Jillian Northrup's blog

Cool nesting tables and white boards

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We just finished these cool nesting tables and white boards for The Tech Museum in San Jose.
These were part of a larger design project we worked on for them.


Half the tables are finished with a white board top, and half are in a walnut hardwood.
They all have this cool hardware on the underside that allows them to flip up from there base 90 degrees.


Here's a fun video, showing the making and the function of the tables.

Forgotten Fridays - Shop floor layouts

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Sometimes we are hired to create designs that, for one reason or another, never come to life.
These designs tend to get filed away. Occasionally they are brought out again, but mostly they just logged and stored in their client folder.
Here, in these "Forgotten Fridays" blog posts, we showcase and celebrate the most interesting ones that may someday again breath life!

The following concept designs were for an incubator factory space. A factory filled with digital fabrication and traditional tools that you could rent time on. The idea was to have a large open floor with the large machines spaced out as needed. Around those machine work areas, the client wanted some kind of screens, so people could have privacy to their potentially proprietary work that they were creating on the machines.

We decided to start out with three objects; a whiteboard / privacy / sound screen, a standing computer workstation, and a configurable tools / parts cart.
Everything would be on wheels, be both usable and playful, and would match an overall theme.
We then decided to start with three themes, each with it's own totally different look, so we can find the right look & feel for the shop floor.

This first scheme is a slick modern look. Taking aesthetic cues from retro-futuristic robots and sci-fi, all surfaces are white, gloss, clean and curvy.

L:\BWC Bucket\projects\FactorLi\Revit Project\Fams\Idea Boards.pdf

L:\BWC Bucket\projects\FactorLi\Revit Project\Fams\Idea Boards.pdf

The second scheme is Dazzle Camouflage. The surfaces are flat and angular, and everything is covered in a dramatic patterning of the Dazzel Camo. As these screens are to hide and distract potential onlookers from the work goings on behind the scene.

L:\BWC Bucket\projects\FactorLi\Revit Project\Fams\Idea Boards.pdf

L:\BWC Bucket\projects\FactorLi\Revit Project\Fams\Idea Boards.pdf

The final scheme is a bit more traditional in concept, celebrating the functionality of the machines on the floor in the design of the pieces. CNC hewn panels, CNC woven mesh, and exposed flat pack joinery call to the digital fabrication abilities of the machines on the floor.

L:\BWC Bucket\projects\FactorLi\Revit Project\Fams\Idea Boards.pdf

L:\BWC Bucket\projects\FactorLi\Revit Project\Fams\Idea Boards.pdf

This factory space never came into being, but the designs are still potentially useful for another project down the road.

Maker Faire- Ten years ago

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Happy 10th Anniversary Maker Faire!
We still think you're awesome!

In preparing for the upcoming Maker Faire next month, MAKE who publishes MAKE Magazine & puts on Maker Faire, just did a little piece about the first Maker Faire back in 2006. We have a few quotes and photos in the article, as we were there! In the thick of it! Bright eyed and looking to the future of running a design and fabrication Architecture company someday. Look how far we have come since then!

It's a nice little article, that you can read here, remembering the fist Maker Faire 10 years ago (can you believe it)!


Programable LED ceiling squares

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Check out these cool ceiling fixtures we created for the Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland.

The lights are connected to an arduino, which is hidden in a laptop work station along the wall.
The idea is to have the students learn to program the LEDs to do different light patterns in their programming class.
They can then show off their skills for all to see, as these are in the front hallway of the school where parent and donor events happen.

As with all the pieces we've made for this school,
the fixtures and laptop workstation match the aesthetic style of the 1920's Julia Morgan building.

The BWC Library

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The most dramatic renovation we did in our office recently was our new library and meeting room.
Changed from having an exposed concrete floor with shelves of books, we made this space into a cosy meeting room,
and an opportunity to show off some of our handy work.


The doors that slide away on a barn door system are made of 1/2" frosted acrylic with Europly bases and steel strapping.
The sanded acrylic allows the natural light to diffuse in during the day, and the bulb light out at night.


Our wooden robot mascot, here made in sycamore and walnut, acts as a handle on the outer most door.


We installed durable but fun Flor carpeting and a center table for meetings.


The table surface is a thick slab of Pine, finished with our water soluble clear coat, and with dramatic live edge details.


We kept the live edge of this slab and coated it in a soft resin. Keeping the original beauty of the material while creating functionality.


