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Beneath the Surface Blog


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

Thursday Salute to Originals: Musical Swings

GPI Design - Thursday, April 18, 2013

The GPI Design team is always interested in creative uses of LED panels, especially when paired with innovative lighting controls. This installation is no exception. The lighting accents in this art installation show that lighting, however understated, can change the experience of installations and artwork throughout the day, creating a welcoming glow in the evening and invigorating a streetscape.

Swinging Musical Art Installation

Musical Swings Streetscape Interventino Art Montreal

Daily Tous Les Jours, a design collaborative in Montreal, Canada, produced ’21 balancires’ for the 2013 biennale international design fair in Sainte-Etienne. This public installation was available for use in the Quartier Des Spectacles, a high-traffic area in Montreal. Twenty-one swings trigger individual notes while in use and the installation is meant to “explore the notion of collaboration and the positive outcomes which can be a result of working together”, according to the designers.

Musical Design Experience Swing Lights

As users begin to swing in tandem, melodies occur according to which swings are in use and the rate at which users swing. As dusk approaches, the swings illuminate to heighten the sensory experience of its users. The ‘EmpathiCITY, making our city together’ exhibition “investigates the biennale’s theme of empathy… articulated through a series of urban interventions which turn the streets into a domain for democratic expression”, remarked an official.

“The installation offers a fresh look a the idea of cooperation – the notion that we can achieve more together than alone.” -- Tous Les Jours and Luc-Alain Giraldeau, a professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal’s Science Faculty.

Musical Swinging Playful Lighting Art Installation

The motivation behind this wonderful installation is both emotional and inspiring. We would love to see a permanent installation like this somewhere in our area so that we could take "musical breaks"!

Image credits: Design Boom

Thursday Salute to Originals: Cosmos

GPI Design - Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rarely in today’s times do people get a chance to see the stars. Whether it be from city light pollution or simply a lack of time, it’s not often that we gaze into the night sky and peer into the grand play that is the universe. The "Cosmos" lighting simulation by Leo Villareal may not encapsulate the entire universe but it does give us the opportunity to see what’s out there.

Cosmos Lighting Installation by Leo Villareal

The interactive lighting installation, located at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, was constructed to pay homage to the university’s late astronomy professor Carl Sagan. Composed of over 12,000 LED’s wired in a grid, Villareal programmed the exhibit to display the heaven’s illumination patterns. The software, created by Villareal himself, generates various shapes and forms to create a very unique light show. “It is especially exciting to view the installation at nighttime, when the patterns of light make the ceiling disappear and turn it into a void—light trumping matter,” said Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Johnson Museum.

LED Lighting Ceiling Stars

A zero gravity bench, 25 feet long, was designed by the artist for viewers to fully immerse themselves in the experience and to facilitate a more communal involvement with the installation. “The challenge for me is to find a way to do it that respects what’s here but that adds another layer that can really invigorate the building and make people look at it in a new way.” Said Villareal. The installation measures in at 45’ x 68’ and is mounted on a high ceiling of the Sherry and Joel Mallin Sculpture Court to provide pedestrians clear visibility to observe from below.

LED Lighting Installation Art

The initial development of the exhibition began almost three years ago in November of 2010 when Villareal, along with project architect Walter Smith, AIA LEED AP, and donors Lisa and Richard Baker, collaborated with the Johnson Museum to find a suitable location for the installation. “It’s almost like a musical instrument that you have to tune and get just right,” said the artist. “It’s a process of discovery, because I don’t know in advance what it’s going to be.”  In this case, does context create originality?

Thursday Salute to Originals: Fingerprints

GPI Design - Thursday, April 04, 2013

It’s no secret that fingerprints are unique. With over 7 billion people on the planet, the odds of your set of fingerprints matching someone else’s are in the quadrillions (that’s a digit followed by 15 zeros!). In other words, it’s not very likely.

But have you ever stopped to consider the impact fingerprints have on design on our perception of it? Yes, their undulating patterns can serve as a parti for buildings and designs, like this conceptual Fingerprint Building or the Fingerprint Lamp by Dan Yeffet (both below).

Fingerprint Building Design and Lighting Design

But aside from a pure visual influence, fingerprints themselves - their form, pattern, and function - facilitate a deeper, more cognitive impact on the design world, and ultimately shape how we experience and interpret it.

