The Curse of Design

When you’re driving, and you see a breathtaking scene, one that makes you pull over and stop. Do you wonder what it is that resonates within you? Is it the overlap of shadows? The subtle shifting colors? The structure of the trees or the rise of a hill? As architects and designers, these are a few of the thousands of questions we ask ourselves as we work.  If only it stopped there. This incessant analysis bleeds into every object, surface and environment we encounter in our daily lives. You can’t imagine the discussion that goes into buying a glass – how does it feel in your hand? Is it too heavy? Too squat? Too round? Not round enough? Is it just serving a purpose? Or enhancing your life?

A blessing? Or the ‘Curse of Design’? This compulsion requires us to continually seek answers to those questions through a rigorous critique of color, finish, composition, quality, feel, and function.

How did we get here? Is this nature or nurture? Born cursed? Or cursed by education? As a 7-year-old I wrote in my diary “someday I will be an architect”. Was this genetic? Or too many Brady Bunch reruns?

Whatever innate personality traits we have are focused and refined by an education process that at best can politely be referred to as rigorous and often crosses the line into obsessive. Don’t get me wrong, while a curse, it provides for a highly curated life; an amazing experience of well-designed and presented clothing, accessories, home décor, vehicles and even food.  We have a deep appreciation of the effort it takes to design an object well, and the moment of wonder and surprise felt at finding something special among the expected.

Good design is not a luxury.  Good design balances the inherently functional with a sense of beauty.  It is something that enhances your life and brings you joy. While we certainly wouldn’t wish our curse upon anyone, we do hope this will ignite a bit of inquiry the next time you hold a glass or smile as you pick up an object or feel content in a space you regularly frequent.


The 4 Cs of Classroom Design in the 21st Century

What is a 21st century classroom?

It is a place where students come alive. People need to think critically, solve problems and work collaboratively. Classrooms need to evolve so that all children have equal and equitable access to learning through active engagement. Here are the 4 Cs of a 21st Century Classroom: 

Collaboration

Owing to the shift from a memorization-based reading-writing-arithmetic process (drill and kill) to a more collaborative active approach, you’ll see critical thinking happen in any, truly modern classroom. Designed spaces support specific learning activities. The cooperative environment happens in a small conference room, an area with soft lounge seating and booths similar to what you would see in a restaurant. Students work collaboratively and develop and share ideas with their peers. Everyone learns, and creates, differently. A 21st century classroom design considers learning styles in Zones around the classroom. 

Creativity

Creativity is the freedom to explore new approaches, recognize patterns, and invent new meanings. Designing a 21st century classroom means to critically, and creatively, think about spaces that promotes exploration and productive mistakes. A Studio dedicated to making, where students manipulate objects from available carts of foam balls, Legos, blocks of wood, and even toothpicks to solve complex problems. Students experiment and eventually 3-D Print prototypes. So much is possible through hands on learning (kinesthetics) – constructing, building mock ups, and testing theories, as a way to uncover completely new perspectives and insights. 

Critical Thinking

Developing habits of the mind - analysis, interpretation, precision and accuracy, problem solving, and reasoning are vital skills for students. Learning critical thinking leads students to develop higher levels of concentration, deeper analytical abilities, and improved thought processing. Today’s citizens must be active critical thinkers if they are to compare evidence, evaluate competing claims, and make sensible decisions. 
 

Communication

To foster critical thinking, creativity and collaboration … communication is key. Inquiry and sharing are elements of 21st century classroom design. Its important students learn how to present their ideas clearly and develop the social skills necessary to solve verbal conflicts. Communication skills are intertwined with information, media, communication, and technology skills, where peer to peer learning is a key element of social development.

How to implement 21st century classroom design

A truly modern classroom environment utilizes peer learning, so that the teacher isn’t just a fixture at the chalkboard. The 21st century teacher moves around a space that is flexible through design. Students critically analyze systems and apply strategies to solve real-world problems. Rather than a room of note-takers, they are Makers. 

Learning zones encourage different styles of learning and parts of the creative process. Clusters of students are active in zones of collaboration, independence, play, presentation … in the classroom and throughout the entire building. As architects, we help educational institutions from early childhood, K-12, to higher education reimagine their spaces and develop innovative active learner focused environments. It’s not just 1 + 1 = 2 anymore -- we’re here to find, discover and transform. 

When in Doubt, Choose Black

Unlike our fictionalized counterparts, the average architect does not earn an exorbitant salary. We do, however, appreciate [and covet] beautiful objects and good design. Cost is always a problem; we’ve invested some time and here’s our work around.

Buy it in black. Paint it in black. Chose the black one. High gloss, matte black, sometimes something in between. Bottom line: Black.

Architects, really designers in general, know that there are many ways to manipulate the eye. Color, pattern, and proportion can make you think something is larger, smaller, and better than it really is. In an effort to evaluate the true form of the object, the authentic nature of the thing, the thingness of the thing if you’ll pardon some Heidegger, take away the trappings and look at it in black. Your favorite architect will own black t-shirts, black cars, black notebooks, black dishes, certainly black framed eyeglasses, black bags, and infinite black pens. 

