Tag: Eugene

Fall architecture studio strengthens connection to Eugene by use of bottom up urban design project in Detroit

Assistant Professor Philip Speranza’s fall studio “Public Use of Private Space,” was a unique collaboration between the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts and a private owner in Detroit and her architect brother in New York City. The students’ work provided design development for a proposed community food market and its associated exterior space for a variety of uses.

At the time students enrolled in the studio they were not aware they would be traveling to Detroit, Michigan, as part of the course. However, for the students to visit the project’s site and fully grasp how their proposed urban design installations will aid the client’s community food business, it proved invaluable.

“The trip snapped the students out of their comfort zones and allowed them to better know the space at which they were working. Going to a place creates a connection between what you see as the culture seen from a distance, and then actually experiencing the urban space and getting to know the people,” said Speranza.

“It also allowed the students to better understand the project as a system of connections between the city, the community, the site, and the entrepreneur. It’s not an abstract single thing.  They must deal with all of these connections to have a successful project. This allowed the students to be part of the process.”

Detroit project site. Photo courtesy of Philip Speranza
Detroit project site. Photo courtesy of Madison Jackson

The project site contains a former bank building and an adjoining parking lot. The designs varied but the goal was to connect the private building to the community at the grass roots level by inviting them into the public space, testing Speranza’s research ideas of “bottom up urban design” acknowledging conditions of the site as a system over time.

Class tours Detroit neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Philip Speranza.

The class traveled to Detroit as part of the midterm review following weekly teleconference meetings with the client team throughout the term. The trip’s cost was split between the client and Speranza’s UO research funding. In addition to the midterm review and site visit, the students traveled throughout the region and met many residents of this “shrinking” city.

Speranza was amazed at the disparity between blocks surrounding the project’s site. “Within a block or two of the site, the blocks are totally abandoned with empty lots–what we know of Detroit. And then a block or two on the other side there are large gated houses on one-acre lots. It was bizarre,” he said.

Project site's surrounding neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Philip Speranza.
Gated house in surrounding neighborhood. Photo by Philip Speranza.

Madison Jackson, a second-year master of architecture student, was impressed by the strong sense of community within the neighborhood and throughout the whole city. “Everyone we met was so invested in the city. I believe this is because it’s easier to move out to the suburbs and not deal with the collapse of the city. Therefore, the people who have stayed behind or moved back all care, want to work hard, and do what they love in their city,” she said.

The studio provided Jackson and her peers a unique experience not available in other courses. “The fact that the studio was an actual project with a real client was the biggest difference and the most important part for me. It was useful to experience pitching an idea to a client and getting their feedback. That it is such a big part of an architect’s job and something that can’t easily be taught in school,” said Jackson.

Summer "Adaptive Market" design. Image courtesy of Madison Jackson.

In addition to fostering the students’ designs for the food market, the client also seeks a fully fabricated installation. They selected Jackson’s “Adaptive Market” design as the preferred option for the space. Just like Detroit as a city is learning to adapt and change, Jackson sees her design allowing for the installation to shift as the client, community or seasonal needs change and adapt. “Seasonally the shelves would be converted from seating, to workspace, to shelves, and be further reconfigured throughout the space in the market to best suit the needs of the client and her vendors,” she said.

"Adaptive Market" shelving iteration. Image courtesy of Madison Jackson.
"Adaptive Market" 1:1 mock up. Photo courtesy of Madison Jackson.

The client, Jackson, and Speranza will collaborate with the architecture department student group the Digital Media Collaborative (DMC) to fabricate and deploy the “Adaptive Market” design during the upcoming winter and spring terms. Jackson will be part of the group and is looking forward to this opportunity. “Having a studio project deployed is something that does not happen often in school, so I can’t wait to move forward with it,” said Jackson.

