{ Category Archives: Emergence }

Procedural Style: Parametric Emergence, Part 1

Wowhaus grew out of our ongoing conversations, beginning when we met in 1988

Ene and I never thought of Wowhaus as a style. We always framed it more as a way of life. But over the years as we’ve realized such a broad range of projects in such wide-ranging media and locales, a kind of style is beginning to emerge. Continue Reading »

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Free Sign #4


Free Sign #4, found near Two Rock, CA

free sign 4site

free sign4b

To learn more about my Free Sign Project, please click here and scroll down.

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Research Topics du Jour


spinnradl2well's inclinometer


One of the challenges and pleasures of developing site specific, public sculpture is following several threads of research simultaneously and trying to find unexpected connections that make sense. Here is a sampling of some topics we are researching as we design a series of kinetic sculptures for the Pendleton neighborhood of Cincinnati:


1. Polaris

2. Spinnradl

3. Ragtime

4. Radial Moire

5. Peg Leg Joe

6. Appalachian Hymns



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An Argument for Transparency


After making a fairly complex Argument for Simplicity I’m faced with the task of devising a corollary. That is, either clarifying what I mean by simplicity in design, or attempting to make an inverse point, a simple argument for complexity. The latter seems a little facile, bordering on absurd, so I’ll attempt the former.

Simplicity in design is most robust when there is transparency between a thing and the idea behind the thing. In my observations, this occurs when a thing is introduced that represents a new idea, one that is capable of standing up to the test of time (the idea). The idea remains about the same but the thing is allowed to evolve through an iterative process that takes advantage of changes related to its manufacture, distribution, use, etc. The thing, as a stand-in for an idea, becomes indispensable.

Interestingly, the best examples I can think of that support this conjecture are products of leisure, with origins in mobility or transportation- boat hulls, bicycles, skis, surfboards, even frisbees and other flying discs. While ‘classics’ occasionally emerge from these types of things, demarcating a congruence between a thing and the conditions defining a particular time and place, their eventual obsolescence results from improvements in the same conditions- material, , technology, distribution, cost, performance, etc..

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Trim the Sails


What’s tried and true is just that. While training in any tradition might lead to a skeptical outlook, leaving one resistant to radical change, innovation can often be the result of baby steps, so there’s always room to trim the sails once a course is set.

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An Argument for Simplicity

picket fence oakland

As artisans we’re often compelled to make things that last, for obvious reasons. If the thing is functional we don’t want out efforts to be wasted; we want the functionality to remain in tact over time, hopefully adding to a thing’s value. If a thing is purely aesthetic, we want its beauty and meaning to translate across spans of time beyond our reach. What makes something last is all the more compelling in an age of rapidly changing technology, infrastructure and economies, where obsolescence becomes almost an intrinsic value to any manufactured thing.

I’m particularly drawn to things that were made to last that retain their beauty and functionality despite their obsolescence- barns, tools, scientific apparatus, even weapons- and find myself searching for persistent patterns that might apply to making anything of relevance to contemporary life. Here is a little glimpse of my findings related to what makes something last:

Historically, things made to last are a distillation and/or embodiment of a set of cultural values that, by mining accumulated knowledge, project forward, assuming they (the values) will remain relevant. I can think of three cases of the above:

  • architecture and hard goods (furnishings and other functional or domestic objects)
  • technology and hardware
  • information/publication/knowledge

Each of these can be parsed out into two general categories:

  • those that allow for adaptation and improvement through maintenance and use
  • those that are locked in to any combined set of beliefs, labor practices and assumptions about material resources

The first grouping would be epitomized by concepts like open source, crowd source and constitutions of binding laws, but are only occasionally manifest in the built environment unless at the service of public safety (building codes). The second grouping constitutes a more monolithic capture of a particular time and place where the same factors of labor, material and use are frozen for the ages, with varying degrees of adaptability- barns, tools, weapons, energy production, etc.. Ideally, making something that lasts today hybridizes the two groupings by taking into account the dynamic interplay of variables like labor, material, distribution and patterns of use, with the added goal of minimizing waste and energy consumption in the process.

Things will last that have the capacity to change or resist change in sync with or in anticipation of the ideas and values they embody, which is an argument for simplicity.

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Accidental Seascapes #1 & #2

accidental seascape

Accidental Seascapes #1 and #2, 45″ x 11.5″ each, plywood, WD-40, cement-all.

Removing the forms from my Deep Deck mold, I was surprised and delighted to find two accidental seascapes emerge on the plywood sides that were in contact with the curing concrete. I sprayed the boards with WD-40 as a release agent before making a total of six successive pours, and the process and chemical reaction left a beautiful range of marks and colors, penetrating deep into the wood fibers.

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