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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! 

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



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.

“What kind of agency do we have as citizen-designers to push Cleveland towards a more sustainable, healthy future?”

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.