follow us on:

      follow GPI Design on Google Plus  follow GPI Design on Pinterest

Beneath the Surface Blog

Thursday Salute to Originals: Architecture's Place at the Oscars

GPI Design - Thursday, February 28, 2013

Highly visual people just can’t turn off that critical eye, even when it’s outside of office hours. We’re compulsively searching for relationships, trends, and inspirations in nearly any and every place possible. For some of us on Sunday night, the Oscars served as our creative fix for the weekend. While its easy to “ooh” and “aah” at the sparkly evening gowns and their more obvious surface characteristics, if you dig a bit deeper, you can spot emerging patterns and trends that have implications not only in fashion, but architecture as well.

One strong visual trend seemed to stand out at this year’s Oscar fashions – organic, fluid shapes broken down by strong geometric details. A juxtaposition of flowing lines and sharp angles, this aesthetic highlights natural curves and organic form while providing structure, order, and refinement in a contemporary contrast.

Above: Jessica Chastain / Frank Gehry's Neuer Zollhof Nº 2

Above: Charlize Theron / Frank Gehry's New World Center (sheer coincidence that Gehry is used twice for an example in this post!)

This savvy design approach strikes a chord with us – our backlit onyx walls, for example, are typically quite tailored with precise joints and straight edges. However, it’s those structured joints and jutting right angles that allow the organic onyx patterns to dance across the surface in a layer of intrigue, highlighting and emphasizing its natural beauty and form. Similar to a gown reacting to a woman’s body, the design of our backlit walls react to the natural beauty found inertly within a slab, tactfully underscoring the exquisiteness in mother nature’s creation in a refined format. 

Above: Naomi Watts / Al Hadra tower by SOM

With strong aesthetic tendencies, it's natural for us to draw parallels between fashion, architecture, and our own creative work.  Can visual design be pared down into the play between two simple qualities - tailored and organic?

Images compiled by GPI Design. Individual image credits: Harper's Bazaar, Architectural Record, Arch Daily, Nigel_Xf via Flickr

Thursday Salute to Originals: Silo 468

GPI Design - Thursday, February 21, 2013

It’s often said the variety is the spice of life. And while that sentiment does ring true in many instances, in the design world (at least in our opinion) contrast also seems to create that spice. There’s something intriguing about the push and pull, the ebb and flow of two opposing elements generating a distinctive tension, highlighting and defining characteristics of each. It’s not simply a particular appearance or a quality. It’s more a feeling, a dynamism that is uniquely palpable to that conflicting pair.

Silo 468 Light Art Installation by Lighting Design Collective

That being said, it’s probably not surprising that we love when contradictory combinations are integrated into designs, especially when they are done in an unsuspecting or unassuming way. The designers at Lighting Design Collective have accomplished just this in their Silo 468 project. Using an old, dilapidated silo, they developed a work of not only art and light, but upon closer inspection, an intricate matrix of differences as well.

Silo Design LED Lighting Installation

Silo 468 is no doubt striking in its own physicality. With cutting edge technology monitoring the constantly evolving weather conditions, the exterior LEDs respond in real-time with the switch of the wind or the plunk of a raindrop. The exterior perforations also allow sunlight to beam in to the Silo’s interior, forming unique patterns as the sun move across the sky. Combined, both create dancing illumination in unpredictable configurations. The Silo seems almost alive, living, and breathing; it’s truly an experience for all the senses.

But it’s when you begin to dig a little deeper and look beyond the surface, that you start to realize the various contrasts and dynamic interminglings at play. Sunlight vs. artificial illumination; nature vs. technology; fluid vs. rigid, intuitive vs. intended; transitory vs. timeless; complexity vs. simplicity; positive vs. negative; light vs. shadow – we could go on forever. Instead of fighting one another, these dichotomies all work together to enhance their individual idiosyncrasies and blend harmoniously into one entity. It’s this contrast upon contrast, and layer upon layer, that defines the feature not only as a singular being, but one that resonates as a synchronized chorus of opposites as well.

