Posts Tagged ‘designers


Giving Back to your Community

What do you give back to your community? Maybe you volunteer at your local food bank, or mentor kids after school, or serve on the board of a non-profit organization.

The key to volunteerism is getting involved in something that you’re passionate about.
Although one may get an occasional pat on the back from others, most of the reward of volunteering is internal – one’s own sense that they’ve helped others, for a cause they strongly believe in, without asking for anything in return.

Giving Back in 2013
For this year, I’ve decided to give back to the community I feel most strongly a part of:
the design community. That may sound pretty abstract, but it’s not. Let me tell you why. One of the most universal themes of the human condition is the contrast of youth versus age. The former is associated with agility and speed, the latter with deliberation and wisdom. As I look with admiration to the nimbleness of recent design program graduates in producing slick imagery, I also am reminded of the accrued wisdom of real world practice. As an architect practicing for over 25 years, I’d like to offer back a distillation of some of that experience.

Recording of, and Learning From Experience
Starting with my freshman year of architecture school, I was exhorted to keep a design journal. I’m not sure how many journals and scrapbooks have accrued since then, but certainly enough to fill several filing cabinets. Looking back through some of them this past year, I was struck by how some design themes have remained quite constant through the years of education and practice, while others were momentary enthusiasms which were quickly abandoned. Through the lens of time, some patterns have become visible.

The Wisdom Project
The process of identifying these recurrent patterns has become an endeavor I refer to as “the wisdom project”. The goal of the project is to articulate the essential elements of design practice. While my experience and resulting ideas of practice are specifically shaped from the arena of architectural design, my belief is that the wisdom is rather applicable to all areas of creative endeavor. Although some of the concepts may be of use to the lone artist toiling in the garret, the emphasis is on artistic pursuits in a commercial and social context. In other words, my focus is on applied design, where clients and collaborators are an integral part of the process toward realizing a finished work of art/architecture.

A Peek Toward What’s Upcoming at axdblog
My intention therefore is, over the course of 2013, to essentially produce, in serial fashion from A to Z, a primer entitled: the wisdom project: essential elements of design practice. It is my hope that students and practitioners alike will find helpful insights to better their own artistic endeavors.

Ed Barnhart, AIA; principal, Always by Design


Art + Architecture

When we relocated in order to expand our architectural studio, we started AxD Gallery as an exhibition venue for contemporary visual arts. The most frequent question since its opening in January 2007 has been: What’s the connection between the architectural studio and the art gallery? The answer involves a constellation of reasons. Obviously we find a significant overlap between the visual arts and the aesthetic issues that architects and designers face daily. As such, the gallery represents and functions for us as an incubation laboratory for ideas and inspirations. Secondly, we see the gallery as a form of social activism, supporting the arts and bringing community together. And finally, it’s awfully fun to host a reception party once a month and catch up with friends!

The art of any era can provide inspiration for us as designers. Constructivism, Futurism, Abstract Expressionism, Op Art, Minimalism and patterns of various tribal “folk arts” have all been frequently been mined by architects for ideas. Japanese woodblock prints served as a great inspiration to Frank Lloyd Wright. The Pictures at an Exhibition concerto by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky is an obvious example of an artist seeking to transpose a visual experience to a musical one. When we began the Gallery we were thinking exclusively of visual artists, but obviously all art forms influence each other. Consequently, since our opening we have expanded to intermittently include various performing arts – both musical and theatrical as well.

In our own work we have looked to artists such as Sean Scully, Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin for inspiration. For the interior of our gallery we chose to differentiate “service elements” (i.e. restroom and a stair) as abstract objects ‘carved’ out of the whiteness of the gallery. These elements were clad with Douglas Fir wood panels. The panel pattern was inspired by the painting Cite’ by Ellsworth Kelly, which ironically was itself inspired by oblique shadows cast from an architectural feature – a fire escape.

As I am writing this, AxD Gallery is featuring the work of Deborah Sawyer. Her work encompasses a variety of media, including oil paints, charcoal, gouache, found objects, glass, vinyl, rubber and various types of metal – cast, forged and welded. For this body of work, her inspirations come largely from the rusting decay of discarded automobiles. Sculptural pieces include functional furniture, various bowels and containers. Paintings and drawn works evoke a range of emotions, from quiet serenity to foreboding tension or remorse. Her work reminds us that even the detritus of our very existence can be an inspiration.

We’re looking forward to learning and sharing the back-and-forth of how architecture, visual, and performing arts shape and transform one another.

Ed Barnhart, AIA

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