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Beneath the Surface Blog

Thursday Salute to Originals: Taking Structure Out of Sculpture

GPI Design - Thursday, March 20, 2014

Museums are inspiring places. Being surrounded by the antiquated works of artists who have expressed themselves in ground breaking ways is truly moving. Sculpture is particularly awe-inspiring. 

With subjects painstakingly carved out of a solid blocks of stone, it’s compelling how sculptors have managed to harness the power of such a rigid medium, creating the illusion of it being light, airy, and easily malleable. (Seriously – they make rocks resemble supple skin, silky hair, and flowing fabric for crying out loud!) The way in which the rigidity of the stone is delicately fashioned is truly commendable. And how these works of art have stood the test of time is not only a credit to the artist’s craft, but to the timelessness of the material itself.

Li Hongbo Accordion Paper Sculpture

So when we came across artist Li Hongbo’s sculptures, what astounded us most wasn’t the fact that they are stunningly accurate replicas of some of the most celebrated busts in art history. Nor was it the fact that these sculptures were carved out of a block of paper instead of the traditional stone or plaster (which we should note, is remarkable in its own right, but in a minute when you see what else is special about these sculptures, this attribute pales in comparison). What really amazed us is that the sculptures have a secret identity - they completely morph and grow into totally different forms, then recoil to their original state. Intrigued? Confused? Watch the clips below and be amazed!

A result of an intensive gluing and laying process, these stacked sheets of paper become literal compacted accordions in block form. Once carved and sanded into the desired shape, the “statues” can be pulled and stretched in unlimited ways and unrecognizable forms, thanks to their honeycomb substructure.

For completely changing the way in which we perceive sculpture and materiality, we salute Li Hongbo and his ability to deconstruct the rigidity of a statue. In some ways, we think his works have the potential to be even more inspiring than their original counterparts. Now after seeing these, we’re dying to have one of these sculptures at our desks…not only are they beautiful in statue form, but we have a feeling these would be a GREAT stress reliever when those deadlines start piling up!

Sources: This is Colossal, Design Milk

Thursday Salute to Originals: An Artistic Spin on Submersion

GPI Design - Thursday, March 13, 2014

As the title of our company blog not-so-subtly alludes to, we are drawn to delving into that which lies “beneath the surface”. This can be in the form of a thoughtful engineering detail, a glimpse behind the scenes into the design process, or our personal spin on architectural news. What we don’t often come across (or consider) is the literal act of submergence.

Submerged Turntable Evan Holm Installation

Artist Evan Holms quite literally plays with objects lying beneath the surface – of water, that is. And we enjoy the meaning that can be drawn from his kinetic artwork. Holms presents a record player barely submerged in water, the melody remaining generally intact despite all visual logic (and without the zapping electrocution that one expects). The senses of sight and sound clash, begging for interpretation.

Through the connotations within the piece, Holms strikes a fine line between descent into chaos (sinking) and emergence into optimism (floating). He describes his work with strong references to the unconscious mind: “The pool, black and depthless, represents loss, represents mystery and represents the collective subconscious of the human race. By placing these records underneath the dark and obscure surface of the pool, I am enacting a small moment of remorse towards this loss. In the end however this is an optimistic sculpture, for just after that moment of submergence; tone, melody and ultimately song is pulled back out of the pool, past the veil of the subconscious, out from under the crush of time, and back into a living and breathing realm.”

For reconnecting sight and sound, and bringing artistic form to literal immersion, we salute Evan Holms in his work. How can we as designers continue to remind ourselves of the importance of acoustics and context in the perception of space? How can the dichotomy of floating vs. sinking be achieved (either literally or figuratively) in the realization of a design? Somehow, we don’t think the addition of carnival dunk tank is the only answer…

Sources: Evan Holm, Beautiful Decay

Thursday Salute to Originals: Progressive Prosthetics

GPI Design - Thursday, March 06, 2014

Though constantly breaking ground and pushing boundaries, the medical field isn’t usually a hotbed for aesthetic advancements. That’s really how it should be, though. After all, time, money, and energy should be spent saving lives, not debating on the proper metal finish for the stethoscope or whether or not the color for surgical gloves matches this year’s color forecast. (Sorry, Pantone Color of the Year, your powers are useless here). But it’s always nice when thoughtful design somehow infiltrates into unfamiliar territory, making its mark on seemingly unrelated genres.

Antique Prosthetic Leg Device

Take the prosthetic sector of the medical field, for example. Prosthetics have been around for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek soldiers who had lost a limb would be fashioned a crude prosthesis out of wood or metal, allowing them to continue fighting in battle. The objects were heavy, cumbersome, and meant to strictly to cover up what was considered an embarrassing defect of the human body.