So here’s a salute not only to the Silo 468 project, but to the idea of contrast – for giving us that “spice” in the design world; the spatial tension that has the power to stop us in our tracks.

Image credits: Lighting Design Collective

Thursday Salute to Originals: Four Simple Steel Letters

GPI Design - Thursday, February 14, 2013

In our Thursday Salutes, we always enjoy highlighting conceptual art in many forms. Often we gravitate towards featuring an artist who flies slightly under the radar or an emerging technology just taking hold of the design world. Today we salute an art piece that has been viewed so many times, it has become more of a logo to be consumed than an art installation to be interpreted. How much do you know about the stories connected with the iconic “Love” sculpture?

Love Sculpture Robert Indiana

Robert Indiana’s “Love” art piece consists of simply those four letters rendered in red COR-TEN steel. The original has stood at its home at the Indianapolis Museum of Art since 1970 and has recently undergone an overhaul to reinforce its structural integrity. During the structural updates, the patina was blasted off with a fine air cleaning and will undergo the natural weathering process yet again, so the colors will transform over the next few years and slowly return to its iconic brown.

The “Love” image is so well recognized that many feel a sense of ownership connected with it. Now taking on new lives in postage stamps, album covers, and duplicate sculptures in other cities, the image is distributed and consumed with much emotion. Just last month, artist Robert Indiana won a lawsuit involving claims that he had authenticated Hindi reproductions of the sculpture; Indiana regarded those reproductions as knock-offs and claims he never authenticated them.  Because he didn't want to clutter the original design with a signature or copyright symbol (a respectable design move), Indiana was left vulnerable to these replications.

Love Stamp Graphic Icon

Four simple letters, built in steel, gracing Indianapolis since 1970 – sounds unassuming and not normally what you would consider overtly “original”. But while familiar in terms of both iconic recognition and vocabulary, the path these four simple letters have taken in carving their place in history makes the “Love” sculpture something truly one of a kind.

As Hallmark might say, how will your love make its mark this Valentine’s day? Really though, we are curious what you think of Robert Indiana's approach to the creation process, it seems to be a self-sacrificing labor of love.

Image credits: cohodas208c via Flickr, Superfly Gallery

Thursday Salute to Originals: Roomba Light Paintings

GPI Design - Thursday, February 07, 2013

"As Seen on TV" Meets Artistic Lighting Design

The Roomba, an automatic vacuum cleaner product which typically graces the shelves of big-box stores, has taken on a new meaning by artfully merging with lighting technology.

A group of students in Germany’s Braunschweig University of Technology found a creative use for the popular robotic cleaning device.  They created an image series of time lapse photos of the Roomba vacuum moving around with a colored LED light attached. While this sounds simple enough and reflects much of the light painting methodology, these students took it one step further by placing obstacles in the room, thereby designating space that the Roomba cannot pass into and which remain dark. They also used accelerometer-driven LEDs so that the color light emitted was dependent upon the vacuum's movement.

Roomba Vacuum LED Light ArtLight Paintings Roomba Art

The result is a series of dynamic, emotive images which capture a calculated celebration of pattern and light.  We salute the Braunschweig students for their unique idea and equally thoughtful execution.  After these images, we can never look at a vacuum cleaner without imagining its potential to pair with lighting and set leash to an unsuspecting living room.

Image credits: Design Boom

Thursday Salute to Originals: Productive Urban Furniture

GPI Design - Thursday, January 31, 2013

Have you ever considered the benefits of solar power? Clean, renewable energy has direct positive implications in our health, our environment, and our climate. Solar farms are being created in several parts of the planet, such as the solar farm in North Carolina built by Apple pictured below. In the company’s efforts to power all of its data centers with renewable energy, hundreds of acres of land are populated with solar technology.

