I don’t write many of these sorts of posts … they are painful to put together even though I am happy enough to reflect upon the creative process while trying to evaluate if things turned out as good as I had hoped. Last night I was driving my daughter to a birthday party and the event was taking place just down the street from my Oak Grove (now known as Work 214) and I spent a few minutes walking around the parking lot looking at my 2nd to last project from my previous place of employment.
I went ahead and posted a photo to my Instagram story while I was on site but the image kept nagging at me all day today demanding that I spend some time thinking about this project which is why I decided to write this particular post despite the fact that I feel like I imagine a 5-year-old would feel if a clown slid out from under their bed in order to read them a bedtime story.
Let’s start at the beginning – kinda. I don’t think either of us has all that much time.
I went back through my Instagram feed to find some of my earlier drawings and images. I love the fact that my feed has become a digital diary of sorts and a resource for me to track down not only what I was doing, but I can painfully relive all the ideas I thought were great that didn’t actually work upon further reflection. The sketch on the left was made prior to making the decision to enclose the exterior stair. At this moment the stair was just going to be this very sculptural item … an idea that did not last.
On the right was the first time we had an idea about simplifying the actual stair but wrapping it in an open-air enclosure that would take on the responsibility of providing the visual interest we needed at the front elevation. For the record, the owner really, really disliked this option – they thought it felt like a prison at worst and a birdcage at best. I feel fairly confident that if we had gone this route, the final product would have felt like neither of these two things.
We even built a model of the “Bird-cage” version of the project. And by”we” I mean summer interns. You can also see in the model that we still had a metal screen that was on the side of the building – an eventual budget casualty. We believed then (and still believe) that we could create a screen that would allow us to create an entirely new feel for this fairly generic existing 1980-something speculative office building. You’ll be able to see in the next image how things were shaping up at this point in the design process.
So many cool things going on but still so many things that had yet to be addressed. In this image, if you look at the upper right-hand portion of the building we still had an exterior balcony in place. While this would have been an amazing feature, I’m actually glad it was removed during the pricing phase of this project.
In the construction drawing shown above, we’ve finally arrived at the final design (barring the unforeseen site conditions that I know are yet to come). In this drawing, the “Work 214” signage design has arrived above the polycarbonate screen we’ve included at the exterior stair. This is a fairly cost-effective solution compared to the original design but we are counting on the lighting configuration to bring a lot of the WOW factor.
Just before we arrive at the photo I took last night with my daughter as we were heading to a birthday party, the lighting has got to be a conversation. There are a lot of moving parts, along with materials of varying degrees of transparency, and we know that how we light this front panel will be extremely important. I can tell you that it is almost a home run but there are still items that aren’t what they need to be based on my late-night visit.
I’ve gone to the effort to indicate all the lights associated with the stairs – the fixed downlights are shown in red in the above sheet of construction drawings, and the lighting we have the rakes across the top of the polycarbonate wall is shown in blue. What is important, is that the red lights turn off at night so that the lights raking the polycarbonate is allowed to do its job. Just so you know, the lights that rake the wall are kinetic and can not only change to any color imaginable, they can phase between these colors should we chose to do so.
Did it work? Take a look for yourself …
Kinda, but not really. You can see how the Work214 signage looks terrific. For what it’s worth, I took this phone standing on the bumper of my car last night so I am aware the image is a bit blurry. Maybe I’ll get my neighbor Poul Ober to do a late-night photo run for me. at any rate, the downlights mounted underneath the stairs – the ones that exist so that people can actually see the stair treads – are supposed to be installed on a motion-activated switch so that the downlights are not on, and sub-sequentially ruining my lighting effect, unless they have to be on.
I started working on this project over two years ago – some days it feels like longer, some days it feels much shorter – but it always feels like something amazing was happening and that has finally come to an end. When I left my last job to start working at BOKA Powell, I had to make some moves (along with the good graces of ownership at the firm) so that I could continue to see these projects through to their completion. People will say I’m crazy but once I left, I continued to work both my old job and my new job in order to complete both this job and another project I have wrapping up in San Marcos, Texas. I am grateful to my friend and past employee Landon Williams for being such a diligent collaborator on these projects. I stopped billing the clients for my time feeling that I owed them something other than a hearty handshake at the conclusion.
People outside our profession don’t really understand how attached and committed we are to the projects we work on – at least I know this is true for me. I am not simply motivated by my paycheck or the fees we charge our collaborators – these are personal projects and I am every bit as committed to their success as if I paid for them myself.
Have a great day,