by Leslie McDonald
Rebecca, our Interiors Intern and Librarian, is slightly obsessed with the Lumio…a brilliant lamp that cleverly disguises itself as a book! Lumio can be transformed into multiple shapes and mounted to any magnetic surface. Pop it up on a cabinet, hang it from a tree, or stand it on a table. With 500 lumens of output, it’s big enough to light a dinner party, yet compact enough to fit in a small bag. Best yet, the battery life is over 8 hours and is rechargeable by USB. $200.
We’re astounded at the number of configurations possible with this new concept chair. Montreal-based designer Stéphane Leathead created the Exocet chair with identical slats assembled on a rotating cylinder to allow the chair to change shape with ease. Sit up, sit back, lay front, lay back, or just sit on your bum. This has to be one of the most versatile chairs ever. Exocet is the first product for design studio Designarium.
Responding to predictions that the world’s population will grow to almost 10 billion within the next 40 years, Italian think tank PNAT has developed a module for crop cultivation that does not rely on soil, fresh water or chemical energy consumption. Dubbed the “jellyfish barge”, the project is envisioned as a floating agricultural greenhouse, able to purify salt, brackish, or polluted water using solar energy. Globally, we must plan for the impending expectations of our planet; and projects like the Jellyfish Barge, are doing just that!
Kinema is a pendant designed to let you control the intensity of light based on your mood or the environment. Each of Kinema’s rings can be individually “flipped” creating dramatic light and shadow effects. Inspired by the movement of crustaceans, a wide variety of forms can be created by arranging the pendant’s rings in alternating open and closed positions. At $1000, it’s an artful investment for your living space.
Rye Quartz wandered into our office last summer and made his offer: we buy the paint, and he paints our big, blank, boring cinder block wall facing the alley. One look at his website assured us this was an excellent opportunity to partner with a talented young artist. Rye drew inspiration for his mural painting from our architecture portfolio, then he got to work.
The result was a true gift to Barrett Studio and the neighborhood, a real enlivening of the public realm. We continue to get comments from people walking their dogs or strolling with their kids saying how wonderful it is to see this vibrant, colorful artwork where once there was an unnoticeable building side.
We thank you Rye. And we offer to our readers this 1.5 minute time-lapse video of Rye painting the mural over the course of three days. If you watch to the end, you’ll see our happy hour gathering!
by Leslie McDonald
Living Bridges, Literally: The tiny village of Mawsynram in Meghalaya puts Colorado’s frequent afternoon rainstorms to shame. Wearing “the wettest place on earth” badge with honor, the locals train the roots of rubber trees to grow into resilient natural bridges and ladders that last for centuries, where man-made wooden structures would deteriorate within a few years. Talk about 100% living architecture!
An article in The Atlantic tells the story of this amazing place with 18 gorgeous photos.
Make Room for the Pallone: Nicole’s eyes lit up when she sat her toosh on the Pallone chair by Leolux. This quirky, squatty, finely-crafted leather armchair is not only striking, it has a highly coveted feature not many chairs have: you can comfortably sit cross-legged on it! Now that’s a chair to spend some hours in.
Leolux produces its furniture in Venlo, the city nominated as the C2C (Cradle to Cradle) capital of the Netherlands. Making consumer goods will most likely never become a neutral practice, but Leolux regards it as their duty to strive for the maximum achievable. View the Pallone here.
We have to agree, this bank deserves a second look. Merchants National Bank Building in Grinnell, Iowa was designed by the father of modern American architecture Louis H. Sullivan. David remarked to his friend. “When you think of the impermanence of banks today…both literally and architecturally…this is an expression of a solid capitalism, equal to a church.” It’s worth a quick read to learn about this fascinating National Historic Monument.
