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Beneath the Surface Blog


Crain’s Cleveland Magazine Features GPI: Local Firm with Global Reach

GPI Design - Friday, June 28, 2013

“Look cool? It’s by design”


GPI Design was honored with a front cover spotlight in this week’s issue of Crain’s Cleveland Magazine. The Crain’s reporters spent time speaking with our founder and director, Thomas Lawrence, about the roots of our company and where we are headed.

Read the full story by downloading the article below:

GPI Design Crain's Cleveland Business GPI Design Crain's Cleveland Business (712 KB)

For a Peek at Our Process, Join GPI on Instagram

GPI Design - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

We just started experimenting with our new Instagram account! Our design team is sharing images of our process that provide a peek into our day-to-day life here at GPI.   If you are on Instagram you can catch those glimpses by following @gpidesign.

So far we are enjoying this app for its ability to collapse geography - a few scrolls allows us to view and "like" images of architecture and lighting from all over the world.  And it's fun for us to open up our process to show the steps along the way.

Are any other designers out there using Instagram? Leave us a comment here with your handle so we can be sure to follow you!

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!

From the Field: Illuminating a Glass Portal in NYC

GPI Design - Monday, April 08, 2013

GPI Design collaborated on a mock-up and then installation of a backlit recycled glass entry portal for a commercial office building in New York City. We are backlighting a dense recycled glass with significant natural variance and texture, which means that our backlighting solutions have to be responsive and flexible. The light blending strategies constantly changed from initial concept to mock-up to actual installation. Here is a peek into the process:

When we received the glass sample, the GPI team tested the recycled glass in our office - lots of trial, error, and creativity during this process!

Creative Process Reviewing a Glass Lighting Design Project

Diffuser pieces were handcrafted and allowed for addition/subtraction according to the characteristics of the glass.

Handcrafted LED Lighting Diffusers to Blend Light

For the mock-up, we coordinated with the glazing and metal contractors to finesse the system and detailing. The pieces were assembled as a mock-up panel for the design team to review.

Fabrication of Backlit Recycled Glass Mock up Panel

With the mock-up complete, it all goes back to the drawing board... the architect, lighting designer, GPI, glazing contractor, general contractor, and electrical contractor are marking up the shop drawings with the final details based on what we all learned through the mock-up process.

Backlit Glass Panel Design Drawings Review

Even with an extensive development process, after full installation in the final environment, the lighting still needed to be balanced and tweaked based on each piece of glass and the ambient conditions.  The GPI Design team spent five days on-site making those adjustments.

Layers of Backligting for Glass Panels

The final lighting result (surrounding finishes still in progress) - illuminated recycled glass portal that wraps from wall to ceiling.  At over thirty feet tall, the backlit glass is a celebration of the entry sequence and a beacon for visitors. Look for this lighting installation when you are near Times Square in NYC!

Backlit Glass Entry Portal Design

From the Field: Building Backlit Onyx Elevator Cabs

GPI Design - Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The GPI Design team flew out to San Francisco to build and then present a mock-up prototype for backlit onyx elevator cabs that we have been developing for quite some time now. Built and reviewed in under 72 hours, the trip was a whirlwind but it was so rewarding to see our renderings jump off the page and come to life!

The backlit onyx is being used to clad the inside of multiple elevator cabs for a commercial property renovation in San Francisco. Designed by the architectural team at SOM and lighting designer Francis Krahe, translucent stone panels were envisioned as the jewelry-like accents to bring high-design flair to the elevator interiors.

The teams at SOM and TMG Partners have been completely hands-on throughout the stone selection, veining layout, and detailing processes. Exchanging drawings and submittals got us so far, and then it came time to build to decide on the final touches.

Elevator Cab Backlit Stone Panel ConstructionElevator Cab Interior Products Translucent Stone Panels

Our backlit onyx panels serve as the sole source of light in the elevator cabs and the design is completely streamlined – upon entering the cab, one perceives a monolithic plane of onyx with veins creeping up the wall and then folding onto the ceiling plane. Standing in the cab space is quite dramatic!

In these images, the cab appears split into two as the color temperature is being carefully studied and selected. As you can see, the hue of the backlighting changes the perception of the onyx surface. The design team selected the warmer temperature on the right hand side which is approximately equivalent to the temperature of the sunrise.

Backlit Onyx Elevator Cab Interior Design Backlit Stone Elevator Cab Panels

Other things that we tested and finalized at this mock-up included:

  • Proper thickness of onyx for optimal translucency levels
  • Design of the lighting cavity: overall depth, position of LED panels in relation to onyx
  • Method of lighting control and strategically grouping panels
  • How to diffuse the lighting based on this specific onyx
  • Wiring management throughout the whole cab
  • Joint details and joint treatments
  • Construction and material tolerances
  • Installation sequencing

Now we’re back in the office with an approved mock-up and a clear direction. We’re revising our drawings based on what we learned and headed into full production for this project soon. Stay tuned for photos of each of the remaining cabs – each one is sure to have its own personality with the stone patterning! You can see more photos on GPI Design's Facebook page.

