PechaKucha: Aristotle, Emptiness, and Godzilla
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PechaKucha is the Japanese format of storytelling, where the presenter shows 20 slides, 20 seconds each.

To honor the upcoming PechaKucha being held in Cleveland, we are throwin’ it back to our very own take. This particular presentation event occurs in cities around the world to give designers a platform to showcase their works, ideas, and stories. Marco, principal of studioTECHNE, had the opportunity to participate in 2013. Here he discusses, “Aristotle, Empitness, and Godzilla”…

“As was said, we’re going to talk about Aristotle, Emptiness, and Godzilla. These are the principles that we have based the firm around. It is our decision making and how we approach design and the design process.

First I’d like to talk a little about design.

Design is, at its basic sense, a collective. A collective intelligence that shows us and shapes the world in which we live. You can recognize it through the materiality of our objects, the environments in which we dwell, the visual communication that we share information, and the spaces that we inhabit.

Design is about ethos; it’s about values. It’s about the opportunity to support our capacity to respond to global crisis, our well-being, our survival. It depends on our ability to organize, innovate, design sustainable and holistic solutions, and solve the problems that we present ourselves in our world today.


Unlike anything, any time in our past, information sharing has become critical to supporting individual performance. Our ability to collaborate within the office expands our ability to think; it expands our ability to critically solve problems and it extends the limits each of us individually have as we design.

“Aristotle’s edition to techne - the idea of techne - is that techne becomes--something that becomes moral; becomes about our humanity. So as architects, as we start to think about making space, really what we end up doing is designing for emptiness.”

In 1994 when the firm was founded - this was back in the days of darkness - the internet was text-based and it was dial-up. It was a lot different and you had to go to the library to find information. We spent a day in the library looking at books to try to think about who we are, what we are, and what we wanted to do. We thought that – a business named after ourselves wasn’t intentional enough. How do we come to something that actually talks about the work that we’re going to do?  As we looked at Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the idea of techne - the art of making - became something that resonated quite clearly, and in that word--is the use of systematic knowledge to define solutions that represent human action. This isn’t basic cognitive making but it is transformative. It’s purpose is to produce an effect and emotional response. It allows us to inhabit space. Aristotle’s edition to techne - the idea of techne - is that techne becomes--something that becomes moral; becomes about our humanity. So as architects, as we start to think about making space, really what we end up doing is designing for emptiness.


Architecture as we practice it is a long process. It can take us 2-3 years to design a project from start to finish and get it constructed. But what that means, though, is time to think about the spaces that we make; that we’re not just building but we’re actually providing space that can enclose, liberate, suspend us, lead us through those spaces, places to contemplate, places to think.

Broken down in its most basic - stripped of its walls, its language, slabs, structure, etc - what you’re left with is emptiness. We can’t draw emptiness; we can’t plan emptiness. What we can do is draw its boundaries - start to think about what the resultant space is that we want--what we want to have as something that can be occupied. The space itself is dependent on our senses. It requires the perception of light, sound, texture, color, but most importantly it relies on human experience. It is in these spaces that we inhabit that we share, work, meet, greet, and provides meaningfulness to the things we do on a daily basis. When we think about these spaces that we design, we think about light, shape, form - all of these working together to impart a certain impression - invoke a sensation. We’re talking about memory. We talk about feeling. We talk about remembrance. In this case, though, we don’t draw emptiness. Emptiness is something that we experience; something that becomes meaningful. Within this emptiness we develop an understanding of place. As a result, our work has a certain minimalist quality about it; it depends on the observer. It also gives its impression that there’s something inside; that there’s a space to contain. That there’s a certain amount of opportunity within.

“As an allegory it is a reminder of balance. It’s guiding us to remember that while we work digitally - these must still be acts of our hand.”

Given these parameters, our clients come to us with budgets - a set of issues, a set of ideas. We have a site; we choose building tectonics, which is the means and methods of construction. We bring all of these things together into multiple parts that organize itself into a building that we are able to coalesce into something that has meaning.