Ironman Prostheses Design

Over those thousands of years, the stigmas have faded, and ideas, technologies, and materials behind prostheses have progressed and improved. But unfortunately design and aesthetics have been somewhat lacking here, remaining cold and impersonal pieces of foreign material affixed to the body - more of a one-size-fits-all type of mentality. Prosthetic development hasn’t quite caught up with design of modern times or their wearers. Until now, that is.

Recognizing the glaring lack of aesthetics and personalization inherent in medical prosthetics, Bespoke Innovations decided to close the gap between function and modern, individualized design. With industrial design and surgical backgrounds, Bespoke Innovations custom designs and tailors each prosthetic specific to the patient, bringing “…a more personal approach to the way a broad spectrum of medical devices are developed and used”.

Looking like something pulled straight from Zaha Hadid’s sketchbook or a Fashion Week runway show, these prostheses are anything but rudimentary replacements. They are literal works of art that celebrate the wearer, while highlighting the lost limb. Behaving more like a prized fashion accessory - akin to shiny piece of jewelry accenting the neckline or a meaningful tattoo commemorating a special event - their clever designs completely break the traditional prosthetic mold with visually striking yet personal touches in modern materials and motifs.

Bespoke Innovations Modern Custom Prosthetic

“Our hope is to enable our clients to emotionally connect with their prosthetic limbs, and wear them confidently as a form of personal expression. Our products turn something ordinary into something amazing. …We envision a day when people are invited to participate in the creation of the products that have meaning to them on a fundamental level, a day when bodies are consulted directly in the creation of the products that enhance or complement them.”

For recognizing the need for personalized design in a previously not-so-personal genre, we salute Bespoke Innovations. Who knows, maybe Radiant Orchid surgical gloves aren’t out of the question after all?

Source: Bespoke Innovations

Image credits: Documenting Reality, PBS, Core 77, Bespoke Innovations

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Napkin Sketchbook

GPI Design - Thursday, February 27, 2014

The quintessential architect is always equipped with the right tools: stylish spectacles, a tailored black outfit, a fine tipped pen, and a Moleskine sketchbook. But what happens when the avante-garde are caught off guard, finding themselves unarmed in a coffee shop or informal lunch meeting with an urgent need for impromptu sketching? No need to panic. Meet The Napkin Sketchbook.

Architect Napkin Sketchbook

As calculated as designers tend to be when diving into a drawing set, the napkin eases the pressure as a less-intimating canvas: readily available, easy to discard, and limited in area. Perfection is not required here. (Let’s be honest, it’s pretty easy to doodle and draw freely on something normally used to wipe ketchup off your face). But by providing a space for both completed and blank napkins within a leather bound sketchbook, now our napkin ideas can be eternally preserved and protected from wear and tear – just in case those squiggles morph into a masterpiece worth saving.

Aside from the interior “canvas,” design of the case deserves some attention as well. As a detail most designers can appreciate, the drawing pen slides into leather straps locking the sketchbook closed; a simple (yet genius!) solution. Made from untreated leather, with repeated use, the leather continues to age gracefully, acquiring a prized patina over time. High quality materials and detailing encapsulate the essence of our ideas – scrawled in black ink over the surface of a napkin.

Leather Bound Architect Sketchbook

Today, we salute those designers who brave the empty napkin in sketching to their heart's desire! Because, after all, it’s not the glasses, the blazer, or the pen that defines a good idea. Sometimes the best and most groundbreaking concepts arise from the simplest means - a doodle on the corner of a napkin.

Source: Baum-Kuchen, Arch Record

Thursday Salute to Originals: Opening/Closing

GPI Design - Thursday, February 20, 2014

They say “when one door closes, another opens” but this door design may have you repeatedly closing, opening, closing, and opening all over again.

The Evolution Door by Austrian designer Klemens Torggler deconstructs the traditional notion of a door. Instead of a swinging rectangular plane of wood hinged at one side, think two rotating squares that dance across an opening on spinning hinges. The basic experience of the passage through a doorway is enlivened as the user must directly interact with its unique form. Only a video can do it justice, take a look at the below clip and tell us you aren’t mesmerized!

This leaves us wondering, why haven’t architects thought of this before? Geometry, detail, alignment, function, motion and sculpture wrapped into a single package - what else could we ask for? In reinventing a mundane object, Torggler has managed to morph the conventional perception of a passageway into a completely reinvigorated and original experience - which is, after all, always the goal of progressive and thoughtful design.

This Thursday, we salute the concept of the doorway and all of the possibilities that it presents both for architectural design and as a symbol of the future.