Now don’t go too far. Actually, do - because it’s mega cool: consider Vantablack. This chemical substance made of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays prevents you from determining contours, edges, and form. We digress… and as per usual, into very expensive territory. 

Bringing the conversation back to what is attainable for mere mortals, there is an even better reason to choose to live in a monochromatic world: things look more expensive in black. Black smooths out the disparity between expensive and inexpensive. In a world where you can’t afford everything you’d like to own, spend your money wisely. Choose black. 


oops | wear this | carry this | eat this | drink this | live here | be annoyed by this 

Photo Credit Wedge + Lever Upton MMXV Campaign
5 Crucial Things to Know Before Entering ‘Plant Parenthood’

A quick search through #plantgang or #houseplantclub on social media reveals thousands of rooms converted to indoor forests. A walk through any home building store or farmer’s market (locally the Lakewood Plant Company at the Cleveland Flea) is an enchanting stroll past racks of succulents, cacti, and tropical plants ripe for wilding your habitat. Before making that purchase, you should understand how to keep your plant healthy. Choosing the best plant for you and your space isn’t all that complicated so here are 5 THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND when converting your urban desert into a peaceful green oasis:

 

1. Not All Plants Are Created Equal

Some need direct light for 6+ hours, others thrive in indirect light. Take note of lighting available in your space. If you have access to southern windows, succulents and cacti would be a good choice. If your main source of light is a light fixture from above, you can’t go wrong with ferns or low light plants like pothos.

2. Who Will Maintain the Plant?

Without even a little maintenance, all plants will die. Whether it’s a personal plant, office plant, or an entire living wall, determine who is responsible for their care. Ensure they’re getting the water they need and are tended to if bugs or mold arises. For the low-maintenance lovers, try the best low maintenance plant – Snake Plant.

3. The Succulent Myth

Succulents are marketed as low maintenance, easy-care plants, but have a lot of demands to be able to thrive indoors. This includes bright, direct sunlight, and not over watering. If you see your plant dramatically stretching, don’t be fooled – it’s not growing quickly, it needs more sunlight. It’s attempting to stretch towards the sun. For watering – water your plant at the base. The amount of water varies per plant/pot. If you have a drainage hole, water plant thoroughly until water runs out of the bottom for about 2 seconds. If there is no drainage, only water with about a tablespoon. For both, watering every other week is plenty. Forgiving Succulents include: Jade Plant or Echeveria Firestorm.

4. Know Your Audience

Will any one be bothered by the type of plant you’ve chosen to adorn your space with? This is especially true for plants that are producing pollen or have fragrance, or pets that could get sick from eating the plant. Some people may have allergies to your selected plant, or don’t share the same affinity for plants. Check with your neighbor and see what plants could work for you both.

5. Resilience and Patience!

Plants, in general, are incredibly resilient. You can do them wrong and they will forgive you time and time again. If you have a plant that isn’t responding to its current environment in the way that you’d like, try adjusting the location, watering schedule, humidity and draft exposure. No matter the situation, there’s a plant for everyone and every space. 

Following the recommendations in this guide will make sure your plants thrive.
Now, where do I get one of those “Plant Lady” shirts?

Learn more from our resident Plant Guru by following her on instagram @MyOnlyChildren

Below the STUDIO w/ Fergist

Our studio is known for its exceedingly treacherous spiral staircase; complete with a landing that makes high heel shoes a questionable choice each morning. That staircase leads you to our materials library and our ‘speakeasy’ lounge, but you will also find a sawdust-filled room of equipment. Welders, tables saws, a bandsaw, and some hand planes fuel our compulsion to craft and build.

As architects, using the shop for both personal weekend projects and some of our largest design projects, we learn the language of our industry from both sides of the table. Now is a great opportunity for anyone to pick up and appreciate a craft, and allow their ability to fill the missing gaps in the industry. As designers, we should inspire future generations that knowledge in building process is both strengthened and branded by the history of craftsmanship in our rust-belt town . Coming from a millennial, many may scoff at this argument promoting labor-intensive craftsmanship in a field saturated with tradesman looking for the quickest buck. Craftsmanship doesn’t necessarily mean “hand-made”. Instead, it references a conscious effort and understanding in an industry that is able to produce high-quality, custom-made products utilizing current and changing technology.

At studioTECHNE|architects, we understand the limitations and benefits of technology, methods, materials, and design. We also encourage the conversation between craftsmen and architects, and with our workshop, the studio continues to be bilingual. We efficiently illustrate our designs, implement accumulated knowledge and responsibly think from the builder’s perspective. Our efforts are focused on passing along this history Below of craftsmanship through design and architecture. 

Before selecting your next architect, maybe ask, “What’s below your studio?”

