Design thinking

Exhibit of recent paintings

Last week Stephen Frey had a number of acrylic and watercolor paintings on display at Montpelier’s Center for Arts and Learning group show. Located on Barre Street in downtown Montpelier, CAL as it’s called, pulled out all stops joining with 20 or so other venues as part of #ArtsFest 2019.

Executive director Alice Dodge worked tirelessly to hang art of many kinds around the building, a former convent, converged now to a community arts space.

Here’s a few photos. See Steve below standing in front of two of his abstract works near the grand piano. Earlier a visitor played sang and played the piano sone rock and roll tune. His playing really rocked the room bringing smiles all around. The other is a detail of a colored glass window in the former chapel space.

Be sure to stop by during regular hours to see the art. Steve’s work is in the front “green” room on the first floor and upstairs in the third floor hallway. To learn more about Steve’s art and possible commissions drop a note on our contact page.

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Why Best Place to Work Thinking?

Why Best Place to Work Thinking?

Curious if Best Places to Work thinking might be valuable to your business or organization? See this post for more.  Check back in the weeks ahead for more insights about Best Places to Work thinking and design.  

wonder. reflect. design. build

wonder. reflect. design. build

Ever wonder what inspires our architecture and our work with our clients, be they commercial, institutional, or residential? Read on for more about how make it our mission to help you thrive.

Favorite Places and Spaces: The Eames House

Panorama from Eames House to Pacific Palisades Beach and PCH

Panorama from Eames House to Pacific Palisades Beach and PCH

A few years ago I visited the Eames Foundation and its iconic Eames House. Located in Pacific Palisades, California, hidden away among tropical growth and trees, it overlooks the nearby beach and Pacific Coast Highway 1 literally a stone's throw away. 

I first read about this home as part of my history studies in Graduate School where I studied for a professional degree in Architecture.  I learned then the Eames House was part of the Post War Case Study Houses project by John Entenza and others which helped introduce innovations in emerging building technologies while popularizing Modernism, specifically California Modernism. 

A HIDDEN GEM

After years of mysteriously staying off of my radar when visiting family in Pacific Palisades I remembered on a recent visit it was in the area and sought to learn more.  Ironically I learned I could literally walk to it from my Aunt and Uncle's nearby residence.  Perhaps chance and circumstance kept me away all of these years, but this time I made sure to visit with one of my son's.

I won't go into a detailed history of the building and its occupants. Instead I share here a deep appreciation of the integration of the home into its site, its exterior beauty and innovative technological charms seeking an idealized vision of mid-century era modern design. The home is designed as two volumes with the main living area sharing a japanese inspired outdoor terrace with a design and arts studio and a nearby smaller garage.

THE VISITOR EXPERIENCE

Its linear layout of two skinny boxes, rests on open yard almost flat on the south tucked deftly into a steep hillside filled with trees and ample shade and shadows.  Its siting defines the concept of "nestled-in" while providing a generously scaled open area with terrific ocean views.  However, looking up from the PCH you would never see the house hidden in the trees.

Walking down the hard to find driveway tucked into other driveways and alleys, you walk into the house site echoing the arrival of a car.  You walk past the garage on a path which leads along the southern face of the interconnected buildings, first seeing the Studio, the shared terrace and then the home.  The same path circles around doubling back higher on the upper slope side of the home providing wonderful views into the upper portions of the house and views across the site towards the ocean. 

JAPANESE AESTHETICS & INDUSTRIAL PROCESSES

The Eames truly admired traditional Japanese architecture which blends linear forms and careful integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, with framed views, translucent interior screens and windows Shoji screen-like.  They transformed their admiration of this vocabulary through the novel use of the industrial. Steel columns, joists and beams as well as metal siding are painstakingly elegant and proportioned.  They adapted industrial manufacturing and building technologies in novels ways in the design of their home, its building systems, interior details and furniture, modern art, collected objects into a total work of art. 

A GESAMTKUNSTWERKE

A term I learned in graduate school history and theory classes which defined this (Thanks Ned Collier and Taisto Makela), Gesamtkunstwerk, emerged from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th Century and then into the ideals of the Bauhaus from Germany.  Like these early movements and their expanded concept of design practice, their home in Pacific Palisades is truly a remarkable achievement integrating the landscape, building, interior design of spaces, furnishings and the Arts.

