This June, The Burrard Hotel in Vancouver, Canada opened its doors to a huge party organized by Color Magazine. The party took over the entire 3 floor hotel, including the exposed underground parking lot. There were bands, a skateboard ramp, and 24 hotel rooms occupied by local artists and performers. When we were presented with the opportunity to occupy a hotel room for one night at the Burrard hotel, and partake in some form of exhibition or performance, our first thought was to do some type of installation. The more we thought about it, however, the more we realized that an installation would not quite cut it.
As a design studio, we produce things. We make things for other people to have and to hold (or look at) and we wanted to reflect that in what we did in our room at the hotel. We wanted people to have the opportunity to walk away with something that came out of the experience in the room. What we finally decided on was the concept of a micro studio. Our idea was to set up a condensed version of our studio in the hotel room, create finished objects with only off cuts and quick drying adhesives, and make them available for silent auction. We moved as much of our own equipment as we could fit in a van into the hotel, and set up our studio in the room. We collected off cuts from various places, bringing together a selection of marble, leather, stones, sheet metal, rubber, as well as unused components from past prototypes. In addition to making the objects, we also set up a small photo studio with the intent of documenting each piece as it was finished.
Although originally conceived as a performance, the micro studio quickly became an exercise in working outside our comfort zones. Normally we spend countless hours making sketches, sketch models, prototypes, user testing, research, and finally, a more finished prototype. In this scenario, we had a somewhat arbitrary goal of making 15 objects over a period of 10 hours, making that normal design process impossible. Our process began with looking at all the materials with which we had to work, and allowing them to dictate what they were to become. In some cases we could break marble slabs into workable sizes, while in other cases we needed to use them as they came, in their original dimensions. We would do quick sketches and then immediately begin placing and balancing materials on and around each other, sketch modelling with the final materials.
This ultra condensed version of the design method has its benefits and detractions. The many iterations and prototypes that usually come about from the design process are nonexistent here. With every piece, the prototype was the finished product. Gone was the involved user testing and input, replaced instead with quick judgements, common sense, and to a large degree, intuition. Precision in construction was not expected. Rather, the finished quality would come from the raw materials themselves. Here we could take advantage of polished surfaces, machine woven repetition and such qualities as we come to associate with mass produced items. Our intention was to create finished fine objects that were real, usable and attractive, but still subtly reflected their origin—conceived in a hotel room during a wild party. This evidence is in every piece, from the Table lamp’s hand-painted ombré/gradient, to the rough-hewn bases of the Vessels, and the not-so-subtle bondage cues found in the Jewelry stand.
The last object we produced that night, and the one that best reflects the micro studio, was the Floor lamp. Since we came into the hotel room not knowing exactly what we would be making, we let the raw materials inspire the form when it seemed best. The metal L-shape with its soft bends seemed suited to a floor lamp, and we had all the materials to make it happen. When it came to construction, it was simply a matter of weighting the base and attaching the light source. Honesty is preached as a hallmark of good design, but in fact deception is praised far more than we admit, likely because of the mystery it creates. Tables that are impossibly thin, cable management systems that whisk away power sources out of sight–these are examples of objects designed to create an idealized, desirable environment. So of course it makes sense to balance honesty and mystery in design.
Due to the limitations of a one-night hotel room alcohol-fuelled design studio, the Floor lamp was constructed in the spirit of honest design, forgoing the mystery that can be created with the luxury of time and iterations. Every component plays a visible part, whether it is stabilizing, fastening, spacing, or most importantly, lighting. We knew that it would be better to highlight the methods of construction rather than attempt to hide them, given the short amount of time and lack of equipment.
It’s not uncommon to hear designers say “the more constraints, the better”. In the micro studio, we were bombarded with constraints. We had only simple cutting tools, adhesives and off cuts whose forms were not easily manipulated. Most importantly, we had very little time. These constraints are visible in the final products. Constraints allow you to eliminate possibilities and focus on what can be done. Had we more time or more equipment the possibilities would have grown and our ability to focus would have lessened.
In the end, we produced objects that we would have never created had we not manufactured this environment in which to create.
marble, leather, nylon rope
marble, heat shrink
marble, painted steel, beach stone, oak, heat shrink, nylon rope
marble, painted steel, LED luminaire