A Place for Making Things

August 27, 2014

Architecture should be messy. Organized messy (calm down, Mom). The unfortunate truth is that the recent proliferation of digital drawing technology has transferred a lot of design work from the desk to the computer. My desk has never been cleaner. It's also never been so boring. People stopping by my desk are relegated to talking to me about my weekend, because there's no visible design work to talk about. It's still there, it's just hidden.

Over a few lunches some SRGers brainstormed interventions for sparking unplanned design discussion. The question was, how do we take all of that design out of the computer and get it back onto the real world? We wanted a central place for hand built models, large drawings and impromptu design discussions. We wanted it central, we wanted it big, and we wanted it now.

...and we wanted a 3D printer because go big or go home, right?

Making that happen was an entirely different discussion. There was an empty pod in the middle of the office that was a prime candidate for updating, but would the principals go for it? We weren't sure. One of the best pieces of life advice I've ever received was, "Don't ask questions you don't want answers to." You don't have to tell me twice. We took some liberties and divided up into teams for a month of weekend guerrilla renovation tactics.

First we selected an available 15' x 7-1/2' wall at the east end of the office and transformed it into a magnetic, writable surface using a magnetic primer (ten coats!) and adding Wink, which creates a clear, dry erase surface with your color of choice underneath. I don't care how old you are, nothing is quite as satisfying as writing on a wall. It's the cleanest mess possible- erase it and it just looks like a normal wall.

For a large work table, we used leftover modular furniture systems, mixed and matched to the right sizes, found legs, stations, and brackets that fit, and then attached a 4' x 8' piece of plywood on top. If we need to replicate it, we can just order legs or stations from the existing office furniture.

Our space is now affectionately known as the Model Pod. This space is now home to our 3D printer, which draws people in to see what's happening. They stick around for the drawing or to talk about the in-progress models that are rotating through our work table. The Model Pod has quickly become a favorite refuge, an alternate from our previous walk to the kitchen break. Even better, our office community is getting stronger. Coming together isn't just for beers after work. We've introduced a new foundation for a healthy, lasting conversation on design.