Category Archives: Culture & Play

Oh What a Difference We Can Make

Deb France

On Wednesday, Aug. 27, students returned to Reynolds High School in Portland, Oregon after the summer break. Media were gathered at the curb and security officers were poised to guide the parents, students, faculty and community members on a guided tour of the gym. This was only 47 days following a tragic shooting in the locker room where freshman Emilio Hoffman was shot and killed by a fellow student, and a teacher was injured before the shooter took his own life.

“The space has been transformed,” says Superintendent Linda Florence. “Remodeling the building plays a key role in helping students feel safe again.”


Reynolds High School students excitedly gathered around a new video wall during the opening of the renovated gym lobby.

My firm, Oh planning+design, architecture, was working with the school district on summer projects that included a renovation of the locker rooms where the shooting occurred. I received the call after the June 10 tragedy that the gym lobby was damaged from the shooting and needed to be included in the design. The construction crews were already prepared to start work on the locker rooms, with only 46 days remaining until the new school year began.

There was no doubt that we had to renovate the lobby area, but time was going to be tight!  Design plans needed to be drawn, knowing that accessing available building materials within such a short timeline would be difficult. This had to be a project that represented the entire building community. If we approached all the needed improvements in a unified way, we could do more. The lobby transformation could only be completed if the materials were selected from overstock and readily available products.

We wanted to provide a sense of renewal, safety and hope to the students when they returned, so I made it my mission to personally reach out to the materials suppliers and ask them for whatever they could offer, including donations. The response was immediate and overwhelming. The outpouring of help was very touching and really sent a strong message of unity and support to the school, students and families. Each community member has a role in forming a safe environment for learning.

The project architect, Jackie Gilles, and the team at Oh planning+design, architecture, as well as contractors from Centrix Construction, worked long days and weekends to build the expanded design and install the donated materials. It was incredible to see how the design and construction team pulled together to make this project happen at lightening speed.

One of the first companies to respond was Interface. Interface was a natural fit for this project because of their support of the USGBC’s Center for Green Schools and their shared commitment to provide safe and healthy learning environments through the Green Apple Day of Service. When they received the call to participate, they did not hesitate even for a moment. Interface donated 1000 square feet of the entry walk-off carpet for the two main entrance doors.


All of the building materials were wholly or partially donated, including the Interface carpet tile for the lobby entry-way.

Thanks to Interface and other manufacturers, no part of the gym lobby was left untouched. All materials were wholly or partially donated to make this a success. Other donations were received from Designtex, Pacific Window Tinting, 3M, JS Creative Arts, Viridian, 9Wood, Hunter Douglas, Beynon Sports, EB Bradley, Lumicor, Lewis Audio Video, Armstrong, Inpro, Miller Paint and Daltile.

The collaboration transformed not only the physical environment, but also the hearts of the students who attend Reynolds High.

Deb France is the founding principal at Oh planning+design, architecture in Portland, Oregon.

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Living Cully – Building a Park & a Lasting Legacy

Joanna Gangi

Creating a healthy, safe and vibrant community starts with dedicated residents who are committed to lasting change. The Cully neighborhood in Northeast Portland is rich with culture and diversity, yet it is one of the most underserved communities in Portland.

In a city where there is a plethora of parks and ample green space, the Cully neighborhood severely lacks access to this basic service. A team lead by Verde has been working to bridge this environmental justice gap and bring a much-needed park to the community with the Let Us Build Cully Park coalition. Once complete, the Thomas Cully Park will include a community garden and a safe place for children and adults to play and enjoy.


Recently, the International Living Future Institute and founding sponsor Interface launched the first Legacy Project and teamed up with Verde* to transform a run-down public right-of-way into a safe, beautiful and refreshing green space. The Cully Adopt-a-Spot plot sits adjacent to the Thomas Cully Park and helps frame the park’s entrance to be an accessible area for residents to enjoy. The Legacy Project team worked with the Cully neighborhood residents over the course of four months to make this transformation possible. The process included three public workshops with the largely Spanish-speaking community to listen to their concerns, develop ideas together and design lasting solutions. Many of the residents expressed their desire to make this a safe and enjoyable walking path, as it is a highly utilized area and borders a busy roadway. The community modeled their vision for the space, and the passion was contagious to the design team as they included the residents’ ideas to the composition of the space.

