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Hack The Box: Re-Programming the Museum Experience

18 Mar

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I’ve had the opportunity to do some really interesting and fun things in my capacity as an instructor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design (CCAD). Last week was no exception. Between March 13-15, Corcoran College of Art and Design and Bethesda-based Brivo Labs engaged in a cutting-edge, meticulously planned, creatively consuming, brain-numbing-in-a-good-way design charrette to re-think the way that we experience the museum, as experienced through today’s (and the future’s) vast, and growing, technological capabilities.  (Whew. Did I say that right?)

The entire group consisted of about 15 rockstar graduate students from CCAD’s interior design and exhibition design departments, about 5 faculty mentors and 3 administrators from CCAD, many employees from Brivo, a few people from Top Coder (a company that I could write another whole post on). For the final presentation we were all joined by a handful of esteemed curators, webmasters, CEO’s, and other key members from important institutions in the worlds of art, architecture, and technology.

I was a faculty mentor for Team Retail (which I’ll explain below). I think we were also called Team Shop. Or Team Store. But we referred to ourselves as Team Retail from the first day.

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In an attempt to summarize this endeavor briefly, the schedule was as follows:

On Thursday we met at Brivo headquarters in Bethesda for an introduction to what they do and a discussion of how we could best create a conceptual synergy. We got to play with some neat gadgets and learn about things like beacons, which look like this  (note: this faceted silicone thing is the housing/casing, and not the actual “brain” itself, which is buried inside):

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In short, Brivo Systems provides cloud-based security solutions and Brivo Labs does all kinds of neat stuff with technology that I am just beginning to wrap my head around, so I will keep my explanation of what they do to that. Their website can pick up where I leave off.

We were split into three teams, each one working within the confines of the Corcoran’s historic 17th Street Beaux-Arts building as a test-case:

Team Entry had the task of addressing how we discover and first approach and engage with the museum.

Team Exhibition had the task of addressing how we understand, interact with, and experience the actual art.

Team Retail had the task of addressing how we engage with, locate, and participate in the retail experience of a museum. I was a faculty mentor for this team, which was comprised of five interior design grad students, two exhibition design grad students, members of both Brivo and TopCoder, and another faculty member.

On Friday, we met at the Corcoran Gallery of Art to explore the space as a whole as well as take measurements, document, and collect data about our respective spaces.

If you wanted to, you could even sneak away to see some of the current exhibitions and happenings. I walked into “Loop,” which is a personal favorite.

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I was also mesmerized by students and volunteers working on a huge Sol LeWitt line drawing in the atrium. Where else could you see something like this happening?

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Our team chose to spend the bulk of that time discussing ways that we could incorporate technology into the retail experience, and we worked closely with our Brivo and Top Coder tech-brains to distill those ideas into a what was ultimately a solicitation for solutions on Top Coder’s website.  What basically happened, was we came up with a concept for an App that would tie the museum experience to the retail experience, driving traffic back and forth between the two both while in the museum and after leaving the space. This would create a chicken-and-egg/cyclical effect of looping the two experiences together, which would result in repeat visitors to the museum and increased sales in the shop. The App would play heavily on the concept of gamification, creating incentives for ultimate cash-in in the retail store, and would work for those who choose to have active engagement through a device like an iPhone or tablet (either their own or one provided by the museum) as well as those who choose to have passive engagement through wearing a day-pass around their neck or carrying a member ID card (which would be equipped with a unique identifier such as a RFID chip). I’m going to stop going into detail here, because 1.) I could go on forever and 2.) I don’t want to give anything away that people might be hacking away at in the coming months.

I am really geeking out here, you guys. I can’t tell you how FUN this was.

On Saturday, we all reconvened at Brivo to have the official charrette day, where we put our brains to work. Starting at 8am. For 13 hours. Without leaving the building at all on a REALLY nice day. In a room full of dry erase fumes. But we made it through to the other side, and we’re fine. Better for the experience, actually.