The next phase of the project will be the deployment and installation of the group’s design this spring. However, before it makes its way to the project site in Detroit, Speranza has plans to deploy the installation in Eugene. “I’m speaking with local food organizations, property owners, and area farmer markets to deploy the installation,” he said. An independent study of national food desert criteria and neighborhood planning with student Aliza Tuttle, an undergraduate geography student, has been done in parallel to the studio, identifying neighborhood spaces of deployment and installation west of Skinner’s Butte and the Whitaker as places of deployment in the spring.

Studio final review. Photo courtesy of Philip Speranza.

The studio was just the beginning of the year-long project, but it has provided the students exceptional lessons that didn’t end with its final review. “The studio gave the students the knowledge and experience of what it means to make something, whether that is the software, the fabrication tools, or the physical making of the object in a 1-to-1 scale – not a representation of the idea, but an actual experience of the idea,” said Speranza. “This connects the students to a real experience, both for the individual understanding of art, architecture and design, and also a connection to the community.”

Studio final review presentation. Photo courtesy of Philip Speranza.

Jackson agrees with her professor and says she found a real connection with Detroit, as did many of her peers. “The studio has inspired me and many of the students to become more involved in Detroit in the future because it is such an amazing city and we all fell in love with it,” she said.

Story by Joe McAndrew


For more information about the “Public Use of Private Space” studio, please visit the studio’s blog here.

Interview with an art faculty member: Surabhi Ghosh

From January 21 to April 8th, the UO art faculty members will be showing their work in The Long Now, an exhibition at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art from January 20 to April 8 in Eugene. Selected works by six art faculty members will be shown at the White Box in Portland from January 24 to March 24. To highlight the artists behind the art, I’m having conversations with several of the faculty in the show to hear more about their practice.

This conversation is with Surabhi Ghosh. Whether she is drawing, painting, printing, stitching, or bookmaking, Ghosh is always invested in the idiosyncrasies of visual language. Her current research centers on the meaning of pattern and decoration within spiritual, political, and domestic narratives. Focusing on ubiquitous motifs like the circle and the dot, she creates abstract compositions that blur the lines between painting, sculpture, and textile design.

Ghosh is also co-director of an international artists’ collective and annual publication project known as ‘Bailliwik,’ which she cofounded in 2004. Her work and collaborative projects have been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including Western Gallery at Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA), NEXT Art Fair, MDW Art Fair, and Lillstreet Art Center (Chicago, IL). Her books are included in several collections worldwide. She has an upcoming exhibition at SideCar Gallery in Hammond, Indiana.

Dave Amos, A&AA writer: You’re the fibers professor, but a lot of your work is not in fibers. Why?

Surabhi Ghosh: My background is in fibers; I have a BFA and an MFA in fibers. I’ve been teaching in that field for the last six years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. About three years ago I switched my focus from working with fabric and textiles.

I’m particularly interested in repeat pattern design. I started doing small-scale drawings and paintings, approaching them as sketches or experiments about color and pattern. I realized I liked doing those and that I wanted to get bigger, focus, and improve on my technique. Since about 2008, I’ve mainly worked in painting, so now I’m as much a painter as a fiber artist. I don’t mean to imply that I’m never going to go back to fibers. It’s in my bones at this point.

Pierced Orb, 2011 -- In "The Long Now" faculty art show

And I paint using a somewhat non-traditional process: I use paint as liquid color. All of my recent work is made up of accumulations of dots, and each dot is made by putting a little drop of paint down. I use a really small brush, load it up with paint, and make a little drop instead of a stroke.

DA: Why use this technique? Is it fibers related?

SG: Yes, the very small, repetitive mark that I’m drawing on is related to various fiber techniques. I connect it to embroidered stitches as well as quilt-making, where patterns are pieced together by combining many different pieces of fabric. I also think about crochet structures and woven structures when I make my work. I create these swirling micro patterns within the larger form, and I relate that process formally to crochet, which is really important to my experience with fibers.

DA: That makes sense. Are the designs themselves inspired by fibers?

