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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: Incorporate Perception into Design

GPI Design - Thursday, January 19, 2012

What is good design? Asking this is like asking “What’s your favorite food?” or “What’s your favorite movie”? Throw the question out there and you will hear a thousand answers. The definition of good design is very subjective and almost nonnegotiable. In the end, as individuals, we all look at the same matter from different perspectives and based on different sets of aesthetic values.

Designers understand the meaning of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” better than most. Today we highlight two designs that cleverly play with the viewer’s perspective in their artistic expressions.

In this installation CT Umbra created by Nondesigns for Lexus, viewers are invited to walk around and experience the sculpture from all sides. It was comprised of 2,500 half-inch anodized aluminum bars. When seen from the front, it’s a luxurious golden Lexus. When you walk to the rear, the car gradually turns into light green and blue appearing more eco-friendly. The two concepts that define the Lexus brand, luxury and hybrid, are well-perceived.

CT Umbra by Nondesigns Pin It

In the interior design world, designers and artists are also considering how to make their design unique from their audience’s viewpoint. The following installation by Matt Bilfield will make a signature décor piece on any living room wall. It is named “Peggy” and is a recreation of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art painting. The painting technique, divisionism, is taken away from its traditional medium paper to be applied in a 3D form. Over 2,700 hand cut, sanded, and painted dowels are used to create this art piece. The physical installation is right there and the final step to turn it into a complete artwork all depends on you, the viewer. How exciting is that!

Peggy by Matt Bilfield Pin It

In our last blog post, we mentioned that we love to work with natural stone materials because they remind us of so many beautiful things in nature. From one certain angle, this particular pattern looks like the sunset sky, and from another, it is the roaring ocean. Perception generates inspiration. Our brains are looking forward to being stimulated by our eyes more often.

Image credits: TheCoolHunter, Matt Bilfield

Thursday Salute to Originals: Lacquer Wares, An Ancient Art Invention

GPI Design - Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Tuesday of this week, we shared on Twitter some amazing three-dimensional goldfish art pieces painted by a Japanese artist Riusuke Fukahori and we all loved it. There’re always some ancient oriental art forms and techniques that just never fail to wow us. I came across this collection of Japanese lacquer wares which was on exhibition during New York’s Asia Week 2011 and was totally blown away.

Lacquer is a liquid exuded from certain lacquer trees growing in East Asia that dries and darkens in color (another definition is "a liquid made of shellac dissolved in alcohol, or of synthetic substances", according to the dictionary). It produces a durable coating for wood or metal and can be polished in any sheen level desired. Modern application of lacquer onto furniture can add a hint of exotic touch to highlight those pieces and make them stand out.

Above: Sun and Moon Box,Yoshio Okada (b. 1977)

This elegant-looking cherry blossom writing box (intended to store ink stone and brush) is coated with high-quality polished black lacquer with a décor of cherry blossoms all over its five sides. Cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan and it stands for transient beauty. The flower petals are painted with gold lacquer of two tones.

Above: Cherry Blossom Writing Box, Anonymous lacquer artist

The Deer Writing Box is painted in a gold lacquer ground and the deer are formed in carved mother-of-pearl and pewter. The inside cover is decorated with a stylized current in inlaid pewter.

Above: Deer Writing Box, Soeki (ac. Meiji period)

The Japanese seem to have a special interest in goldfish. What’s a better medium than black lacquer to bring this little creature’s color and movement to life? The contrast in color and the placement of the swimming goldfish on top and sides make the whole tea caddy playful yet graceful.