In today’s society we’re multitasking; we’re moving with information all the time. We’ve moved from 256 characters with twitter to, as my kids tell me, 6 seconds for a Vine. This is our new eternity and danger.  We find a similar allegory at the beginning of the atomic age in film. 1954 Gojira (Godzilla). For us - this 15 meter tall force of nature created by human negligence - is an individual that has two goals: 1) destroy Tokyo 2) destroy any monster that’s trying to destroy Tokyo and then destroy Tokyo. Through advances in technology, he is defeated.  As an allegory it is a reminder of balance. It’s guiding us to remember that while we work digitally - these must still be acts of our hand. Building is still an intentional act. Decision-making happens as a result of very careful consideration. And as our hands move, we have time to observe what we’ve done, we’re able to think about these investigations. We’re able to think about the proper palette of materials - the way to organize space and that palette of materials – into meaningful places and spaces that our clients are really happy to occupy.

How do we measure success? Our project’s success results from having the spaces we’ve designed support activity that we didn’t plan, think about, and could never have expected. For instance, one of our projects, a pedestrian walkway, - inspired a dance company to choreograph a movement piece specific to our design and perform it on the walkway. Having the spaces we design have a life we couldn’t imagine but allows other to imagine is our greatest success.”

Dancers on CHUH Library Pedestrian Bridge

Dancers on CHUH Library Pedestrian Bridge


(I know you just read that entire thing, but if you feel like listening instead, check out the video below!)

This years PechaKucha will be held along Cleveland’s East bank, at Jacobs Pavillion, focusing on waterways. This free event will host speakers from around the world to discuss our most important resource. We hope to see you there!

Uploaded by PechaKucha Night Cleveland on 2013-08-26.
Material Space

Inhabit: to live or dwell in a place; to exist or be situated within.

Architecture’s ability to mediate experience has historically been tied to the inherent qualities of material form and function.  Digital media and new forms of visualization increasingly dominate our daily experiences, and what we experience as real is no longer just physical sensations. We become situated in an environment that is no longer material, and it rather exists as hybrid space apart from cognition and tangible experience. What is the role of formal architecture in supporting interactions in non-material space? What potential or operative qualities exist to enhance interpersonal interactions?  As immaterial stimuli overlay experiential space, what leverage do we have as designers to improve our surrounding environment and heighten our connections to each other and improve our shared experience?

design process

design process

“We become situated in an environment that is no longer material. This environment rather exists as hybrid space apart from cognition and tangible experience.” 

An installation in our studio allowed us the opportunity to formally explore an environment’s ability to change awareness and challenge the relationship between material and immaterial (it was also a great reason to invite friends over and have a party).  The exploration began with a daylight study that generated a form with data sets specific to the time of day and the narrowness of the space.

3d model of the space

3d model of the space

cut diagram

cut diagram

installation timelapse

installation timelapse

The surface undulates and conforms to the space reacting to activity zones, access points and the shade and shadow created by windows and skylights. The surface was divided into 64 labeled panels which were laser cut and installed. On the night of the event, the assembled form provided a surface for mapping texture, information, wayfinding in a way that altered visual relationships and allowed the space to be experienced in multiple ways.


Although we no longer have vibrant graphics or natural images projected on the canopy, it still suspends from our ceiling, and continues to be a topic of conversation.

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It’s hard to believe, but 2019 marks the 25th year of TECHNE. We have so much to be grateful for and so many exciting things to look forward to in the future.  Over the next several months we will be sharing TECHNE history, including an interview with our founder, projects that shaped the office, commentary from TECHNE alum, and inside stories from our current team as we approach our anniversary on August 15th.  (FUN FACT:  Three former employees share the same birthday with the office’s anniversary.  What are the chances?)  For now, we hope you enjoy a few photos of our last 25 years.    


Stay tuned! 

