project photos reminds us how lucky we are to have added such diverse and widespread projects to our portfolio in 2012.  We truly learned something new in each of these projects and thank our clients for always keeping us on our toes with new applications!

(click on each photo to read more)

Here's to keeping the strong vision and creating even more original backlighting pieces in 2013!

From the Field: Backlit Wood Panel Mock-Up

GPI Design - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

For the National Cancer Institute project which we’ve been working on for months, GPI had the pleasure of presenting our mock-up of the very unique backlit wood system last week in Washington, D.C.

Wood Wall Panels with LED Backlighting - Rendering by HOK

Above: Initial project rendering by HOK

Over three years ago, Bill Hellmuth of HOK envisioned these unique backlit feature walls to bring light and texture to the long lobby hallways at the main entrance to the National Cancer Institute.  To translate the initial rendering of the backlit wood lobby feature walls to the photographs of the mock-up taken just last week, there have been countless hours of coordination between the surface, structure, and lighting elements. Our team has become quite captivated with the project.

GPI Design Mock Up Backlit Wood Wall Panels for Lobby Feature Wall Design

Above: Mock-up photograph by GPI Design

The surface was the driving element in the conceptual design of the wall.  GPI Design sourced an exotic Redwood burl (yielding large panels), sliced the wood to under half of a millimeter and laminated between glass.  The seamless LED backlighting environment keeps the wood surface as the primary visual focus, pouring through the translucent wood material in an unexpected pairing of the newly redefined material with backlighting illumination.

Next came the custom structural hardware components engineered to hold the wood and lighting systems safely and in a complementary relationship.  The majority of this testing and detailing has occurred internally, communicating with the project team in D.C. via shop drawings and conference calls, so there was much anticipation built up over the unveiling of these illuminated wood panels.

LED Illuminated Wood Panels Mock Up Installation Progress

Above: Mock-up installation progress

The GPI Design crew spent a full day assembling four of the wall panels to demonstrate our system (over 250 panels will be installed in the final project).  The mock-up was designed so that pins, joints, lighting controls, and accent lighting were all crafted to represent their appearance in the final installation. As the project team (owner, architect, lighting designer, general contractor) in D.C. arrived to the mock-up the next morning, sentiments of quiet contentment and satisfaction were in the air - a successful review with great dialogue generated.

LED Backlit Thin Translucent Wood Wall Panel System in Review Meeting

Above: Mock-up review meeting

It’s creative surfaces and great project teams like these that make us fall in love with our job all over again.

THANK YOU to: HOK, MCLA, James G. Davis Construction Corporation, TSI Architectural Metals, Cleveland Marble, and The JBG Companies

UPDATE AUGUST 2012: See the completed backlit wood walls here!

Update #2 From the Field: Illuminated Wood and 3Form Panels Installed

GPI Design - Friday, August 12, 2011

The backlit escalator wall installation at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco is wrapping up smoothly.

Here's the project rendering again, described in our first blog post about this project:

Conceptual Rendering of LED Backlit Illuminated 3Form and Wood Striped Wall Panels at Escalator

Some photographs snapped from our cell phones in the field:

LED Backlit Illuminated 3Form and Wood Striped Wall Panels

View Down the Escalator Backlit Custom 3Form Varia Ecoresin and Wood Panels

Detail View of Striped Striated Backlit Wall Panels at Escalator

The clean lines and even illumination are the result of months of iterative detailing and expert installation.  A great project for our team to celebrate this weekend!

Update #1 From the Field: Illuminated Wood and 3Form Panels Partially Installed

GPI Design - Tuesday, August 09, 2011

If you missed our first blog post about GPI technicians arriving on-site for this long awaited backlighting installation at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, check it out here (and take a peek at the project rendering).

After a labor-intensive weekend, the bottom and center rows of the custom-built 3Form Varia Ecoresin and wood slatted surface panels are now illuminated.

Installation Progress of Illuminated 3Form Panels Striated With Wood Slats

To ensure that the intense patterning of wood and light was not further disrupted by structural shadows and inconsistent lighting, the fastening system has been considered hand-in-hand with the backlighting system design from the earliest concept stage.

Section Detail of Backlit 3Form Wood Feature Wall

Blocking on the back of the 3Form/wood surface panels not only reinforces the eight foot panels, but also provides a channel to hold the Flat-Lite™ at the correct distance from the lens.  The combination of burying powered LED edges into the blocking and employing diffusing tapes ensures that hot spots are not visible from any viewing angle of the feature walls.

