What's happening now at Because We Can

The Choreography of Space, or how to make your interior design have a great experience.

One design concept we bring to every project is what we call a 'Choreography of Space'.

"Choreography" in an architectural context is the idea that a space should 'unfold' as you move through it, directing your experience and attention along the way for maximum effect. Through the design, form, and subtle clues, the space creates specific areas and transitions between areas where you have a specific sort of experience.

Japanese gardens make wonderful use of this idea to pack a lot into a little space. Next time you visit one, pay attention to how they manipulate the ground and pathways and plantings to direct your eyes and feet and the 'feel' of where you are. Imagine this; you're walked into a lovely japanese garden, and are standing by a pond. The ground is smooth and flat, and you look out at the amazing open view of the garden. To your right, you see the hint of another smaller clearing on the shore of the pond. You then notice a tiny path farther to your right that you decide to follow, which turns away from that view, and dives into some dense bamboo. The ground becomes uneven, so you look down at your feet, and notice the amazing little tiny flowers in the undergrowth. As the path turns, it gently turns you a different way back towards the pond, which is now blocked from your view by all the plants. The path suddenly opens up at another little clearing, the ground smoothing back out. This clearing is smaller, more private, with a little bench half facing you and half facing the pond. You stop and think for a moment about what you'd see when you sit on that bench, and so you turn to your left and find another amazingly curated vista across the pond, looking at the garden from a new angle, and realize this is the little clearing you saw earlier.

You've maybe only moved about ten feet as the crow flies, but you've experienced a whole journey! You saw a hint of where you were going to go, but then the plantings and uneven ground directed your attention to what's immediately in front of you and slowed your walking. The plantings also blocked your view when transitioning between "vistas", and the tiny details along the way made you feel like you were going somewhere. Then you arrive, the hint of a bench gets you to turn and look up, and a big reveal happens with an amazing view. And a bench to then enjoy that space and it's different identity than where you started, which you can see from here, and see how the two spots relate to each other.

This all sounds pretty 'fuzzy' and fluffy, but when applied to our built environment it can have a profound effect. It's one of the things that gives a building or a space a real identity. And when done well, it makes the space meet it's goals much better. From Apple Stores to Disneyland to casinos, enormous amounts of time and money are spent on this topic, because it really pays off. By purposely directing people's attention and experience the best features of a space can be celebrated, that space's goals better met, and the space's drawbacks minimized.

How does this work in an indoor space? Let's take a look at a recent project we did, The Interval at The Long Now, as a prime example.

When walking by on the street, the combination of huge welcoming doors, warm lighting, and the spectacle of the stunning Orrey draw people into the space, curious to explore.

The just-right-sized open floor space in front of the Orrery, and the table around the Orrery giving it more 'presence' in the space, causes one to pause and look around for a moment. Seeing the bookcases beyond, the eye is drawn up and to the right, and then down towards just the corner of the bar and the chalkboard robot.

Looking towards the bar, the long table made from the Chime Generator prototype makes the space feel much bigger than it really is. As you move that direction, to see more of the bar perhaps, as it's mostly hidden from this vantage point behind the wunderkammer under the stairs. This element draws your eye towards it as you pass it, with lots of small details and interesting stories of all the various projects the Long Now is doing, encouraging you to slow down to have a nice transitionary moment along the way.

The rounded shape of the wunderkammer encourages you to turn, and the entire bar is revealed. The Brian Eno artwork behind the bar and overhead hanging lights once again draw your eyes up, to see the lovely glowing bottles hanging overhead, which stretch all the way to the little back room and booths along the wall.

What a good idea it seems now to get a coffee or a cocktail, and either hide away in that back room, or join some friends you saw at the big table as you walked in.

This is just one briefly summarised 'path' where we thought deeply about how people would move from the street outside to the bar itself when exploring the space for the first time. The goals were to draw people in, briefly explain the Long Now's mission and projects, and introduce them to all the main elements within this small space quickly while keeping enough mystery intact for further exploration.

Thinking this way about space requires a deep understanding of people, trying to view the experience of the space from many vantage points, and a clear definition of the goals our client has for that space. It's a human-centric powerful design tool we use on every project, and we work hard and closely with our clients to realize the best choreography and experience we can for their project and all it's users. Just think of what we could do together!

Dynamo Benches at Autodesk University

We just got back from showing off our latest design project at Autodesk University in Vegas. Being a CAD technology conference, we used Autodesk Dynamo to programmatically create these "benches" as a seating area around the 'Hive' area. These benches weren't drawn, or even modeled, they were 100% made via Dynamo. 'Generative Design' is design technique where you create goal-driven custom computer programs that then generate the design, and in this case, even the final built object itself.

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A proof of concept project, we made a point to show off the fasteners, brackets and assembly numbering system on the back. Every connector and triangle are completely unique, so every one needed a label for assembly.

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Spanning over 12ft long, each triangle is the perfect shape to create the long undulating form. There's no internal ribs or framework, just triangles and connectors.

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Easily assembled and disassembled with one tool, the triangles bolt into place, aligning with their numbered threaded bracket.

