Design for Urban Living

Category: Here/There

Beauty

Posted on February 28th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

I caught the Cooper Hewitt’s Design Triennial at the San Jose Museum of Art just before it closed.  Titled Beauty, the show explores contrasting themes in contemporary design, where the worlds of art, craft, technique and automation intersect or contrast. While offering a glimpse at the work of some of the hottest designers working today, the exhibition also offered an opportunity for me to ponder the age-old question…what is beauty?  Here are a few of the standouts from the show.

Max Lamb might be one of my favorite designers working today.  There is something visceral in his process, as Lamb explores and integrates the process of furniture making into the end pieces.  Lamb uses raw, often inexpensive and throw away materials, in combination with experimental techniques which result in a rough and tactile quality. This work resonates directly with me, perhaps because I believe that intellect and education only bring us so far in the designing of spaces…we need to ask how does a space feel.

To get a glimpse of Lamb’s process, check out this video of the fabrication of the Pewter stool, where Lamb pours molten pewter into a mold dug into the sand at the beach. He then excavated the hardened piece from … Read More »


Fog Fair

Posted on January 12th, by David Bjorngaard in Elements, Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

I’ve spent the afternoon being inspired at the  Fog Art+Design show at Fort Mason Center, January 12-15. The fair brings some of the best contemporary furniture dealers and art galleries to San Francisco. There are many amazing objects and pieces of furniture which will make you stop in appreciation, especially if you appreciate  process and technique. New discoveries and works by old friends abound. Even if you’re not a collector, a show like this helps to train your eye, which will make it easier for you to sort through all the design choices you encounter. It also helps one learn how to stylishly display our own personal and prized treasures at home. I hope you’ll go explore. Here are a few of my favorite objects from the show.

Finally, check out this great ad…love my day job!

David Bjørngaard, January 2017


Building Art

Posted on December 13th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

On my travels this summer, I took as a little light reading Frank Gehry’s biography (haha, only an interior designer or architect would call this light reading!).

For me it was an unlikely choice, as I am not a huge fan of Gehry’s work. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of his best work in person.  My understanding is from impressions made over twenty years ago when I stood on the banks of the Mississippi River as a young college student.  The “Standing Glass Fish”, at the Walker Art Center, with its’ internal structure supporting the fish scales, is fabulous;  the Weisman Art Museum, with its’ impractical gallery spaces, is a mess to my mind.

But long ago impressions and prejudices can be overcome by new encounters and gentle persuasion by others. While in Paris, artist Daniel Buren provided that persuasion with his “visual tools”: acrylic colored paneled applied in checker board fashion.

At Fondation Louis Vuitton , Buren transformed the Gehry designed space and its’ context to create Observatory of Light.  Now Gehry’s twelve glass covered sails, or “icebergs”, are defined in thirteen colors and stripes. This intervention gives physical presence to light, as the light shifts and moves throughout the day.

My … Read More »


Snapshot 25

Posted on September 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

Design is about turning fantasy into reality, dreams into inhabitable spaces. The work comes from turning ideas into something that can be built. As summer came, I tasked myself with an ultimate task…starting my own firm, a client focused firm built on my professional (and personal) experiences, knowledge and dreams. The timing of this was perfect, in that it coincided with a long planned trip with Sean, my mom and sister to explore Paris, the Loire Valley, Normandy, and London. Seventeen days to daydream, seventeen days to explore what design and life can be. This trip ended up being a great reprise from the work that was about to come, and a time to reconnect with family, while being inspired by great design current and historical.

While in London, I revisited the Serpentine Gallery, which yearly invites one architect to build a summer pavilion. This years architect is Bjarke Ingels, of BIG, who is known locally for designing the new Google campus in Mountain View. Known for architecture with expressive gestures which are joyful, Ingels took his starting point of a brick wall, and worked to create something beautiful out of this ordinary structure. Instead of clay, Ingels  stacked fiberglass blocks to create a cavernous cave.  The blocks shift forward … Read More »


Oslo Opera

Posted on April 6th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

I have big expectations for the new SFMOMA expansion. A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to see first hand the work of the architects when I visited Oslo. I was so excited! It was an architecture pilgrimage. I dragged my poor dad across the city, and together we roamed around and over and throughout the Oslo Opera House. It was early summer of 2008, and my dad and I were just beginning our heritage tour, during which my dad would introduce me to places and relatives that he knew well. But on the first days of our trip, I was able to show my dad the things that excite and animate me in my work: good design, great art. This meant exploring Stave churches, museums and the opera house.

What makes the Oslo Opera House so unique and visually interesting is the seamless integration of art and architecture. Due to a art-sales tax, the architects were able to incorporate the work of several artists into the bones of the building. Four particular pieces shine bright.