SG: They grew out of my interest in decorative border patterns. In Indian textiles decorative borders are very common. Saris always have borders around the edge, and they are often very abstract, very geometric, very decorative. The edges are embellished, and that edge is embellished, and then that edge is embellished–a motif is always edged with another decorative motif.

In my work, I reflect on the way patterns build incrementally. I never have a plan, but I use a roughly geometric system, which, when applied dozens or hundreds of times, creates unpredictable patterns. These patterns emerge out of the simple system of dot placement I use. I’m interested in that process of handmade geometry.

DA: How do you choose the colors in your piece?

SG: My color decisions are intuitive. Because of how the dots are built, each line is building on what came before each. With each subsequent line I make a decision about color. Sometimes I decide I want it to be a gradation, and sometimes I decide I want a contrast.

DA: So you don’t decide exactly what the finished piece will look like ahead of time?

SG: I draw out the basic contours and make that shape into a stencil. I often work in series, so I like to have them as stencils so I can use that exact same shape again but in a different way. If you look at my work chronologically, you can see that I have been simplifying and simplifying, and what I’m doing right now is purely focusing on the circle and the oval.

Orb 1, 2010

This piece was a huge change (Orb 1, above). This happened at the beginning of last year. It’s essentially a circle I’m filling in with dots. I’m interested in evoking the similarity between macro and micro views. This piece can suggest a map of continents and bodies of water or an orbital view of a planet of some sort, while it also resembles a view through a microscope of a sample.

DA: You have also used formats and techniques beyond fibers and paint in the past. Do you still?

SG: I’m interested in the book form and I always make books; it’s a regular part of my practice. I tend to use them to conduct experiments, create samples, or research ideas. For example, when I started using the circle primarily in my work, I wanted to know more about the circle as a decorative motif. I did this project with my husband, partner, and collaborator called See Ouroboros Run (below), where we researched circular motifs and how they recur in obscure or ancient belief systems, what various meanings circles hold, and if is there a universal meaning behind the circle. Those ideas were housed in a book made to look like a teaching tool, maybe for kids, which established a fictitious belief system from a conglomeration of sources. I’m interested in visual storytelling and comic books are a big influence on my work. I tend to make two or three books a year like this, in small editions.

See Ouroboros Run

I’m also coeditor of Bailliwik. It’s an annual anthology that works as an artist cooperative — everyone in it submits work and chips in some money. My partner and I do the layout and have it printed. We encourage special projects and limited edition works to include along with the printed book and once everything is assembled we send copies to the contributors, who then distribute them however they like. All of the work is also published online on our website. It’s a total DIY artist project. We’ve been publishing since 2005 with eight issues so far. At first we put out two a year, but it almost killed us, so now it’s annual.

I love books as a venue for the arts – as an alternative to a gallery or museum. It’s something that people can take home and sit on their couch and look at. Maybe we can reach a different audience than people who go to galleries or museums. It’s more personal, more intimate.

Interview with an art faculty member: Dan Powell

From January 21 to April 8th, the UO art faculty members will be showing their work in The Long Now, an exhibition at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Artfrom January 20 to April 8 in Eugene. Selected works by six art faculty members will be shown at the White Box in Portland from January 24 to March 24. To highlight the artists behind the art, I’m having conversations with several of the faculty in the show to hear more about their practice.

This interview is with Dan Powell, a photographer who received his BA degree in 1972, an MA degree in 1976 from Central Washington University, and his MFA degree from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1980. Powell taught photography in the Art Department at the University of Northern Iowa from 1980-1987 before beginning his current position teaching photography at the University of Oregon in 1988.

