NeoCon Taken by “Force”

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Friday, July 19, 2013
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The Guild fabricated a site-specific installation for Chicago's Merchandise Mart during NeoCon 2013. (James Shanks)

The Guild fabricated a site-specific installation for Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. (James Shanks)

Wolf-Gordon’s “Force of Nature” spirals through Chicago’s Merchandise Mart during NeoCon 2013.

Based on the success of Wolf-Gordon’s inaugural NeoCon installation in 2012, chief creative officer Marybeth Shaw commissioned yet another show-stopping design piece for 2013. With the working title “Forces of Nature,” she turned once again to New York City–based design studio karlssonwilker and Brooklyn-based design-build collaborative The Guild to create a sculpture that would showcase the breadth of the company’s textiles and wall coverings. “The title ended up being quite appropriate to the final form, as the sculpture is a geometric construct with all of the resulting physical forces that might spin it out of the Mart’s ‘town square,’” Shaw recently told AN.

Karlssonwilker initially conceived of a kinetic sculpture, but Shaw wanted a large installation—nearly 30 feet long and 14 feet wide. At that size, there was no room for movement within the given space, a double-height ceiling over an escalator that would carry 42,000 show attendees. “We wanted it to rotate like a rotisserie chicken, but we went for a larger form,” said Graham Kelman, creative manager for The Guild. Ultimately, the team decided on a static sculpture resembling a twisted spine that gives a sense of movement through color and form. “I lost sleep over whether it would fit because if there was flex in the spine, it wouldn’t work.”

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Ask Not What The Google Can Do For You

Eavesdroplet, Midwest, Newsletter
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
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Wolf Point on the Chicago River. (Courtesy Pelli Clarke Pelli)

Wolf Point on the Chicago River. (Courtesy Pelli Clarke Pelli)

The biggest stir caused by the Kennedy’s newest proposal for developing Wolf Point was not obscuring the Merchandise Mart views or initial reactions to the renderings or the stuffing of three very tall towers on one impossibly small piece of land. It was more like, “There’s a living Kennedy with a stake in Chicago real estate?” We all know the family sold the Mart years ago. Fewer of us knew they held on to that little sandbar that sits in front of the the Sun-Times building.

Ready to boost the family fortune, the Kennedys with Hines, Cesar Pelli, and bKL plan to stuff three towers onto the site. Is this the architectural equivalent of a 10 lb. bag of sugar in a 5 lb. sack? Maybe, but development of that scale is also kind of exciting. And that leads to the biggest question. Can this economy support a residential and commercial project of this size? Well, Jean—that’s the last sibling standing, right, so the land must be hers—get out your good-faith checkbook: Google is coming. They’ve leased the top floors of the Mart, which will serve as the new headquarters of Motorola, which Google has acquired. That means thousands of high paying fancy Google jobs just across the street. With that news, Wolf Point is a done deal, no?

FabriKator: Wolf-Gordon’s Escalator Canopy

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Friday, August 3, 2012
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Guild_Wolf-Gordon

How a boutique Brooklyn design-build collective strung up NeoCon’s first major installation.

Attendees of NeoCon in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart rode the escalators and ascended towards Wolf-Gordon‘s large crystalline canopy hanging overhead. Though NeoCon has come and gone, Wolf-Gordon has just begun using the tessellated, prismatic structure for an ad campaign that, for the company’s new Chief Creative Officer, Marybeth Shaw, signifies a renewed approach to design and a willingness to take risks. To announce Wolf-Gordon’s new face to the world, Shaw enlisted the help of advertising agency Karlssonwilker, who has created campaigns for Adobe, the New York Times Magazine, BMW, Vitra and MTV, among others, and The Guild, a Brooklyn-based design and build collective whose clients include Dior, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Hurley and Diane von Furstenberg. It’s a bit of an unexpected mix of talents, to be sure, but Shaw wanted to shake things up.

After developing a concept with Karlssonwilker that was inspired by Bruno Taut’s 1914 Glass Pavilion, Shaw turned to The Guild, where Creative Manager Graham Kelman translated her idea into a spiky, crystalline form onto which Wolf-Gordon’s fabrics, textiles and wall coverings could be displayed. Kelman’s first design had between 650-700 prismatic faces with an area far too small to show off the fabric, so Kelman decreased the amount of faces to around 250 while also increasing their individual size. “I increased the largest spike from three to six feet by using a sheet of material per spike side,” Kelman said. He was able to decrease “the total number of faces by two-thirds and still retain the aesthetic impact, volume and material” he wanted.

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Chicago’s Merchandise Mart to Get Tech Boost.  Chicago's Merchandise Mart to Get Tech Boost Known to architects for the dozens of design showrooms it houses and the annual NeoCon tradeshow it hosts, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart may also become a major center for the city’s tech industry. Crain’s is reporting that Google is planning to lease half a million square feet in the mammoth building, and will add a large roof deck offering city, river, and lake views. The deck will, no doubt, help compensate for the massive floorplates that will leave most employees far from natural light. Google will also bring 3000 jobs–from a Motorola division they acquired–from the suburbs to downtown.

 

Shimoda Design’s Steelcase Showroom: Formglas

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Friday, June 17, 2011
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Faceted column covers at Steelcase's Merchandise Mart showroom (Shimoda Design)

Molded gypsum shapes a Chicago Merchandise Mart space.

The Steelcase Worklife Center is one of the Chicago Merchandise Mart’s largest showrooms, spanning 45,000 square feet and encompassing four areas displaying the furniture manufacturers’ various brands. The company hired Los Angeles-based architect Joey Shimoda, who also designed the Steelcase center in Santa Monica, to create interiors that would unify the showroom with the common corridor bisecting it. After reading about a project by molded gypsum, concrete, and fiberglass fabricator Formglas in a magazine, he called the company and was on a plane to its Toronto headquarters the next day to discuss a series of geometric architectural elements he envisioned for the space.

Continue reading after the jump.

Eavesdrop Takes Artopolis (Eats Out of Garbage Can?)

Midwest
Thursday, May 6, 2010
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A sculpture by Tony Tasset outside the Merchandise Mart. (All photos by Tripp Chamberlain)

Chicago may be better known for NeoCon–that’s the design show, not right-wing political philosophy–but the contemporary and modern art equivalent, Artropolis, appears to be holding ground with another solid run at the Merchandise Mart over the last weekend. Artropolis, the Midwest‘s answer to Art Basel, is comprised of three fairs: Art Chicago; NEXT, an invitational exhibition of emerging art; and the International Antiques Fair. AN’s Midwest Eavesdrop took a spin around the preview party to peep who turned out for the free booze and what was showing at the fairs.   Read More

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