Roof (2007). The building is like an iceberg that floats on the edge of the bay, with one lip emerging from the water and rising to large, monolithic structure. The … Read More »


Cenote Spa

Posted on March 21st, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There. No Comments

Spending time in the Mayan Caribbean clearly reveals how life and landscape are influenced by geology: limestone bedrock erosion reveals subterranean water, which affects plumbing, foundations, electricity and gas. All building are dependent upon this condition: one cannot go deep into the earth. Natural forming subterranean pools and chambers are known as cenotes, and are connected by underwater rivers, known to many a tourist day tripper. The Mayans used these cenotes, or pools, for bathing, worship and ritual sacrifice. These cenotes are recreated for body worship by the Rockwell Group.

The Rockwell Group has re-created the ritual of bathing in the cenotes in their subterranean conical structure featuring a reflection pool at the Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen resort. The effect is magical: integral lighting reminds us of the night stars, so prominent here; an opening high above at ground level lets in filtered sunlight, similar to being in a natural cenote; layered limestone catches the light, creating a dramatic shadows; and simple detailing prevent the whole thing from becoming kitsch.

The spa is first glimpsed on a path that meanders from the lobby to the beach that is punctuated by kiosks selling coffee, smoothies and tacos. Looking like a mini-volcano, it pokes its head out, letting light filter below.

The spa … Read More »


Island Life

Posted on March 15th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, The Moment. No Comments

As you read this I will be lying in a hammock, swinging in the humid breeze of the Mayan Caribbean. A good book, a cool drink and a friend or two will make for a great trip.

Living in a tropical location, or setting up any vacation home for that matter, revolves around several basic tenants: keep it simple, make it user friendly, and encourage large gathering of friends. You don’t go on vacation to work, you go to have fun. So put a little thought into design to further your fun. Here are some tips.

Make the kitchen big and open, because that is where you’ll be spending a lot of time in the evenings. Provide lots of countertop space and durable surfaces, so you have room to work and don’t have to worry about cleaning up right away.  Closed storage allows you to store staples out of sight until needed.

Focus on the pool, this is where everyone wants to be during the day, but celebrate both the shade and sun…some of us want to be in the shade! The shade will give everyone a place to retreat from the mid-day heat, or take a nap after that afternoon Pina Colada. Treat the … Read More »


Light Fantastic

Posted on February 16th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, The Moment. No Comments

This past week I ran into Leo Villereal’s work at every turn. On a break from work, I saw a great show at Jessica Silverman/fused space gallery. Watching the Super Bowl fireworks show, there was Villereal’s work at the Bay Bridge as a back drop {click here}. And then there on the back page of Architectural Digest was his installation at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum. Clearly there is a convergence of interest in the work.

The work of Leo Villereal resonates with me: its fluid, evolving, and utilizes technology to create eye-catching, ephemeral installations that compliment the viewer in a way that makes us feel hip and modern for getting it. Usually working in installation format, the site-specific works morph into organic forms or simply turn on-off in random fashion. These pieces take advantage of the minutiae of  LED lighting combined with the speed and finesse of computer programming software and electrical hardware.

The computer software and electrical hardware provide the vehicle for the visual manifestation of code–an artist-written algorithm employing the binary system of 1s and 0s telling each LED when to turn on or off. This simple command creates lighting sequences that synchronize or randomly diverge. It also changes how we think … Read More »


Chalet

Posted on February 4th, by David Bjorngaard in Here/There, Inhabit, Knowledge. No Comments

Winter in the mountains, to me, is all about the warm glow of a fire and the comfort provide by rustic materials, friends, spirits and a good view. It’s all about the view, a nice hike, and the deep quite of nature. With the majestic environment holding sway, ordinary materials used in extraordinary ways help to humanize the environment, providing beauty and interest within reach.

When designing a mountain ski retreat, I’d remove the fussiness and kitsch, provide straightforward, tactile furnishings and detailing, in order to create a contemporary and comfortable environment. As a point of reference, the aesthetic of Angelique Buisson would look great in Tahoe and Mammoth. Here’s what we can take away from her work.

Keep it practical. Use durable materials that handle the elements. Slate works great in bathrooms and mud rooms, and unfinished wood will keep looking better with age.

Have fun. Animate a space with artful use of materials. Below are two examples, one using Bocci lighting, and one using inexpensive sconces found at the hardware store. Each is effective: one feels like blowing leaves in the wind, and the other creates a geometric pattern drawn by an intentional hand.

Clean it up. Remember you’re a modernist, so bring your aesthetic to the mountains. You don’t need to over decorate. Remove … Read More »