-Finding New Forms
-Meat & Potatoes
|Metal Leaves Photography||
On Saturday I attended a design talk at Tom Gibbs Studio. The talk was part of Design Core's Month of Design programming. The discussion centered around the role Michigan furniture designers played in shaping modern design.
The talk served to place the state of Michigan and the mid-century into context. The speakers included Tom Gibbs, a mid-century furniture dealer who hosted the event at his retail space, Tom Gibbs Studio, Isabelle Weiss, the founder and owner of Next:Space and Paula Schubatis, a painter, textile artist and designer.
The group focused on the impact of "good design" created by Michigan designers, and branched out further to eventually become a design movement.
The talk was based on what the panel deemed the five tenents of good design:
-Finding New Forms
-Meat & Potatoes
The designers of the Modern Movement emphasized these five practices. Michigan designers such as Saarinen, Knoll and the Eames' used these principles to create their furniture . The use of these elements in Mid-Century design set the precedent for innovative design in the 20th century that is used to inform the contemporary designs of today.
The Fisher Mansion is the largest home in the Historic Boston-Edison neighborhood. Built for Charles and Sarah Fisher in 1922, the mansion was designed by architect George D. Mason.
I had the unbelievable opportunity to photograph the mansion last week. I was invited to shoot the interior and exterior of the building for an architectural competition hosted by Design Core Detroit. The Instashot Competition was held in conjunction with Detroit Month of Design and featured seven photographers vying to see who could best capture the essence of the Junior League Showhouse.
The gorgeous mansion has undergone an extensive renovation. Designers have been selected by The Junior League to re-imagine the interior spaces and outdoor areas. To say this is a massive undertaking would be an understatement. Yet, they pulled it off-- and the home will make its grand debut to the public as the Detroit Designers Show House on Saturday, September 15, 2018 and will run until Sunday, October 7, 2018. Tickets to the event may be purchased here.
Y'all-- let me tell you what an amazing experience it was. First of all, the mansion itself is just impressive. Then we have the rooms designed by a talented roster of heavy-hitters. The interior was breathtaking. As in-- my actual breath was taken away irl.
This home is just beautiful and must be seen in person to be appreciated fully. To check it out for yourself, please see the information below or visit the Junior League website here.
2018 Junior League of Detroit Designers’ Show House
The Charles T Fisher Mansion – Boston Edison
670 West Boston Blvd, Detroit MI 48202
Sun 9/16 Noon
Thurs 9/20-Sun 9/23
Thurs 9/27-Sun 9/30
Thurs 10/4- Sun 10/7
Artists Victoria Shaheen and George Vidas collaborated on a special exhibit entitled, "A Difficult Pair," which explored the use of industrial and commercial objects transformed into art pieces.
The artists sought to explore identity, hierarchy and material culture in each piece they fabricated.
So I was really excited about this exhibit, because I am in LOVE with Neon. It was a stellar show, the work was intriguing and what I thought would be straight forward was though-provoking. The pieces were so cool! They had working mechanical parts! So I feel like neon is like a living thing because it kinda breathes with electricity. Now these sculptures came to life even more because they actually moved. It was awesome!
The opening reception was held at Playground Detroit, a gallery that features the work of emerging visual artists.
I was also beyond impressed with the space. It was my first time visiting Playground Detroit's new gallery/exhibition space and it was so amazing. Not exaggerating. It was simple and clean- but not sterile, perfect to showcase work. It's an intimate setting that somehow seems expansive. It's crazy. I loved it.
This exhibition was also part of Detroit Art Week, taking place from July 20-22, 2018.
DAW is an annual self-guided tour and celebration of contemporary art and culture in Detroit. It's basically an art crawl. The public is encouraged to attend galleries, explore studios, participate in art talks and museum tours. That includes parties, live performances, music + art shows.
A warehouse originally used as an automotive factory by Standard Motor Truck Company hosted an Open House featuring local Interiors + Makers, produced by Design Core.
Originally designed by Albert Kahn in 1912, Letts Industries acquired the building in 1989, undertaking massive renovations within the last three years-, while keeping the historical integrity of the building in tact. This building is unique in that it was a first-gen modern auto factory, incorporating steel-reinforced concrete in its design.
The building still retains the original "martini-shaped" columns Kahn designed, a design element which appears to be one of his trademarks. Walking around, the colest thing I saw was that the ceilings still had the line shafts and tracks created for Standard. I seriously could not get over that- it was amazing to be able to see that LIVE! I have always imagined the Highland Park building Kahn designed for Ford- such an important piece of history in the automotive industry- but I had never seen it. This gave me an actual opportunity to see it instead of just imagine what it was like.