Solar Roadways: Driving on sunshine? That’s what inventors Julie and Scott Brusaw from Sagle Idaho have in mind. Solar panels that you can drive, park and walk on – they melt snow, light pathways and lanes, provide real-time warning signs for upcoming traffic hazards, and best of all, they generate electricity. With initial funding from a $750,000 Federal Highway Administration grant and $2.2 million from an Indiegogo campaign, the Brusaw’s are well on their way to their first public installations. Check out their silly but informative video to learn about these roads of the future.
By David Barrett, Architect
Need ideas for your kitchen remodel? No problem. On Houzz.com you have access to four million colorful photos of interiors and exteriors. Simply filter on 15 different attributes including number of islands, kitchen shape, and even backsplash color.
Houzz has become a mighty mecca for savvy homeowners and home design enthusiasts looking for inspiration. The site is 25 million people strong, and growing.
From my perspective as an architect, Houzz is both a blessing and a curse.
For years design enthusiasts have been collecting ideas from coffee table books, articles from design magazines, and even snapping their own photos from all over the world of what strikes their fancy. Then they would meet with the architect, turn over their handful of clippings and excitedly say, “I want something like this!”
The trouble is, Houzz has pumped up any person’s image-gathering capacity a million-fold.
Which leads me to the curse of Houzz: dead architecture.
Houzz shows you yesterday’s singular creative designs for someone else in some other place. Even if it is unconscious, you can end up wanting this montage of Houzz images which if actually built, is a fragmented, impersonal, soul-less space that lacks connection to your site, your climate, your budget and the people living in your home.
There’s an even bigger loss with a heightened focus on image, style and consumerism: in some ways you are avoiding real creativity.
Real creativity is uncomfortable. It’s intense to step into the unknown and try to uncover some part of yourself that longs to be expressed in this world. Many times fear is the predecessor to the real moment of synthesis when you find that special convergence of nature, place, needs and poetics that is truly a reflection of who you are, and where you are. Short cutting this process may be safe, but it is shallow and is only temporary in its gratification – until the next wave of Gee Whiz images come your way.
That said, finally I come to the blessing of Houzz, and why Barrett Studio Architects is a regular contributor to the site: A picture is worth a thousand words. Communication is imperative in the design process so you want to do your due diligence in conveying who you are, what floats your boat, or what drives you absolutely mad! The whole process of idea gathering is exciting, and because the outcome of your efforts is ultimately going to manifest visually (and experientially), the natural language to express your desires is pictures.
Like most things in life it comes down to balance, and trust.
If you come to your designer with an intention to find the design of your home together, and you trust them to actually design versus assemble your Greatest Hits, then you’re headed for a co-creation-amazing-things-can-happen experience. The poetic seeds of your home have room to take hold – a home that is rooted in the soil of your life and memories – and your site will endure. Who knows, your unique living environment might just show up on Houzz!
If you’re a Houzz lover, or are feeling the gravitational pull toward Houzz, here are 5 ways to keep Houzz the blessing that it is:
- Houzz is great for getting new ideas and shaking up your viewpoint. But absolutely have an idea of what you need before going there. If you need flooring ideas, it’s a great tool to see what’s out there. If you hit Houzz with no goal, no vision, no soul searching beforehand….yikes.
- When viewing a photo, discern exactly what appeals to you. Is it the style, the color, the materials? If you saw the same photo and the countertop was blue instead of red, would it still be your favorite? Become a discerning viewer.
- Discover how the image makes you feel. Look at a clean, crisp kitchen that is white with stainless steel. Compare that to one that is warm, woodsy and cluttered. What is it that makes you feel comfortable, calm, energized, social, rested? Tell your designer the feelings that you want a room to evoke and they will love you for it!
- Rather than giving your designer multiple versions of a feature, pick the one that you like the most. One of our clients submitted three versions of built-in silverware dividers. We urged her to pick her favorite and eliminate the others.
- Know the location of the house you are viewing. When you click on a photo, Style and Location shows up on the top right of the screen. Think about the difference between the climate and culture of that house location, and your house location. Site-specific design considerations make a big difference in a house’s endurance in your life.