An intricate assemblage of ridges and valleys on the pads of our fingers create vibrations as they graze a surface, allowing our brains to deduce and qualify how a material feels. Because of these vibrations, we can differentiate between smooth and rough, scratchy and soft. Without these ridge formations, it would be difficult to articulate those variances in texture so precisely, if at all.

Fingerprint Close Up of Detail and Texture

But pattern also plays a significant role in our interpretation of a material. The elliptical patterning of fingerprints (categorized generally as arch, loop, or whorl), allows for some ridges and valleys to always fall perpendicular to the surface, no matter the angle of the fingers. This, not only creates beautifully organic and one-of-a-kind patterns from a visual standpoint, but also allows for optimum vibrations, generating a faster, more accurate analysis of a surface.

Fingerprint Black and White Patterns

Design, itself, is a very tactile process. As designers (and humans in general), we’re inherently inclined to touch, feel, hold materials in our hands; it helps us perceive them, interpret them, envision how to use them. And fingerprints are ultimately central in this ability.

So whether you’re inspired by their beautiful intricacy, or by the design principles deeply embedded within each, fingerprints are integral in the design world, allowing us to identify and connect to surfaces in such a uniquely physiological way.

Fingerprints are at the very core of our understanding of textures, and at 1 in 7 billion, they are truly Mother Nature’s own personal Salute to Originals.

Image credits: Best Buildings, Number Seventy Six, M Live, Times of News

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Delete Clock

GPI Design - Thursday, March 28, 2013

“How did it get so late so soon?”

As Dr. Seuss poetically posed this question in one of his whimsical rhymes, we too are constantly amused at how quickly time in the office seems to fly by. Between phone calls, emails, meetings, social media, drawings, and deadlines, a bystander might wonder how anything ever gets accomplished. Sporadic glances at the digital clocks on our laptop screens remind us that there is never enough time in the day.

Designers Li Ke, Pang Sheng Li & Chen Yi Lin created the Delete Clock to explore the limitations and opportunities that time embodies. This clock surface is made with whiteboard which can be written on with erasable marker. With quadrants representing blocks of time throughout the day, users can scribble their daily schedule. The clock hands sweep along keeping time as normal. The key element here: the bottom of the clock hand is an eraser, wiping away the scheduled tasks as the minutes tick away.


While the relationship to time is deep seated and its passing has different meanings based on context, the Delete Clock plays on universal relationships: time, cycles, measurement, and achievement.

One thing about this clock would certainly drive us nuts – losing the satisfaction of crossing something off of our to-do lists by drawing a thick black line across the sheet of paper. In the design industry though, is anything ever really complete?!

Image credits: Yanko Design

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Possibilities of Porcelain

GPI Design - Thursday, March 21, 2013

As lovers of translucent surfaces and progressive design, the word “porcelain” does not often weave its way into conversations here at GPI. Porcelain surfaces traditionally evoke residential powder rooms, a series of neatly laid tiles that are constrained to right angles and square shapes. So we were pleasantly stunned to find the Pulsate project, in which architects reinvigorate the design possibilities of porcelain surfaces.

For the Capital Designer Studio tile showroom in London, architects Lily Jencks and Nathanael Dorent used a repetitive geometry of porcelain tiles to clad every plane in the space. Using only four color shades of tile (and all in the same size), perspective and layout are strategically manipulated to create a truly dynamic composition. With a sloped floor and built in benches, the images of the Pulsate installation only begin to touch on the experience of actually traversing through the space.

As Jencks explain the design concepts at play, “One is about perception - how you perceive distances and shapes; and make sense of space. The other is about how to display an object that's for sale; we wanted the space to be more than just a showroom selling tiles; to rethink the commercial transaction as something more creative."

Pulsate London Tile Showroom Installation by Lily Jencks

We can sympathize with the attention to detail required to properly show off these tiles, the substructure is invisible but certainly had to be completely precise in order for the surface installation to function.  Not to mention the conceptual marketing strategy by Capital Designer Studio, they certainly found a way to redefine their material.

Pulsate Porcelain Tile Showroom Art Installation Design

A true testament to the pop-up design trends, the installation is launching today and will remain at the showroom through December 2013.  Today, we can salute porcelain material for its unexpected flair!  Have any Londoners visited the installation yet? Can anyone describe the experience of walking through the space?

Image credits: Dezeen