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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: Simulated Lightning (Harnessing Mother Nature’s Fireworks)

GPI Design - Thursday, August 01, 2013

As we’ve been scouring our favorite design blogs and websites lately, we’ve begun to notice an emerging trend making its way into art and installations. Not a specific material or design motif, but rather a more intangible and seemingly unharnessable energy. A natural phenomenon in itself, it seems to have not only caught the eye of the design world, but is now being replicated and emulated in various forms inspired by its inherent striking beauty – both literally and figuratively. And that phenomenon/trend is (drum roll please)….lightning.


Simulated Electrical Storm at "Giant Serpentine Pavilion"

One of our favorite examples of lightning-inspired art is the Giant Serpentine Pavilion produced through a collaboration of architect Sou Fujimoto and United Visual Artists. Assembled from hundreds of interlocking steel poles and latticed metal, the structure covers 3800 sq. ft. in an intricately dense, yet openly geometric structure. But while the form and patterns created by the structure are interesting enough in and of itself, the pavilion really comes alive when the lights go down, allowing the thousands of embedded LEDs to pulsate and scatter like bolts of lightning streaking through the night sky. The intermittent and randomized flashing makes this structure seem as if it encapsulates an electrical storm itself, even though the effect is completely simulated.

Sou Fujimoto Serpentine Pavilion Intervention from United Visual Artists on Vimeo.


Simulated Lightning at "Incandescent Cloud" Installation

Another one of our favorites is the incandescent CLOUD by Canadian artists Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett. Using thousands of light bulbs – over 6,000 in fact - activated and deactivated by traditional pull strings tugged by visitors within the exhibit, a randomized flashing effect is created. Not only is this installation interactive, allowing patrons to harness the power of the “lightning” by turning off and on various light bulbs at random intervals, but it allows what would normally be a static installation to breathe new life with every passing patron and crowd. There is no pre-programmed timing or sequence of flashes; the installation ebbs and flows with the visitors; the flashes of illumination are organic, much like natural lightning.

CLOUD: An Interactive Sculpture Made from 6,000 Light Bulbs from Caitlind r.c. Brown on Vimeo.


For us, in both of these projects, the most intriguing element is just how authentic this simulated lightning appears. Different structures, different light sources, different forms of control and modes of operation in each, yet both applications elicit and provoke a similar appearance and experience, making you feels as if you are actually watching Mother Nature put on her famous fireworks show.

Thursday Salute to Originals: Marbles Merge Antiquity + Architecture

GPI Design - Thursday, July 25, 2013

If you read last Thursday’s blog post, you’ve probably guessed that we can’t resist a little sparkle. Well, we came across something else this week – this time a new material – that really caught our eye (what can we say, when it comes to shimmer, we’re like a moth to a flame…). But more importantly than catching our attention, this material got us thinking.

BlingCrete™ is a product that embeds concrete with glass spheres (essentially, marbles) to create an unusual surface and building material. Not only does this material reflect light, creating dancing shimmers and shadows across its surface, but it also embodies an interesting texture and pattern that turns simple concrete into a new sensory experience for both the eyes and fingertips.

At the heart of this material, and what makes it so intriguing, are the embedded glass spheres –the marbles. Their small scale, smooth texture, and specific geometry enhance what would otherwise be a common matte surface. So this got us wondering…how did marbles make their way from rolling in sand as a childhood pastime to gracing the most high-profile architectural designs? Where did marbles even come from?

Well turns out, marbles have been around for quite some time; a REALLY long time. In fact, its thought that marbles originated as small rocks polished by rivers and streams, to which the concept was then adapted (sometime around 3300–1300 BCE) to a more “modernized” spherical version fashioned out of stone, clay, flint, and even glass. Ancient Egyptian tombs, Native American burial grounds, and Pueblo ruins have all yielded versions of these prehistoric marbles.

But beyond antiquity, marbles have remained a mainstay in human society. In the middle ages, popularity of marbles as an interactive game soared. And, as time progressed, so did fascination with the little orbs - with the game, their appearance, and their multitude of uses . By the 1800’s factories in Germany began an era of mass production, with popularity of these colorful, shiny spheres peaking in the 1920s and 1930s.

