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Architype Dialogue presents

Kristine Matthews & Karen Cheng

What was the most difficult issue about weaving the environmental graphics into this building or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new design thoughts in this project?

Our greatest challenges were logistical ones. Our concept required that the elevator flooring change from its original spec of stainless steel to stone tile in order to match the adjacent floors. But as the design was refined we soon realized that we also had to adjust both the stone floor tile patterning and the grout color for the entire building, just to make the elevator installation look right. We were extremely fortunate to have been brought on board while the building was still mid-construction… and to have support from the entire project team to make it happen. We still can’t quite believe they accommodated us!

Did this project expand or evolve your role as a graphic designer in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the graphics designer, and in turn environmental graphics themselves, is changing on current projects?


It used to be that the public spaces of buildings were the domain of fine artists. That is, typically a building’s “finishing touch” would be a singular piece of artwork placed front-and-center in the lobby, just in time for the grand opening. Now we’re seeing a lot of influence from graphic designers, whose working process seems naturally linked to that of architects. We were interested to invent a piece that was literally part of the building’s architecture, and occupying a space that is normally the least grand of all: the elevators.

How are your designs possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology, wayfinding, and graphics inspired new thought and solutions?

Metal inlay into stone has been around for a long time, but the precision of metal water-jet cutting as well as contemporary stone cutting allowed us fantastic tolerances; for example the tiny counter-spaces of the small letters in the elevator cabs. More and more it’s a happy truth for designers: “If you can dream it, they can do it.” It’s a matter of finding the right fabricator who understands what you’re after and takes the care to make it happen.
Direct-to-substrate printing is another innovation that’s continuing to transform wayfinding and graphics. The ability to eliminate a ‘tacked on’ layer and simply print directly on what you want (old doors, fabric, steel sheets, etc) is liberating.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young designers? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

Teaching design clearly informs our professional design work and vice-versa. Students bring energy and enthusiasm and relentlessly embrace the latest technology. It keeps you on your toes. What is entirely new to them is the process of taking an idea and making it a physical reality, especially with a client in the mix. Most interesting: as high-end technology becomes more available to everyone, it becomes easier to blur the lines between student projects and “real world” projects.

Architype Review thanks Kristine Matthews & Karen Cheng for their interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.


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