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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: Toying with Material

GPI Design - Thursday, June 27, 2013

As architecture trends towards revealing the inherent origin of materials and their processes, this modern artist defies expectation by doing exactly the opposite. Meet Jeff Koons, an artist from New York who makes granite look like plastic, plaster look like metal, and metal look like a stretched balloon.

Jeff Koons Balloon Inflatable Pop Art

In one avenue of his work, Jeff Koons replicates inflatable objects.  What may appear as cheap plastic decorations are actually made from solid, heavy materials such as granite and plaster. Sculpting the dense media into objects that appear as light at balloons, Jeff plays on your predetermined notions of materiality. In his dissociative works, he substitutes surface in order to block out meaning; Koons keeps the artistic discourse and interpretation to a minimum, letting the consumption of his pieces tell the story.

“One of the main reasons that I work with inflatables is that the aspect of inside/outside—if you look at an inflatable and you think about it, it seems very empty inside,” Koons tells me. “Oh, it’s air in there, so it’s empty. But that moment that your exterior space around you feels denser, it gives you more of a sense of confidence in the world. You think about your own inside. It’s denser. It’s blood, it’s guts, it’s tissue. And so if you’re not around that concept of the inflatable, it’s more of a void out there. Okay? It’s denser inside here than outside. It’s vacuums. But when you’re experiencing an inflatable, for that time, it’s vacuous inside that object and it’s empty inside.” (source: Vulture)

Jeff Koons Art Hybrid Balloon Animals

Koons Yellow Rabbit Metal Twisted Balloon Sculpture

[Balloon animals made with high chromium stainless steel with transparent color coating]

Black Granite Koons Gorilla Sculpture

["Gorilla" made with black granite]

Hulk Inflatable Art Exhibit

[“Hulk (Wheelbarrow)” made with polychromed bronze]

With an elite circle of art aficionados, Koons’ work has a loyal following amongst collectors who can afford the often seven-digit price tags. As his pieces possess a materialistic wonderment that screams of Pop art and an editorial on the culture of commodity, it’s not surprising that Koons has carved out a distinct space “at the top of” (or as some may argue, above) the art market.  Though we sharply disagree with his methodology of rejecting the inherent nature of materials, we salute his strict adherence to it!

Source: Vulture, Jeff Koons, SF Gate, Design Milk

Thursday Salute to Originals: Sun Salutation

GPI Design - Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tomorrow is the summer solstice and what better way to celebrate than to feature a project that harnesses the energy of the sun! The beautiful coastal town of Zadar, Croatia comes to life at sunset via the Sun Salutation piece, a public art installation by Croatian architect Nikola Bašić.

This "circle of light" consists of 300 photovoltaic solar cells installed beneath glass panels to create a dynamic flooring landscape at the water’s edge. The LEDs shift colors and patterns to create a spectacular show that mimics the rhythm of the waves, a breathtaking scene in the evening light.

Nikola Basic Sun Salutation Installation at Croatia Coast

The installation also moves to the sounds of an oceanic musical instrument, the Sea Organ, which was also designed by Bašić. The Sea Organ is built into marble stairs at the edge of the water which emit whale-like noises when waves crash into the marble.

In conjunction with the Sun Salutation piece, Bašić merges the open frontier of the sea with the urban public space. Installed in 2005 after the renovation of the city’s shore front, Sun Salutation produces enough energy to be used for the installation, as well as for the lighting of the entire waterfront.

Solar LED Glass Floor Installation by Nikola Basic

Art Installation LED Lighted Floor with Solar Technology

The Sun Salutation is a unique example of modern technologies coexisting with the natural landscape to create a sense of tranquility and peace, following both the ebb and flow of the ocean and implementing renewable energy sources in an urban context.

As we celebrate the onset of summer, what are you doing to salute the sun?

Image credits: My Modern Met

Thursday Salute to Originals: A Touchscreen Museum Visit

GPI Design - Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a new interactive gallery that combines art and technology to encourage visitors to explore the museum’s permanent collection. This new feature in Cleveland is a source of great excitement here at GPI Design, not only for its use of LED technology, but for its forward-thinking approach to redefining the museum experience.

