Project Snapshots

I realize I don’t put a lot on this blog about the things I’m working on, and so I’d like to share some tidbits from a project I’m wrapping up.  A few months ago, I was contacted by a lovely family who purchased a second home in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood and needed their new empty condo completely furnished.  Sound like a dream?  I know… Continue reading “Project Snapshots”

Setting the Stage

…For Social Engagement Through Interior Design

A few months have passed since presenting my thesis at Harrington.  While I was caught up in the frenzy to get to the finish line, all I could see were the things I still hadn’t done, the grand ideas that were never actualized.  I had done tons of research that to relay would take pages on top of pages, only to serve the purpose of proving I had, well, done the research.  I drew pages of sketches, quick ideas, larger ideas, built 3d models of spaces left untouched by the time presentation day rolled around.  Even as I stood up in the front of the room, watching my slides flash on the screen and hearing my scripted words coming out of my own mouth, I thought “I could have done more”.

Perhaps it’s the beginning excitement that leads me to feel that way.  When an idea is sprouting, there are ten thousand directions it can grow.  As the thing takes shape, ideas get left behind, and the process of editing and cutting away becomes just as important as the build up .  This topic – being so close to home – was especially difficult for me to whittle down into a neat package, and so my desire to share everything often led me off the path of presenting a clear and direct narrative.

Enough time has passed now that I can look back on what I’ve done and feel proud of it.  It might not be perfect, but it is mine.  I present now my thesis book, which includes a summary of the project and the design, followed by the full written thesis.  Please click here to view.

Sequoya Point by Modus Studio

Revit Poster

This project was less about designing from a concept of my own and more about learning the ins and outs of Revit, but I still thought it would be worth it to share. I had previously used the program to build models but only on the most basic levels – throwing up walls and punching doors and windows into them. To me, that was magical enough, but after 15 weeks of in depth exploration into the workings of the program last semester, I was blown away by all of the features I wasn’t taking advantage of.

I reached out to Modus Studio, an architecture firm based in Arkansas, and they so kindly allowed me to use the plans for one of their projects so that I could recreate it for my class. Based on their plans, I learned how to make custom components, build parametric program massing, create schedules that auto-populate, and more.  It was nice to be able to focus more on learning the program and its capabilities than trying to figure it out while also trying to communicate a design.   My final poster is above, and some key views are down below.

I still have a few things to figure out with rendering, but it was nice to not have to set everything up in 3d Max all over again like I had done with previous projects.  I think I will likely in the future still render in Max (the lighting in Revit was hard to get to look real, as you can see below) but so nice to know that the program does a good job and fairly quickly.  Of course, I also do a ton of photoshop work post rendering, which helps.

All in all, I am happy with the results, and recommend anyone to learn Revit if they are serious about design.  I wish I had learned it earlier!



Project - House - 3D View - Axon Exterior




Bridging the Gap: The Possibility

A while back, I wrote a bit about the Brideport Art Center, and why it’s amazing, and why it could be so much more.  When I first chose the building for this project I was looking for a warehouse building to convert into loft apartments.  I was more concerned with the look and feel of the final project and less about the meaning behind it all.  After doing more research and getting to know the building and Art Center, I realized that there was a definite need that my design could address.  The art center is an amazing place already, offering access to many community events and exposure to multiple cultures.  I did not want my programming to take away or replace any of the existing programs, but instead to enhance them, adding to the quality of the experience that can already be had.

One concern I did want to address was the feeling of otherness when visiting the Bridgeport Art Center as it stands now.  As an outsider, one visiting the gallery feels almost like they are intruding on a private home.  There is no real public face to the art center, and the only thing to welcome visitors in and encourage their participation is the signage on the doors and in stairwells.  I have entered unnoticed on several occasions to wander about freely – admittedly way beyond where guests are probably allowed. By creating programs that have a reliance on public traffic, my goal was to create a gateway for new visitors to enter the center, as well as give them a place where they have equal footing.  The coffee shop and restaurant draw visitors in and make them feel comfortable.  I took advantage of some of the exiting outdoor space – re-purposing an area of the sculpture garden in the arcade to make an outdoor seating area for the restaurant. Similarly, the workshop classrooms allow visitors the opportunity to interact with existing community members in a face to face setting, learning new skills from the community experts.   The existing garage doors, once used for loading trucks, can open up in the summer time, creating an open air gallery space.

