"Often overlooked as architects, the Eames were really good and serious at making their whole lives seem like a giant picnic. There is a joy in their design process as much as in the products themselves. That is much closer to what I want."
I grew up in Santa Monica at the beach. I moved to NYC to go to college and somewhere along the line I started working at Zing Magazine and then became the managing editor. Zing was an amazing experience both for the places that it took me and the people I got to work with. I studied comparative literature and critical theory with a focus on semiotics in college and the more I was involved in the art world and in the production of an object—the magazine— the more it was a natural evolution to the thinking about the design of objects and environments and buildings in a narrative way.
Eventually I moved back to Los Angeles to study architecture ending up at SCI_arc. After that I worked with a few of different architecture and design offices but most consistently for Johnston Marklee. Right now I'm focused on WELCOME as a multi-disciplinary design practice- and I am teaching in the School of Architecture at USC.
I was so inspired by the whole wall unit series. It is so interesting on so many levels. Can you talk about where the idea came from?
The first Whole Wall actually came out of my thesis project at SCI_arc called folk- it was a body of work produced around ideas about the relationship that the avant-gardes typically have to "newness" and thinking about folk culture as a movement that can create "newness" without demanding a break from the past. I produced prototypes for a number of furniture objects using traditional crafts and commonplace building techniques and materials as a jumping off point but often using new methods or technologies along the way.
The original Whole Wall was one these prototypes. In someways the basic idea is there in the title— Whole Wall- I've taken the notion of a type-V or balloon frame wall construction-studs, insulation, sheathing etc and have given it well—a girth, a thickness and a collage of textures, making something very standard into something decorative but still functional. I'm interested in ideas of appropriation, craft, layering, and also about how we use space and how (in this case) a piece of furniture can actually act as a "wall" or a divider of space. The Whole Wall Shelf is designed to be "in the round"- a screen on one side and a shelf on the other or it can be part screen part shelf on each side. The user can organize it to suit their space or to change their space. Right now I'm translating it from the prototype into a series of pieces that can be produced and sold on a wider scale- adding a desk, a bench and ideally a cabinet to the family. I've also been wanting to make a really big one...a wall literally.
how long is has taken to complete?
Since I finished my thesis in the fall of 2006, I guess you could say I've been working on the Whole Wall Family for 4 years but really in its latest incarnation, just for the last few months. I'm hoping the Shelf, Desk and Bench will be ready by the Fall.
I find it so interesting that your background is in architecture, and this piece of furniture is almost a play on that.
I think of architecture as a way of thinking about things and a way of having a conversation with what's around us— a narrative as a communicative device. I'm interested in ideas about scale and space making that architecture deals with. So can a piece of furniture create space in the way that architecture does, or what happens when a piece of furniture relies on similar systems either- in the case of the Whole Wall, a building system or a material organization or a pattern or geometric system.
Did you ever have difficulties with the seriousness of the architect community?
Yes, I often find most of the architecture community is too serious— architecture doesn't need to be a tragedy. Often overlooked as architects, the Eames were really good and serious at making their whole lives seem like a giant picnic. There is a joy in their design process as much as in the products themselves. That is much closer to what I want.
I know so little about contemporary architecture, anyone you could turn me on to?
Hmm...I really appreciate the Japanese firm, Atelier Bow Wow. They have a way of being both serious and playful at the same time... finding and documenting amazing occurrences in the built environment of Tokyo and then using those observations in their own work. Their houses are lessons on making the most of small spaces.
Your pieces seem to celebrate "PLAY", almost a melting pot of Ettore Sottsass, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Roy McMakin, and others. Anyone you are specifically inspired by in your life?
You've hit the nail on the head! Definitely Ettore Sottsass and Roy McMakin play a huge roles and they make for strange bedfellows...Sottsass's use of color and shape and McMakin's subtle play with the domestic everyday. Pee Wee's Playhouse use to really creep me out as a child but now I think about Gary Panter's work all the time. I've been thinking a lot lately about the way we create relationships to objects sometimes by giving them personalities— anthropomorphizing our belongings- Gary Panter on the Pee Wee's Playhouse set took that super far.
Did you have a favorite board game as a kid?
I loved Clue...the board with the plans of all the rooms, the different floor materials and the little game pieces...- the language that was involved—"Cornel Mustard in the drawing room with the candle stick."
Plans for WELCOME for the upcoming year?
Yes I have tons of plans! Next month, Wagon, my first product is launching which I'm really excited about. I'm also working on a commission for a small group of jewelry for a friend who is launching an online store. And there is the aforementioned Whole Wall Furniture Family in the Fall.
What were two things you wanted to be when you were a kid?
I think I wanted to be a writer and an architect...kinda boring that I actually am both. I'm realizing in my old age that I'm pretty single-minded, as much I as think I'm off track I'm not...a good and a bad thing I suppose.
Knotted in the style of loose macrame or net,
Knot Security Curtain echoes the diamond pattern of a chainlink fence
or security grate and provides a softer side of security.
To be hung inside or outside!!!
A native Angeleno, Laurel explores her interests in the roles of material culture, craft, and style within architecture and design through collaborations and publications with and without WELCOME. She received her B.A. from New York University (NYU) and her M.Arch from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI_arc), she is a certified LEED AP. Prior to her architectural training, Laurel was managing editor at zingmagazine in New York City. Laurel has experience working with a diverse group of architects, designers and artists including Johnston Marklee, Greg Lynn, Sussman/Prejza, Bestor Architecture, Taalman/Koch and Jeffrey Inaba as well as the artists Ester Partegas and Devon Dikeou. She teaches design studio in the USC School of Architecture. Her writing and designs have appeared in a variety of forums including, Volume, North Drive Press and the Storefront for Art and Architecture. She is also a partner in Euneveuver.
Thank you Laurel!
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