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Saturday was a complete fog of diagrams, whiteboards, tracing paper, Google Drive and Dropbox exchanges, coffee (OH! the coffee we consumed), jelly beans, and power cords. Somehow, in the midst of all of this, we even managed to try out some toys that Brivo had for us to play with. Among them:

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GOOGLE GLASS! I don’t even CARE that I appear to have premature wrinkles on my forehead. I don’t even care. My husband was so jealous.

The day looked a lot like this for all three teams:

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Then 6pm rolled around, we breathed for a few minutes, and we set up to present our conclusions and proof of concepts to the critics. That looked a lot like this:

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Team Retail was even able to show a peek at the wireframe model of the App we conceived of. Can you believe that?  After formulating a concept, submitting a request to the TopCoder community of hundreds of thousands of programmers and coders, and letting things happen overnight, a “winner” from halfway across the world came up with a viable working model for the actual App. This is an example of the incredible synergy that this three-way partnership was intended to create: my mind is blown.

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The end of the evening was full of high-fives, thank-yous, and mutual admiration for what ended up being an awesome and exhausting collaboration. I didn’t play sports in high school, but it felt like we won a division championship or something. (Showing my nerd card. Again.)

One of the things that I have yet to mention is that this event was planned right before the recent announcements concerning the fate of the Corcoran Gallery/College, so many of the groups had approaches that necessarily addressed questions like “What happens to the collection?” and “Will the museum be free?” Those questions in and of themselves are big things to tackle, so doing that in conjunction with the larger purpose of the charrette was an enormous feat on top of another enormous feat, and these groups handled themselves like pros. I’m proud.

This three-day exercise, in conjunction with the conceptual nature of CCAD’s curriculum and the unique resources we have as an institution, are hallmarks of the Corcoran Experience for its students. The Corcoran College of Art and Design, and the Gallery, have a culture that is unique to the art community, unique to the museum world, and unique to the Washington DC area. At this time, the logistics of what happens to the space, its people, and its inner-workings are up in the air as to the what, when, who, and how. There are six thousand ways that things could shake down in the coming months, and I’m sure three thousand of them are incredibly beneficial to everyone involved. But as an alum of the Corcoran, a current faculty member, and someone invested in seeing its vibrant and unique culture survive and THRIVE, I think it’s important that we highlight experiences like this one as an example of what we need to preserve and perpetuate in order to keep the mission and voice of the Corcoran alive and well.

In any case, WHAT A GREAT experience for everyone involved! I hope it’s just the first of many more like it! I’ll echo the many “thank yous” exchanged around the room on Saturday, and say that each person involved the charrette – Brivo, Top Coder, the Corcoran folks, and the critics – was not only a valuable resource but a complete joy to spend in intense weekend with.

You can read the full press-release of the event here.

Many of the images in this blog post were taken by me. Many came from other participants, and can be sourced here via re-posted Instagram or Twitter pics.

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

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You Do What You Can With What You Have: Holiday Decorating Edition.

20 Nov

Many of my friends and most of my neighbors are aware of the ever-present, pretty annoying, long-lasting construction project going on in my condo right now. To make a long story short, the building has some issues with waterproofing that are a result of not very detail oriented initial construction, and we’re in the midst of what we’re hoping is the final fix. Also, Pro-Tip: When installing window flashing, you want to position it so that it directs water outward, toward the facade, and not inward, toward YOUR HOUSE.

So now that we’ve covered that, let me explain…

About a month ago we were graced with this lovely tent.

Do What You Can WIth What you Have: The Holiday Decorating Edition!

Not only did it compromise the lovely light that we get through this hugely awesome window, but it upset my son because it exists in his “play station.” He came home from school and charged it like a linebacker. Not good. Though I can attest that it’s a pretty sturdy bubble. 

After about a month, they realized the existing windows will no longer work, so the search is on for new, custom, apparently very hard to find windows. I am no stranger to custom items, long lead times, and construction hassle. But ugh. And it was getting cold in here. So in this windowless hole, they put up a temporary insulated wall, which will grace our condo with its presence until the new year, when the new windows are finally here. It’s heinous.

Do What You Can WIth What you Have: The Holiday Decorating Edition!

