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Six Industry Innovators Share Their Inspirations from the Lunar Landing

When the Apollo 11 came to rest in the lunar Sea of Tranquility on July 20th, 1969 and began transmitting back to Earth grainy black-and-white images of a spider-legged ship, pale figures within shiny helmets, and, a bit later, magisterial photographs of Earth itself against the black void of space, the human race’s conception of itself changed forever. The voyage inspired political realignments and countless scientific breakthroughs; it also inspired the look and feel of a number of cultural masterpieces, from Brian Eno’s 1983 ambient classic Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks to Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1971 stark sci-fi epic Solaris.

Architecture and design took that giant leap for mankind along with Neil Armstrong. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, we spoke to innovators in the industry about their own lunar inspirations.

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Perilune by Suzanne Tick for Luum Textiles. Photography courtesy of Luum Textiles.

Suzanne Tick, creative director, Luum Textiles

As a child, the textile designer Suzanne Tick watched the landing from her home in Bloomington, Illinois. “What was riveting to me was the sound of someone on the moon and his buoyancy,” Tick says. “I had this realization that a person can be on the moon while I’m sitting at home and he could also be floating!” Since then, the moon has been an important force in her life. “I’ve lived by the MoMA Moon Charts and they have played a large part in my consciousness. A poignant time in my life was 2009, 2010, and 2011 which coincided with the last three years of my father’s life, my marriage, and my son living with me. For this reason, I wove a triptych of each of these years and sewed them together as a reminder of that shift in my life.” This design became Perilune, a printed polyurethane which was introduced through Luum.

Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York by Gary R. Hilderbrand. Photography by James Ewing.

Gary R. Hilderbrand, FASLA FAAR; principal, Reed Hilderbrand; Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor in Practice, Harvard Graduate School of Design

“Because my Aunt and grandmother had a large color TV, anything momentous like this we watched in their living room,” says Gary Hilderbrand. “All gathered ‘round for the moon landing. It’s singed on my brain.” The landscape architect would go on to transform a brownfield in Beacon, New York, into a waterfront parkland with site-specific work by artist George Trakas and two buildings by ARO. “Apollo amplified my instincts about knowing our place in the world and a sense that we somehow had technological knowledge to improve it,” he says. “Seeing these missions orbiting around the other side of the moon, and then exploring its surface, gave me hope that we could right our own environmental mess and craft a smarter, saner landscape. That way of seeing the Earth descended directly from the Apollo 8 ‘earthrise’ photograph. Who would not be affected by that image?!”

SiriusXM’s New York Headquarters and Broadcast Center by Michael Kostow. Photography by Adrian Wilson.

Michael Kostow, founding principal, Kostow Greenwood Architects

Satellite radio wouldn’t exist without the technological breakthroughs of the Apollo mission, so it made perfect sense to have a space fan design the headquarters for one of its largest players, SiriusXM. “I watched the moon landing as a youngster and even had early aspirations of becoming an astronaut,” says Michael Kostow. “I later wanted to design space vehicles for NASA, would build and fly multi-stage model rockets, and even as an architecture graduate student had an early morning ‘party’ to drink Tang and watch the first launch of the space station with my classmates.” The compact efficiency of the capsules influenced his plan for the satellite broadcasting company: “We wanted to invoke simplicity and timelessness,” he says, “and allow the empty space to be an active player in setting the mood.” Mission accomplished.

Aerial and Half-Moon by Kelly Harris Smith for Skyline Design. Photography courtesy of Skyline Design.

Kelly Harris Smith, designer and creative director, Kelly Harris Smith

“I’ve never been on a rocket ship,” says designer Kelly Harris Smith, “but I have flown on an airplane and to this day I always request a window seat so I can peek out over the landscape.” The designer was born after the moon landing but carries the legacy of an aerial point of view into a collection for Chicago’s Skyline Design of glass panels with systems of micro-patterns within shapes and gradations of color over larger repeats. “It’s rooted in looking at the familiar in a new way,” she says, “which I have to imagine is what all astronauts experience looking back at Earth.”

Draper, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photography by Mark Flannery.

