Design Wire May 2021
ELLIOTT ARCHITECTS, an architectural firm based in Blue Hill, recently received special mention in ARCHITIZER’S A+ AWARDS for their work in private residential architecture. Elliott achieves a balance of tradition and modernity in their designs, many of which are based on Maine’s rugged coast and islands. Only eight other firms around the world were recognized in this category, from Elías Rizo Arquitectos in Guadalajara, Mexico, to CLAIR Archi Lab in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. Entries were judged by more than 400 luminaries from fields as diverse as fashion, publishing, product design, real estate development, and tech, and winners were selected for recognition based on excellence in aesthetics, innovation, impact, versatility, and mission.
NIKE’s new laceless GO FLYEASE SNEAKER is the brand’s first ever shoe that can be put on and taken off without using your hands. The original concept emerged from a desire to support Nike’s adaptive athletes better. But Nike quickly found that it was a universal product that would appeal to a broad range of active lifestyles, from busy parents to students racing to class. Made of two sections connected by a patent-pending bi-stable hinge within the sole and a midsole tensioner (basically a large rubber band), the shoes are secure in both an open position for the foot to enter and a closed position for when the sneakers are in use. The idea is easy on, easy off; step in and go.
FIBER MATERIALS INC. (FMI), a BIDDEFORD composites company that manufactures reinforced thermal protection for products meant to endure extremely high temperatures, has been awarded a $24 million, five-year NASA contract to create thermal protective shields for three Mars missions. The contract began in January of this year and will continue to January 2026. FMI is a subsidiary of Spirit AeroSystems and produces a thermal protective system called PICA (phenolic-impregnated carbon ablator), a lightweight material that shields spacecraft in both ground testing and flight, as well as a new innovation called 3MDCP, which FMI helped NASA develop. PICA has been used in several NASA missions, including on the Perseverance Rover (formerly called Mars 2020), which successfully landed on the Mars surface on February 18 of this year after its six-month voyage from Earth. The goal of these missions? NASA plans to retrieve the first ever samples from Mars.
“Silicon Valley needs a breath of fresh Maine air,” says the website of COLBY COLLEGE’s new DAVIS INSTITUTE FOR ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, which aims to integrate AI and machine learning into instruction and research across courses. A driving idea behind a liberal arts approach to AI—the first of its kind and one made possible by a $30 million gift from a former student—is the importance of examining and improving the social and moral implications of AI by rooting it in fields like ethics and history. As Colby’s president David Greene said, making sure there is “a democratization of AI.” Faculty across disciplines, from philosophers to ethicists to sociologists, will contribute to the institute, and during the summer months Colby will host a summer institute, where students and faculty from around the country will come to enhance their own skill sets around AI and bring that knowledge back to their campuses.
Artist JULIA IBBINI and software engineer STEPHANE NOYER of the Abu Dhabi–based IBBINI STUDIO create intricate 3D sculptures entirely of paper. Using recurring geometric patterns inspired by ancient Islamic architecture, Ibbini, who has a background in graphics and collage, and Noyer, a computer scientist and maker with an interest in computational geometry, design each vessel using computer algorithms and custom-made software tools. The designs are then sent to a laser machine to be cut and, after that, the pieces are assembled entirely by hand. Layering hundreds of individual sheets of paper and card stock—and in some cases incorporating wood veneer layers and mother of pearl inlay— takes hundreds of hours, according to Ibbini. Each layer is numbered, allowing for zero mistakes. Email the studio to inquire about purchasing available work or to commission a project.
A $5 million renovation of the 150-year-old LEMONT BUILDING, an elegant brick edifice in Brunswick, will feature a fully restored meeting hall and event space on the second floor, as well as five luxury apartment units. Purchased by Aaron Turkel and Cleo Vauban in 2019 with the help of MAINE’S HISTORIC TAX CREDIT PROGRAM, the couple quickly converted the lower level into three storefronts now occupied by Maine Street Steak and Oyster, Grandpa’s Garden, and the Lemont Block Collective, a maker’s market curated by Vauban. Historical architects BARBA AND WHEELOCK are at work on the upper levels, which have been untouched for almost half a century. The building, a historic gem with a rich history, has been home to more than one secret fraternal organization—with secret rooms to prove it—including the Freemasons and Knights of Pythias, the original owners. The new apartments and the meeting hall, which once hosted speakers like Joshua Chamberlain and Frederick Douglass, should be completed by the end of this year.
The multidisciplinary architecture and lighting design studio ARJUN RATHI DESIGN has released the BAUHAUS LIGHTING COLLECTION, a dynamic series made up of two pendant lights and three floor lamps inspired by the early-twentieth-century German art school. Arjun Rathi, a Mumbai-based designer whose motto is “Light. Form(s). Emotion,” has created clean geometric forms that are both functional and futuristic. Industrial metal curves elegantly around handblown glass in a collection that can be customized with various finishes and sizes, designed specifically for the client’s needs, whether residential, commercial, or hospitality based. The Frequency, pictured here, consists of opaline blown glass pearls and depicts the form of a sound wave at different rates of vibration. The studio also recently launched a new series of works entitled SUGAR COLLECTION, inspired by Indian candy and desserts, which will be expanded to more pieces in the coming months.
French “starchitect” JEAN NOUVEL, whose impressive projects include a cave hotel in Saudi Arabia and an “earthwork” library in Cyprus, has unveiled his newest renderings
for a lush, plant-covered complex in Ecuador. The design for AQUARELA, a 573-unit high-rise apartment in Cumbayá (like the song), a lush valley on the side of a volcano in the Tumbaco Valley east of Quito, contains nine towers between seven and ten stories high, each clad in stone and covered with native plants. In collaboration with the local architectural developer Uribe Schwarzkopf, three of the terraced towers have been completed, with the remaining six coming between 2021 and 2023. Vertical gardens planted along the face of the towers are meant to mimic the steep mountainous landscape, with a courtyard forming a pass between the high-rise blocks. The gardens will be watered with collected rainwater, and for every tree cut down during construction, Nouvel has committed to planting ten more.