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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: Tangerine Tangos Down the Runway

GPI Design - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you probably already know that Tangerine Tango is the 2012 Pantone Color of the Year.  Popping up all over Pinterest in paint swatches and as demure sundress colors, Tangerine Tango has been on the visual radar.  Yet with interior designers seeming to embrace it only as an accent color, we yearned to see how the world of the avante garde is putting its twist on this year's hue.

As fashion and architecture can be mutually inspirational, we enjoy this compilation of images as reminders to push the boundaries in all aspects of design.

Tangerine Tango Dress by Craig Lawrenc

Above: Craig Lawrenc

Betty Jackson Tangering Tango Fashion Design

Above: Betty Jackson

Red Neckline Curvy

Above: Chikashi Suzuki for Dune Magazine

Narciso Rodriguez Tangerine Tango Dress

Above: Narciso Rodriguez

Alexander McQueen Tangering Tango Spring 2012 Fashion Collection

Above: Alexander McQueen

In these fashion pieces, color, texture, shape and pattern are manipulated in bold moves. Though we continue to see Tangerine Tango being used at a smaller scale as interior accents and in product design, few architectural designers have yet to embrace the full potential of the color without apology.

Is the architectural world too boring? Why haven't we seen any sculptural building facades splattered in Tangerine Tango yet?

Image credits: Elle, DesignerHK, Washington Post, Tumblr, Searching for Style

Painting Landscapes with Light: An Interview with Barry Underwood

GPI Design - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

fern for francesca lighted forest imageFascinating uses of light never cease to capture our attention. Whether light is being used in a cool, new way via budding technology, or simply using its inherent ambient qualities to enhance surroundings in an unexpected way, the possibilities of light are endless. That’s probably why we were so drawn to the work of Barry Underwood. The color and light of his landscape installations are breathtaking. Just one look at these eerie installations and you are immediately entranced by a captivating, dream-like world. Seeing our passion for color and light resonating in his installation, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to speak with Barry on his work. Graciously, he agreed to speak with us and provide further insight into his beautiful creations.

GPI Design: Barry, what inspires you first?

Barry Underwood: Ideas in art inspire me, and working with ideas imbedded in painting, installation, drawing, photography, and cinema. I am also inspired or rather influenced by science and nature and its energy.

GPI Design: Is it a particular landscape that inspires the lighting, or do you get an idea for the lighting itself to which you need to find the perfect landscape that captures your vision?

Barry: The process begins with drawing. I either have an idea first then look for a landscape, or I make artwork in response to a particular landscape. I then sketch out the idea. This gives me time to work through some of the media and logistical issues that may arise during the install. Composing or framing the shot is next. Then the installation process takes place.

GPI Design: On your website, you say that “Light and color alter the perception of space, while defamiliarizing common objects." Why do you think your work integrates so well on landscape and the outdoors? Do you think the same elusive and mystifying effect would translate onto interior environments?

Barry: In the photographs of the installations I am most interested in the ways in which the colored light does not integrate with the landscape. The sculptural light I introduce is very foreign in color palate to the subtle coloration of land, plant, sky and water. The concept is not exclusive to the landscape. I am currently working on a commissioned series of installations within interiors.

GPI Design: Most of your images use vivid colored light that evokes a sense of dreamlike imagination. Why do you think color is so central in creating this dream-like effect? Do you think white light could achieve a similar effect?

Barry: Color is intrinsically tied to our perception and psyche. It has a psychological effect on our bodies. Light (color) is the world in which we move around / through.

GPI Design: How do your techniques enforce the impression of the light as an externally applied, alien-like intervention rather than a revelation of inherent qualities?

Barry: I am not thinking about aliens or Hollywood ideas of aliens. I am thinking about ideas of abstraction, particularly contemporary abstract painting, and the abstract ideas carried out in 60s and 70s land art. Making a mark in the landscape rather than on a canvas. Light is merely a means to record color photographically.

Thank you to Barry Underwood for taking the time to elaborate on his work. Be sure to check out the rest of Barry's portfolio.  If you’re a fellow Clevelander, you can visit his exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland coming up on October 8, 2012.

Image credits: Barry Underwood

Thursday Salute to Originals: Design That is Music to Your Eyes and Your Ears. Literally.