This innovative gallery space features the “Collection Wall”, the largest multi-touch micro-tile screen in the United States, which presents images of over 3,500 items from the museum’s collection. This 5x40-foot interactive wall features a 23-million pixel display that changes every 40 seconds, grouping works by theme and type (such as time period, materials and techniques) as well as curated views of the collection.

The technology facilitates discovery and dialogue with other visitors and can serve as an orientation experience, allowing visitors to download existing tours or create their own. Multiple users can interact with the wall, simultaneously opening as many as twenty separate interfaces, making sure everyone can explore together.

As visitors depart from the Collection Wall to walk through the museum, a specially designed iPad app called Artlens serves as an interactive map.  Intended destinations can be chosen at the main Collection Wall and the iPad will guide you to that specific work within the museum.  As you approach each work, indoor geo-triangulation software opens new content within the app, empowering each visitor to connect the collection in a unique way, and creating a more powerful, personal experience.

Every 10 minutes, an application content management system updates the "Collection Wall" with high-resolution artwork images, metadata, and the frequency with which each artwork has been “favorited” on the wall and from within the ArtLens iPad app. These activity metrics enable museum staff to understand what artworks visitors are engaging with, creating a feedback loop within the museum.

As technology and social media become the main tools for sharing content and expressing individuality, we salute the Cleveland Museum of Art for grasping those trends and transforming not only a feature wall, but the entire museum experience.

Thursday Salute to Originals: Vertical Horizons of Hong Kong

GPI Design - Thursday, June 06, 2013

French photographer and graphic designer Romain Jacquet-Lagreze shines with a new collection of photographs entitled “Vertical Horizon.” The photos presents readers an interesting visual survey of the architecture within Hong Kong’s ever growing urban landscape, viewing skyscrapers, tunnels and interiors from the bottommost perspective.

Vertical Horizons Hong Kong Skyline Images

"When I arrived, I had this same feeling of being surrounded, like I was walking through another kind of forest," Romain Jacquet-Lagreze recalls. "So naturally I started to look up and saw the buildings from another angle. I found it interesting so I started to shoot a few photos like this. Then little by little I grew fonder of it and I decided to work more seriously on an extensive series to cover most of the district in Hong Kong."

Canopy of Skyscrapers Hong Kong Buildings

The visuals are truly striking and serves as a reminder that you never know what kind of inspiration you can draw by just looking to the skies.  Cities are dynamic environments that expand in all three dimensions; today we salute Jacquet-Lagreze's reminders for us to look up and celebrate that verticality.

Photo credits: Fastco Design

Thursday Salute to Originals: Viñoly Soars in NYC

GPI Design - Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rafael Vinoly Park Ave Design

Rafael Viñoly Architects are pushing the definition of the phrase “high living” to the next level. The firm designed the high rise apartment building 432 Park Ave to be an iconic addition to the Manhattan skyline. Standing at just under 1400 feet tall, the building is set to be the tallest residential construction in the Western Hemisphere.

To place the building in context with other notables in New York, the Empire State Building and newly constructed One World Trade Center are 1454 and 1776 feet respectively. This 432 Park Ave project - rising 1396 feet - will be so tall that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had to give its approval. The project began sales of condominium spaces back in March 2013 and has already garnered over 1 billion USD from overseas investors looking for a prestigious place to crash on their trips to the Big Apple.

432 Park Avenue Skyline Views from Interior

Although the tower was designed to be conscious of the limited footprint Manhattan offers, future residents will still be able to enjoy over 30,000 square feet in their units. Along with the leg room comes private elevators, libraries, eat-in kitchens, master suites, and many more amenities for each resident. That space and comfort at the top of New York won’t come cheaply however - with units that have a going rate of $7 to $95 million USD, this project is clearly targeted for the top of the market.

The 96 story building will provide scenic views of Central Park, as well as the Hudson and East Rivers and (of course) of the awe inspiring concrete jungle that is Manhattan. Slated for completion in 2015, this soaring tower will forever change the New York skyline.

