Design

Posts about design & the design industry.

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!

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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BecauseWeDynamo, a set of Fabrication Nodes for Project Dynamo and Revit

We here at Because We Can love leveraging technology and creating our own unique way of working to make great things. While we’ve developed a decent amount of in-house software to help our work over the years, I’m very excited and proud to begin sharing some of that work with you, with the initial release of “BecauseWeDynamo”.

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It’s a set of custom-made Nodes for Project Dynamo focused on fabrication. You can find it in the Package Manager in Dynamo under BecauseWeDynamo and the open-source code is hosted here on GitHub.

A wonderful example of what this is all about is shown with the complex triangle walls of our recently completed Shipping Container Lounge project. The organic, flowing interior walls are made up of hundreds of unique triangles joined together to make a fluid, undulating, expressive (yet affordable!) surface.

Making something like this without some automation is almost impossible; the complexity can be hard to manage both in the design and in the building. So we used what’s called in our industry “Generative Design” where the combination of parametric 3D models and intelligent functional programming are used together to have the computer generate the design for you. You set up the rules and the smarts, and let the computer figure out the rest.

Autodesk Revit is wonderful at producing parametric models. We used it to made a special triangle object or ‘Family’ as they are called in Revit that you can flex using math into whatever size and configuration you need. You set the location of it’s three corner points, and the Family produces a flat triangle with radius tips, an offset ‘gap’ between it and the triangle next to it, and even proper placement for the joining hardware and more. This let us ‘hang’ these Adaptive Families off of 3D splined curves, making it easy to control the complex surface of the wall. Rather than model every triangle, we simply can push and pull control points on the splines, and have all the triangles model themselves.

However, just having a nice model of something is only the first 1/3rd of actually getting it built. Managing the production and assembly of hundreds of unique parts can be very daunting! This is where automation via functional programming is a huge help. We needed some way to export every triangle in a format that works with our CNC Router, and we need to label every triangle for ease of assembly. Doing it manually would take forever and is error-prone. Much better to produce a ‘script’ and let the computer automate that task for us!

Project Dynamo is a ‘functional visual scripting language’ for creating, manipulating, and automating all sorts of design data by non-programmers. Rather than write code from scratch, or call on existing libraries, and produce a stand-alone application like a software developer might, tools like Dynamo let us easily create one-off workflow solutions to automate small repetitive tasks and model impressively complex objects. It works fanatically well with Autodesk Revit, and thus was an obvious choice. Plus we really dig it, and dig the people working on it, so it was a joy to use.

Rather than write code, where the ‘flow’ of the program is abstract and non-visual, tools like Dynamo let you ‘draw’ your program. Perfect for visual designers like us! By connecting various Nodes together, you ‘wire’ together a solution for your project-specific problems, iteratively working your way through it as the code runs live and you see the immediate results.

Now, Dynamo is rather new, and it didn’t have all the Nodes we needed for this project. So we decided to create our own custom Nodes to scratch our own itches, and shared them openly for other designer-fabricators to make use of. For as we have for years now we release most of what we do under a creative-commons license.

So one thing our custom Nodes help do is parse the Revit model, label every triangle, lay them all out flat, and then export them to our CNC router for production. Every triangle is not only labeled, each edge of the triangle is labeled so you can easily figure out what edges go together. It made short work of this problem, and helped us make this wonderful and complex design efficiently and effectively.

Within BecauseWeDynamo you’ll find Nodes for part labeling, DXF exporting (with proper true curves!), mesh topology walking, edge labeling, and even our own custom old-school line-based pen-plotter style font suitable for CNC production. We’ve also got some auto-sectioning tools ala 123D Make, and are currently working on Nodes to help automate shop drawing production and development of complex surfaces. You’ll find on the GitHub site some great working examples, and we’ll be developing more samples, how-tos, and actual physical case study objects as well.

Our ongoing goal with this project is to make the fabrication of elements in Project Dynamo and Revit easier and more efficient; thus empowering all designers to be able to make great things like we do.

Diner Wall

We finally got photos of this project from late last year! We had helped ClifBar out with an internal wall they were building to showcase and promote the philanthropy projects their employees could help out with as part of a company program.

They had a cool idea to show off the different projects available as "menu items", so the diner wall concept was born.

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We helped with designing the layout of the wall, sourcing the nessesary items and fabricating the specialty objects.... like these 'ticket takers' made out of old bike wheels!

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And this 1950's counter! complete with diner accessories!

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And finally, of course, a cool diner sign.

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The wall is a well used hit!

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New postcards

Our new postcards from 4x6 showed up recently. And they look great!

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Each one showcases a different project that we completed last year, and covers a range of commercial and residential projects and well as a good range of styles.

This is from a residential office project.
A swiveling desk design for a muti functional room. Other elements have since been built:

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Next, a commercial project for Anno Domini, a San Jose Art Gallery.
Giant folding, rolling kiosks to expand their usable space:

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Then, another residential project of curving stairs and useful but still beautiful storage space in this
Library loft space:

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And finally, an internal marketing project with our own in-house library project.

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Then, of course you must check out the back!

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Secret Maker Superhero Armoire

For those Makers that also want nice things, and have wonderful treasures to display, may we introduce... The Secret Maker Superhero Armoire Display Case!

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Looks like a regular large glass fronted Armoire you say?
Well watch this...

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The sides open to reveal not only access to labeled pull out cubbies, but also, le coup de grâce: hidden pegboard tool and utility belt storage.

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Beautiful etched glass and front aluminum detailing by day....

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Full on Maker storage by night!

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With awesome little cubbies!

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This armoire was made for the same room as the Swiveling desks we made a few months ago. More images of the room and all the pieces we've made for it can be seen on the project page.

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Instructable on the Serpent Twins Tails

Our good friends over at the Instructables asked us if we wouldn't post up how we made the Serpent Twin's tails. So here it is!

Enjoy! It's our first big instructable so we'd love for you to go there and leave us a comment on it.

Also, if you want to see the Serpent Twins in person, there is a big party this weekend at Jon's shop. All are welcome!

The Serpent Twins project - in progress

The Serpent Twins are coming along, but still have lots to go.
The heads of each critter is framed out, and now come all the details and finishing bits.

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One Serpent will be all black, and one all white. Here the white one awaits it's head...

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The fins for the "backs" of the serpents were cut out of sheet metal, then welded together.

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in the end, they will look like this:
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More to come soon!

The Serpent Twins

We have joined up with our friends John and Kyrsten over at Form & Reform to design and build a fun project for Burning Man!
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The project has just launched its kickstater page. So please donate to the cause!

John and Kyrsten over at Form and Reform, have created magical pieces out of metal like the Golden Mean Snail Car, and the Zeppelini. Now we are working with them to turn these metal barrels into a Deco Nordic God creature called.... The Serpent Twins.

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The front will be powered by these little electric cars...

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And the barrels will be filled inside with programable LEDs. One of the serpents will be all dark metal with a "fire" light show on the inside. The other will be white barrels with a more etherial colorful light show.

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You can read more about the evolution of the project on the Form and Reform site.
And dont forget to donate!

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