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This was a fun project that allowed us to push limits of programmatic design and fabrication entirely with Dynamo. If you'd like to join in the fun, we've open-sourced our fabrication-focused Dynamo add-ons, and you can find them here on GitHub.

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Several thousand bolts, hundreds of triangles, ten days, five people, and one Dynamo script to make both benches. Being artists, fabricators, architects, and builders, our company is able to produce creative elements like this quickly and easily, and make it look really cool in the end! Just think of what we could do for you.

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November 2015 Make Magazine

If you happen to pick up this months issue of Make Magazine, you will see a nice big photo of a piece we made for The Hattiesburg Zoo in Mississippi.
Check it out!
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The article is all about the cool things you can do with subtractive fabrication. Which is what we have been integrating into our projects for over 10 years!
If you want to see more about this showcased project check it out on our project page.

East Bay Mini MakerFaire - This Sunday!

We'll be presenting at East Bay Mini Maker Fair this Sunday, Oct 18th at 12:15PM
Come on by and say hello!

We'll be presenting in the Magnolia Bldg Great Room on the "MAD SKILLZ STAGE"
That alone should make you want to come see us.

Our talk will be on Making to Make: How Creating Our Own Custom Tools Helps Us Make Great Things

We would love to see you. This is a great smaller Maker Faire that is interesting to the whole family.
Sunday, Oct 18th 10AM-5PM.
Park Day School, 360 42nd St, Oakland

Use the discount code: MAKERFRIEND for 15% off tickets - but you must buy tickets BEFORE midnight Sat night as this is no good day of the show.

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New Dolby Headquarters

The new Dolby Headquarters on Market street in downtown San Francisco has been getting some great press.
We were excited to work on the project, helping to fill the building with walls of Dolby relevant art!

Our projects were mentioned in these recent articles. One in The Chronicle and one in Fast Company.

You can read more about the 16 story office building filled with commissioned art, and see images and descriptions of our pieces in CNET and Business Insider.

To see all the pieces we did for this skyscraper of a building, check out our Dolby Art Walls project page.

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Fall 2015 BWC Open House This Friday

It's time to celebrate the fall, and all the great projects we've been working on. So stop by and join us in the fun!

We are opening our doors for Because We Can's Fall 2015 open house.

We'll be starting early at 5PM and going until 8PM-ish.

We'll be dancing, drinking, snacking, talking, and showing off great projects recently completed and some currently underway. It's a great time to drop by and talk shop with us, too, 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!

Friday, October 2nd

5PM - 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.

Knob Wall Video

A few weeks ago we finished up this cool Knob Wall project we designed for Dolby's new headquarters in San Francisco.
The wall has 1287 knobs along a 40 ft wall. A few of the knobs on the corner control the bottom LED strip, making it a fun, interactive piece.
Here's a quick video and some making of photos!


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Come visit us at NewCo Oakland!

We're very proud to have been included in the NewCo Oakland event.

NewCo is an awesome event that celebrates creative companies. It's sort of a 'distributed conference', where you get to tour more companies than you'd actually have time to see, hear how they do what they do, and meet lots of amazing people.

We'll be opening our doors at 9 AM on October 8th to show off our robot-enabled shop and give a brief talk on one of our favorite topics: Empowerment through digital fabrication and design! We'll be going over our special seven-step process we use to create amazing buildings, interiors, furniture and art using these incredible tools.

We'll also do an interactive demo of on-demand fabrication, and show you how it's truly possible now to make almost anything locally, quickly, and totally custom— for the workplace or the home.

Click Here to register. Space is limited!

It All Comes Together

At Because We Can, we like to integrate fun and interesting details into our projects. We are primarily a design studio, but by keeping the more elaborate fabrication in house, we have been able to push our projects aesthetics into creative areas, while maintaining the budget. We try to keep everything in house to keep costs down, but sometimes it makes sense to have another shop help with the fabrication.

By working with multiple machines & shops at the same time, we can be efficient and productive. Because of our digital BIM workflow, we can know that it will all come together.

For the Asbury Discovery Center in MS, we sent out the stainless pieces of these window frames to get waterjet cut by another shop.
We fabricated the rest of the parts in our shop, made of wood and exterior rated plastic.
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Here the window frame is shown in it's final assembly of stainless steel, black plastic and wooden spacers (unseen).
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This rolling bar is another great example. With its gear driven extending wings it had stainless steel parts throughout for both decorative and functional use. The stainless steel parts were cut by a waterjet shop near by. The wooden carcass and other elements were fabricated in our shop, then it was then all assembled like a kit of parts.
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The stainless bar pieces, laid out and ready for assembling.
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Assembling the bar goes quickly and easily, because everything is modeled to high detail, and then the pieces are created off of that model.
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We love adding these details to our projects. We are able to end up with a rich, fun aesthetic that might be too cost prohibitive otherwise. But with the integrated use of BIM and our in house fabrication team, as well as the local shops we use regularly, we are able to get the aesthetic we're hoping while maintaining the budget (and the fun!) of the project.
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