Architects pursuing collaboration to boost efforts

October 4, 2009
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The Grand Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has set its designs on furthering collaboration within the industry and with the public.

“In our opinion, it’s better if we collaborate to reach a larger audience,” said Greg Metz, AIAGV president and partner in Lott3 Metz Architecture in Grand Rapids.

Three of the industry-related organizations with which AIAGV is aiming to strengthen its ties are the Industrial Designers Society of America, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and Design West Michigan, a regional advisory group that consists of more than 50 design professionals, and a few others.

The first collaboration was for an event called NoshNight, which was held at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts in June and featured a visual presentation dubbed “Slide Wars.” Twenty industrial designers, architects, photographers, sculptors and others, evenly split between veterans and newcomers, each showed 20 slides of their work with a time limit of 20 seconds for each slide, resulting in a six-minute and 40-second blitz of their accomplishments.

“It was kind of a quick, rapid-fire presentation of their stuff. A lot of loud music, an open bar, and we got about 350 people. It was great. Everybody I talked to said it was an amazing, fun night,” said Metz.

The four put together another NoshNight, again at the UICA, in August called “Recycled Runway.” Designers modeled what they felt were trashy fashions: clothing and accessories they made from the normal throw-away things that usually end up in a landfill.

“We had kids activities beforehand and we had 500 people at that one. So we keep building,” said Metz.

Of course, the idea behind NoshNight is to celebrate design and showcase what people in all facets of the industry are capable of doing in a strikingly clever way that the public can enjoy and easily grasp.

The third event is set for later this month; this one will carry the same theme but take a bit of a turn. It will be held at the Wealthy Theater and will center around the full-length documentary film “Objectified.” Directed by Gary Hustwit, the movie presents the public’s relationship with manufactured objects and those who design the everyday items most people don’t give a second thought to — such as toothbrushes.

“It talks about the people who design the items and why they design them the way they do and how they’re built. It’s a whole behind-the-scenes film on things that we use every day, and every day take for granted,” said Metz.

“I think we’re looking at another 500 people at that one. It’s incredible to get that many people in the arts community and the design community together like that,” he added.

AIAGV also remains involved in industry-related topics. The latest revolves around building-information modeling, a new three-dimensional way to draw buildings.

Metz explained that BIM lets subcontractors put everything they’re going to install inside a structure directly on the drawing before construction gets underway, which, in theory, should eliminate any placement conflicts, such as placing lights where ductwork is planned.

“It’s really new. A lot of the big firms are starting to do it but the small firms haven’t started,” he said.

“How it works is, a contractor gets selected with all their subcontractors. An architect draws it, and then it goes to the subcontractors and they put their stuff in. Every subcontractor touches it.”

AIAGV held a luncheon with a representative from AIA International that drew about 200 earlier this year to learn about BIM. The Associated Builders and Contractors held an all-day BIM event last spring attended by 200. On Nov. 5, Metz said the chapter will get together at the Watermark Country Club to focus on the legal aspects surrounding BIM. “We’re anticipating upwards of 300 to 400 people. We’re just getting stuff together to get the word out,” he said.

AIAGV will host its own all-day BIM event next spring and the Chicago-based trade publication Building Design and Construction magazine is on board as a sponsor of the event. “It’s good when a big magazine starts to take a look at you,” said Metz, whose term as president ends in early December.

And there is more collaboration on the calendar. A summit on carbon neutrality is in the works and in March AIAGV will link again with law firm Miller Canfield, Kendall College of Art & Design and the Salvation Army for the second “Canstruction in Canned Rapids.” This time, the event is planned for DeVos Place and will be part of the annual West Michigan Home and Garden Show.

Last year, the event featured five teams that built five sculptures from donated canned goods and other packaged food products. Three of the teams that competed were AIAGV members: Paradigm Design, Integrated Architecture and FTC&H. The two other teams were comprised of students from Kendall College. After the event, the food products, including 13,000 canned goods, were donated.

“That will be cool because of the amount of people who will be able to see it. We will draw more teams this year,” said Metz. “It’s really neat stuff. I couldn’t believe those were food cans. It’s incredible the things these people came up with.”

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