2004 Annual Design Review Environments Design Distinction

Posted inID Mag

Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Cube

The jurors were so taken with the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Cube that they earnestly debated bending I.D.’s rules to award it a second Best of Category. The trio lauded the cube, created by Green Team Advertising for Smithsonian magazine’s marketing and sales staff, for skillfully packaging the publication and its namesake institution into a portable unit. “What’s fascinating about the object is that it’s really a miniaturization of the Smithsonian,” said Gabellini. The 20x20x20-inch stainless-steel cube contains an audio-video system that rises and lowers pneumatically and projects scenes from the vast museum consortium onto an integrated inflatable structure. (The system’s DVD player can run any film loop, and the inflatable structure includes a screen that can be changed according to rear or frontal projection.) “It’s got a lovely anthropomorphic charm,” added Ockman, responding to the softly rounded PVC blowup that emerges from the hard-carapaced cube. “I like that it’s an environment even though it’s so small.” In the end, although the jurors agreed that the product could not be improved, they decided that the scale of a single—albeit magnificent—cube put the project in a different league from the Green Green Screen, which contributes to a complex urban fabric.

Client Smithsonian magazine, Washington, DCDesign Green Team Advertising, New York: Jimmie Stone, Ricardo Gonzalez, Aristides Barrios, Sandrine Thompson; Infl ate Ltd., London: Nick Crosbie; Signal Sign Company, Livingston, NJ: Bruce FishMaterials PVC, circular fan, vinyl lettering, DVD Projector, audio speakers, electrical power strip, lightweight stainless steel, vinyl lettering, plastic wheelsSoftware Adobe Illustrator


“You see it from afar and wonder whether it’s a hot-dog stand or a record shop,” said Gabellini. “Its innocuous nature is one of its strongest assets.” The booth’s translucent skin—made of aluminum honeycomb and clear fiberglass—is embedded with a lively design of silhouetted people that, when seen from a distance, looks like a digital rendering of sound waves. Exterior listening stations allow passersby to hear prerecorded interviews. The largely wooden interior has an intimate scale to put participants at ease among unfamiliar recording equipment.

Client/Design MASdesign, New York: Michael Shuman (architecture, engineering, fabrication); Local Projects, New York: Jake Barton (interactive design); ORG inc., New York: David Reinfurt (graphic design); MESH Architectures, New York: Eric Liftin (architecture)Materials Steel framing, wood paneling, LCD panels, Panelite, lightingSoftware Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, After Effects, AutoCAD, Final Cut Pro, Form-Z, VectorWorks

Cherry Blossom

Developed for the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s second Triennial exhibition, Cherry Blossom was a semi-cylindrical installation on the stairwell. Visitors to the renowned Carnegie mansion, where the museum is housed, triggered sensors on the Beaux-Arts staircase that produced a flurry of digital cherry blossoms accompanied by ascending or descending tones from embedded speakers. When the staircase was empty, the swirling blossoms faded into a silent snowfall, suggesting that human interaction alone can animate and warm a space. The experience, jurors agreed, was delightful and transformative—not only of the museum’s notoriously overpowering interior, but also of the simple act of climbing stairs. “Really ingenious,” said Ockman. “It’s so appealing in the way it took over the stairwell from the Tiffany chandelier to the ground.”

Client Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New YorkDesign Antenna Design, New York: Masamichi Udagawa, Sigi MoeslingerMaterials Aluminum base, steel structure, projection screen materials, cables, data processor, PC, cameras, speakersSoftware Ashlar-Vellum, Macromedia Director, Rhino, Sound Edit, TrackThemColors Xtra

Bix Light and Media Facade

Bix is a light and media surface made up of 930 round fluorescent tubes embedded in the eastern elevation of Peter Cooks’ and Colin Fournier’s bulging Kunsthaus Graz museum in Graz, Austria. Each light behaves as a computer-programmed pixel in a low-resolution image that animates the building’s blue Plexiglas exterior. By using old-fashioned fluorescent bulbs, the German architects at realities:united bypassed the inevitable obsolescence of high-tech screens. “It’s such an integrated part of the museum concept,” noted Ockman of the project, which seems to have landed from some strange planet into the gemütlich atmosphere of red-roofed Graz. The jurors were also impressed by the seamless collaboration between the Bix designers and building architects. “Part of what’s so clever about the project is that it’s not just about light,” said Berke, “but about the fixture itself.”