But while the purposes of these installations are something that is deeply beautiful and marks the prominence of the new ‘green’ era, we can’t help but wonder when we will see solar panels and the promotion of alternative sources of energy in a more public faculty.

The team at City_Index destroys the typical notion of a sprawling solar farm by exploding it into small pieces and scattering throughout the city. Their ‘Aktina’ project is one of the first to develop public accessible stand-alone power stations (through solar panels) located in an urban setting. Located in Elefsina, Greece, the station collects solar energy and can be used to recharge a multitude of devices from electric bicycles to handheld devices.

Aktina Solar Technology Station

The Aktina installation is a response to alternative mobility and the vision of new productive furniture within the urban environment. Could this be a glimpse of what ‘gas’ stations for electric cars could become? Aktina, specifically, is a completely self-sustained information and Wi-Fi hub that adds a touchpoint of technology to an otherwise plain industrial streetscape.

We salute the Aktina design team for their consideration of the streetscape in conjunction with the environment.  Corporations could use these hip, urban, modular, individualized concepts to inspire their imagining of what renewable energy can mean to future generations.

Image credits: Cult of Mac, My Design Stories

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Photographs of Your Dreams - Literally

GPI Design - Thursday, January 24, 2013

We’ve all had those truly strange dreams where you awake fascinated and perplexed at the bizarre aberrations your brain subconsciously concocted during your slumber. We know the feeling here. A good number of us here have dreamt in “AutoCAD Land,” where our actions are controlled by a string of key commands in a computer-program world. Some of us have even had dreams where the surrounding environment - the sky, grass, and water – appears real, but is actually all backlit onyx upon closer inspection. (We don’t recommend diving into the pool in those dreams...)

But strange as dreams may be, have you ever thought about how that vision would be portrayed in reality? How exactly a dream would look and feel if you could recreate and reproduce those peculiar, bizarre, and eccentric nuances in a tangible form? Israel-based Photographer, Ronen Goldman, has set out on a quest to do just that.

Ronen Goldman Fishbowl Heads Surreal Dream Art

While most dreams are fleeting, these photos most certainly are not. Working for years on what Goldman refers to as the “Surrealist Pillow” project, a single dream can take weeks to replicate in photographic form. Gathering and photographing all the necessary elements, along with all the prepping, planning, shooting, and compilations that go into these photos, these recreations can be very time consuming. But in the end, the lasting image of a nonsensical transitory fantasy is achieved.

Magician Cards Surrealist Art Photography by Ronen Goldman

Umbrella Raining Apples Ronen Goldman Surreal Photography

The Fisherman Ronen Goldman Photograph

Often Goldman finds he’s not even sure what the dreams he’s recreating mean or symbolize. However, there are still a couple things of which we can be sure: the visual portrayal of his imperceptible dreams exudes a very personal originality, and whimsically merges art and fantasy in tangible form. Pretty sweet dreams if you ask us (pun intended)!

Image credits: Ronen Goldman

Thursday Salute to Originals: Animal Farm

GPI Design - Thursday, January 17, 2013

As Nishi Chauhan was swept into daydreams about her ever-growing glass bottle collection, she understood that something needed to be done. Looking upon the various mason jars, wine, and beer bottles in her home, she began to see shapes emerge in the form of animals.

After visiting a local craft district just outside the city of Bangalore and seeing the hundreds of playful animal toys being created by a community of craftsmen, Nishi began a collaboration with them. Various sketches and mock-ups were produced and exchanged until Nishi and the craftsmen shared a collective vision for the bottles. From this interplay of design and making, Animal Farm was born.

Art Components Animal Farm Bottles

Glass Bottle Design Animal Shapes

These quirky and colorful pieces are an example of an adaptive reuse project which gives the upcycled glass forms new life. Some figures are also fashioned into lamps which diffuse the light and give off a soft and ‘friendly’ glow that make them great for use as a child’s nightlight.