COFFEE, CARDS, + CULTURE: A Day in the Life of TECHNE
Coffee and Cards.png

Our studio is a place where we have the ability to be ourselves. We have established a culture that allows us to speak up, share our honest opinions and feel like we’re all working towards bettering ourselves and the firm. Our culture directly influences the work we love and enthusiastic relationships we have with our clients.

But first, coffee. No, seriously coffee. While a bit cliché (ok, a lot cliché), every day begins with coffee. Cold and hot brew both are made each day from sustainably sourced beans. How integral is coffee to the beginning of our day? The office handbook has an entire chapter providing instructions on how to brew the perfect, ridicule-free pot of coffee. If you happen to be the first to arrive and “forget” to brew a pot while sipping your coffee house latte, it’s guaranteed that you will never forget again. 

After coffee, a quick consult of the National Day Calendar usually starts the music playlist. What is the perfect National Donut Day or World Emoji Day playlist? We can tell you. Speakers located throughout the office keep the mood light and provide the white noise necessary for the intense focus required for our work. Choose the wrong National Chop Suey Day playlist (and we all know its System of the Down) – a side-hand comment and the not so subtle shift to headphones clearly indicates it’s time to hang the shame curtains. 

After a busy morning collaborating, problem solving, and dreaming of working at one large mega desk (think Dwight Schrute), lunch orders are debated and negotiated, or for those that made trips to the grocery store furious chopping and prep await them in the kitchen. Lunch is a time to refresh, catch up and trash talk our way through a few hands of cards. Hearts is our game of choice, typically a four-person game, we adjusted the rules to fit the number of people which often requires two decks when 8 or more players are involved. There is no worse feeling than hearing “second queen” as the second queen of spades is played and realizing the 5 of clubs on the table is the high card and it’s yours. 

TECHNE works hard to support the culture we’ve created, and we continue to look for ways to strengthen our work and personal relationships. Whether it’s a weekly standing happy hour, Friday lunch, weekend TECHNE trips, cookouts in our courtyard or simply providing space for everyone’s voice, we are forever grateful for this crazy, lovable family that is TECHNE. 

If you’re in the neighborhood and it’s lunch time, brush up on your dealing (YouTube is a good place to start) and join us for a round of hearts – we’d be happy to teach you the TECHNE way to play.

TECHNE: the art of making

Tékʰnɛ is the the rational method followed in artistic making.

studioTECHNE is a firm founded on the idea that places matter and support the ability of people to positively interact and develop authentic relationships. We are a passionate group of makers + problem solvers who apply creativity and strategic analysis to invent spaces that are dynamic and foster a culture of collaboration + innovation.

What is tékʰnɛ?

It is our collective intelligence, a set of principles that shape our designs and makes them recognizable to our clients through materiality, comfort, and the use of daylight to animate the places in which we dwell.  We design for people and the ethos of shared values and collective cooperation; using our systemic knowledge to define transformative actions allowing constructive and meaningful interactions.

Our Work

Our work is focused, and process driven guided by a set of principles developed during our founding project - a masterplan and dining hall for a Romanian Orthodox Monastery in central Michigan. If we weren’t anxious enough after meeting the two priests and ten nuns (only one of whom spoke English) of the monastery; after a three-hour mass, we were introduced to 600 of their donors as the architects (or as the Abbess affectionately referred to us “the boys”) entrusted to guide them in the development of their monastic community. Were we ready for this challenge?

After a day spent eating, meeting donors from Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, walking the grounds reviewing the existing buildings, and more eating, they packed us into our car with more homemade food and bread than we could ever imagine eating. Many thoughts reverberated through our minds on the long drive to Cleveland - How will we manage the language barrier? How will we understand who they are? Define what they need?Convey ideas in a meaningful way?  Will artful making (tékʰnɛ) result in a design that supports their community, be rooted in hundreds of years of monastic traditions, but transcend time?

In developing a design response, we immersed ourselves in the monastery’s daily rituals.  We studied their history and traditions to ensure every design intention was experienced as meaningful and directly supported their ideal that “every act is a prayer. ”Having developed the basic design concepts, we went to the monastery to present our ideas – concepts of shared experience and community.  In the middle of the presentation, the nuns interrupted us (if we learned anything, do not to interrupt a nun) and began excitedly talking in Romanian to the 60 people gathered, they took over and finished making our presentation. Our process was successful, we transcended the language barrier. Our drawings, models, and concepts were so clear the nuns understood them, took ownership of the design and embraced it as uniquely theirs.

24 years later

Tékʰnɛ continues to be the foundation upon which we build relationships with our clients.  It allows us to develop a comprehensive understanding of each project through which we authentically collaborate with our clients to reinforce their culture, improve their personal interactions and create unique environments specific to their goals.

 

TECHNE's Blog Series
 

In addition to launching our new website, we will be introducing a weekly blog series! This blog series will discuss a range of topics from “How to design your library” to tips on caring for your plants!

We hope that this series will give you delightful insight to the daily life of studioTECHNE|architects!

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