Hawken Brown Gym Innovation Lab

Hawken School approached us somewhat timidly with a need - “We would like to make a place of innovation where students will explore complex ill defined problems and engage in non-sequential iterative processes to solve essential questions” - a perfectly terrifying start to a Monday. Fortunately, we have been working for the last ten years with a variety of clients implementing places of innovation that allow students to develop skills in brainstorming, exploration, critical thinking and collaboration. The opportunity for students to define a problem, organize a solution, prototype, test, fail and repeat are critical 21st century skills and develops resilience and leads to true innovation.


“We would like to make a place of innovation where students would explore complex ill defined problems and engage in non-sequential iterative processes to solve essential questions”


Similar challenges were encountered by our design team—the space the client had in mind was an underutilized 1930’s era brick walled gymnasium. Our team met with educators and students in a series of discussions and sketch exercises to develop a set of design criteria focused on designing a learning environment that would engage students and foster a culture of playful but rigorous problem solving. The main activities required were a place to prototype, a place to collaborate, and a place for the students to present their ideas - definitely more program than the gym was able to support. The design team utilized the height of the gym, adding a mezzanine to create the collaboration and ideation area overlooking the fabrication and making equipment. studioTECHNE supported school leadership in the development of the project through open communication, developing inspirational drawings and images of the space that effectively conveyed the schools vision to their donors and the school community. The completed Innovation Lab met the curriculum + educational goals of the school,  and students are excitedly engaged in hands-on learning and making.



Special International Bulletin: TECHNE Field Agent Gustav Cooledge in Danger.

Gustav has gone missing while taking field notes for a conceptual project in Croatia. We sent his last two Photographs to a laboratory to try and extract a few clues but we haven’t able to identify his captor. We are sharing the results of this analysis and enlisting your help so we can bring Gustav back to Cleveland.


We created these renders as part of a conceptual design for a resort along the rugged Croatian coastline. We hope you had as much fun watching our short clip as we did creating it and can’t wait to share more about this project in future.

Happy April Fools, and stay safe!

Spotlight on Women in Construction

As a woman, I would like to say that it’s about darn time that the feminist movement is being kicked into gear. Women are finally getting more respect, opportunity, and equality. Although we’re moving in the right direction, there’s still more work to be done, especially when it comes to the construction industry. In 2016, the National Association for Women in Construction reported that workers in construction totaled 10,328,000, and only 939,000 – that’s just under 10% - were women. In a field that is still male dominated, not only are women’s energies focused on doing their job, they’re also focused on squashing any belief that they aren’t suited for it. To keep this conversation moving, I spoke with the lovely ladies of TECHNE to gain an insight to their perspective working in the field.
-Mariah Schlegel

Q: As accomplished Architects, do you find yourself still needing to “prove” yourself to male peers – architects, contractors, consultants?

KS: Sadly, yes.  I’ve found that over time this has lessened, although occasionally there are individuals who question my experience and knowledge.  In opposition to many situations I’ve encountered where individuals are fighting for the loudest voice or smartest person in the room, I believe our capacity to be vulnerable breeds trust.  Feeling the pressure to ‘prove’ myself or compete for those titles forces me to take a step back.  I work harder to provide the right answer or the correct information with the appropriate language rather than working as an equal with the team – it dramatically slows down the process.  My hope is that these instances create an opportunity to educate our male counterparts that women do know as much as them, that we can provide the same amount of value and that our seat at the table is a necessary one.    

JP: In meetings with my clients, contractors, and other architects, I try my hardest to not operate out of fear.

It can be easy to give in to the fear of being underappreciated, not respected, or of admitting there’s something I don’t know. It’s easy to speak up before I’ve fully formed my thought or before I have something considered to say. If I take time to evaluate the issues on the table, I can trust myself to identify an effective way of putting the problem in perspective. If my goal is just to be heard and just to be respected, I’m less successful.

Confidence is not knowing that everything will work out, confidence is knowing that everything will be all right if it doesn’t work out. I need to trust myself and trust that the people I respect will respect me.