Since then, marbles have retained an international attraction. Whether used as a toy, a piece of jewelry, a collectable, an inspiration for art, or as piece of artwork themselves, their inherent shape, scale, shine, and beauty make these tiny spheres appealing to a multitude of senses, cultures, and purposes.

Given the appeal to these tiny globes over centuries and centuries, it seems it was only a matter of time before the valued inherent characteristics of marbles eventually migrated into the design world. So from ancient streams to modern buildings, we salute marbles for bringing together antiquity and architecture in a completely new and innovative material that reinvents a prehistoric pastime and craft.

Image credits: BlingcreteMuseum of Childhood, WallpaperNo

Thursday Salute to Originals: Chain Link Dreamscape

GPI Design - Thursday, July 18, 2013

They say all that glitters is not gold. But in this case, all that glitters is a chain link fence and some plastic. Intrigued? So were we!

The art installation Unwoven Light by Soo Sunny Park combines completely unglamorous and totally utilitarian chain link fence with filmed Plexiglas to create an absolutely stunning and constantly morphing experience of color, light, shadow, and form.

Unwoven Light Installation Art by Soo Sunny Park

Meticulously wired between openings of suspended chain link fence, thousands of iridescent Plexiglas pieces refract light at limitless angles, bouncing brilliant streaks of hue, illumination, and shadow around the space. As lighting and your position shifts through the undulating forms, so does the visual experience, encapsulating the room and viewers in a surreal and ever-changing array of sparkles.

Reminiscent of glimmering fish scales or iridescent butterfly wings, this dynamic blend of color and light seems almost fairytale-like as the twinkling sculpture projects a hypnotic ebb and flow of rainbowed illumination. For recognizing and revealing the transient power of color and light, we salute Soo Sunny Park's beautifully airy and whimsical installation. Sometimes, everything is better with a little glitter!

Image credits: Soo Sunny Park, Design MilkInternational Sculpture Center

Thursday Salute to Originals - Fashion Worth Staring At

GPI Design - Thursday, July 11, 2013

Even though its summer, it’s been pretty gloomy at our Westlake office lately. All the clouds, rain, and lack of sun are making us a little drowsy; and we’ll admit, we’ve even caught ourselves staring from time to time.

Normally, staring doesn’t accomplish much; fixating your gaze on an object isn’t usually the most effective means of getting things done. (And it certainly isn’t the most proactive pastime when things are as busy as they are around here!) So we were quite intrigued when we stumbled upon a dress that is “activated” just by your stare. Staring can actually accomplish something? We could barely believe our eyes!

Image credit: Ying Gao

Made of super organza and photoluminescent thread, Ying Gao’s (No)Where (Now)Here dresses track eye movement and brighten and pulsate with contact from your peepers. Simply staring at the dress activates the textile, making threads dance and illuminate in a dream-like (and kind of creepy) chorus of movement and light. Never has your gaze been so powerful! (Imagine if staring at piles of shop drawings worked the same way...)

Watch the clip below and see for yourself as these gowns come to life with just with a simple stare.

(no)where(now)here : 2 gaze-activated dresses by ying gao on Vimeo.

How could this concept translate further into the world of architecture and interior design? We think the possibilities for surface design could be endless!

Thursday Salute to Originals – The Red, White, and 70075?

GPI Design - Thursday, July 04, 2013

Emerald Green might be the Pantone Color of 2013, but today, America’s birthday, its all about the red, white, and blue – or more specifically, the 70180, 70001, and 70075.

Yep, that’s right. Like many things in the design world, the American flag has its own specific set of designated colors. The Color Association of the United States, from which the American Government references and specifies colors of the flag, has designated the colors of Old Glory as:

  • Cable No. 70180 - Old Glory Red
  • Cable No. 70001 - White
  • Cable No. 70075 - Old Glory Blue

While these colors are deemed the “official” hues of the flag by the Government, they aren’t the only tones used. The U.S. Government designates 193 and 282 as the Pantone equivalents for the red and blue of the flag. However, other sources, including many printing organizations, specify Pantone 186 and 288 as the patriotic red and blue. Pantone 281 is also frequently used.

So however you celebrate the Fourth of July this year (and whatever color you choose!) enjoy your freedoms and keep your eye on that Grand Old Flag!

Image created/compiled by GPI Design using flag image source

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