Powell has received numerous grants and fellowships including University of Oregon research awards, Polaroid Corporation purchase awards, a Maine Photographic Workshops grant, and in 1981 he received an Emerging Artists Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His work appears in collections at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; Lightwork, Syracuse, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; and Art Institute of Chicago. Powell’s work has been reviewed in prestigious publications including Art Week, New Art Examiner, Art News, Afterimage, and the New York Times. A comprehensive archive of Powell’s work is being collected by Special Collections, Knight Library at The University of Oregon.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Dave Amos, A&AA writer: What drew you to the medium of photography?

Dan Powell: That was a long time ago. In 1972 I took a basic photography course and really enjoyed it for the same reason it’s so seductive for so many people. You feel your creativity oozing out of your pores and that’s a wonderful thing. And it led to a study in photography.

DA: I looked through your portfolio and there seems to be a division between your landscape work and your constructed work. Why both?

DP: The manipulated work I did as a product of where I went to undergraduate school, which really encouraged a conceptual or constructed approach. Rather than taking straightforward pictures out there in the world, images were constructed and highly manipulated, treated as much as a surface for marking as an image. That work was continuous from when I went to school to get a masters degree in the mid 70s all the way through the early 90s. It evolved over a period of years and was in keeping with how photography was critically recognized during that time. That was the kind of work that constituted my practice as an artist; that was what I exhibited. The work in the landscape and images shot on European travels were really more side ventures at the time. I never really showed that work much at all. In my later years as an artist that work has become more interesting to me than all the constructed work because it is tied to place and time and personal history.

Virginia City, Nevada, 1990

DA: Did you go to Europe to take those photos, or were you traveling and decide to take photos?

DP: What came first was the western landscape work. I am from the west and after living in the Midwest for 9 years I acted upon my affection for the land here photographically. Then came photographing during travels overseas, in the 90s mostly. I loved to travel and my wife and I traveled a great deal in the Mediterranean region. I would always take a camera and then I applied for a few grants to travel. Within a very short time photography and travel became a part of the same activity, impossible to separate. It was a wonderful union to make and I miss that a great deal.

I didn’t have any preconceptions about what I was going to shoot. We used to drift a lot when traveling. We had a general route, of course, but specifics were left open and we came and went according to our desires at the time. Photographing was much the same way, just what presented itself to me.

Plakias, Crete, 1996

DA: What catches your eye? Is it light, or composition, or what?

DP: The whole idea of drifting pertains to the camera too. It is making visual sense out of what you see, or better put, seeing something that makes visual sense to you. The idea of seeing and finding something that lies outside the ordinary. Sometimes that’s very formal. Photographing itself is to create some kind of formal construct around what you see, to organize a space. It was the idiosyncratic in many cases, but not all. In my portfolio, many images may be very painterly in form; others might be more idiosyncratic, as in ‘how could that be?’ Images depend on different sets of considerations, and I always like that eclecticism in my work.

DA: There is a section of your portfolio where you juxtaposed two images. I kept thinking about what the pairs were trying to say. Is that what you were aiming for?

DP: Definitely. That work came from the early trips traveling in Europe in Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Croatia and going to these fine museums where you could photograph. There was natural light and it was beautiful to photograph these antiquities. So I took it upon myself to create my own collection from that collection. To collect the collected, in a sense; to photograph books in a library or something like that. That’s why I often combine those images of antiquities with book images. They are both a text, an evolution of human consciousness through time, in statuesque form and written form. What this work was about, “The Keeping of Record” (below) was photographing an archive; this vast archive of western consciousness, a western origin myth. So I’d photograph these objects and there they were but you can’t see through them into the time itself. We can’t go there from the constraints of the time we live in. We can’t escape our present cultural skin. I took it upon myself as an artist, instead, to put another image up against it, to correlate something with it. To provide my response to the image with another image. To play with it, in a sense, in contemporary terms. To make sense out of this past archive according to the present time that I live in. This work was a culmination of the European travel photographs that I made.

The Keeping of Record Series, 2000

DA: How has your work evolved through your career?