Backlit White Onyx Panel Pattern Veining Texture

A special thanks to Mitsubishi elevators for providing the cab shells and Plant Construction for your hospitality on site.

Illuminated Resin and Wood Project Wins 3Form Award

GPI Design - Friday, November 09, 2012

What a nice way to end a busy week here at GPI- we received our 3form award trophy for our work at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco!

3Form Best Public Space in Hospitality Award

The backlit escalator walls at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco won the 3Form Best Public Space in Hospitality Award.  Designed by Indidesign and installed by the millworkers at Acosta & Sons, our Infuse™ LED Backlighting System was developed over many months and encompassed the surface characteristics, fastening details, and custom lighting controls.

Backlit 3form and Wood Escalator Feature Walls

It's not surprising that Indidesign's stunning renovation treatment swept this category - to refresh these narrow escalator runs, the designers strategically used the wall planes to bring light into this long space.  Indidesign's description of the project:

Fumed Eucalyptus panels with embedded horizontal strips of 3Form Varia Ecoresin clad these escalator walls. The design was conceived and developed by Indidesign that researched materials and lighting solutions in the effort to create a strong and dynamic connection between the two levels of the meeting venue and visually shorten the length of the descent. The Acosta & Sons team crafted the custom panels using 3Form resin flush with the wood without exposed fasteners. Indidesign researched numerous lighting options and selected GPI Design’s Infuse™ LED Backlighting System as the most appropriate to render the panels in even illumination.

We are honored and rewarded to be a part of a great project team with stunning results. A big thank you to 3Form for sponsoring the contest and kudos on your lovely award design! If you're around the Bay Area, be sure to pop into the Grand Hyatt and take a ride down the escalators!

GPI TWeekly Archive: 2011 Design Year in Review

GPI Design - Friday, December 30, 2011

Lists are contagious.  So are criticism and analysis in the design industry. Here are our favorite compilations that recap this year in culture and design - strange, surprising, innovative, and projects gone awry.

Time’s most surprising pictures of 2011 tweet via @trendplanner

From the world's largest home to tiny printers, here are the strangest and silliest designs of 2011 tweet via @TreeHugger

11 most meaningful architecture moments of 2011 tweet via @bligh

Design Week’s review of the year in retail design tweet via @Design_Week

Azure 2011 in Review: Hits and Misses tweet via @AzureMagazine

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!

Thursday Salute (One Day Early): Possibilities on Your Plate

GPI Design - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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?

Creative Backlit Designs at the 2011 IIDA Design Competition

GPI Design - Friday, April 08, 2011

Over the past several months, GPI Design has enjoyed the process of working with the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) to sponsor this year's student design competition. Students from accredited interior design schools in Ohio and Kentucky were invited to submit design proposals for the renovation of our office lobby (a drab space which was failing to live up to the building's namesake, "The Atrium").

Our sincere thanks to each group or individual that submitted, it was an absolute pleasure reviewing all of the fresh ideas for our LED backlighting system! It was a tough decision, but these winners really stood out:

Winner of Best Overall Design - "Diffuse" (Kent State University)

Diffuse Winning Design for GPI Design IIDA Competition

This design embraced the existing spatial elements while updating the space with a few bold moves that communicate playfully with the existing architecture. This design considered the scale of the tall atrium space and the fact that its main viewing points are from above and on the elevator. The materiality and form of the curved staircase is translated in a new, but related, manner in the tall central feature. The existing floor is retained, along with the basic color scheme. Seating areas are created simply with basic forms. While striking a balance between high design and budget, the owner was drawn to the holistic treatment of the space.

Honoree for Best Use of Natural Elements -  "Oasis" (University of Kentucky)

Scale, pattern, texture and light were layered to create a garden setting that provides a soothing atmosphere to tenants of the Atrium building. An intimate setting broke down the scale of the large space with sophisticated design strategies. The strong central water feature anchors the space, while natural stone and greenery add natural texture.

Honoree for Most Creative Use of LED Backlighting: "EBA Designs" (The Ohio State University)

EBA Designs IIDA Best Backlighting Feature

The strong focal pull of GPI’s backlit stone panels was utilized in conjunction with the natural visual impact of the tall elevator. The staggered arrangement of the backlit stone panels creates a sense of movement and takes advantage of the verticality of the central atrium space. The design layout and surrounding finishes at the backlit panels make the features integral to the architecture (as opposed to mere decoration).

A special thank you to Dr. Terrence Uber for his assistance in orchestrating the competition!

Check out our Flickr album for some of the creative materials and technology that inspired the student designs >