Posts tagged with "Craft":

Chicago’s Center for Lost Arts provides space and tools for architects and designers to get their hands dirty

Charles Adler knows a thing or two about startups. A founder of Kickstarter, Adler is now on the ground helping makers, architects, artists, and inventors get their hands dirty with a new experimental venture.

The Center for Lost Arts is a shared space dedicated to making and being around others with a penchant for working with their hands. Now in its second iteration, Lost Arts is using the next six months to test and tweak a membership model.

Members of Lost Arts will have access to the 10,000-square-foot shop space on Chicago’s Goose Island. The space is filled with all of the tools that small companies and independent designers can rarely afford for themselves. Sawing machines, CNC routers, circular saws, and 3-D printers abound in the former industrial space. The large space is divided by use; a lounge area, a coworking space, a clean-working area, event space, and the shop. For those not familiar with a piece of equipment, one of Lost Arts’ experts will be on hand to provide guidance and safety instruction.

After starting with an initial group of 60 invited members—comprised of artists,architects, designers, musicians, and entrepreneurs—the project is now open for new members. Different levels of membership are designated by when and how much time you are allowed to use the space. A weekend membership starts at eighty dollars per month, with a full-time membership costing five hundred dollars per month. The month-to-month membership allows those who might only need access for one month to complete a commission or build a model or prototype on a budget. This works well for small architecture and design firms that often need model building space, but usually only have office space.

The large industrial building in which Lost Arts is located is one of many owned by Chicago developer R2 Companies. With its sights set on transforming the formerly industrial Goose Island into a tech and research and design hub, R2 is a big supporter of Lost Arts, renting the space to the start up for one dollar. Comcast is also involved providing fiber internet to the space. More support has come from institutions such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which will be holding a class in the space this next semester. The first iteration of Lost Arts, a one-month test of the idea, was (appropriately) funded through Adler’s former venture: $11,000 was raised on Kickstarter. 

Lost Arts is not alone in providing space targeted at startups and small practices, but it is one of the few dedicated to making physical products. In the Merchandise Mart, 1871 Chicago focuses on computer programing and business startups, while a handful of coworking spaces across the city are simply a place to have a desk. The shared economy which all of these spaces are a part of is still evolving. Young architecture firms are some of its earliest adopters, bringing together lost arts and new models of practice. For more on Los Arts, see their website here.

Marlon Blackwell Weaves Plywood At The Crystal Bridges Museum


Marlon Blackwell uses ribbed ceiling to evoke craft while mitigating contemporary challenges at Arkansas museum.

The setting for the gift shop at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art seems idyllic—a vast glass wall opens onto a entry courtyard that gives way to a placid pond reflecting the Ozarks landscape. But to create a design for the 3,100 square-foot space in Bentonville, Arkansas, architect Marlon Blackwell had to overcome multiple hurdles. The first: a thicket of concrete columns supporting the green roof of the Moshe Safdie-designed building. Next: the west-facing glass wall, which made heat gain an issue. And finally: the very small budget (the total project cost was $644,000).
  • Fabricator UDI
  • Architect Marlon Blackwell Architect
  • Location Bentonville, Arkansas
  • Date of Completion  Late 2011
  • Material   Cherry plywood
  • Process  AlphaCAM CAD/CAM 3-D modeling, CNC routing
Blackwell’s solution to all three problems was a concept inspired in part by local Arkansas basket weaver Leon Niehues, whose work is now sold in the museum shop. Niehues’ pieces are distinguished by their vertical “ribs.” The wrapper of rib-like forms devised by Blackwell begins at the top of the exterior glass wall, where it acts as a sunscreen, and extends across the ceiling and down the long eastern interior wall where shelving is integrated into the system. Made of locally sourced cherry plywood, the final effect is less wicker-work and more chanterelle—Blackwell’s ribs, which span roughly 30 feet, evoke the gills on the underside of a mushroom cap. But the arc-shaped plan of the building complicated matters. “It was a curved volume, so we couldn’t reference a radius,” said Blackwell. “We used straight lines, which looks great but demanded that each rib had to be slightly different.” Each of the 223 undulating ribs is composed of up to four segments of joined planks 8 inches wide and 3/4-inches thick. Using 3-D modeling and AlphaCAM CAD/CAM software, Blackwell’s team translated the design to CNC routers in the millwork shop of Adam Weaver at UDI Inc, in Rogers, Arkansas. Weaver deployed two routers at once to stay on deadline—an Onsrud CNC and a Northwood CNC—and an optimizer insured that there was as little wasted material as possible. From 480 sheets of plywood emerged the 700 cut pieces for the ribs, each inscribed with a number and with the screw holes and the overlapping joins pre-cut. Once the material was delivered to the site, the contractors used a plum line and a laser to align then suspend components from the ceiling. The ribs gradually took shape one piece at a time. “It was like stacking stone,” said Blackwell, noting that everything snapped into place in under six weeks during construction in 2011. The rib system filters out up to 40 percent of the daylight and not only finesses the existing concrete columns but also conceals sprinklers and the store’s lighting system. Blackwell use of cherry planks for the floor creates a unified and warm space that complements the wares on display for only $200 per square foot.