Currently housing an array of artists, small businesses, and design firms, the warehouse is used as offices, gallery and production space. The concept reminded me of Ponyride, and it seems like a collaborative environment.
The History Channel and Ford Motor Co. teamed up to host an exclusive screening of "Detroit Comeback City."
The preview was held today at the Garden Theatre in Detroit. Steven Gillon spoke briefly and introduced the film to the audience.
The documentary focused on the role Ford and Michigan Central Station played in Detroit. Ford was a beacon that brought thousands to Detroit, usually entering through the Grand Dame herself, Michigan Central Station, a bustling station that welcomed newcomers with her grand style.
The film illustrated that as the auto industry changed, so did the city. If the automakers profits soared, Detroit shined like a diamond. But the pendulum swings both ways-- and the Great Depression, gas crisis and the Great Recession slowed the economy, highlighting how closely tied to consumer spending the Detroit area actually is.
Throughout the film, Michigan Central Station made regular appearances, tied into the storyline and woven into the film just as the Ford Motor Company was. Unlike Ford, the station didn't experience the ebbs and flows of the economy. Instead- its demise came when swarms of people fled Detroit after the '67 Riots. According to the documentary, it took residents six months to clear out. The Beaux-Arts beauty never regained consciousness and fell into disrepair. It was shuttered in 1988.
The film doesn't end there. Viewers find out that Detroit is coming back and better than ever- culminating in an announcement that Ford acquired the train station from the Moroun family.
The automaker plans to restore the structure and fill it with 2,500 employees specializing in autonomous vehicle technology. Ford estimates the station will reopen in 2022. So it will once again be back to the hustling and bustling place it was once known for.
But don't call it a comeback.
Detroit: Comeback City premieres Sunday, July 1 at 9/8c on The History Channel.
Detroit Designs the World | Detroit Public TV Screening
Michigan Central Station Open House
Ford Rouge Tour Live!
Toyota Lecture Series | Susan S. Szenasy, Metropolis Magazine
But wait--- there's more. Click below to read more:
Michigan Central Station has stood guard over the city since 1914. Although the last train left the station in 1988, this Beaux-Arts beauty has been an iconic symbol for the City of Detroit- the Good, the Bad-- and the Ugly.
Ford Motor Co. recently purchased the structure, vowing to restore it and fill it with 5,000 workers- about half of which will be employed by Ford, the other 2,500 will be brought in via other companies leasing offices through Ford. There was some talk about a mixed-use facility, but I don’t know how legit that info is. Ford plans to have the building renovated by 2022.
Ford graciously opened the doors to the kingdom to massive crowds of people. From Friday through Monday, it allowed visitors to enter through its arched entrance and get a chance to gawk at the sheer beauty and desecration inside the walls of the station.
I was one of those people. I had never been inside but have taken thousands of photos of the exterior over the past 15 years. I’ve heard stories about this place. My grandparents were WWII refugees, and finally escaped into America after spending weeks on a ship— entering through Michigan Central Station.
So it kinda became a symbol of hope to me, not despair- because of these stories I grew up hearing. And yeah, I may have felt like I was going to cry as I walked around- but that was from an overwhelming sense of history, nostalgia and happiness.
Detroit Startup Week had a ton of GREAT events for entrepreneurs and business owners. These informative sessions were held throughout the city this week, all hosted by amazing businesspeople. So many featured valuable insight shared with the crowd learn and it is a really valuable place for meeting like-minded people while networking.
Music & Entrepreurship
A Fireside Chat about music and entrepreneurship was held on Friday at the David Whitney Building. This session included Big Sean, Katrina Turnbow and Drew Rives. All three were born and raised in Detroit.
The intimate session was produced and moderated by Katrina Turnbow, a Google Digital Coach and owner of Kanopi Social, a digital marketing agency based in Detroit. She is one of nine people in the United States that helps Black & Latino create and improve their business's online presence.
Drew Rives is a music exec at Def Jam, currently based in Detroit. He's been in the music industry since 1992, and at Def Jam since 1999. He went to school to be a lawyer, but ya know how that goes-
Big Sean has been on the Detroit music scene since he was a kid, and was picked up by Kanye West's label GOOD Music in 2007. He signed with Def Jam a year later, and Roc Nation in 2014.
We're gonna kick off the Q&A session with Drew Rives.
Name five artists that you feel had entrepreneurial traits:
"Jeezy, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Big Sean, Kanye."