The collaborative planning process culminated on May 24, when members of Verde, Interface, The Institute, Cully residents and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and spent the day planting and building the Cully Adopt-a-Spot. Interface was integral in the process by sponsoring the event and will continue to sponsor the project through completion. Dozens of shrubs and trees were planted in the ground. A walkway was constructed through the middle of the space to provide a safe and accessible avenue to local businesses. And a wall was built to border the busy roadway. All of the materials used were compliant with the Living Building Challenge materials Red List, which helped inspire the design team to seek certification, making it the second park ever to attempt the Living Building Challenge.


Neighborhood families and children of all ages participated in the work party and were very excited to see the space transforming before their eyes. Children were enthusiastic to take part as they dug, filled wheelbarrows and watered the new shrubs. One child said, “This is like a work party, work isn’t fun but this is fun!” Another child stated, “I never came here before; it was gross and there were people here that we didn’t want to be around. It was scary and now it is so pretty!” Numerous people honked their horns in support as they drove by— showing that this not only effects the Cully residents but also effects people who would have never thought to look at this site before. It seemed that everyone involved, from young to old, knew the importance of investing in a community that lacks certain services like access to nature. As the walkway began to take shape, the newly formed pocket park portrayed a positive sense of community in the Cully neighborhood. The residents were all committed to making their home beautiful. And working together really proved that transformation is possible with a community-led effort.


What was once an overgrown lot filled with weeds is now a beautiful, well-lit pathway, complete with a curving steel graphic wall and colorful landscape design filled with plants. The Cully community is a shining example of dedicated residents who care for their neighborhood and are committed to growing a healthy and vibrant community. The engagement of all involved parties is a testament to the potential for seemingly small community initiatives to serve as a catalyst for positive change.

*Verde is a Portland-based non-profit that serves communities by building environmental wealth through Social Enterprise, Outreach and Advocacy.

Author Joanna Gangi is empowered by the fantastic beauty of nature residing in Seattle where she works at the International Living Future Institute as the Editorial Director of Trim Tab.

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Milan Design Week: Trend Report Pt. II

Gretchen Wagner

In Pt. I of the Milan Design Week: Trend Report I discussed material and color trends that broke the surface of both the Furniture Fair and the Brera Design District. But now we’ll move into some of the emerging cultural trends that have been under my radar.

As mentioned before, the trends are slower moving and are representative of changing consumer habits.


Hackable Design_web

1. Clei: Prototype of stacked kitchen appliances for small space living
2. Vitra: Mariposa Sofa by: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby 3. Edra: Flap by Francesco Binfare
4. Edra: Standard by Francesco Binfare 5. Miss Moss: Hirashima 6. Gan
7. Vitra: Planophore by: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby

It is a known fact that there has been a re-densification of cities across the world and where there are more people, there is less space. Small space living has inspired lots of individuals to find interesting design innovations. For example, SCAD has recently launched ScadPAD, a collaboration between students, alumni and faculty to create a clever design solution to micro-housing needs, and famous artist Andrea Zittel has been designing ways to maximize small space for years!

Less space isn’t always a bad thing, but it does create a design problem that can only be solved with efficiency. The result is furniture that is not just dual-purpose, but multi-purpose, furniture that can evolve and convert a space from a bedroom into an office. But it isn’t just furniture in homes that is becoming multi-functional. It’s also office tables that can expand to seat twice as many people, or wheeled tables that enable spontaneous collaborations.

Furniture that can be modified in an instant is not only user friendly, it’s also conscious of the need to be able to transform a space. Multi-purpose and customizable furniture is essential to the future of product development as we continue to do more with less in our rapidly changing world.


Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations_web

1. SCP London: Donna Wilson 2. Citco and Zaha Hadid’s wall features 3. Vitra: Alexander Girard
4. Bolon: still from The Contradiction of Silence 5. Republic of Fritz Hansen: “Unplugged Relations” Analog table 6. HAY: “Wrong for Hay” Collaboration with Sebastian Wrong

How we use technology was a recurring theme throughout Milan Design Week. With an emphasis on technology and the ability to connect with diverse groups of individuals instantaneously has led to beautiful cross-disciplinary collaborations. It seemed like almost every showroom was highlighting a collaboration between their company and another group of creative individuals outside of their industry. Take into consideration Bolon’s collaboration with Alexander Eckman, a choreographer who developed a modern dance emulating the manufacturing process of Bolon’s woven floor coverings. Vitra’s showroom (always one to excite the senses) presented new and updated classics featuring work inspired by Alexander Girard and Ray and Charles Eames. One of my favorite showrooms at the Furniture Fair was SCP of London, a company that commissions furniture, ceramics and textiles from various London artists and designers to create collections for consumers that are both sophisticated and nationalistic. HAY, a Danish company, consistently collaborates with internationally known designers to produce playful furniture, lighting and textiles for their customers. And lastly, one of the most widely discussed collaborations was between Italian based company Citco and architect Zaha Hadid.

Collaborations are not new to the interior design industry, but the technology and resources that are making these collaborations so much easier definitely are. Companies such as WeWork or Mojo CoWorking are two of many that create forums for individuals from different industries to bench and collaborate with one another in a single, modern office space based on the concept of renting individual desk space. All of this new technology that allows us to stay connected constantly—for better or worse—means that companies can connect with employees located across the world to get the job done. These collaborations aren’t just happening in the working world either. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) frequently pairs students with industry leaders to create unique classroom experiences as a part of their Collaborative Learning Center.

Whether it be for the development of a new product launch, a study on small living space or simply benching together in an open office, students and professionals alike are collaborating on a daily basis.

Everybody who’s anybody is doing it.

Now, looking through the lens of everything I saw at Milan Design Week, I am noticing these trends on an even larger scale and am eager to see if NYCxDesign and NeoCon will yield similar trends or offer new ideas all together.


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Milan Design Week: Trend Report Pt. I

Gretchen Wagner

During Milan Design Week the already stylish city of Milan, Italy, transforms into a multi-cultural showcase of current and forecasted trends. Soaking in the beautiful new color palettes, materials and products is surely inspiring, but my favorite part comes after the after-parties have long been finished. All the imagery and literature that I gathered is carefully cataloged and cross-referenced with other emerging design trends from various blogs and publications, and I soon begin to find recurring themes. These recurring themes become the basis of my trend research as I continue to step into both the past and the future to understand where these trends have come from and where they are going.

I have broken the overall design trends from Milan Design Week into two categories: Material/Color Trends and Emerging Cultural Trends. Material and color trends are simply a visual analysis of what textures and colors are emerging in various markets. These trends are often moving at a fast pace and typically start in higher end markets and eventually diffuse to consumer markets where they become widely accepted as “fashionable”. Emerging cultural trends represent larger, slower moving trends that dictate not only our material and color choices, but also how and why we design products the way we do. They represent what is happening on a global cultural scale and signify changes in consumer habits and how we interact with one another on the human scale.

So let’s kick things off with a colorful start.


Pastel and neon colors have slowly been creeping into consumer driven markets, particularly the fashion industry. In a world that has gone neutral in most recent years with subtle variations on taupe and cool grays, I am excited to announce the emergence of pastels and neons in contract design. Scandinavian design (both fashion and interiors) has always lent itself to interpreting accents in the form of pastel and neon colors. Unlike most trends that start in higher end markets and diffuse downward to consumers, this trend emerged with consumers where it became widely accepted and is now skyrocketing upward into mature design aesthetics where pastel and neon colors bring a whimsical and play-like atmosphere.

Within the pastel and neon trend I am also noticing blush and dusty rose colors coming to the forefront. Depending on surrounding palettes, blush tones can effortlessly blend in as imitation neutrals or become a subtle statement piece amongst a tonal backdrop. Stylists in home interiors are dialing up the intensity of blush hues and creating soft pink spaces filled with glowing light and simple accessories.