As Nishi recounts the story of the design process:

"The real challenge was to achieve a fusing of attitude and approach between the designer and craftsman, with give and take on both sides. How do you get them to look at objects from a wider world view when their entire world has always been their community? How do you get them to understand design intent, with the interplay of materials, when they’ve only ever worked with one material all their lives? How do you get someone to pay attention to the details and finesse when they’ve spent generations earning money by producing hundreds of objects a day, so what if the curve doesn’t turn out just so?"

A true story behind each creation, we salute the process by which Nishi and the team of craftsmen envision and create the barnyard collections.

Image credits: Nishi Chauhan

Thursday Salute to Originals: “Smart” Materials

GPI Design - Thursday, January 10, 2013

As 2013 progresses, we can’t help but wonder what the next ‘Big Thing’ will be. Technology seems to grow at such a rate that it’s hard to keep up. With the advent of mobile apps to control the environment of your house, from lighting to sound, hybrid technologies are being set up to create “smart houses”. But can materials be smart, too?

A group of students in a Master of Advanced Studies class in Switzerland designed the installation Phototropia as a response to globalization, increased connectivity, and digital identity in participative and transient systems.

Phototropia Experimental Architecture

The students describe it as ‘a proposal for an experimental architecture that can decay while actively being renewed. Phototropia explores the use of smart materials in the built environment using “self-made electro-active polymers, screen printed electroluminescent displays, eco-friendly bioplastics and thin-film dye-sensitized solar cells”. Basically the structure is meant to harvest and store solar energy to respond to its users. As the density of users increases, the structure expands and light is emitted.

Solar Materials Responsive Architectural Design Phototropia 

The video below was made by the students working on Phototropia, and shows how the materials were made and how the structure would move in response to various stimuli.

This responsive architecture may be the future of our built environment and as part of an on-going project, we can’t wait to see what comes next from these inventive designers.

Image credits: CAAD. Blog

Thursday Salute to Originals: Customization with a Whimsical Flair

GPI Design - Thursday, December 20, 2012

The holiday season tends to bring out the inner child in each of us, and this lamp design is playing on that same nostalgic sentiment. Inspired by the plastic toy capsules inside of vending machines, the creative team at Design Systems envisioned The Capsule Lamp.

Before the capsules are filled with the brightly colored toys, the fixture appears as a rather prototypical modern light fixture. When filled with the tiny trinkets, the function is transformed from mere light source to a full blown show-and-tell session showcasing your treasured objects (or whatever you choose to display).

Capsule Lamp Designer Lighting Fixture

All of the fun of a vending machine without having to pay 25 cents – now that’s original!

Image credits: CubeMe

Thursday Salute to Originals: Color Phenomena

GPI Design - Thursday, December 13, 2012

For as long as anyone can remember, architects, designers and artists have used color in various manners as a way to create a unique experience in a space. At the Hirschhorn Museum, Venezuela born Kinetic and Op Artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has employed color in his exhibit in a way that each viewer can experience the space in their own way.

"Color is not simply the color of things,” says Cruz-Diez. “It is an evolving situation, a reality which acts on the human being with the same intensity as cold, heat, and sound.”

Since the mid-1960’s, Cruz-Diez has been developing what is known as Chromosaturations, white rooms completely bathed in RGB light. Each room in the installation is featureless and is illuminated by various gradations between the three colors. “Cruz-Diez says the point of the installation is to show how color is essentially an experience--one that depends on participation from humans.”

Color Saturated Spatial Design by Carlos Cruz-Diez

Chromosaturation Colored Spaces Art Installation

Many studies have been conducted about the effects of artificial light on the psychological and physiological state of humans. Everything from the rose stained glass windows of Gothic cathedrals to futuristic light-bathed rooms each are designed to have a special effect on people. In what other ways can we as designers craft unique spaces that tap the senses of human beings?

Image Credits: Fastco Design