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
Field Notes: Tom goes to Seoul

On a recent trip to Seoul, South Korea I couldn’t help but frame my experience in the fast-moving metropolis through the lens of someone accustomed to life in a comparatively calm Midwestern city. With more than 13x the population of Northeast Ohio, Seoul suffers from near-constant gridlock but benefits from a vibrance and, with it, the commensurate resources Cleveland hasn’t seen for nearly 100 years.

Like Cleveland, Seoul experienced rapid industrialization, urbanization, and subsequent suburbanization. As the city sprawled after the Korean War, so too did its infrastructure. Over a mere decade, urban and industrial infrastructure was choking the last vestiges of nature out of the core of the city- particularly in the dense and flat CBD.

Hoping to spur economic growth by providing new recreation options to residents and solve the city’s chronic runoff problems, officials decided to do something bold. They made the controversial decision to remove a massive arterial highway and replace it with a long, meandering park and stormwater mitigation system.

(Image- Donghwan-Kim)

(Image- Donghwan-Kim)

After 3 and a half years of work, Cheonggyecheon, has become one of the most popular green spaces in the city. One would be hard-pressed to identify the location of the idyllic watershed in photographs from just 15 years ago when the stream was culverted by a double-decker 8 lane expressway. What was once chocked from sunlight by layers of concrete infrastructure is now a healthy watershed replete with dragonflies, pelicans, and innumerable native plant species (marking an increase in overall biodiversity of 639%) and teeming with schools of fish.

View of pedestrian bridge across Cheonggyecheon

View of pedestrian bridge across Cheonggyecheon

Stones allow visitors to cross the stream from within the park

Stones allow visitors to cross the stream from within the park

Before

Before

Tourist map of Cheonggyecheon

Tourist map of Cheonggyecheon

While the park is only 7 miles long and 50’ wide, the economic, social, and ecological impact on the city has been astronomical. Summer temperatures around the perimeter of the park dropped 11 degrees and particulate air pollution by 35%. With more than 64,000 daily visitors- thousands of which are out of town or foreign- the surrounding owner-occupied buildings along the banks of the stream have found newfound success and increased economic stability thanks to the throngs of visitors.

Like Cleveland’s own public square, Cheonggyecheon is a perfect example of how re-evaluating public spaces and civic infrastructure can be fundamental to remaking a city. Similarly ambitious projects are in the works along Lake Erie, but I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of culverted watersheds and highway-bisected neighborhoods that dot Northeast Ohio. What transformative potential could projects like this-big and small- hold for Cleveland? What would happen if we continued to re-evaluate our public infrastructure? And what kind of agency do we have as citizen-designers to push Cleveland towards a more sustainable, healthy future?

Our 2700 Degree World

Engaging, appropriate, modifiable lighting is a critical component in creating successful spaces. The fascinating thing is that so few people are aware of the power of lighting.

Lighting temperature is measured in degrees of Kelvin. In this case the word temperature is describing the color emitted by a light source. Imagine a candle flame and the range of colors from the wick to the tip of the flame. The color varies based on the differing temperatures across the flame. Incandescent bulbs radiate light energy and our current LED technology attempts to recreate that appearance. The important thing is matching the chosen light temperature to the activity and mood of the space being designed. This is true for every type of space.

When discussing light temperatures, we most often discuss options between 2700K and 6000K. If you’re anywhere near a designer, you’re going to hear some very strongly held opinions on which number is the best. You’ve found your way to our blog and therefore our opinions:

2700k is warm and cozy, approaching the color of candle light in feeling - this is where Danish hygge happens. 2700 and even the next step higher is the best for occupants’ skin tones and improves the mood of almost any space.

3500k is a bit cooler while still feeling in the ‘warm’ range, there’s still a tinge of yellow to the light. It’s acceptable, we’ll leave it at that.

4100K is starting to be crisper, a bit bluer even a little green. This can be described as more neutral but you’re reading the writing of people who think it’s fair to call it cold.

5000K is, in theory, simulating a bright sunny day. Let’s not even start.

6000K is called full sunlight. No. Just, no, not ever.

Lighting for movies and lighting in architecture have a lot in common. In movies, lighting can help the viewer understand how to feel emotionally. It can signify a specific mood and draw the viewer into the world of the story being created. How is lighting used in movies to make magic? Actually, to tell you the truth (and at Christmas you always tell the truth) it is all about lighting at the lower temperature. We have included a few images to illustrate our point. Ladies and gentleman, Love Actually:

Giving Thanks--Cranberry Sauce Ridges and All
Picture taken within Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Picture taken within Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

A yearly tradition for us at TECHNE has been a Friendsgiving potluck lunch including an office roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes + gravy, green bean casserole, Brussels sprouts, and of course a can of cranberry sauce—complete with its signature imprinted ridges (no shaming, there is already enough ridicule to go around).  It is an important opportunity for us to appreciate the hard work, effort and support each of us provides every day.

It is also important for us to recognize and thank you.  We are very grateful for the opportunities we have had the fortune to be involved in over the past year; but are most thankful for the amazing people with whom we collaborate. These personal relationships are what allow us to pursue our work with the dedication and craft that is TECHNE, and we couldn’t do it without your support.

As we pause this week, departing our hectic daily pressures and sit with family and friends to celebrate thanksgiving; let us allow the importance of these bonds and traditions to be foremost in our thoughts and actions.  I think Lincoln said it best in his first inaugural address:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” - Abraham Lincoln 4 March 1861.

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.



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. 


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Photo Credit Wedge + Lever Upton MMXV Campaign