GPI Design - Thursday, April 12, 2012

We love discovering designs that are not only visually appealing, but also exciting and intriguing to our other critical senses. It makes the entire design more dynamic, interesting, and real when it can be experienced and interpreted from various modes of perception (things you can't experience in a Sketchup or Revit model). So it’s no surprise that when we came across the Aeolus, an installation that combines design, sensory perception, and a little bit of physics, that we simply couldn’t take our eyes (or ears) off of it.

Aeolus Wind Pavilion Luke Jerram Outdoor Park Sculpture

Named for the mythical rulers of the wind in Greek mythology, Aeolus is a giant perforated metal arch with 310 stainless steel tubes of varying proportions affixed to outer portion of the arch. Created by Luke Jerram, multiple senses are impacted as one moves through the Aeolus, making the installation both physically and intellectually stimulating.

View of Cloudy Sky Through Aeolus Wind Pavilion

From an optical point of view, the perforations and metal tubes act as framing elements to the surrounding landscape. As one changes their position in and around the arch, and as time passes through the course of the day, different scenes and light levels are framed through each viewport. Each opening creates a unique focal point that highlights the fleeting surrounding elements (like clouds in the sky), amplifying their beauty and reinforcing their transitory nature.

Acoustic Wind Pavilion Auditory Sounds

From an auditory perspective, the Aeolus seems to give life to the surrounding wind and landscape. As wind moves through the arch and tubes, vibrations resonate creating a singing-effect similar to a finger moving around the rim of a crystal goblet. Depending on the intensity and direction of the wind, different combinations of tones and pitches are emitted, embodying nature itself in its own unique and ever-changing song. And just how the human ear can decipher the direction or general area from which a noise originates, the same can be done with the Aeolus. The acoustic dynamics inherent in the arch make it possible to track the wind’s direction and it’s usually silent shift, just by following the sound.

This installation makes us wonder what other instruments could be adapted to a giant scale that interacts with Mother Nature. Maybe some kind of giant drum that creates noise when branches blown by the wind rap upon the stretched membrane? Or maybe a string instrument where strings are plucked by weather, like raindrops falling from the sky? What ideas do you have?

Image credits: Luke Jerram

Thursday Salute to Originals: Whimsical Winged Lights

GPI Design - Thursday, March 29, 2012

You blink for a moment. As your eyelids lift to reveal the scenery again, you thought you just missed witnessing a flock of huge birds shining with light storm through the hotel lobby. Their tails left traces that were still sparkling in the thin air. But when you close and open your eyes again, they are still there.

That’s the dramatic illusion artist Ayala Serfaty created with her light design, Nana 200. The Nana 200 is part of her Jewel Collection, an arrangement of elegant and lyrical suspended kinetic mobiles intended for public spaces. The mobile structure allows the creation of variable composition of shades. The shades sway as if blown by a breeze and their movement creates a magical environment.

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The lamps are covered in textiles of various hues and illuminated with compact fluorescent light fixtures.

Red Suspended Wing Light Fixture MobilePin It

The shape and free-style arrangement of Nana 200 set it apart from other mundane and motionless pendants.

Suspended Beige Wing Shaped Light Fixture MobilePin It

Nana 200 Suspended Light FixturePin It

Apparently free from the grips of gravity, these lighting creations animate spaces with their fleeting expressions of permanent memories. How would you design an interior lobby space to adequately respond to and create a home for these unique creations?


Image Credit: Aqua Gallery, Planhomedesign

Thursday Salute to Originals: Colorful Backlit Animated Ceilings by Jean Nouvel

GPI Design - Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today we are looking one incredibly unique hotel ceiling. It’s a burst of bright colors, an underwater world over the top of your head, a focal point of the city at night, and even a salute to contemporary art.

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The Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom hotel in Vienna, Austria is designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. He invited Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist to create five backlit ceilings with custom art graphics at five areas of the building, which include the ceilings of the hotel entrance, the ground floor, and the top floor. Nouvel wanted Rist to introduce vivid colors to this minimal architecture remaining predominantly in shades of gray and black. The glazed façades on both the ground floor and the top floor are created as fine and transparent as possible so that the backlit ceilings become beacons from the outside.

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With an education background in Commercial Art and Visual Communications, Pipilotti Rist is a master of visual stimulation. Her exhibitions and video installations usually involve huge amount of bold bright colors and unconventional video shots. When asked the design inspiration for these hotel ceilings in an interview, Rist said she and her team decided on the themes of “gravity” and “the history of perspective” pretty naturally. Inspired by the Trompe-l'œil tradition, the five images for the ceilings show scenes viewed from below: from underwater over the banks of a pond, or up through tree branches away from the world towards the sky.