Above: Koi Tea Caddy, Mushu Yamazaki (b. 1966)

I’m very intrigued by the glossy finish lacquer creates on these wood surfaces, reflecting light and making the object appear more rare.  Here at GPI, we are all about innovative surfaces. So I can’t help thinking maybe lacquer can be applied to certain translucent surfaces to be used for backlighting and it may produce unexpected results. Have you ever seen any backlit panels that incorporated lacquer? Or do you think it would be a possibility? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(To read more on this Japanese lacquer ware collection, please visit http://www.erikthomsen.com/catalogue and download Erik Thomsen’s article “Golden Treasures: Japanese Gold Lacquer Boxes”)

Image Credits: Erik Thomsen, “Golden Treasures: Japanese Gold Lacquer Boxes”

Thursday Salute to Originals: Cubic Kite Sculpture Takes Flight

GPI Design - Thursday, January 05, 2012

Snow just started to accumulate here in the Cleveland area but somehow I’m already picturing myself embracing the spring breeze, like jogging in my shorts or flying a kite in the lake park. [Ok, I lied. I don’t fly kites, not since I was a little kid. Maybe that’s why I was attracted to this weighty-looking cubic kite created by artists Heather and Ivan Morison.] How did they manage to do it?

Cubic Kite Flying Sculpture Shining Man

This type of 3D kite that actually flies has a bit of history and it was originally called Tetrahedral Kite when first developed. In 1903, innovator Alexander Graham Bell published an article in National Geographic magazine proving that large-scale kites are possible. Instead of constructing one big wing, he built a kite in a tetrahedral structure with a number of small wings. The more small wings it has, the stronger the kite becomes because the surface to weight ratio is optimized.

Tetrahedral Kite Design Flying Close Up View

Today, Heather and Ivan Morison recreated the tetrahedral kite with a modern name, the 3D-Printed Little Shining Man Kite. They used carbon fiber rods, nylon connectors, and Cuben Fiber to “achieve the perfect combination of strength and weight”. The final sculpture would be comprised of three such structures and expected to fly once a year in the Jersey bay area.

Texture of Flying Kite Material Up Close View

The deceptive visual effect of Little Shining Man reminds me of how our team works with systems of delicate surfaces and technologically advanced LED lighting, creating structures that appear effortless once complete.  Just like flying the 3D kite, we are looking forward to changing the impossible to the possible on more of our projects in the new year, and reminding ourselves to infuse our work with a bit of playfulness!

Shining Man Kite Design Takes Flight in Air

Image Credits: vms3d.com

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Thursday Salute to Originals: Turning Deterioration into Colorful Creations

GPI Design - Thursday, December 01, 2011

In our neck of the woods, it’s starting to change seasons. Not just from fall to winter, but from “orange barrel season” into the dreaded “pothole season.” It’s bad enough during summer when highways are lined with miles of orange barrels making any kind of travel frustrating. But all the snow, freezing temperatures, salt, and plows that come with the brutal Ohio winters really start to cause some problems. Potholes become craters in the ground, and often, a simple drive into work can seem more like off-roading in the mountains. In short, it’s a pain.

Juliana Santacruz Herrera, in a make-lemonade-out-of-lemons moment, has decided to do something about those unsightly pot holes. Instead of just complaining, she decided to turn them into works of art. Using a variety of yarn, she fills the potholes, following their intricate contours, creating a very fluid and organic installation. The whimsical patterns and colors, combined with the juxtaposition of the hard and soft materials, make these pesky potholes suddenly playful and quirky. Furthermore, the yarn highlights the shape of the pothole, calling attention to an odd beauty that goes widely unnoticed.

Restoring Pothole Deterioration with Yarn Art Installation

Herrera isn’t the only one going along with this idea of creating art from deteriorating infrastructure, though. Jan Vormann also has a similar mindset and uses Legos to “repair” the cracks and fissures in aging buildings. Similar to the potholes, Vormann follows the contours of the crack, and fashions individual Legos to those parameters, even around curves and corners. It is, no doubt, a time consuming endeavor, but the irony that comes from using childhood building blocks to repair actual buildings, makes it worthwhile and all the more interesting.

Restoring Cracks in Stone Buildings with Legos

While were not entirely sure how functional or permanent these installations are, they do offer an interesting view point on things that are usually considered an eyesore. Both Herrera and Vormann add a breath of fresh air into these deteriorating objects, giving them new life and a little bit of spunk along the way.

Image credits: Dornob

Thursday Salute to Originals: These sculptures are bananas….B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

GPI Design - Thursday, November 17, 2011

If you thought stone, wood, and clay were the only media available to make a sculpture, think again. Bananas might just be the new craze catching on in the world of sculpture. Yes, bananas.

