Knowledge People Wonder

The Work of Many Hands:

Michael Harpster

As part of our recent rebranding efforts, BVH renovated the front reception desk in our Lincoln office. While our original desk was great, the redesign provided the opportunity to test a few crazy ideas, explore an unconventional design process, and produce a design element that serves to demonstrate the core values of BVH.

First and foremost, we hoped to use the project to expand our knowledge of digital design and fabrication tools and processes. More specifically, we hoped to employ algorithmic modeling software and computer-numeric-controlled tools to design, fabricate and install an architectural artifact using only BVH resources and staff. By engaging in this process, we were not only able to refine our skills with specific software and tools, but we were also able to gain insights into how digital design processes can be used to improve cost analysis procedures, increase the efficiency of both design and production efforts, and secure greater quality control of the final product. The digital design and fabrication process allowed us to efficiently test multiple ideas and variables, quickly discovering what worked and what did not. Throughout the process, we were able to learn as much from our failures as we did from the successes.

Second, we utilized the design of the desk to demonstrate our commitment to people and our belief in a collaborative design process. While the physical size of the desk is rather small, its realization required the help of a large network of people. The design of the desk called for the installation of over 18,000 individual wood dowels in order to create an undulating surface that wraps three sides of the desk. This allowed all of our staff, clients, consultants and other community members to help with the dowel installation process and become a part of the design execution.

Over the course of two weeks, we were able to successfully install all of the dowels using this crowd-sourced approach. After completing the installation and doing some quick math, we realized our network of participants had installed over a mile of wood dowels. That is, if all of the installed dowels were laid end to end, they would extend uninterrupted for over a mile. This fact serves to illustrate the power of collaboration and demonstrates how even a relatively small group of people can work together to achieve extraordinary results.

Finally, we also saw the redesign of the desk as an opportunity to inject a sense of playfulness into our space and to produce a sense of wonder. We set out with the goal of using common, everyday materials to create something that could surprise people, that could spark curiosity, and that could ultimately function as a source of inspiration. While it’s difficult to determine with any certainty whether or not we have succeeded in this effort, it has been great to see everyone’s reactions as they encounter the desk for the first time.

Check out the time-lapse video below of the We invite you to stop by our Lincoln studio to see the installation and learn more about our design fabrication projects.