DP: Both activities [constructed images and travel/western land images] went on simultaneously, and one played off of the other. For instance, “The Keeping of Record” series, those dualities that were created there, are from individual images from which I had no plans to make that work. They were just other images that I shot in Europe and then later when I came home the idea occurred to me to juxtapose those images. That spawned the creation of that constructed work. One really rose out of the other, and that is true all the way through my work. Even the other constructed images, they all came from actual images, either made in the studio or out in the world. One sort of derived from the other. And many times the images from out there in the world just remained distinct. They were born whole.

DA: Besides travel, do you have other influences?

DP: In the last 15 years or so, I’ve been interested in language and cultural theory. Certainly language theory has played very heavily into my work. Word as a sign, language as a sign. It’s not just what it says but what it represents in the form of connotation. All the way through my work, even in the constructed work, a clashing of signs and symbols, words and images were important. I used to do a lot of dumpster diving when I was in graduate school. It was the beginning of the sprocket driven computer age, so you’d find these reams of computer read-outs that said phrases that made no sense. It’s language gone astray, gone awry, but you can still read it and create meaning, as in “The Flow Chart” series.

One of my foremost interests in photography is its use as a language. Of all the art media it’s probably most akin to the spoken word because of its relationship between representation and reality. A word is a replacement for the actual thing. The thing is not here to show you so I used the word to describe that thing. A photograph is the same thing. They both stand in; they’re surrogates. I’ve always enjoyed mixing those signs and symbols in my constructed work and that certainly carries over into my travel photographs and even the landscapes. Even the single images, oftentimes are complex in terms of a mix of things.

Study from Gray to Black, in "The Long Now" faculty art show

DA: Do you feel like a Northwest artist, whatever that may mean?

DP: Not at all. But I was born in the Northwest, and other than a nine-year stint in the Midwest and a year in New York, I’ve lived here. I love the West. It’s a fine place to live and a person is fortunate to live here for many, many reasons. When I came back here, I was delighted to come back from the Midwest largely because I was interested in photographing the land here. At that particular time in my career I was really involved in that, really interested in that. That was ‘86 through ‘90; they were really big years for me for photographing in the land and photographing the Northwest. Then I started traveling overseas more.

As far as being a quintessential Northwest artist, no, I don’t feel that affinity anymore since my days photographing in the land here.

DA: The Knight Library at the UO is collecting your work and creating an archive. Could you tell me more about that? It must be an honor.

DP: The Knight Library, starting four or five years ago, started collecting my work, my archive, in a sense. Over that course of time, I have donated work and they purchased others that are representative of all the series I’ve done and all the phases of work I’ve done. They’ve collected probably 1600 pieces at this point and more to come. I feel fortunate and honored. I think it fits my work more than others because of the quality of document that much of it holds; particularly there is a lot of work in Oregon and of the west. That’s mostly what they’re interested in, but in collecting me they’ve also collected all of my other work. I feel fortunate to be able to leave my work with them.

DA: Should work stand for itself, or is something gained hearing from the artist?

DP: Both things are true. I think the work should be able to operate on its own merit. That doesn’t mean it might not be combined with language, with words, as a part of imagery or in the process art making. A lot of conceptual art uses words. The work that I have in this show is heavily dependent on the title. In fact, you wouldn’t understand it completely without the titles. The titles explain the work, and I want the titles to explain the work. They’re a part of the piece.

On another token, reading about someone’s involvement in their art and why they make it and how they view it, can really inform you a lot and help you understand the work in different ways than you might otherwise. If you go into a museum and you see work and it hits you and you like it, you think certain things about it. If you go read the words, the work expands, and you probably will think different things about it and have a richer sense of the experience.

So, yes and no. I think different kinds of art work in different ways that way too, and that’s very important. One piece may need to stand on its own, and another piece must absolutely need words with it. If you see a great film and then read all about the director and the process of making it, their intention in making it, it maybe doesn’t make it a better or worse film, but it informs you and gives you more information to feed into the work.