Sources: YouTube, Klemens Torggler Doors

Thursday Salute to Originals: Revealing the Structure of Nature

GPI Design - Thursday, February 13, 2014

We’ve wrapped up a couple of intense installs recently, and we’re now finally able to bask in that always-satisfying feeling of completion. After that last surface panel is put in place and we’ve tuned the last LED, we can officially dust off our hands and wait for professional photographs of the finished space.

While great for our portfolio (and our own sense of pride and accomplishment!), the only downside in those beautiful finished photographs is that you only see the face of the project - the frosting on the cake. The integral and important components key to the success of the project are hidden behind the finished surface, and sadly, forgotten. But physicist-turned-artist, Arie van 't Riet, seems to understand our sentiment – just with slightly different subject matter.

Lizard X Ray Image Colors

Like the cake underneath the frosting or the assembly behind our backlit features, Arie van’t Riet realizes just how essential and beautiful hidden structure truly is to an object. Using his scientific background in radiology coupled with X-ray technology, he photographs plants and animals, depicting various forms of nature with stunning (albeit haunting) results.

Arievan't Riet X Ray Art

Adding delicate coloration to the original black and white X-rayed image, these portraits come alive with an inside view (literally) to the core components giving nature its form. Offering an entirely new and insightful perspective into what lies beneath the surface, these photos capture the striking and complex interworkings of life that normally go unseen, unacknowledged, and unappreciated.

Tulip Bulb X Ray Photograph of Roots

Chicken X Ray of Bones Artistic Photo

For realizing and capturing the beauty in hidden structure, we salute Arie van’t Riet and his originally artistic/scientific approach. Now all we need is a way to do this with our projects. Think a combo X-ray machine/camera will be on the market anytime soon? Maybe an X-ray filter on Instagram? Until then, we’ll have to wait, and take photos of our backlit features the old fashioned way, while remembering to document the significance of the sub-structures in our own minds!

Image source: X-Ray Photography of Nature

Thursday Salute to Originals: Time Hopping

GPI Design - Thursday, February 06, 2014

The act of preserving photographs and tracking the progress of time is shifting. With apps like TimeHop and Instagram allowing us to meticulously archive the past and jump back into it at the click of a button, accessing images of yesteryear is convenient and instantaneous. No more digging through photo boxes in Grandma’s attic, our photos are now archived on portable devices for immediate access and broadcast.

Chino Otsuka Revisiting Childhood Photo

Artist Chino Otsuka explores memory by doing more than posting nostalgic photos with a trendy hashtag or reminiscing over a dusty box of images - she actually places her adult self INTO photographs from her childhood. In the photography series Imagine Finding Me, Otsuka creates images of her adult self standing next to her childhood self. With expert manipulation, the photographer seamlessly inserts herself into the scene by matching the style of the original photo exactly. To the untrained eye, it is merely a photograph of two related people; the fact that they are the same person, decades apart, is only discerned by reading about her work.


Within the series of images, Otsuka varies the tone of her work. In some instances, the adult directly engages with the child, while in others the adult appears as a ghostly visit, watching over the child’s actions from a distance. The images are haunting and wistful, triggering strong emotions about the relationship between past and present.

While websites like Dear Photograph explore similar concepts, the personal narrative threading through Otsuka’s works make her autobiographical journey completely compelling. If you could “time hop” and spend a day in an old photograph, what scene would you choose and why?



I have a chance to meet,

there is so much I want to ask

and so much I want to tell”

Sources: Spoon & Tomago, She Does the City

Thursday Salute to Originals: Illustrating Famous Sitcom Spaces

GPI Design - Thursday, January 30, 2014

As cold as it’s been here in Cleveland lately (temps in the negative!), it’s been hard to muster up the motivation to go outside and brave the elements. If you’re lucky enough to get an adult snow day, these frigid days are perfect for sitting relaxing on the couch, zoning out to movies and sitcom reruns. (There’s nothing quite like spending the day in your PJs with the company of Monica and Rachel, Jerry and Elaine, or Lucy and Ricky).

But if you’re Spanish interior designer and artist Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde, being a couch potato isn’t simply a pastime. Those hours of watching TV are absolutely essential in completing some of Lizarralde’s most unique (and perspective-altering) works of art. Using visual and verbal cues from television shows, Lizarralde chronicles and compiles information to map floor plans of famous TV residences.

Seinfeld Set Floor Plan

Going beyond simply knowing a show’s theme song or characters’ names, Lizarralde’s artistic renditions give TV viewers an entirely new perspective on the show, adding distinct physical and spatial dimensions to the interiors that normally only serve as the episode backdrop.