Carved Banana Face Sculptures by Keisuke Yamada

Japanese artist, Keisuke Yamada, prefers to use peeled bananas as the canvas for creating his intricate figures. Using toothpicks and a small spoon, Yamada meticulously carves away areas of the delicate fruit to reveal detailed sculptures. With the fruit itself and other pop culture references serving as inspiration for the forms, he has created everything from comical cartoons to fire breathing dragons.

Unfortunately, bananas aren’t the most permanent of materials. After about 30 minutes, the fruit starts to brown and discolor, leaving only that small window of time for Yamada to compete his works of art. And after they start to spoil, he doesn’t let the fruit just go to waste. He eats the banana, leaving no evidence of the sculpture behind. What a peculiar, nutritious, and fleeting work of art!

Image credits: ObviousWinner

Thursday Salute To Originals: You Won’t Believe Your Eyes

GPI Design - Thursday, November 03, 2011

We’ve all seen optical illusions. They are a fun and interesting way to really get your brain ticking. But we’re willing to bet you haven’t seen any quite like this. No computer alterations here, just amazing talent and an intriguingly original point of view. The question is, is it a 2D artistic painting, a 3D scene, or both?

Alexa Meade, an American installation artist, has made quite a name for herself with her unique artistic expression and point of view. Instead of using paint to depict reality, Meade uses reality to depict expressionist art. Achieved by painting directly on her subject matter, essentially using her models and surroundings as living canvases, an amazing trompe l’oeil is achieved. Her innovative technique compresses the entire scene into a matte 2D plane that reads as an expressionist painting, not a physical reality with spatial relationships.

Alexa Meade Reality Painted Man

The strokes, movement, and color variances of the paint disguise the depth, contours, shadows, and highlights of the three dimensional space, and fool the eye into believing they are viewing an artistic representation of reality on canvas, not reality itself.

Meade uses this technique in both her photography and live installations. The distortion of space through both mediums is apparent and visually stunning. Whether looking at a photo or physically experiencing the live scene, it is easy to be fooled by her unique talent.

Alexa Meade Painted Woman Art Installation Image

Alexa Meade Painted Woman Art Installation Reality 

Meade’s ability to deconstruct reality in its three dimensional form and turn it into a flat surface offers a new appreciation for both the 2D and 3D artistic expressions. Her refreshing approach to this dichotomy makes her artwork truly noteworthy and one that ultimately alters our perception of reality and physical space.

Image credits:MyModernMet

Thursday Salute to Originals: Tomohiro

GPI Design - Thursday, August 25, 2011

A talented sculptor can make amazing pieces; but it entails an artist with a true gift to show one being unmade.

Tomohiro Inaba excels at making metal sculptures, using wires in an innovative way to add an ethereal quality. He begins with normal organic figures, made perfectly to scale, but leaves them "unfinished".

These pieces appear to disintegrate into thin air, with strong metal depictions sometimes devolving into complex tangles of wires, or just absent of large segments, or even made entirely out of a wire snarl. Strangely, though they may seem incomplete objects, these sculptures actually possess a living quality of movement, making them appear all the more real.

Since 2003, his works have told powerful stories that encourage the viewer to contribute their own perspective. While Tomohiro Inaba's otherworldly works may not completely inhabit our plane of existence, they certainly provide a powerful impact.

Image credits: Oddstuff.org, ThisIsColossal.com

Fusing Art & Design with Surfaces and Light

GPI Design - Monday, August 08, 2011

Having a passion for the way translucent surfaces and LED panels can accentuate and bring natural warmth to any space, we greatly enjoy the way Stefan Lindfors incorporated the two for his Light Works exhibition. First displayed in Helsinki during February and D.C. in May, Lindfors recently wrapped up a showing in NYC during the latter half of June and early July. Describing it as his "homage to LIGHT & LEDs," he intentionally opened the New York viewing on June 21st to coincide with the summer solstice, the day that the Northern Hemisphere sees the most sun.