Elizabeth Lowrey, principal, Elkus Manfredi Architects

“Watching the moon landing, even at such a young age, I was awed by the realization that anything is possible,” says Elizabeth Lowrey—even growing up to design a new home for Draper, a not-for-profit engineering firm that created software for Apollo 11. “I remember, as we stepped into Draper’s lobby, the first thing we saw was a space shuttle model.  Even more thrilling was the opportunity to meet Margaret Hamilton, the pioneering software engineer who had made the moon landing possible!” A glass and steel structure forms the roof of the Draper atrium, which is rung with seven floors of offices and laboratories connected by blue glass vertical and horizontal stairways, green walls, and “the Cloud,” a polished steel polyhedron that is truly out of this world.

On the Water/Palisade Bay, New York City. Photography courtesy of ARO.

Adam Yarinsky, FAIA LEED AP, principal, Architecture Research Office

“I was seven, I remember watching the feed of the moonwalk,” says ARO co-founder Adam Yarinksy. “And if you were a kid that was into building models, you had the plastic model kit that was black and white with USA in red on the side. I built a model of the Saturn V and the lunar and command and service modules. The purposefulness of the vehicle had a kind of directness when you compare it to technology today. The control panels were just rows and rows of switches that all looked the same. There was a kind of Dieter Rams quality to it.” But it was politics, not aesthetics, that really inspired Yarinsky’s work with ARO, including this vision of the upper harbor of New York and New Jersey which proposes archipelago and wetlands to mitigate rising sea levels and storm surges. “The finite nature of the planet we’re on reinforces the notion that architecture is part of this web of relationships,” he says. “The best architecture tries to modify and transform, but it’s not an autonomous thing. It’s linked. That sense of connection is the legacy.”

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Olson Kundig Looks to the Light for Tishman Speyer in Seattle

Dowbuilt fabricated the custom reception desk of salvaged Douglas fir timber, with a base of blackened tubular steel. Photography courtesy of Aaron Leitz.

 

In gray Seattle, sometimes you have to find light within. Specifically, inside the 29-story 520 Olson Kundig refreshed for Tishman Speyer’s 1,000 workplace tenants. “Creating a light-filled space drove every decision we made,” says Kirsten Murray, FAIA, a principal and owner of Olson Kundig.

Read more: Valerio Dewalt Train Blends Virtual and Natural Worlds for YouTube Headquarters Lobby

The lobby’s elevator bay contrasts three light sources: low-output washes from Visual Lighting Technologies; Lumenpulse LOGi Series high-output wall grazers; and Volt Lighting’s vertical linear LED accents hidden within a niche. Photography courtesy of Aaron Leitz.

 

The first clue can be found, appropriately enough, at the entrance. It is announced by a white steel canopy that shines in stark relief against a stacked bond pattern of Shanxi Black Granite cladding, accessorized with Brombal stainless steel doors and storefront, and bog oak custom door pulls.

The lobby’s “Boulder” seats are actually wisp granite, made by Quarra Stone Company, that rest on Stone Source’s Basaltina stone slabs. Photography courtesy of Aaron Leitz.

 

Inside, walls are clad in five different sizes of solid poplar panels, installed in varying patterns by the local manufacturer, WW Wells Millwork. Seating pays homage to the mountains and forests beyond the city limits, capturing the natural beauty of the Northwest. “I like the degree of subtle textures we were able to explore—glass, wood grains, stone veining—within what is a monochromatic color palette,” Murray says. As usual, Olson Kundig is full of bright ideas.

A Dowbuilt bench in the lobby honors the patina and rings of the salvaged Douglas fir timber used as a seat and back; its angle base and seat back supports are blackened steel. Photography courtesy of Aaron Leitz.
The team erected a new canopy at the street entrance, made of steel painted a bright white. Photography courtesy of Aaron Leitz.

Read more: Lucy Harris Studio Invests in a Classic Look for a Financial Services Headquarters

Continue reading Olson Kundig Looks to the Light for Tishman Speyer in Seattle

Women Shaping the Future of Design: Meet Kat Holmes, Director of UX at Google and Founder of Mismatch.design

In 2018, Kat Holmes published her book, Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Designand launched mismatch.design, a digital media enterprise dedicated to providing inclusive design resources and education. Currently a director of user experience (UX) at Google and formerly the principal director of inclusive design at Microsoft, Holmes knows a thing or two (an understatement) about designing and optimizing a product for massive audiences of users. While at Microsoft, she was the leader of the company’s executive program for inclusive product innovation; her award-winning inclusive product design toolkit was subsequently inducted into the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.