While several of the programs I included in my design already exist, I wanted to set the bar just a little bit higher.  Currently, there are many studios that do not have ceiling height walls.  The studios where artists live and work are on a public way and so visitors can witness the private lives of the artists instead of their work.  I wanted to create a space where artists living in the studios could feel comfortable, and feel like they were not on display.  In the same vein, I did not want visitors to feel uncomfortable and as if they are intruding on someone’s private dwelling.  By closing off parts of the building, reserving a staircase for residents only, and creating private hallways for residents only, I aimed to strike a balance between the private and public lives of the individuals living in the center.

The feel of the spaces are meant to be raw, unfinished and collaged together.  In the same way that we accumulate the pieces of our lives over a period of time, I wanted the Bridgeport Art Center to speak to its past while also having a bright outlook on its future.


Note: Much of the artwork on display are found images and not my own.  The colorful portraits are by the amazing Francois Nelly.  

Bridging the Gap: From Potential to Possibility in Bridgeport

Over the next few weeks, I’ll probably be talking quite a bit about Bridgeport.  For anyone who is not from Chicago, or from here but not familiar with the neighborhood, it’s a South Side neighborhood, tucked away just south of Pilsen and Chinatown.  It’s close to downtown, the lake, and within walking distance of US Cellular field, home of the White Sox (woohoo…right?).  There’s a growing community of artists, a handful of cute (and delicious) neighborhood bars, restaurants, and coffee shops.   Can you tell I’ve given this spiel to my friends before?

For anyone who is familiar with Bridgeport already, well…. you know the deal.   It is what it is.   I’ve lived all over Chicago, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood for the last eight years.  When I moved to Bridgeport last year, I was anxious and sad to be leaving behind my perfect little bubble in Logan Square.   And when tasked with explaining what about this place is so different, I’m at a loss for words.  I feel that more than most neighborhoods I’m familiar with, the residents of Bridgeport seem to be disconnected – from each other, and from the rest of what’s going on out there in the city, in the world, in fashion.  Despite all of the cool stuff happening right here in front of everyone’s eyes, it’s like nobody is really inspired.  Anyway, to say the least, I’m underwhelmed.  There is so much potential here but things fall just a little bit short.

And that brings me to:  The Bridgeport Art Center.


My first time visiting the Bridgeport Art Center was about a year ago.  I was happy to discover that just a few blocks from my new apartment was an amazing art center, sitting on the river’s edge.  Local artists can live and work in the studios, and hang their art in the hallway galleries.  Visitors can enter and wander freely, and on the third Friday of every month , artists open their studios to allow visitors an intimate look at their artwork and work spaces.  The view of the skyline is unimpeded and beautiful, and an awesome event space on the fifth floor provides a great venue to host a special event.

The art center is located in the former Spiegel Catalog Warehouse building – it is a massive industrial warehouse building with endless brick walls punctuated with enormous windows.  The interior is gutted, and houses a sea of timber columns, and exposed beams run across the ceilings.  If you wander too far in (which is an easy task for a curious visitor a quiet Sunday afternoon) you’ll find some raw unfinished spaces.   The building is truly enormous, and the undertaking of turning the entire site to use is a huge one.

bpac int 2 bpac int


As a design student, getting the chance to see a space like this in a transitional state is like a gold mine for me.  I see it as a blank canvas.  The exposed brick, skyline views and high ceilings make for some really cool interior details that alot of people pay extra money for.  The tie in to a growing artist community (thanks to rising rent in Logan Square and Pilsen -Wicker Park isn’t even an option for artists living on a budget anymore) as well as a nod to the industrial history of the neighborhood creates the possibility for the Bridgeport Art Center to really thrive in the public eye as a go-to community center and symbol for what the neighborhood stands for.