The bookshelf against the back wall houses our design, fabrication and art reference library.


Recessed lighting in the bookshelf illuminates the inside of the shelves within the walnut hardwood trim details.
The bright light draws the eyes to the back of the room and allows the books to be very visible.


On the ceiling we hung full color, programable LEDs that shine upward and bounce off the white of the ceiling.


Nested in the bookshelf we've created a control panel for all the lights, hooked to the Arduino, the bookshelf & ceiling lights and the power.


Here's a video of our new Library & ceiling lights in action!

Internal Renovations

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We've given the office a few renovations for the new year. Here are some quick snapshots of the new pieces we've made.
Our office drawing storage table is a wonderful addition to our ever growing pile of architectural drawings that we need to keep on hand in the office.
And rolls around smoothly on it's awesome big red wheels!


To accomodate our ever growing staff, we've had to add a longer table in the kitchen.
This bamboo table cantilevers off the wall to give plenty of room for stretching our out.


The news sliding barn doors to the meeting room & library allow the natural light to come in through their 1/2" thick frosted acrylic panels. Yummy.


Inside the meeting room & library is all books and table. We have a lot of reading to do!
And now we can easily see our reference library with the integrated lighting in the shelving.


Hooray for upgrades!

Forgotten Fridays Wooden Slat Chair Design

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Sometimes, as it happens, we are hired to create designs that, for one reason or another, never come to life.
These designs tend to get filed away, sometimes brought out again, but mostly just logged and stored in their client folder.

Here we can showcase and celebrate the most interesting ones that may someday again breath life!

This chair, for example, would be made of a solid walnut. A bent / formed piece of walnut acts as an arm rest on the side.

M:\BWC Bucket\Shared Revit Library\Textures\wood\walnut\Chairs_Project V2.pdf

The base swivels so the chairs can face each other or not, and an iPad mount sits on the side for browsing information.

M:\BWC Bucket\Shared Revit Library\Textures\wood\walnut\Chairs_Project V2.pdf

A fun, sleek chair that can act as a meeting chair or personal iPad console.

M:\BWC Bucket\Shared Revit Library\Textures\wood\walnut\Chairs_Project V2.pdf


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.... We are opening our doors for Because We Can's 2015 Big New Year open house.

.... We'll be starting at 6PM and going until 8PM.

Come hang out and see our newly renovated digs. We've been working hard to clean the place up, and streamline our production flow for our upcoming projects. Speaking of upcoming projects - boy have we got some cool stuff in the works!
So come by and watch us strut our stuff!
We'll have some snacks, some drinks, and lots of interesting things to chat about.
It's a great time to drop by and talk shop with us, if you want to learn more about what we do and how we do it.

Kids welcome, but it is a shop and a party. Lots of sharp corners. And they might learn some interesting new words!

6PM - 8PM

2500 Kirkham St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 922-8846
Click here for the Google Map.
.... All are invited, so come on by! We'd love to see you.


Talking with Robots about Architecture- Jeffrey McGrew at The Interval

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Tickets have just gone on sale to see our own Jeffrey McGrew talking at the Interval later this month.
He will be talking about the future and present of building, and show some references to The Interval itself .

The Interval at Long Now
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM (PST)

Get Tickets!


"What's happening now and what will be tomorrow in the technology of building buildings? Change comes both slowly and quickly in the building industry. New technology leads to new ways of working, but also sometimes makes older ways of working viable again. The flow of innovation in design and construction is not easy to predict, but it's fascinating to track. Our next talk will tour some of the most recent developments and give perspective on how we got here and what's coming next."

Oakland Home Renovation, Part2

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As this Oakland Hills home project moves swiftly forward, we have made great progress.
All of the exterior walls are up and waterproofed, the new energy efficient windows installed, and the new roof complete.


The interior steel beams are in place in the ceiling, allowing this large open family room, dining room & kitchen to be one large grand open space.

The skylight with exposed timber framing will let beautiful natural light into the large open room. The light will trickle down the stairway that it spans above. Giving natural light to the open stairway and soon to be installed slide! (that will be exciting!)

The wall of large open windows give a striking view of the Oakland Hills and the Bay beyond.

The new downstairs room will be a casual den & play room for the kids.

And finally, the back yard terracing is coming along well with stairs and landings for fruit trees and garden space.