But it would be a mistake to think that Holmes limits her purview to the world of technology. A glance at both mismatch.design and the first few pages of Holmes’ book make evident that Holmes champions inclusive design—and the pros who execute it in their respective fields—everywhere from the built environment (she curated an exhibit for AIA Seattle in 2016) to education, and of course, the pixels of the tech world. Interior Design sat down with Holmes to discuss her work with Mismatch and the impact of inclusive design.

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Interior Design: How does your work with Mismatch relate to your day job?

Kat Holmes: Mismatch is the name of my book and the name of my website. The word “mismatch” also refers to the World Health Organization’s definition of disability, which in 2001 was redefined as the mismatched interaction between the features of a person’s body and the features of the environment in which they live. Known as the social model of disability, this definition helped to shape my thinking about inclusive design. I approach all of my work from the perspective of trying to understand how design can be the cause of exclusion (intentionally and unintentionally)—but design can also be the remedy for exclusion.

ID: Did you have an ‘aha’ moment that prompted you to veer your career in the direction of inclusive design?

KH: My aha moment came when I was working on a digital personal assistant at Microsoft. At the time, there weren’t any voice-conversational design tools to help us develop this AI assistant. We discovered that one of the best resources for us was to talk to actual human personal assistants to find out what it takes to create a great experience for another human being. Their expertise was crucial to our work.

What led me to inclusive design was exploring the many kinds of human expertise that are missing from most design processes. Most notably, the expertise of people with disabilities who have long been innovating a diversity of ways to interact with technology.

Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes. Photography courtesy of Kat Holmes.

ID: You mention in your book that inclusive design can be challenging to implement successfully across multiple teams in a large organization. How have you personally overcome this in your role as a leader at some of the biggest multinational technology companies?

KH: It takes a lot of people and collaboration to build an inclusive design practice within an organization. The important thing is to keep asking whose voices and whose expertise are missing. If you keep asking the question, then it forces you to consider how you can create a diversity of ways for people of different abilities to engage with the solutions you design. I firmly believe that inclusive design fuels innovation and makes good economic sense. Reminding senior leadership about all the ways that inclusive design helps the bottom line is key. 

ID: The approaches you outline in Mismatch extend to a variety of disciplines (ex: the built environment, software, education) and incorporate a variety of professionals who are experts in those fields. Why was it important to you to look beyond the specifics of your own field?

KH: Exclusion happens everywhere. When I was consulting, I worked with companies across sectors. Regardless of the line of business, the questions were similar: Everyone wanted to know how to start and how to get buy-in. I wanted my book to help set a foundation. Once grounded in some basic principles, companies can begin to incorporate and adapt inclusive-design practices for their respective needs.

ID: What changes have you seen in the way the design and engineering community approach inclusive design in their practice since releasing Mismatch (the book) and launching the digital media company?

KH: Interest in inclusive design has been growing and preceded the publication of my book. My book was published last October and there hasn’t been enough time to be be able to gauge its impact. Anecdotally, the response from the people who have read the book has been positive and I’m grateful.

ID: What are your hopes for the future of inclusive design?

KH: I always tell people that inclusive design is a daily practice—like brushing your teeth. You have to do it consistently to receive the full benefits. There are many different forms of exclusion that we don’t fully understand. The practice of inclusive design will help us navigate those waters.

Read more: Meet Malene Barnett, Founder of the Black Artists and Designers Guild

Continue reading Women Shaping the Future of Design: Meet Kat Holmes, Director of UX at Google and Founder of Mismatch.design

5 All-Female Coworking Clubs Where Design Counts

In honor of International Women’s Day, AD rounds up the most stylish all-women coworking spaces and social clubs across America.

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5 All-Female Coworking Clubs Where Design Counts

In honor of International Women’s Day, AD rounds up the most stylish all-women coworking spaces and social clubs across America.

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Continue reading 5 All-Female Coworking Clubs Where Design Counts

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