I Love Lucy Apartment Floorplan Drawing

Aside from offering a more tangible spatial perception to a fictitious show, one of the more fascinating things about these drawings is that they are fabricated entirely from the minimal and sporadic architectural clues embedded within the series. No site measurements, as-built CAD files, or 3D models to go off of here. Lizarralde acts as a detective, putting together bits and pieces of the architectural puzzle to create floor plans that bring spatial understanding and proximity to the show.

Friends TV Show Floorplan Set Layout

Dexter Apartment Layout Plan Design

Next time you spend time vegging out with your beloved TV characters, take a minute to recognize the latent architectural undertones so integral to a series and its legacy. For recognizing the important role interior design plays in a show, and for giving us a better understanding of the atmosphere that surrounds our favorite characters, we salute Lizarraldo. His use of traditional designer form to bring an original sense of spatial realism to fictional satire may be deserving of a combination Golden Globe/AIA Gold Medal?

Image credits: Design Milk

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Literal Art of Distribution

GPI Design - Thursday, January 23, 2014

Business cards have long been considered a simple and effective way to network. Small in size and relatively inexpensive, they pack a big punch, quickly conveying information, style, and the purpose of your business in their compact and portable stature. But while business cards themselves have evolved into important visual marketing and branding tools, the method of distribution has remained relatively the same. Sure you give them out to new colleagues you encounter, stuff them inside a traditional mailing, or even pin it to a public bulletin board at the coffee shop, but none of these methods are innovative or unusual. A case of 'been there, done that'.

Forest of Business Cards Moriyuki Architects

Moriyuki Ochiai Architects, however, had a brilliant idea for making the distribution of business card unique while still sporting an artful edge. Entitled Forest of Business Cards, the installation consists of multiple business cards inserted into slots in a foam wall, creating an assemblage of pattern, color, and three-dimensionality. Serving as central hub for artists, visitors to the wall are free to peruse and pluck business card from the wall, making the feature successful from a distribution and marking standpoint, while also maintaining an interactive, constantly evolving, and unusual experience.

Business Cards Architecture Art Installation

Business Card Art Feature Wall

Moriyuki Ochiai Architects “…aimed to create a meeting place where 200 different card designs meet, revealing a complex interaction between individual cards and the whole. We inserted the business cards in Styrofoam in order to confer the paper's fragile,fine and light properties onto its surroundings and reinforce the relationship between object, support and environment. Visitors remove cards of interest, thus changing the exhibit density which in turn shifts their own focus. This results in a complex and beautiful facade that changes from one moment to the next as would the Japanese Sakura(cherry) tree.”

Business Card Wall Pattern Installation

For transforming a tried and true tool into an artful method of distribution, we salute Moriyuki Ochiai Architects. In our next product meeting or Lunch-and-Learn, we just might reconsider the antiquated handshake/business card exchange ritual - imagine redesigning the experience by stringing business cards from ceilings, tossing them out like a Frisbee, or popping out of hydraulic trap doors in the conference table! What method would make the most lasting (and positive) impression on you?

Image source: Design Milk

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Tiny Museum

GPI Design - Thursday, January 16, 2014

If you blink, you may inadvertently walk right past it.  But this museum, taking up less than 10 square feet of real estate on the streets of Somerville, Massachusetts, is making a big impact. The Micro Museum, reportedly the smallest museum in the world at 10” x 16” x 8”, is an art display nestled into a void between buildings - precisely, between a pub and a Subway sandwich shop. Small in stature, the space is raising big issues about the status of museums and local art.

Crowned with a neoclassical façade, the Micro Museum invites sidewalk visitors to peer into the gallery, complete with hardwood floors and LED-powered track lighting. Rotating exhibitions are displayed on the walls, featuring art pieces from New England creators.

Micro Museum Art Gallery Sidewalk View

When conceiving of the museum concept, founder Judith Klausner sought out to solve a problem with showcasing local artists, stating “there are so few institutions in the area that will show art by New England artists even though there are tons of amazing artists in the area”. Facing limited resources, Klausner limited her thinking to a small scale and from there the Tiny Museum was born.

For the ribbon cutting ceremony, tiny bicycles and miniature parking spaces were situated on the sidewalk, playing into the sense of whimsy. The mayor of Somerville sliced the ribbon with a tiny pair of scissors and delivered the briefest of opening speeches, consisting of merely the words “hello” and “thank you” in the spirit of smallness.

With a penchant for local artists, 24/7 visiting hours, and no barriers to access, the Tiny Museum is flipping the notion of museum on its head. In the wake of MOMA’s planned destruction of the American Folk Art Museum by Todd Williams and Billie Tsien, today we salute the intimacy of museum spaces that humanize the scale of the street, creating “instances of wonder in the urban landscape”.

Sources: The Artery, Fastco Design,