"Guests should feel welcome and inspired. If they come back to the hotel again, there’s plenty of detail to discover in the artworks. When they look at the ceiling, guests and staff should feel uplifted and grow taller", Rist explained.

The artful backlit ceiling makes the restaurant on the top floor a place where everyone would love to hang out or just to have a unique dining experience. We are absolutely blown away by the pure aesthetics of these artistic ceiling surfaces and their close interface with the architectural design. We feel so strongly drawn to this project because it is a manifestation of what we believe in, that creating a signature backlit piece is more than a lighting source; it can become the expression or icon of an entire building.  


Image Credits: Miss Viki Secrets, Dezeen, Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom

Thursday Salute to Originals: Illuminated Rope by Christian Haas

GPI Design - Thursday, March 08, 2012

One of the best things about window-shopping is that you never know what you’ll run into around the next corner. Would it be a boutique store that has handmade artisan jewelry and abstract paintings, or a mainstream fashion brand with an ultra-modern window display (and sexy models)? I’m sure people who walk by Colette in Paris would all slow their steps, take a closer look inside this window, and be amazed by how lighting can transform an ordinary object into a piece of art.

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This unique lamp collection, “Ropes”, is the brainchild of Paris-based designer Christian Haas. The ropes are designed to create an innovative light source and distinctive design object by combining a tactile material and energy-efficient technology.  Each of the lamps is handmade with a silky textile cord wrapping around LEDs, emitting a warm glow.

Haas describes the design concept as “Unlit, the lamps provide a graphic statement to their environment. Lit, they diffuse a gentle ambient light.”

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This design pays homage to ropes that have been historically associated with lamps and lighting. In the days when people were using gasoline lamps, they would dip a rope in the gasoline and burn the rope in order to illuminate a space. With the development of LED technology, we can now actually put the light inside a rope (and surely the LEDs have a longer lifespan than a burning rope)!

We think rope material is a creative medium or container for lighting. When lit, it's unexpected, sure to stop some in their tracks or at least turn some heads.  If you are designing a signature lighting piece, how will you choose the right medium? What are the factors you need to consider? We'd love to hear your thoughts!


Image Credit: haasdesign, designboom

Thursday Salute to Originals: An Illusory Point of View

GPI Design - Thursday, March 01, 2012

Anamorphic Illusion Art InstallationPin It

Photoshop? No, this is all real painting!

Switzerland-born artist Felice Varini has spent the past 30 years creating what’s called Anamorphic Illusion. This brilliant street art form is defined by a single vantage view point from which the viewer can see the complete painting, while from other view points the viewer will see fragmented shapes.

“Generally I roam through the space noting its architecture, materials, function and history”, Varini explains. “From these spatial data and in reference to the last piece I produced, I designate a specific vantage point for viewing from which my intervention takes shape.”

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Felice Varini Triangle Art Installation IllusionPin It

What we find particularly appealing about Varini’s work is that quite frequently, he uses gorgeous Italian and French architecture as his canvas for painting. The concrete historical buildings and archways melt into the background and create a dramatic contrast with the modern and abstract geometric patterns.

Felice Varin Building Art Installation in NimesPin It

When seen from the intended vantage point, the painted pattern doesn’t interrupt the existing space and surfaces. That’s why our mind tricks us to think it’s been photoshopped onto the picture. However, the physical presence of the lines and shapes interestingly alters our perception of that space when we move away from the “right” view point.

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Varini's installations can be likened to the long-awaited arrival at a design solution, or the calculated theatrical execution of architectural spaces. Have you ever struggled to navigate all of the pieces of a design puzzle, then suddenly in a magical moment they all fall into place?

Image Credits: varini.org

Thursday Salute to Originals: Sculptural Furniture by Baltasar Portillo

GPI Design - Thursday, February 23, 2012
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It might be hard to tell what this abstract structure is at first sight. Artist Baltasar Portillo's unique collection, Armadillo and Lodge Chair, is a statement of his interpretation on functional sculpture. A native Salvadorian, Baltasar is currently working in Europe. We are honored to have Baltasar share his ideas behind this inspirational collection. 


gpidesign: What is your inspiration behind the Armadillo and Lodge Chair collection?

Baltasar: I wanted to create subtle sculptural accents that you could see through them, and not interrupt your view of the space, but at the same time to have a strong sculptural presence as you focus on the piece. I have always been very fond on the work of Sol Lewitt, and somehow, I try to translate his language in my own words to create my pieces.

gpidesign: So when a viewer is looking at your pieces, what do you want him or her to see?

