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Design notes: the 2013 Fellowship poster

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

In a provocative blog post on beauty in architecture, 2012 Summer Design Fellow Amrita Raja commented upon the reluctance of many contemporary architects to discuss the role of beauty, relying instead on more purely rational justifications such as performance. It reminded me of the 2009 NY Times article about┬áDouglas Bowman who very publicly left his position as Google’s top visual designer because, in his words, “at Google design lived or died by data.”

Amrita’s post also reminded me of the scene in the documentary film Helvetica, where Michael Place from UK-based design firm Build talks candidly about how, for him, design is primarily about making the ordinary beautiful and how when that’s successful, “it’s all about an emotional response.”

With these in mind, it seemed obvious for us to invite Michael and Build to design our 2013 poster. Our brief to Build was fairly straightforward: draw in potential candidates who think about design at broad scales and whose unique attitude will help Shepley Bulfinch advance its culture and its work. One application requirement directly addresses the issue of scale, with the following problem: “You’ve been given a square portal at a scale of your choosing. What’s on the other side?” Applicants are asked to format their response on an 8″x8″ pdf.

Build’s design for the poster is a whimsical play on character and scale. “Like animals I think architecture has character: big characters (Whale), tall buildings (Giraffe), strong brutal buildings (Gorilla) and smaller buildings (Pelican),” Michael says. “Each type of building has character as is represented by the animals.”


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