Architiecture360: Visit RETROSPECT This Weekend

Jean Wallace, Associate, SEGD and J.D. Busch, DSVC are environmental graphic designers working in Gensler’s Brand Design practice area in the Dallas office. Gensler is a design firm. We’re not just architects or interior designers, but also graphic designers, planners, product designers and consultants – among other things. When it all comes down to it though, we’re problem solvers and storytellers. RETROSPECT is about solving the problem of how to celebrate and share the story of design in a 6’-by-6-foot space while making it relatable to someone outside our field.

For us, great ideas start as mounds of research, piles of good sketches, and even more bad ones. These pieces ultimately come together to create something surprisingly simple and unique. Our RETROSPECT team went through dozens of sketches and ideas. Some were crumpled up and tossed aside, and others were pieced together with scraps of other concepts before landing on the one big idea. We went through several concepts—a giant origami ball, intricate folded cranes, laser cut architectural shapes. Most of the ideas involved the use of paper, which is a very passive material that easily morphs with gentle manipulation, but when lots of little pieces come together, the abundance can create a unified and bold statement.

We wound up choosing a simple shape: a paper airplane. This allowed everyone in our office to contribute, even if it was just to fold one plane, which underscored the idea that each of us makes an impact on our projects, no matter how large or small.

Once we had a concept and an approved sketch, we got to work. Since this concept was designed to be very playful and sculptural, we created mockup after mockup to be sure we were getting the aesthetic we wanted. We had several different fold designs, paper types and multiple hanging methods utilizing different lines—all hanging from ceilings, shelves, anywhere we could—before deciding on a direction. After everyone in our office collectively folded more than 300 paper airplanes, a team of about 20 individuals all got together over the course of three work days. They met in the morning, during lunch, and in the evening in order to meticulously hand-string and hang each plane, one-by-one, often re-situating and repositioning, until everyone was fully satisfied.

Things really got interesting when we had to devise a way to transport the exhibit without turning it into a tangled mess on the way to NorthPark. We’ll not reveal our secret here, but everything arrived intact. The final touch was an origami ball precisely folded and assembled from red vellum to signify the end result of our projects.

As always, the design process didn’t stop once the exhibit was installed. To our delight we found that mall goers felt enticed to twirl, pull and walk through the mass of paper planes, unwittingly becoming part of the design process. Someone even loved the origami ball so much that it disappeared somewhere along the way. And while the task of untangling and replacing the planes during several early mornings seemed like a daunting task at first, we quickly realized it was an excellent lesson in patience. We all felt like we could conquer anything after that.

Be sure to stop by and check out all the cool exhibits. They’ll be at NorthPark Center through Sunday, April 21.