Vinoly Building Park Ave NYC

Credits: NY Daily News, Design Boom

Thursday Salute to Originals: Coffee Bean Inspires Café Interior

GPI Design - Thursday, May 23, 2013

In this moment of modern history, we’ve become quite accustomed to visiting contemporary, hip places, but it is a rarity to walk into an establishment and think to ourselves that the design is truly unique in the hospitality arena. This is precisely what was accomplished by design firm Innarch in Kosovo with their crafting of the interior spaces at Don’s Café.

The interior concept was based on a sack of coffee beans and is a playful take on the idea. The tables and lamps represent asymmetrically aligned coffee beans and they even go so far as to coat the columns in the space to mimic the texture of the exterior of a coffee bean sack. Not only is Don’s Café a good design, but it is also a good marketing tool because it creates a buzz from word of mouth around an “unusual” looking interior, helping to differentiate it from other run of the mill coffee shops.

The most unique feature in the shop is the partition wall that serves both a decorative and functional purpose in that it provides a striking visual aesthetic and provides seating for patrons. Because of its unique form, each piece of the wall had to be individually designed, cut and assembled to make the composition work effectively. The entire composition consists of 1365 custom pieces of plywood and is a shining example of how to design unique customer experiences. Salute!

Image credits: Contemporist

Thursday Salute to Originals: Modern Design of Mayan History

GPI Design - Thursday, May 16, 2013

To present Mayan civilization in a dynamic audio and visual medium, an interactive media installation at the recently constructed Gran Museo del Mundo Maya conveys cultural developments over time. The goal of the exhibit was to represent the Mayan diaspora not as archaeological vestiges, but as a living culture that exists today. Given this focus, video painting and multimedia technology have been blended to evoke Mayan culture in an animated narrative that spans from the birth of our planet, through the history of mankind, to the emergence of contemporary societies today.

Backlit Facade Illumination at Gran Museo del Mundo Maya

The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya building itself, designed by Mexican based firm Grupo Arquidecture (formerly 4A Arquitectos), was designed around Mayan beliefs as opposed to contemporary aesthetic principles. The program was based on the ‘Ceiba’ plant, a sacred tree in Mayan culture. The structure prominently features an oval mass hoisted high above the ground wrapped in green-tinted facade elements that represent the foliage spreading out, protecting and shading the functions underneath.

Multimedia Lighting Design Facade Treatment

The exterior of the museum showcases a presentation of images the in the form of an animated fresco on the exterior of the museum. This interactive piece, created in collaboration between video painter Xavier de Richemont and multimedia lighting design firm XYZ Technologie Culturelle, is accompanied by an audio track of ancient and modern sounds. “XYZ’s multimedia installation offers visitors a chance to literally immerse themselves in this symbolic narrative. Sixteen high-definition projectors animate the upper part of the museum façade with a virtual strip that unfurls 34 giant tableaus composed of drawings, photographs, and graphic compositions by de Richemont. A long-range sound system, integrated into the building’s architecture, broadcasts the show’s music throughout the site,” according to Contemporist.

Gran Museo del Mundo Maya Exterior Facade Design

Video Animated Lighting Design Illuminated Facade Technology

As designers strive to connect buildings to unique contexts and cultures, this project inspires the use of emerging technologies to express those histories. We salute this intersection between modern lighting design, art, and architecture to achieve a rich narrative expression!

Image credits: Contemporist

Thursday Salute to Originals: High Arctic

GPI Design - Thursday, May 09, 2013

It was once said by a famous comic book character that, “with great power, comes great responsibility” and as modern humans in the living in the 21st century we’ve never had such unprecedented power to change our environment. With that power we need to be very cognisant of the effects we’re having on our planet… enter United Visual Artists.

The installation High Arctic was born from a collaboration between United Visual Artists and London’s National Maritime Museum. The two groups aim to bring awareness to a pressing issue that we all face, climate change and the diminishing Arctic ice caps. Many scientists and climatologist predicts, based on the results of supercomputers’ algorithmic data, that by the end of this century the Arctic ice will be completely melted. This kind of drastic change will have devastating effects on the planet such as, extinction of species like the Polar Bear, rising sea levels which could inundate low lying coastal areas, and create more erratic weather patterns due to the infusion of colder waters in the North Atlantic currents.