My first thought was: MY HOUSE IS GOING TO BE SO UGLY FOR THE HOLIDAYS.  My second though a few seconds later was “Can I paint this?” So I asked a guy standing around and he said I could. Before he had time to go ask someone who could say “no” I painted it. With chalkboard paint. Bear with me here on this big black box…

Do What You Can WIth What you Have: The Holiday Decorating Edition!

I had about 1/3 of a quart left, and I used every single bit of it. The best thing about chalkboard paint is that one coat is enough, and if you do a spotty job, you’ll never know because the first time you use it you create an imperfect, cloudy/chalky finish.

I strung up some lights, and then my son went to town with the chalk.  The first thing he did was get a chair, climb up on it, and draw a sun and clouds. “Because they’re up high.”

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I’m really liking this “new” look. We’ll “Christmas-ize” it in a few weeks, and I think it will be a lot of fun. I might even miss it when it goes. Maybe. I might. We’ll see. I have to admit my craftsmanship is at 75%, but hey, it’s fun.

Just wanted to share this fun project, which turned a disaster into a fun, temporary installation!

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Cranberries Galore!

9 Oct

I’ve been hearing about a neat installation/viral marketing thing that Ocean Spray, of cranberry fame, is doing today and tomorrow over at Union Station. For those of you who are not from or familiar with Washington, D.C., Union Station is our main train station, and the building is a stunning, gleaming white mixture of Classical and Beaux-Arts styles of architecture. My parents used to take me there as a kid and I still love the building. It usually looks like this (image via about.com): 

Union Station

Today, however, those fountains in front are filled with something other than water…

Union Station Cranberry Bog(image via Ocean Spray via Prince of Petworth)

2013-10-8-CranberryBog(image via Washingtonian)

Ocean Spray has made us our very own cranberry bog!

Isn’t it beautiful? I understand it contains 2,000 pounds of little red berries, and will be open only through today – so get there FAST!

For more cranberry-ness, revisit my post from a few years back about the lovely color here.

Or you can check out this lovely chair, beautiful pendants (from my favorite, Niche Modern), or pretty pillow:

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…or you can make this delicious looking cranberry martini!

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Enjoy the day!

 

 

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Adaptive Reuse At Its Most Exciting: Revisiting 700 Delaware Avenue S.W.

25 Jul

Today I took my interior design students from the Corcoran College of Art + Design to one of my new favorite places in D.C.: the formerly-decaying-now-under-renovation old Baptist church at 700 Delaware Avenue S.W. that has recently been painted by Atlanta-artist Hense Brewer. None of the 12 of them knew what was coming; all they had was an address. So they were all pretty surprised – pleasantly I think – to arrive and find this:

700 Delaware Avenue SW

I was here about a month ago and didn’t see anything going on, but now it’s pretty clear they’re deep into renovating the interior. I spoke with the building’s owner, Steve Tanner, and some of his partners in this endeavor over at Art Whino, and the plans are for this to eventually become an event/gallery space.

700 Delaware Avenue SW

We walked around the building a bit to see it from all the different angles.

There’s a lot to see.

700 Delaware Avenue SW

700 Delaware Avenue SW

They even let us inside, which was thrilling. It’s not as dark as it looks from the foreboding open door…

http://www.artwhino.com/

One of the first things we saw in the vast first floor space was this baptismal pool. We all thought it was going to be an altar as we approached…but it wasn’t. Very intense, a little freaky to see it in such a run down state, and ultimately really interesting.  It really drove home the type of space this was intended to be, versus the new functions it will house. Steve tells me this building was officially decommissioned by the church a while back, which is when there is an official ceremony conducted that figuratively takes the soul of the building and makes way for the building to move on and serve another purpose. 

But back to that baptismal pool, I suppose this is where the DJ booth is going to go… This is adaptive reuse in action. I think it’s fascinating.

700 Delaware Avenue SW

The upstairs, which is quite different from the plain downstairs, is just as interesting as the exterior. Here’s a little peek.

The windows are particularly eye-catching, because many are stained glass AND have the exterior paint on them, so the colors they transmit and reflect are really powerful.

700 Delaware Avenue SW

700 Delaware Avenue SW

700 Delaware Avenue SW

(The image immediately above is a panorama, so the wall is not actually curved.)