Notice the trapezoidal panel shapes along the bottom course of panels? With special attention to light collection in the acute corners,the LED light panels were custom designed with controls and filters to provide even illumination.

More photographs of the entire completed feature wall coming soon as this installation wraps up!

From the Field: Backlit Wood and 3Form Panel Install Begins in San Francisco

GPI Design - Friday, August 05, 2011

For the extensive renovation of the San Francisco Grand Hyatt in Union Square, the teams at Indidesign (interior design) and Revolver (lighting design) envisioned a custom panel and backlighting treatment to revive the wall surfaces at the main escalator.

Extending from the lower lobby to the main lobby, dark wood panels striated with thin lines of illuminated 3Form Varia Ecoresin clad the escalator walls. The custom-built backlit panels bring innovative light, interesting texture, and a unique pattern as viewers move throughout the levels of the hotel.

Rendering of Backlit Illuminated 3Form Resin and Wood Panels at Escalator Feature Walls

Above: Project rendering from Indidesign

The team here at GPI has worked on the project for over 6 months, coordinating closely with the millwork team at Acosta & Sons to merge our backlighting solutions with their custom wood and resin panels.  Flexibility has been key in the project, as field dimensions shift, so have our strategies, LED panel sizes, fastening devices, and methods of controlling and balancing the light. (Special thanks to Cliff at Acosta & Sons for hand-delivering the 3Form panels on a redeye from California to Ohio so we could test the lighting!)

The custom components (Flat-Lite™ LED panels, Infuse™ custom lighting controls, wiring, and diffuser panels) arrived to site on August 1. Shortly thereafter, GPI lighting technicians arrived on-site to assist with the time-sensitive installation.

Installation of Flat LED Panel Lighting System at Escalator Feature Walls

Above: Photograph of the first day’s progress, east elevation center and bottom rows of LED panels installed.

We enjoy being on-site to finally witness these intense coordination efforts come to fruition. Stay tuned for more photos and updates as this project progresses - we’ll share more about the process of generating the LED panel design, how the custom wood /resin panels were created, and how shadows and hot spots were eliminated.

UPDATE: See the completed backlit escalator walls here!

Exploring Layers of Texture: Backlit Onyx + Screens

GPI Design - Monday, February 07, 2011

Expand your design palette with imaginative interior feature wall products. Stone, wood, and light are three basic elements of nature. Layer them into an integrated assembly, and the visual effect is stunning.

A sleek alternative to backlit onyx mosaics, these backlit stone and wood screen panels create extravagant patterns for an interior feature walls and ceilings.  Combining illumination, translucency and pattern, the layered panels illuminate without evidence of structural shadows or untidy grout joints.

Flat LED Light Panel Illuminated

Above: Flat-Lite™ LED Light Panel

Translucent Honey Onyx Stone Backlit with LED Panel

Flat-Lite™ LED Light Panel + DURA-Lite™ Translucent Glass-Backed Stone

Laser Cut Wood Screen Panels

Custom laser cut wood screens (available in any custom pattern or lettering)

Backlit Honey Onyx Stone with Wood Screen

Flat-Lite™ + DURA-Lite™ + Custom Wood Screen = VOILA!

In an interplay between organic veins and geometric repetition, the wood screens frame the natural movement of the onyx. Backlit illumination increases the contrast between the surface materials, providing an intriguing focal point for commercial and hospitality spaces.

Integrate Anything with FLAT Lite LED Panels

GPI Design - Thursday, December 17, 2009

Our design team is continuously building our materials library with the latest and greatest in architectural surfaces. Backlighting translucent surfaces is what we do best- especially if you're crunched for space and need even illumination across a surface. Based on the properties of the surface you choose, we'll provide consultation for lighting systems and construction details to achieve your intended lighting effect.

Backlit Translucent Surface Materials GPI Design

The GPI Design team can provide backlighting for virtually any translucent surface you can dream up. Here's just a sampling of recent products we've been integrating with our FLAT-Lite™ LED panels:

  • Glass (recycled, printed, frosted)
  • Resin / plastic / acrylic / polycarbonate / PETG
  • Stretch fabrics>
  • Translucent honeycomb panels
  • Screens

Interior designers, architects, spec. writers, contractors - what new products are you itching to use but haven't found the right application for yet?