They're part of the YouTube generation— young, tech-savvy people who figure things out through online research and watching how-to videos—and they specialize in the type of tricky design details most architects don't. Tectu.re is Robbie Bennett, Slade Fischer, Kyle Preish, Alex Muñez and David Michael, all recent graduates of NewSchool of Architecture + Design who, in the tanked economy they inherited, chose to start their own business rather than settling for the few available desk jobs at architecture firms or going through the long process of getting licensed.
The team just finished a modest but prodigious job at Tiny Factory, a web-development agency Downtown (1043 Sixth Ave.). It's a high-tech and futuristic wall made of frosted acrylic and wood, plus the slick and modern surrounding entryway and furniture.
“It started with crumpling up or folding paper and this idea of a wall that could crumble or fold in on itself,” Bennett said. “We wanted to marry this idea of high technology with high design.”
The crew used a computer program to help with the design, and they fabricated the piece with a computerized milling machine. They rely heavily on technology to complete projects that would take too much time and money to do by hand, which has allowed them to fill an interesting niche: They often do contract jobs for licensed architects, and their work typically involves fun, more artistic details that architects either can't or don't do. They're currently putting the finishing touches on a pig they constructed out of 87 pieces of plywood that'll go on top of a new restaurant called Carnitas Snack Shack.
”It's the details of a place that really can set it apart,” Michael said. “If it's something as small as a wall or a door handle or a table… it really makes people look again. I guarantee you, when people drive by and see the pig on the roof—it has an effect…. These are small statements but they're artistic small statements.”
Moniker: A means to interact
Just outside the proposed I.D.E.A. District, a large design and education area envisioned for the northern portion of East Village, a group of artists and designers have decided to take a bottom-up approach to redevelopment, leasing a warehouse at 705 16th St. and transforming it into what they call a “dream factory.”
A few weeks ago, they activated the space, dubbed the Moniker Warehouse, with an event series that invites teams of artists and designers to compete against each other in a timed installation-art competition known as the Professional Art League. The remnants of the last competition—a giant frog, a piece of framed art that pops out a few feet from the wall and a sculptural sphere—are still on view in the warehouse.
But one of the main uses of the new space is as a workshop for the business side of Moniker. Founded by Ryan Sisson and James Pearson about a year ago, Moniker specializes in producing creative art elements for conferences and corporate events.
“We did some interactive art at a Sony launch party in L.A,” Sisson said. “Sony asked if we could build replicas of their tablet they were launching, so we built giant 4-foot-by-3-foot tablets and we live-painted them at the event. They're on display now in the lobby of Sony.”
Moniker's team—Sisson, Parson, James Gutierrez III, Austin Flack, Mingo Palacios, Bryan Monzon and Jon Allen—has built 16-foot boomboxes for DJs, giant iPhones for Red Bull and point-of-purchase displays for a jewelry company, and they've done installation work at conferences and events for nonprofits. Whatever the job, they say their main goal is almost always engagement.
“It's interaction and a means to interact,” Gutierrez said. “We make things that break the ice…. Basically, we use art as a catalyst for people to meet each other.”
Chrissie Beavis: Making it work
Designer Chrissie Beavis struck out on her own at exactly the wrong time. It was a few years ago, just when the economy took a nosedive, and her steady stream of clients who wanted her brand of architectural design and hand-built fabrication stopped calling.
But business eventually picked up, and when budgets have been too small for what Beavis and the clients wanted to do, she's struck creative deals to make things work. Her unique chopstick tree at J.Wok, a modern Asian restaurant Downtown, is a good example.
The nearly life-size tree, a plywood skeleton covered completely in chopsticks, took more hours than the owners could afford. So, rather than compromise the design, Beavis and the owners of J.Wok decided to make it a for-sale art piece that's on display in the restaurant until someone makes an offer.
Beavis, who designed the planters and other steel details outside J.Wok and the door and deck at Moniker Warehouse (see the story above), among other design / build projects, says that, these days, business appears to be getting back to normal.
“Right now, it seems to be working out for me,” she says.
Level One Art Installation: Nothing to see here
Most of the time, Eric R. Gilliatt II's work is invisible. He specializes in installing home and commercial art for mostly upper-crust clients. From the fine-art paintings he's hung in people's homes to the giant art piece dangling outside a building at 10th Avenue and B Street, Downtown, the better Gilliatt does his job, the less you know he was ever there.
“I have a client,” Gilliatt said, “and he says, ‘You're like the cleaner, man. You're like that guy in that Quentin Tarantino movie where you just come in and you do the job and it was like nothing ever happened but everything was done right.'”
Nails, screws, braces and cables are all hiding behind some of Gilliatt's most seamless installs. But in one of his latest jobs at the relatively new Map & Atlas Museum of La Jolla (7825 Fay Ave. Suite LL-A), his install is part of the display. The hundreds of historical maps are packed into the small gallery, and the rigging system, with all its tensions and wire cords, is almost reminiscent of a sailboat or ship—kind of perfect for a place filled with maps of the world's lands and oceans.
“It's definitely appropriate to the exhibit,” Gilliatt said. “And the whole crux of this job was usability and flexibility for the client.”