Alchemy by definition is a medieval form of chemistry that focused its efforts on transforming base metals into gold. Gold and many other metallic finishes and reflective surfaces were all over Milan Design Week and are hitting home interior trends in the form of copper clothing hangers and brassy light fixtures. Metallics were not the only shiny things at the Furniture Fair. Lacquered side tables and case goods that were so glossy you could see your own reflection in them cropped up across multiple showrooms. Metallic finishes and reflective surfaces are popping up everywhere from copper finishes on handbags, to light fixtures, tableware, furniture and fine art.

Clean and thin metallic wire accents against soft pastels and neutrals are effortlessly modern and bring brightness into any space.

I will continue with the emerging cultural trends in Pt. II of the Milan Design Week: Trend Report, so stay tuned!!

Ciao for now!

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Weekend in Italy

Gretchen Wagner

The past couple of days have been a blur and I am back in Atlanta by way of Verona > Ljubljana, Slovenia > Venice > New York. I didn’t see much of Venice or New York (unless the airport counts) but I fell in love with both Verona and Ljubljana.

So here’s a quick recap of our last two days abroad!


Narrow city streets of Verona – simply enchanting.

We started Friday in Verona with a beautiful tour of the historic city. Our tour guide was of the classic Italian type and she described the architecture of the Baroque and Renaissance type. We traveled down winding, narrow streets past hidden churches and supposedly the homes of both Romeo and Juliet! After the tour I made my way to Juliet’s square to see where lovers come from around the world to lock in their love for one another on the cast iron gates. Beautifully painted frescoes and colorful, marble city streets enchanted me. Verona is the height of Italian romance, and the city is too stunning to not become infatuated with the light and architecture around you.

Midway through the day we left for our last “three hour tour” to Ljubljana, Slovenia, to visit Aquafil’s recycling and regeneration plants the following day. Friday evening, Interface, Aquafil and all our guests rode up the Funicular railway, which is essentially a gondola that takes you to the top of the hill in the center of the city. At the top is a medieval castle that has been renovated with some contemporary architecture. Naturally, we were greeted with a delicious Slovenian dinner equipped with the famous sausages from the area and prosecco (of course!!). Despite Slovenia being so close to Italy, both the architecture and food display a stronger tie to their Austrian neighbors.


Nylon 6 fishing nets about to be cleaned and recycled at the Aquafil plant in Slovenia.

The following day we visited Aquafil’s recycling and regeneration facilities located in Slovenia to see how the Econyl yarn is produced. You may be familiar with Interface’s Net-Works™ program in which commercial fishing nets made of type 6 nylon fiber are recovered from beaches in the Philippines and brought to Aquafil for recycling. Not only does this help feed Aquafil’s recycled content in their Econyl yarn, but it also benefits the local communities and villages in the Philippines by providing an alternative source of income that helps stabilize their economy (collected nets are paid for with deposits in local banks) and cleaning the debris on their beaches that could contribute to illness. The type 6 nylon fishing nets are only one component of the recycled content that contributes to Aquafil’s Econyl yarn. It also includes fluff waste from carpet tiles (removed in our own ReEntry® 2.0 facility here in Georgia!!), post-industrial waste from the apparel industry and many other sources. Aquafil accepts anything that is type 6 nylon and then cleans and recycles that content back into their products.

It was truly amazing to see the process, but unfortunately the most exciting parts of the tour couldn’t be photographed because of the unique technologies Aquafil has invented. For a closer view into the process, view Interface’s YouTube channel and watch some of our Net Works and Net Effect videos to see the industrial process.


The medieval castle in Ljubljana.


A late night view of the river in Ljubljana with the city reflected in the water.









Saturday concluded with a seafood dinner in downtown Ljubljana and afterwards the whole crew set off to a little café for one last round of toasts and celebration.

Now safely back in the Americas and jet lagged, I am sure everyone is sleepy eyed and grinning just like me.

Thank you for such a magnificent trip across Italy!! And stay tuned for continued updates and pictures through the eyes of our guests.


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