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Three-dimensional Artifacts as Design Elements

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A stand-alone, three-dimensional artifact that speaks to an organization’s spirit, mission, or history is sometimes part of the design solution. The connection between the artifact and the organization may be obvious, subtle, or even mysterious to an outsider, but it is always meaningful to the culture that shares it and a contributor to pride of place.

Carbonite, Boston. Photo © Robert Benson.
Active Network, Dallas. Photo © Thomas McConnell.
Red Hat, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo © Eric Laignel.
Virgin Voyages, Plantation Florida. Photo © Robin Hill.
Confidential Client, Portland. Photo © Christian Columbres.
Alteryx, Irvine, CA. Photo © Kelly W. King
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Carbonite, Boston. Photo © Robert Benson.
Active Network, Dallas. Photo © Thomas McConnell.
Red Hat, Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo © Eric Laignel.
Virgin Voyages, Plantation Florida. Photo © Robin Hill.
Confidential Client, Portland. Photo © Christian Columbres.
Alteryx, Irvine, CA. Photo © Kelly W. King
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Enjoy! And if you have any comments or questions relating to any of the projects you learn about below, be sure to share them with us on social media!




As we were designing the stair and the element below it, we had been discussing the sculptural aspect of the stair and the strong angular structural form of the building and its steel structure.

In our renderings we always pointed out the space below the stair would be a perfect location for an object and how something could be reflected in the pool of water below the stair.

They did not hire us to coordinate any art but we would occasionally have side conversations with the client design team about their art and give them our opinions when asked.

One of the Senior Partners had this sculpture personally commissioned. He asked us to give him opinions on scale and how it should be mounted in the pool but otherwise we had no idea what it was going to be. We were so surprised and pleased when we went in 3 months after move-in to photograph the space and saw how perfect it was. The stainless steel material and curved form makes this sculpture a perfect counterpoint to the architectural design of the space. Magic can happen!

John Hopkins

Design Director




Active Network, Dallas. Photo © Thomas McConnell.

The trees are one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. I don’t know how I got away with them. Active Network has a strong tech-start up feel and culture. They were moving from California to Texas and brought all that 2010 Silicon Valley design-thinking with them, which for a high-rise in downtown Dallas was a welcomed change of pace. The 25th floor was our amenity floor. Half of it was devoted to a large break area, a tavern, all hands meeting area, and play room that we tried to make look as much like a city park as we could given the project schedule. We considered all kinds of bonkers ideas. "Bonkers" was my unofficial mission statement for this project. I had a wild idea, but didn’t know how to sell it, so I went home and built a scale model of a tree with cardboard hoping the millworker could do the same with plywood. I never was allowed to show the client the model, but I keep it at my desk to this day.

Zach Weihrich 

Senior Designer




I like to look for art that stimulates thought and helps people to think bigger (or outside the box). Art helps us to challenge conventional thinking and reframe the way we look at the world. Placing art outside of meeting areas or areas of deep concentration can help individuals to get out of their head space just for a moment. Similar to meditation art can help people decompress. Have you ever got lost in a painting? Simple moments like that really do help people to change gears from task-to-task. Art can help to energize people, bring people together and even challenge their ideas. The placement of these pieces is important for dynamic interaction.

Neil Schneider

Design Director/Principal




In order to decide which external art to feature in a space, I must first understand the client – not only what they do, but also what they want people to feel when walking their space.


In the case of Virgin Voyages, the client is in the nautical industry so I wanted to incorporate a water element in the art that I chose. However, simple is not on-brand for this client – they wanted their employees and clients to feel bold, playful, and cheeky when touring the space. I felt like the bath tub fit perfectly within that category – and the client couldn't agree more.

Gisselle Gema Amador 

Designer




Active Network, Dallas. Photo © Thomas McConnell.

Active Network kept asking us for bigger, odder, and more whimsical ideas...so one night, the lead designer on the project and I were up late digging around odd recesses of the internet trying to scrape together a furniture package that was strange enough, but not too strange...that’s when we found these giant inflatable dog sculptures. We loved them, but quickly found ourselves in a deep existential argument over their purpose and greater conceptual significance to the project. We eventually decided they were ‘too fluffy.’ No way would he have the patience for something so devoid of function. The next day we presented our hearts out, and most everything we showed was approved. When we were finished... there was one thing they wanted to add themselves. One thing the CEO found that he liked better than anything we had shown. He passed his phone across the table, and showed us a picture of those exact same inflatable dog statues. So by god, he got’em.


Zach Weihrich 

Senior Designer




Alteryx, Irvine, CA. Photo © Kelly W. King

The CEO (Co-founder) Dean Stoecker had a vision of converting a VW bus into something. He wanted it to symbolize the long journey from where they started to where they are now. We loved the idea, and knew that we needed to create a space where it could be showcased.  We decided that the ideal space would be near the break room for all to see—this is a central space to their cultural events and staff meetings. Before they moved into the space they used to host a happy hour once a week. Now that they have a beer-dispensing VW Bus in their office, it happens a little more often.

Erin Torres

Project Manager




The stair sculpture was inspired by conversations the design team had with senior leadership of Abt associates during our 2 ½ year strategy and design process. Abt is comprised of “Bold Thinkers Driving Real-World Impact.” This statement was translated into a physical design by our design and experiential graphics team as a red curving metal ribbon—the red metal strips (representing their “Bold Thinkers”) traveling through and connecting the horizontal and vertical space above the stairs (representing the “Real-World Impact”). A part of this experience also lives on the stair itself—a timeline celebrating special milestones or successes for Abt Associates.

Esther Nunes

Designer





IA is a global firm of architects, designers, strategists, and specialists .We focus exclusively on environments through the lens of interior architecture—a radical idea in 1984, when IA was founded. We are highly connected agents of change, committed to creativity, innovation, growth, and community.


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