But again, as I find is typical with this area, things fall short.   In some areas, the paper thin walls don’t even go all the way up to the ceiling.  Visitors are led from space to space by paper fliers taped to the doors and in the stairwells.  Aside from the art center, the building is home to several businesses, and there is no solid tie in to any of them, no sense of community or cohesive strategy to tie it all together.   In general, the details seem unfinished.  Everything is on the verge of being something great, but just not quite making it.  Even the sculpture garden out front suffers from proper use of the space.  How about some benches?  By not providing a place to sit, you guarantee that nobody will come and, well, sit.  Relax.  Read a book.  Take in the space and be inspired!

bpac arcade

Criticisms aside, I think that there is so much potential here.  I understand that the possibilities for what this could be are not endless, but instead most likely greatly limited by funding.   But I also think that by planning for and publicizing more attractive and integrated programming, enough interest could be generated, causing an influx of dollars toward the goal.  In my next post, I’ll share my vision for the space, so stay tuned!

The Ripple Effect: transmedia strategy at work

A few months ago, I posted about my transmedia strategy and how I would use different social media platforms to promote and share my work.  The concept is simple:  use a blog or website to share portfolio work, and then spread it further through professional and personal social networks.  So that is exactly what I did.  

I recently posted about my conceptual project, the Bridgeport Smilebooth here on the site.  I then sent the link out via twitter, and the next day received a phone call from Casey Cora, a reporter for DNA Info to talk about the project.  The write up is here, and I’m overwhelmed by the positive response and encouragement I’ve received.

My school picked up on it, and have been promoting the DNA Info piece on their own social media platforms, and if that wasn’t enough I received an email from a booking producer at MSNBC requesting me for a live interview on television!  My mind is blown by all of this attention, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my ideas on a larger platform.  

Stay tuned for updates, I’m excited to see what happens next!

Bridgeport Smilebooth : Bringing Neighbors Face to Face

Smile Site

The location I chose for this pop up stand is a small lot on Halsted street and 34th in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. This neighborhood is culturally rich and well known for its diversity however, has an unfortunate history of segregation and racism. In fact, block by block, the demographic varies, and it is easy to get lost in isolation. The goal of the pop up will be to engage residents of the neighborhood and show them just who their neighbors are. Located in a public area just outside of a public library on a busy street with shops and restaurants, this booth will raise awareness of the different types of people living in such a small vicinity.

Booth in setting for web

Booth in setting for web - back view

By acting as a photo booth, visitors are invited to participate in the exhibit by first having their photo taken. A traditional photo booth will take their pictures and provide them with the memento to keep as their own while also displaying their images on large screens. The design of the booth was kept simple – mimicking the shape of a camera with its flash on. The flash is on as an attracting element –  it’s light will stand out at night and draw attention when the rest of the street has closed down in the evening hours. Text on the outside of the booth is meant to be intriguing and guide people into the exhibit, using the phrases “Get ready for your close-up” and “Show off your good side”. Though the nature of the social issue is a serious one, I wanted the exhibit itself to be a playful and inviting one.  Infographics and statistics can sometimes be a turnoff, but everyone loves a photo booth.

Booth Interior
The principles of participatory design play into this project by inviting the public to participate, and the outcome reflects their input. The project would not be possible without the participation of the neighborhood residents. I feel that though the message will not be communicated in a heavy handed manner, the opportunity is there to start a discussion. People walking by will be intrigued and go in. Someone may recognize the face of a friend, or the barista from the coffee shop. We often associate people with where we see them, and this booth, by displaying everyone on the same screen, brings everyone to the same playing field, sending the message that we are all just people, living our lives. Nobody is better than anybody else – a fact that we all need to be reminded of now and again.