After the tour, we sat outside and did some sketching. A big component of this particular course is becoming more comfortable with sketching, and this was a great opportunity to sit before a fantastic, very out of the ordinary subject.

700 Delaware Avenue SW

700 Delaware Avenue SW

Next week we’ll work with this space in class a bit to brainstorm alternative possible uses for it as an exercise in space planning. This will be hypothetical of course, because it’s being developed right now as a cultural, social, and artistic hot spot for a dynamic neighborhood. That’s a function that’s hard to beat!

Additionally, if you’re interested in seeing this building house the G40 Art Summit later this year, or if you want read a bit more about the aspirations of those involved in this project, please visit this page to read up and help out!

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Visiting the Watermelon House.

16 Jul

One afternoon last week, instead of heading straight home like we usually do I took my son to one of my favorite spots in DC: the “watermelon house” in Shaw. He was AMAZED. I’ve been wanting to do a photo shoot here for a while, but life doesn’t always happen with a DSLR in-hand, so instead of doing it right we busted out the Instagram and did it sort-of-right. He had on a green shirt, which was just perfect. I love this photo so I thought I’d share.

Watermelon House!

He looks so sweet and contemplative, when in reality he was bribed to be still instead of repeatedly yelling “WATERMELON! Are you serious? Can I get a watermelon popsicle RIGHT NOW?” He was still sweet. Just not very contemplative.

Below is an image of the whole house (via What About Watermelon), and here is an article from the Washington Post where you can read a little bit about its history. Fun, right?

Watermelon House!

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Rainbow Church Wins the Weekend!

11 May

This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in DC in a while. We spotted it this morning, on the way back from Pentagon City (we took a little detour thanks to the race).

Rainbow Church Wins the Weekend!

This is the work of painter Alex “Hense” Brewer, an Atlanta-based artist, who was commissioned to paint this vacant church at 700 Delaware Avenue, SW. The building, formerly Friendship Baptist Church, was built in the early 1900s and was designated a historic site about 10 years ago. The painting was done in November of last year.

Here’s another shot of it, courtesy of the artist’s website.

Rainbow Church Wins the Week!

And another (via Miguel Martinez and Alex Brewer via WJLA.com).

Rainbow Church Wins the Week!

We need more of this stuff in DC.

I LOVE IT.

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.

Another Instagramed View of Durham.

21 Apr

The other weekend my husband and I got away for a much-needed trip to Durham, North Carolina. We went for his law school reunion, but we really enjoy the town, so we spent time visiting places we love and enjoying the awesome weather. Last summer we took a similar long-weekend, during which I took a lot of pictures with Instagram. So I decided to carry on the tradition for this trip as well.

The town is filled with lots of old (mostly tobacco) warehouses which have been converted into any number of new uses: housing, communal art space, restaurants, and other creative adaptive-reuses. Here’s the side of one of the old buildings, featuring one of my favorite combinations: candy and soda.

Durham 2013

Another old building, this one a showroom for Organic Transit, which sells what I like to describe as a space-aged green golf cart. They were parked out front one of the days we were there, but I didn’t snap a picture that day. I adore the signage.

Durham 2013

 

 

An old building in the middle of downtown. Loving the green…

Durham 2013

 

 

…and you know I’m not lying. Look at my pants:

Durham 2013

 

 

Not all of the architecture is so hipster-y. The Carolina Theater at night is pretty classic.

Durham 2013

 

 

And the new Cupcake Bar and The Parlour, and ice cream shop, are pretty cute. Here’s a shot of the exterior of the cupcake shop – prime real estate on a prominent corner, plus a very “apple store” aesthetic – and a shot of the neat art inside The Parlour.

Durham 2013

Durham 2013

 

 

Of course I can’t resist a photo of a dilapidated public health building. This is what Instagram was made for.  Not sure why, I just think it’s beautiful.

Durham 2013

 

 

But all else aside, you can’t go to Durham and not go to Parker and Otis. Because candy. That’s why.

Durham 2013

 

 

Can’t wait to return again!

 

Design consultations for all styles and budgets: JGB Interiors.