MS: The question is a little different for me. Although I am a certified Interior Designer, the fact that I am an interior designer at all, already puts me lower on the totem pole of respect from my typically older, male peers. I have found that most everyone, including those in the field, do not know exactly what it is that we do. (I’ll put a link to the definition of Interior Design in the comments!). I had a recent experience, where the contractor told our principal, that he was actually ashamed that he had doubted me. He did not want to attend the weekly meeting if he wasn’t going to be there and ended up being pleasantly surprised once he realized that a younger, female, Interior Designer could carry a project just as effectively. It’s not so much about “proving” yourself to them, but revealing that you’re capable, smart, and responsible.

Q: Has the Feminist movement had any impact on your experiences within the industry, internally or externally?

JP: Feminism is believing that all people deserve to be treated like people. There couldn’t be a more base level belief. The Feminist movement has had a profound impact on my experiences. Every inch that the movement has moved humanity toward equality has made my life infinitely easier.  

Q: Is this the first time you’ve discussed this topic publicly? If yes, what do you think was holding you back?

MS: Yes. I have no issue discussing my experiences, but rarely do I find the appropriate platform to air my grievances, especially to the broader public. It is so important to take advantage of these opportunities when they happen, and carry on the conversation whenever possible.

Q: Any advice to give ladies – young or experienced – in the construction field?

JP: You can do this job. Your unique set of skills and talents will give you a unique and valuable perspective. Have faith in yourself and know that we are all struggling with fears.

MS: To all my younger, less experienced, and intimidated ladies reading – there is nothing but growth! The journey to confidence in this field can be turbulent, but with time comes experience. You have a unique perspective from anyone else, and your opinion is valid. Share it. Feelings are also valid, and you are entitled to respect. If you’re feeling that someone is talking down to you, do not be afraid to address the situation. If you refer to my experience above, sometimes your peers aren’t even aware that they’re treating you in such a way. All in all, you got this, lady.

KS: Know that your voice is just as valuable as anyone else in the room.  If you feel your confidence slipping, remember the passion you hold for your profession – it will provide you the strength you need to overcome any unwanted pressures or obstacles.


In the words of Mother Michelle Obama,

“Women and girls can do whatever they want. There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish.”


A Year In Review

As we approach the new year it’s only fitting for us to reflect on the amazing year we had in 2018.  In the vein of those lovely family newsletters you receive every year during the holidays, here are a few of our highlights:

We saw years of planning and hard work finally fulfilled with the completion of Saint Martin de Porres High School, Crocker Park’s Amenity Space and Hawken’s Innovation Lab. 

We celebrated (just because) with 100 of our closest friends at our summer Open House. 

We had our first TECHNE Visioning Retreat discussing ideas, refining our mission and identifying priorities for the year to come. 

We celebrated numerous milestones within the TEHCNE family – three newly registered architects, one NCIDQ certified interior designer, a new baby, an engagement, a wedding, and a 5-year + 15-year work anniversary.

We took two TECHNE trips: the first to Calgary and Banff with our friends from DIRTT + American Interiors and the second to DC for our office holiday party to see the progress of the Ballston Bridge. 

We dominated…in the first few weeks…of an 8-week trivia competition on ‘The Office’ and put in some really good effort re-watching the entire series. 

We fabricated and installed 8’ letters at Yellowcake’s final Hullabaloo fashion show.

We competed in an 80’s themed Whirlyball competition with American Interiors.

We spent the day riding roller coasters at Cedar Point dressed as pumpkins during Hallo-weekends. 

And of course, we launched our new website and have been having a blast writing this blog.

The new year will bring the anniversary of our 25th year in business.  While some things have changed, we’ve worked hard to ensure our values remain the same.  We’re fortunate to continue working with amazing clients in seeing their missions become reality and supporting the family culture we’ve created in the office.  We look forward to sharing our adventures and stories with all of you in the new year.

From our family to yours; cheers to 2019!

Kristen Mimms Comment