Happy Houzz hunting everyone!
by Maggie Flickinger
Last month during the AIA Convention in Chicago, the Windy City showed off another face. Thanks to global weirding, a particularly hard winter left ice far off the lakeshore, pushing cool winds and fog over the waterfront. The fog consumed the lakeshore and the first quarter to half mile inland, dropping late June daytime highs to unseasonably low 60’s. One happy accident resulting from this phenomena? Amazing photo opportunities! Architecture buffs get all weak in the knees at the rich architectural history and contemporary newcomers on display in this vibrant city. Enjoy some favorite shots I snagged of architectural icons in a moody Chicago. And, stay tuned for highlights from the convention.
by Maggie Flickinger
From Scott DuPree of Civil Society Transitions, I heard of the Zimbabwean idea of qoqelela: a community funded trust that allows individuals and families in the community to take turns purchasing things they wouldn’t have the means to otherwise – things that in turn help the community’s stability, such as livestock or looms. As Scott told, this tradition was formalized and expanded with the grouping of 40,000 tribespeople’s donations of $5 each to form a multi-tribe community foundation. The first four dollars were allocated according to the foundation’s rules, but the fifth dollar was somewhat of a mystery – would the initial donators demand that it be viewed as a return in their investment – directly given back to their tribe or themselves as individuals? Scott and his group met with representative tribespeople around a ceremonial fire and posed the fifth dollar question. In a confident voice a tribeswoman stood and said, “No, of course we do not expect this money to come back to us. Our dream is that the foundation will help everyone, that it will build a better future for everyone in our region. We know this future may be something that those of us here will never know.” Another woman chimed in, saying that “it would make no sense for us to benefit at the expense of our neighbors.”
A friend living in Scandinavia related the Nordic practice of parking on the outskirts if you arrive at the office early, since you have extra time to walk across the neighborhood or lot, allowing those who slept through their alarms to get spots “up front” and dash in before the clock hits 9. Contrast that to our prevailing attitude of “me first” where we stalk the parking lot for the closest spot regardless of whether or not we’re in a rush.
These stories are the perfect summary of the compassionate mindframe versus the individualistic mindframe. And there are many more like them – some from unlikely sources, such as a national call center that saved over a million dollars in training costs just by asking their workers what they wanted. It’s just this shift in mindset that Barrett Studio has sought to tackle since David founded it in 1977. How can we create a sharing culture – a culture of compassion? I’ll be traveling to Chicago tomorrow to speak at the American Institute of Architects convention on our approach to formalizing this commitment.
At its core, compassion is about acknowledging, sympathizing with, and wanting to alleviate someone’s problem. Try sitting around a table and asking your coworkers what would better their lives with you. Make sure your chat is focused on solutions, with timelines for implementation. You might have to have a thick skin, but the results are worth it. We’ve enacted policies that range from including the community as a partner in our profit distribution, to recognizing different stages in life by allowing employees to choose between extra paid time off or extra salary. My favorite idea that we’re exploring now is tackling the alarming issue of student loan debt. We know that the average student graduates with almost $30,000 in debt. In noticing that our younger employees – emerging professionals – were not contributing to their SIMPLE retirement plans – which would be matched by the studio – we saw a correlation. They were choosing to pay down their student loans before making another investment. To kickstart the process, why not offer a student loan matching payment as an alternative to a SIMPLE matching benefit? Unfortunately, it’s not tax deferred, but it helps these important members of our team feel acknowledged and cared for.
That’s the magical thing about compassion in the workplace helping people transition away from an individualistic mindframe. You can get people to stop just thinking about themselves by making sure they know you’re thinking about them. Turns out that making people matter is infectious!
At the convention, I’ll be asking those attending my talk to share their stories of compassion in the workplace, or problems in the workplace that could be solved through compassion. I’ll post some of these stories here, in the spirit of building a sharing culture. My hope is that we’ll all start experiencing our businesses with a qoqelela attitude!