Intended to double both as lighting fixtures and artistic sculptures, the pieces of his exhibit mark the first time Lindfors has worked exclusively with the concept of assimilating light and sculpture. Though working in some ways with lighting since the beginning of his professional career, it took the request of a patron to nurture the inspiration for Light Works. World-renowned photographer Nan Goldin purchased a sculpture, Nymph, in 2009 but requested that LEDs be installed inside to provide backlit illumination. Subsequently inspired, Lindfors began wrapping fiberglass around wire and steel frames and lighting them with energy saving bulbs.

The results blur the line between form and function, nothing new for this Finnish-born artist/designer who has worked with numerous companies such as Sony and Nokia. Light pours from the sculptures in inspiring ways and evokes a living, organic feeling. Says Lindfors, "So far, much of my light work...lacks conventional definition, often landing in the so-called ‘borderline’ area. These Light Works that I’ve recently created represent a body of work by myself as both sculptor and as designer; abstract stories beyond industrial reasoning on the one hand, latest eco-light technology and user-friendly design on the other." We at GPI enjoy creating the same dichotomy in our features and celebrate the amazing way Stefan Lindfors has explored this concept.

Image credits: ReadySetDC.com, MaterialConnexion.com

Thursday Salute to Originals: Massive Power Delivery

GPI Design - Thursday, August 04, 2011

If the architectural firm Choi + Shine had its way, we soon may see giants walking the Earth while delivering electricity. These Boston-based architects submitted their proposal, called The Land of Giants, to Landsnet as part of its High-Voltage Pylon Competition. Landsnet operates the high-voltage electrical grid of Iceland and awarded Choi + Shine an Honorable Mention for their submission. Since it's not actually being realized throughout the Icelandic country side, this concept won the 2010 Unbuilt Architecture competition by the Boston Society of Architects.

The proposal involves building human-shaped, high-voltage power pylons in place of the current, mundane lattice-steel design seen prevalent between cities today. Many of these ordinary pylons already faintly resemble human shapes and are even call "ironmen" in Australia. The kit-based construction for The Land of Giants requires only minimal alterations to current designs and would have the advantage of being identical and simple to produce and assemble.


Ranging up to 150ft. tall, these designs would become gigantic sculptures and even avail themselves to a wide range of shapes and poses depending on the terrain. While going up hills, the figures would "struggle" under the effort; entering a town, they would kneel down to "physically deliver" the power to communities; when side by side, the pylons could interact, "waving" or "casting glances" each others' way. The poses would be achieved by using pre-fabricated joints specific for each design. Even gender specific models are available and when placed together would highlight cooperation between men and women. By posing the pylons, the architects have given these leviathans a sense of personality and living movement besides illustrating the human endeavors that go behind our modern societies.

Choi + Shine wrote that, "[t]hese iconic pylon-figures will become monuments in the landscape. Seeing the pylon-figures will become an unforgettable experience, elevating the towers to something more than merely a functional design of necessity." We at GPI appreciate the thought and planning that go into turning the practical structures of our day into objects of beauty, whimsy, and awe.

Image credits: Choi + Shine

Thursday Salute to Originals: Take a Photograph and See How Far You've Come

GPI Design - Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dear Photograph Journey

Feeling nostalgic? Then head on over to DearPhotograph.com and immerse yourself in the heart-warming senses of family and time. The site's premise involves taking old pictures, holding them in front of a camera where they were originally taken, and then snapping a new photograph. The result brings bygone times back to the present, making them all the more accessible. Looking at pictures like this seems to make the past come alive and can quickly cause a phone call to a parent or close family member.

Dear Photograph Couple on Bench

The theme of tracing development by referencing the built environment runs through many of the photographs.

Dear Photograph Disneyland

The originator, Taylor Jones, arrived at the idea about a month-and-a-half ago while flipping through old family photos at his parents' kitchen table in Toronto. Still living at home after graduating from college, the twenty-one year old Taylor has seen his concept grow exponentially and already has a book deal in place. With millions visiting the site and many sending in their own pictures with captions, this idea touches the soul of a society that can often feel disconnected from its own roots and loved ones.  We salute Taylor for recognizing this longing and providing a platform for expression.

Dear Photograph Shrub

How will your architectural spaces create distinct memories and span time?

Image credits: DearPhotograph.com