Baltasar: I often hear so many debates of the difference between art and design or art and function, personally, I don’t see any difference, and I hope the public will understand this approach when they look at my work. My work is not a piece of furniture where you will sit and read the entire Sunday paper. It is a piece you make a statement with, it is a throne, where you sit down and enjoy your success, or simply look at it as an sculpture.



gpidesign: The architectural form of the above Armadillo chair reminds us of a spanning bridge. How did you work with geometry in these chairs?

Baltasar: The geometry is the results of a language I love to use and the necessity to support the structure of the piece. The process of the creation of the pieces, is spontaneous. Although there is a central idea before starting the construction of the piece. There is no pre-designing in the manufacturing process, but rather the exploration of the artist momentum of creativity . 

The process of creation begins by imagining a form and deconstructing it, but the form changes as the structural issue to support the form becomes relevant arriving to the form dictated by the need of the structure to support itself and this is pure geometry.


gpidesign: How would you draw the line between functional sculpture and pure artistic sculpture?

Baltasar: Some people say that art should communicate something, that it should be meaningful, that art has no use, that if you can sit on it, it's not art. I believe that there is no line between the different arts, now days, it just depends on how you want to perceive it. Kids are usually the best curators, because they have no preconceptions, they follow emotions and to me that is what art should do: create some sort of emotional contact with you, without having to go into a deep philosophical explanation to determine what does the piece means.


Our most sincere appreciation to Baltasar Portillo for sharing his insights with us. We hope to work on a project which is lucky enough to be home to one of your chairs! You can visit outdoorzgallery.com if you want to see or purchase the Armadillo and Lodge Chairs. 

Image Credits: outdoorzgallery

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Incredible Art of Eggshell Carving

GPI Design - Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eggshell carving is an incredible craft technique that involves extreme attention to detail and patience. Eggshell carving artists usually devote hundreds of hours of practice and work into perfecting carving skills and creating intricate eggshell sculptures. Brian Baity is one of them and today, we are looking at some of his custom works.

Brian’s carved eggshell portfolio includes ostrich egg, rhea egg, emu egg, and goose egg. He knows the characteristics of each kind of eggshell very well and is able to bring out their beauty with his artistic vision; his "imagination provides unlimited opportunities to influence and transform an accidental broken egg into a graceful, exquisite finished art piece.”

By altering carving techniques, Brian creates different textures on eggshells. The polished and smooth surface of this calla lily set it apart from the rest of the porous eggshell.

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Rhea eggs (rheas are flightless birds native to South America) are on average less than half the size of ostrich eggs. This particular work is inspired by pathways in Chinese and Japanese gardens. The voids resemble large rocks while small perforations are stone pathways. Through the marriage of the egg shape and the circular form for the path, Brian is expressing that “all things come back to their point of origin; sooner or later.”

Eggshell CarvingPin It

Emu Eggs

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Like we’ve all experienced, behind each successful piece of work is devotion and a process of trial and errors. No matter if it’s as small as an eggshell or big as a 15 foot long backlit table (watch our build process here), the creation process can be painstaking but the result will make all the hard work worth it.

Does this remind you of any challenging project you have successfully accomplished? Was the devil in the details? We’d like to hear about it!


Image Credits: Brian Baity

Thursday Salute to Originals: Dare to Imagine

GPI Design - Thursday, February 09, 2012

Once in a while, there will be an artist who challenges our imagination and understanding of design. Some blogs call Nancy Fouts’s artworks “Surrealism” because her sculptures always comprise of two totally unrelated objects. Looking at the following images, I'm so intrigued to figure out the connection between the objects and materials she used in each work even though there might be none. Usually, for the purpose of reconstruction, objects would be broken down into elementary factors like texture, shape, size, or color before they are reassembled. Clearly, Nancy has a unique vision. She said: "I hoard stuff in boxes and then I lay it all out and many ideas happen like that." (BBC)

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Sculptures like "Butterfly Dart" or "Cactus Balloon" hold a trace of delicacy in their dominant toughness. Nancy captures the essential character of each component and marries them to create unexpected statements. For me, it is so much fun to think about the possibilities of designing backlit projects without considering technique restraints or the law of physics.

Let's imagine away. If you were given the chance to design anything you want with absolutely no rules or constraint, what would it be?


Image Credits: Nancy Fouts