The exhibition takes place in London in a 130 x 56 foot room and is set in the theoretical year of 2100. In said room, there are 3,000 white pillars, each of which represents the over 2,500 glaciers that exists in the arctic archipelago currently. The space was designed to be immersive and give individuals a firsthand view of the damaging effects climate change is having on the planet. Visitors are given a special torch, a UV flashlight, that allows one to interact with the space. These flashlights trigger computer generated animations from 10 ceiling mounted cameras and 10 projectors as the individual navigates through the exhibition.

Also while in the space a poem is narrated about the 1,500 year history of the glaciers and about the impending demise within the next 80 years or so. “It is more of a sensory, emotional space — something that is more of a playful, musical, visual experience rather than just being a lecture,” said Ash Nehru, Software Director and Co-Founder. The entire production is innovative in that it combines modern software and technologies like motion tracking with timeless methods of narration such as poetry and music. The experience that really makes us stop to ponder the human effects on the environment.

Image credits: Design Boom

Thursday Salute to Originals: Constellation Installation

GPI Design - Thursday, May 02, 2013

Having a healthy fascination with the stars as most people do, we always find it interesting when artists attempt to bring these unique celestial forms to earth. This installation is especially eye-catching to the GPI Design team for its use of backlit metal.

Backlit Metal Star Shapes Art Installation

Designed by Erich Remash, Jeremy Berglund, Don Peterson and Chad Ingle, Starlight is a sculptural installation exhibited at Burning Man, an annual art event and temporary community in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada that is based on radical self-expression and self-reliance.

Seven 12-foot diameter plywood ‘stars’ were created and placed in the configuration of the constellation Orion.  The grouping was meant to delineate a specific space in the vast and overwhelming Black Rock Desert. Aesthetically pleasing at both night and day, the installation breaks up the vacant landscape and creates a sense of curiosity for those who see it from a distance.

Glowing Start Art Lighting Installation

Starlight Backlit Metal Stars Installation Desert Art Burning Man

Orion Constellation Starlight Art Installation at Burning Man

Each star has a unique lighting pattern that interacts with the landscape at night, resulting in a ‘heaven on earth’ appearance.  In considering the aesthetics, lighting patterns, site context, placement, and fastening of each piece, the designers created a constellation of uniquely glowing stars. The patterning of these stars inspires us to look through some of our old pieces of onyx to see if we can find any celestial patterns that emerge when backlit!

Thursday Salute to Originals: Redefining Marble

GPI Design - Thursday, April 25, 2013

Working with stone throughout our history at GPI has made us familiar with the wide variety of marble applications in the design industry. Besides the translucent characteristics of some stones when sliced into thin sheets - giving us the ability to backlight - the creative manipulation of stone continues to surprise designers. Kjetil Thorsen, an architect at the Norwegian firm Snohetta, has created a project meant to show just how adaptable marble really is.

Perforated Marble Stone Surface Design

As part of a showcase entitled Mutable Spirit, Thorsen’s display The Antipodes of the Lithosphere was commissioned for an Italian stone company. The installation "expresses the versatility of marble through panels which are composed of an arrangement of stone cylinders stacked to form a wall". The alignment of these cylinders and their solid-void relationship allows for an obstructed view of the wall's opposing side and interesting light patterns. Texture and visual delicacy is given to the marble object that would traditionally be perceived as smooth and heavy.

Natural Marble Stone Screen Antipodes of Lithosphere Snohetta

The project was displayed in Italy at Marmomacc, an international trade fair for operators working in the marble sector. The event showcases various types of complex stone processing and is a venue in which to highlight the natural stone materials and its inherent characteristics and potential applications.

Perforated Marble Wall Partition Design by Snohetta

We are particularly drawn to this installation for its deep consideration of what the designer refers to as the “genetic code” within stone material. While the wall partitions constitute a large volume of space, evoking images of marble in its quarried block for, the mass is punctuated by peeks through the cylindrical forms.

By keeping the relatable form but executing with this unexpected detailing method, Thorsen draws a close tie to the roots of the marble formation and elevates the possibilities of fabrication. For these meaningful design moves, today we salute Kjetil Thorsen for her insightful marble design!

Image Credits: Design Boom, Domus Web