"Jeezy was one of the most successful stories I’ve ever seen. He had the mind state of going from streets & selling drugs to owning his own liquor company, clothing line. Now he’s makin money moves."
What is something that was an obstacle to overcome?
“Thinkin’ that u are hotter than I really are.” You cannot believe the hype. Master what you’re good at first. “Don’t spread yourself too thin too quick.”
[If you get] "knocked out 8x get up 9. “
Mr. Rives went on to say how important a team is for entrepreneurs who can't and shouldn't do everything themselves. He stated that "a team is what makes it work" and that “the successful ones never give up.” He said it's crucial to “find people who want to go just as hard as you. “
Then Big Sean stepped in through the glass doors. He came through with a team of 25 deep, flanked by a security team and his mother.
He took his seat and was ready to go, piggy-backing onto what Drew Rives had said.
He started off saying that building a team successfully had allowed him to scale. He stated that “you definitely have to go through trial & error. At first I had all my friends working for me (during mixtapes) but I realized not everyone is meant to be on the team. It did set me back."
He said making the decision to drop people in his team was not easy. He said sometimes, if he had to let someone go— he’d call his mom about it.
He then stressed that, in regard to business, it is important to ask yourself “Are you doing a job or a hobby? Are you’re homies qualified to work for you and do the job that you need them to do.
My 1st manager isn’t the one I have now. One was good at breaking an artist. My new manager is good at making deals & creating a superstar."
Do you have advice on standing out in the business world?
Big Sean dropped this gem: “The biggest secret to business is: supply & demand.” You wanna stand out- supply something that is different. That's the most obvious but overlooked thing.
Being an artist in Detroit
As mentioned, all three on stage were born & raised in Detroit. Ms. Turnbow said, "I don’t know about y’all, but I come downtown and I swear that I never thought I’d see Detroit lookin' like this. I never thought I’d see these building look like this in my lifetime.”
Big Sean said “Detroit is one of the most creative places in the world. I feel like Detroit gave me everything so it’s [his involvement in the city] my way of giving back.”
And he's not just talking.
There's so much going on in the city, and Big Sean is playing a role in the transformation. He's the creator of D.O.N. Weekend- kicking it off on June 21 with a Fashion Mogul event sponsored by Puma. This five day event includes a block party for families on the East-side. It concludes on June 25 with a private event honoring kids that are at the top of their game in school. Dubbed "Lightfest," it's an award ceremony to recognize kids enrolled in Detroit schools that maintain good grades.
As if that weren't enough Big Sean is on the Board for the Motown Museum. He is also singlehandedly responsible for bringing a movie theatre downtown. He went on to say that he's also "Doing lots of things with Ford. I'm doing my best to not just be an example- but be the best for myself."
Drew Rives said that it's an “Exciting time to be in this business in Detroit." He continued, "Our new CEO is from Detroit-- Paul Rosenberg and we just signed Payroll— and we're looking for more Detroit artists."
Big Sean agreed and said that, "These guys [Detroit musicians] had no opportunities and no one to look up to--- before, it was Berry Gordy." He said that's changing and now, with the evolution of the internet- it doesn't matter where you're from- we're all on a level playing field.
The Henry Ford Museum hosted a conversation about design , "How to Grow a Chair," featuring Berlin-based designers Burkhard Schmitz and Carola Zwick, co-founders of Studio 7.5.
Studio 7.5 is the design force behind the Cosm chair. This chair was created in collaboration with Herman Miller and marks the fourth time the studio has teamed up with the iconic furniture company. The talk provided insight into their design and fabrication process during the development of the Cosm for Herman Miller.
How to Grow a Chair | Studio 7.5's Design Process
"We learned so much by assembling everything wrong"
"A lot of things went wrong." Carola Zwick confessed lightheartedly, during the initial development stages of the Cosm chair.
She said that a team of eight basically had 120 seconds to act fast before the polyurethane dried as they were working through prototypes, making it impossible to modify after that blink-of-an-eye timeframe.
Ms Zwick said another challenge surrounding the "Cosm" came from the intricate design of the teeth- a major component of the chair's unparalleled suspension. "We had to count line by line. One line resulted in entirely different sitting experience. "
The designers worked to create a piece of furniture that would seamlessly translate funtion and comfort into a single chair.
"It’s not an armrest- it’s an elbow cradle."
"Our first iteration scared our client," joked Burkhard Schmitz, noting that the "elephant ears" were an unconventional, yet important aspect of the design.
He went on to mention the "leaf arms" that are integral to the overall design and functionality of this chair-- the potentially overlooked elbow support.
