In Minneapolis, there is what I consider a truly remarkable building. It was once called the Northwestern National Life building, and opened in 1965. The colonnade is striking, and sours. The columns are somewhat reminiscent of Doric structure in there number and flared capitals, but far more slender and exaggerated. Walking through them is interesting, as the light strikes the 4 sides of each to create a mix of perceptions, some in shadow, others lighted directly.
In my interpretation, I created three layers of the columns to create the vertical height, then rotated each layer 90 degrees counter clockwise. When lighted, the presentation of the columns lighted from the front, and in shadow are evident from a single vantage point, similar to what you see walking up to the building itself.
I ran across a folder containing images of our Lighting Design Consulting offices from Las Vegas. This was when we were deep into the Mirage hotel, as well as a ton of custom homes, and some retail work.
So, I thought, why not recreate what would have been our cook’s tour at the time – had you come by for a visit back then.
For younger readers, there is equipment in these images that you won’t recognize. For those old enough, you will recognize the collection of things and perhaps have a nostalgic moment of your own. So, without any further ado, shall we?
The story told here is real. However, I have added a bit of humor to it for entertainment purposes. The actions taken, timeline, and responses to it are real, the description of it is a dramatization of actual events to make it more fun to read. No names have been changed.
As a kid, I glued and painted everything. Making stuff from wood and found objects was the greatest form of entertainment around, next to stinking up the house with unsupervised chemistry set experiments. The reasons are pretty obvious:
No computers or video games
3 channels on antenna TV
The only thing streaming in 1969 was water, down actual streams
No smart phones and all the trappings that go with them
So, I made things. Gokarts from wood and lawn mower take-off wheels, to walking stilts made from scrap 2 x 4’s. Wenatchee was the center of the Wenatchee Youth circus, so you walked on stilts and rode unicycles – including delivering newspapers on them. The place was a bit bizarre, but wonderful to grow up in.
The glue of choice in those days was Elmer’s Glue-All. The problem was, at the time, the stuff came with one of two caps designs. The separate little press on cap, and the twist cap design.
The idea behind the Lean Series of Lighted Art Objects is to communicate the general architectural imagery, in a small abbreviated scale that provides an ambient presence when placed on a table. The concept is similar to editing a story down to the least number of words, while still communicating the intended imagery.
Initially, I created 6 variations that range from Deco to Brutal. These artist proofs are one-off items, meaning these are part of an exploration of the forms, involving significant hand working to produce. Future objects may follow, but these will not be reproduced as they are shown.
The soft light from the OLED panels provides a pleasant reading light, while the dual face also illuminates the wall or surfaces behind, adding to ambient illumination in addition to adding artistic detail to an interior.
Center peices are commonplace. Lighted centerpieces not illuminated by candles are not. The reason is fairly simple – no power available.
I created an architecturally inspired Lighted Art Object as a center peice for a dining or conference table.
The base includes a 10Ah lithium battery pack that is rechargeable through a detachable charger. It testing the finished piece, it lasted 60 hours at a medium low setting (35% brightness), and 13 hours at the highest brightness setting. With (4) OLED sources, both ambient and more functional task lighting are both possible.
The concept is derived from the low, extended rooflines of Wright architecture, as well as a little from Meese Van der Roe.
Total height was kept below 11.5″ to avoid people sitting across the table being obstructed from seeing one another. It’s general scale will work for a table from 30″ to 36″ wide.
Where we work tells the story of who we are. I enjoy space planning and getting the most out of small environments. I don’t enjoy excessive space filled with… well, space. Also not a fan of architectural spaces that offer volumes of open space. I find the echoes of cloppity-clopping of feet on marble surfaces and reverently hushed voices annoying. This seems an American thing, where scale of space and purpose are out of synch. Visiting Europe, or older sections of large cities anywhere, I find the ratio of space to purpose in better proportion. Less pretence, more utilization and intimacy – and less hallowed shrine to the gods of capitalism, perhaps?
I once expanded operations from a shared purpose three car garage to a facility of over 4,500s.f. – thinking more was better. But, what I found was a sense of inefficiency. A friend once commented that space had a tendency to fill itself. He was right. It’s like a lifeform with an insatiable appetite for “stuff”, leading to a need for more space. It was amazing how much junk became “necessary”.
In 2019, I down-sized everything by eliminating redundant accumulated equipment (donated to a Maker Center), and clearing/recycling “stuff.” The process was liberating.
The Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco is a familiar icon of the city. Building started in 1969, opening in 1972, it stood ready to take on the worst quakes of the region.
My take on the iconic pyramid
I remember the stories about its design approach and why the shape was chosen.
My take features the pyramid – but also includes expression of the structural base. with an internal pyramid reflector element. I also created lighted features at the base and exaggerated the expressed elevator core wings as lighting features. The open mid section captures the open and lighted feeling one gets when approaching the structure from the ground level. I also opened the peak section, as a nod to the two lighted window sections.
The inspiration for Invaders was the early days of science fiction that involved special effects filmed with models hung from wires, and story lines of saucers from Mars coming here to destroy us for no apparent reason. We watched these films from behind steamed up windshields at drive-in theaters, where the stars shown from the grand abyss over the top of the screen – reminding us we knew little about what there was “out there.”
No matter how bad the acting (and it could be truly horrible), or how silly the effects were, we still felt uneasy and went home looking into the sky and wondering… what if?
Invaders is inspired by the imagery of saucers coming at us, from nowhere, bent on destruction. Like Vikings of the distant future, not bothering to communicate (with some notable exceptions). In this case, a flight of three doing a fly-by through the smoke rising from the destroyed landscape below.
While I enjoy the special effects generated by CG today, and the accompanying sound tracks, a part of me will always be in the model makers, physical stop frame animators and the mechanical contrivances of animatronics craftsman. They made things from clay, plaster, fiberglass, wood, metal, and their blood, sweat and tears – making space invaders real. In those days, computers were as big as semi-trucks, and oh so slow. Star Wars (1977) could arguably be pointed to as the apex of this genre of model and puppet based animation. It, along with Star Trek, presented the real shift away from anonymous invaders came from films like ‘West World’ ‘Logan’s Run’, ‘TH-1138’ and ‘Silent Running’, when it all became about first person “we” dealing with our dystopia or invasions – which ended the reign of ‘It Came from Outer Space’ and ‘War of the Worlds’ as the thriller premise of choice.
While driving across the country (Boise Idaho, to Bordentown New Jersey),19 years old, on my way to my first assignment in the USAF, I was struck by many new experiences and sights. Prior to this trip, the largest city I had ever visited was Seattle. So, when I came off the plains of Wyoming, through Nebraska, Iowa, and Western Illinois, the skyline of Chicago came at me like a beacon from nowhere. Standing proud of the already impressive structures, was the Sear’s Tower, just 4 years old, black, ominous, and the tallest building I had ever seen. A full 104 stories taller than the One Capitol building in Boise, and towering 66 stories over 901 5th Avenue in Seattle. All I could think when seeing the Sears tower for the first time was “Wow!”
To say that the experience left an impression would be an understatement. Looking down from the observation deck on the 103rd floor was mind bending, and intimidating to someone who had only flown in an airplane twice, before the experience.
My 1973 object is inspired by that iconic Chicago structure and homage to the impression it left on me.
From small Northwest towns where the tallest structures around were grain silos and water towers, with a desire to see new things and travel, I knew at that moment – I was on the right path.