Client Kunsthaus Grazag, Graz, AustriaDesign realities:united, Berlin: Jan Edler and Tim Edler, conception, design, project managers, and art directors; Juan Ayala Cortes, Carla Eckhard, Rainer Hartl, Wolfgang Metschan, project assistants; Jan Edler, Tim Edler, Tobias Herre, John deKron, software conception; John deKron, Jeremy Rotsztain, Peter Castine, software programmers; Ulrike Brückner, software screen designer; Cornelia Neumair, Timm Ringewaldt, animation film support; Gesine Borcherdt, Margarete Pratschke, media and press support; ArGe Kunsthaus/ÖBA Architektur Consult (implementation planning and site manager); se Lightmanagement (technical realization and project sponsor); Pichlerwerke GmbH (montage)

Materials 930 standard 40-watt fluorescent light rings with special minimal casings, Swiss-made VIP90 lighting control unitsSoftware Jitter, MAX, NATO

‘Slipping into the 21st Century’ at Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Jurors praised Vito Acconci’s design for this retrospective exhibition at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery as “fresh,” “lively,” and “ephemeral.” The exhibition is constructed of curved aluminum pipes attached to columns, which support a continuous spandex screen that stretches down the middle of the gallery. Neoprene-covered plywood benches sit underneath this Mobius strip of projection “umbrellas.” Images from the Acconci Studio’s numerous public art projects swirl between ceiling and wall veils in an uninterrupted projection that can be experienced standing, sitting, or lying down. “It’s very lyrical the way you go through it,” said Gabellini, “with projections that trigger and fade according to your movements.”

Client Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New YorkDesign Acconci Studio, New York: Vito Acconci, principal; Gia Wolff, Dario Nunez, Pete
r Dorsey, Oscar Tuazon, Mike Williams, Marie Lorenz, Jeremy Linzee, Sehzat Oner; Perfi do Design, Brooklyn, New York (fabrication)Materials Curved aluminum pipes, spandex screen, plywood, neopreneSoftware AutoCAD, Rhino

Greenwich Academy Upper School and Library

The last place one might expect to find an ethereal James Turrell light installation is a suburban girls’ school. Yet the building that houses the upper school and library at Greenwich Academy, designed by SOM, features just that. Four glowing glass boxes crown the new subgrade structure, providing the educational facilities below with natural light during the day and a winking, colorful transformation by night. The 44,000-square-foot project expands the school’s traditional colonial building down a slope, and though the glass-and-brick building creates a distinct contrast to the original white-gabled structure, the new roofs are covered with heaths that more seamlessly connect the campus landscape. “It’s a kind of merging of landscape around a proscenium box,” observed Gabellini.

Client Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CTDesign Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP, New York: Roger Duffy, design partner; Walter Patrick Smith, associate partner; Scott Kirkham, senior designer; Marie-Christine Bellon Manzi, Nayyareen Chhapra, Thibaut DeGryse, Jon-Mark Capps, Jennifer Gannon, Eric Richie, Joon-Sung Choi, Javier Haddad

Plywood Sunshades

The Taubman College of Architecture at the University of Michigan commissioned PLY Architecture to develop these sunshades to block sunlight in the architecture building’s computer lab. The shades, executed as a design-build project, consist of plywood sheets that have been CNC-routed by drill bits to varying depths. Placed in front of a wall of south-facing windows, the screens filter light according to the depth of each cavity. “You could give this process to anybody and they would get an entirely different result every time,” suggested Gabellini. “It can be customized with a CAD input.” Jurors lauded the simple method for its appropriateness to the material and for its visual innovation. “It’s clever and inexpensive, and it exploits the characteristics of plywood,” Berke said.

Client Taubman College of Architecture, University of Michigan, Ann ArborDesign PLY Architecture, Ann Arbor, MI: Karl Daubmann, Craig Borum, principals; Lindsay Wai, Ludo Gabaron, assistantsMaterials PlywoodHardware CNC router

‘Counter Balance’ at the AIA Center for Architecture

An exhibition system designed by J. Meejin Yoon for the basement gallery at the Center for Architecture—the AIA New York chapter’s headquarters in Greenwich Village—”Counter Balance” snakes through the labyrinthine space like a floating luminescent band. A nearly continuous line of fluorescent tubing hangs from the gallery’s exposed sprinkler pipes, back-lighting the Mylar film on which exhibition materials are printed. Ready-made components, such as burette clamps, alligator clips, and stainless-steel thread rods, contribute to the system’s low cost and spare looks. “It’s like a minimalist lighting installation,” Gabellini noted. And Ockman remarked, “I find it very light-handed and intelligent.”

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