But don't call them arm rests! Mr. Schmitz refers to them as "elbow cradles," highlighting the importance of getting this particular part right.
"A chair should be designed like a bicycle- not a car."
An interesting declaration from Burkhard Schmitz was that approach to designing a chair should be akin to designing a bike-- not a vehicle.
The designers made a concerted effort to follow in the footsteps of Charles & Ray Eames: with the intent to design with great attention to every detail.
"We were able to think about entire family of chairs. All provide diff sitting experience but able to use same design."
The studio was able to illustrate the manufacturing process first-hand to the fabricators at Herman Miller. The designers travelled to the Zeeland, Michigan facility and taught their design methods for the chair at the Herman Miller Design Yard. And although it was a challenge to replicate exactly, they were able to find a solution and produce a high-quality, specialized chair, uniformly.
A Day at Herman Miller Design Yard
Herman Miller | Threads
Detroit Designs the World
Art in Detroit | A Sculptural Adventure
Designers from around Detroit were showcased at the Edison Boat Club, which is juxtaposed between nature and industry.
This event was an exploration of Adaptive Reuse, with various projects featured. Hosted by Design Core, this informative session was a pictorial display of what’s going on in and around the city.
The event itself was not only informative— but fun. From the corn hole tournaments goin’ down on the lawn to the seriously chill sailboats gliding by— the laid-back island setting, with the backdrop of the Detroit River, was beyond anything I had imagined. Add the Conners Creek Power Plant into the mix and it was as sublime a scene as that Pink Floyd Battersea Power Station album cover, “Animals.”
Architecture and Design firms are creating a ton of projects within the city of Detroit and beyond that incorporate redeveloping buildings and spaces into viable places for us to work, live and gather.
Organizations that participated in yesterday’s gallery of work included Detroit Future City, Michigan Historic Preservation Network, the City of Detroit’s Department of Planning & Development, DNR's Outdoor Adventure Center, KRM Architecture and SmithGroup JJR.
Some structures are completed— such as The Foundation Hotel, whose architects transformed an abandoned fire station into a boutique hotel and restaurant, while other projects— such as Ford’s Wagner Place, transforming a former hotel into a workspace and parking structure-- are underway.
This was perfect timing, as Ford formally announced its acquisition of Michigan Central Train Station only days ago. The corporation plans to renovate and eventually set up shop in the abandoned Beaux-Arts structure, an exciting announcement that means even more potential changes for the city in the near future.
Detroit Public Television produced a documentary that highlights the influence that Detroit architecture had on the world entitled "Detroit Designs the World." The piece premieres on DPTV this Saturday, June 9th at 5 pm.
The film traces the work and impact of architects Mies Van der Rohe, Minoru Yamasaki, Albert Kahn and Eero Saarinen and features renown buildings around Detroit- including the Highland Park Plant, Cranbrook, the Fisher Building and Lafayette Park.
The "Detroit Designs the World" reception + screening was held on the campus of Lawrence Technological University. After the preview, there was a panel discussion led by Olga Stella, the Executive Director of Design Core Detroit.
The discussion after the documentary focused on the city's unique architectural past, present and future.
The panel included Rainy Hamilton Jr., President, Owner and Principal of Hamilton Anderson, Robert Sandler from the Architectural firm Yamasaki Inc., and Professor of Architecture and Associate Department Chair of Architecture at Lawrence Tech, Dr. Dale Gyure.
Panelists discussed everything from Detroit's designation as a UNESCO City of Design, how the city's architectural works are still falling under the radar and how the architectural work previously coming out of Detroit was overshadowed by the auto industry.
There were some differing viewpoints, as Dr. Gyure noted that Michigan is starting to become a model in architecture for other states. It was stated that Detroit is becoming a leader in preservation.
The talk continued and touched upon how things in Detroit are coming together and the hope is that we don’t shift gears in regard to the vast amount of preservation that is going on in buildings around Detroit.
The city itself has an opportunity born out of a series of unique circumstances. Detroit fell apart and can be put back together again. The hope is that we don’t follow shiny new model of architecture where everything [buildings] is brand new. Because we don’t have to do that.
In closing, Mr. Hamilton said, "We are creating the next chapter. We have to figure it out and it's challenging."
We've got a chance to do something that nobody’s done before.
Standing on Albert Kahn's Shoulders
Toyota Lecture Series: Susan S. Szenasy | Metropolis Magazine, Director of Design Innovation
Skateboarding on the Fisher Halfpipe
Art in Detroit | A Sculptural Adventure
All images & text ©Nicole Wrona