Their home acted as both a residence and a design studio as Charles and Ray Eames, as the Eames Office, worked on famous exhibition designs, films, commercials, books, furniture (then bentwood products for Herman Miller)  (A favorite exhibition of mine they designed can still be experienced in the Museum of Science in Boston, Mathematica. It's startling contemporary and vital today in all of its analog glory. If you appreciate exhibition design, math and storytelling go to this exhibit.) As their practice grew they eventually relocated the Eames Office to nearby Santa Monica. 

The close attention they paid to site planning, of fitting their home into the side of a hill, paying heed to the sun and daylight alongside their novel approach to innovating with new metal building and window technologies, the power of the interiors, and merging of their art and object collection with the architecture reinforce and build on one another.  You really feel the indoor to outdoors California living when visiting this special place where building and landscape come together.

A CONTINUING INSPIRATION

It makes me wonder if Charles and Ray Eames lived today, and were starting building a new home on a side of hill in Pacific Palisades what new and emerging technologies would they seek to harness in its construction?  Where would they turn to stylistically today? The Eames House stands as a much quoted icon of Modern Architecture forming a primary DNA strand still being copied, hacked and expanded today.  I have to wonder how their penchant for inventive innovation and integrative thinking would inform projects today?

This inquisitive and restless spirit of innovation inspires me today in my work, in my focus on integrated design of place and space, building, their systems, and land,.  Does the Eames House inspire you? Or do you have a special house or building of your own and a story to tell? Please share! 

Meanwhile, remember hidden gems like the Eames House lie underfoot in everyday life.  Let your curiosity and sense of wonder lead you to extraordinary experiences. I'm grateful I finally found the Eames House and could experience it in person after all of these years of distanced admiration.  I made the historical personal and it truly inspired me.  

HOW TO VISIT THE EAMES HOUSE

Visiting Los Angeles and want to schedule a tour? Click on this how to visit link to learn more. 

(Note, I wish I could share the photos I took of the building but alas when touring you learn photos taken there can't be used for publication.) 

 

Looking around for inspiration

When designing your home, office or place of work where do you turn for design inspiration? We often look for inspiration locally, in the place and region we are working in. We do so to help clarify the mood and character of the place and spaces we hope to cultivate and design. We think its crucial to the place based design we favor. We think its critical to get outdoors, to take a walk, hop in a canoe or get in the car and go experience and see your surrounding looking for inspiration in unlikely places. 

Here is a recent example from Stephen Frey.

Recently I drove around where I live looking for design inspiration for our architectural, placemaking and creative work.  The hills outside of Montpelier have lots to offer this time of year with the seasonal transition from winter to spring.  I look for intriguing forms, shapes, textures colors and compositions.  Here's a historic 100 year old plus 1-1/2 story cape style farmhouse, mid-house and barn combination I found.  The creaking bend in the barn frame caught my eye evoking the timeless play between building and landscape, and the inevitability of nature and time.  Also, the simplicity and sturdiness of the forms intrigued me as well as almost matching roof slopes between home to barn.  

For me, I find inspiration in the barn board, the red time worn color on the siding, the white trim, field stone walls and foundation, and yes the grass, mud and snow.  I also get a kick out of the form follows functionality of the barn windows sizing and layout. Often these windows are laid out reflecting the internal milking stalls providing views outside during milking.  Also, the front-house, mid-house, back-house barn connected building layout is an enduring aspect of our vernacular landscape.  Note how the site is cut with the barn's levels allowing easy access to the middle floor and lower levels at opposing grades?  This appears to be a smaller general purpose barn used to farm a small tract of land with a small amount of animals and room for hay above. 

Barn on Kent Corners Road - Stephen M.  Frey 

Barn on Kent Corners Road - Stephen M.  Frey 

What do you have around where you live? Do you have common to your area vernacular building forms or traditional buildings?  They often have a lot of endearing qualities, even more so, if you don't own one and are trying to keep up with all of the quirky ongoing maintenance. 

That's another story.  Bottom line, get outside and take a look around and really look to see what lies in plain view for inspiration for your design project's materials, colors, mood and detail character.  Try to suspend your preconceptions about what's there and really take your time looking.  You won't regret the effort.

You will no doubt find unexpected insight and a treasured memory.