A few weeks ago, Randy Brown's Lab was featured on our Facebook page, though the building is a few years old (architecture lives to be rediscovered continuously) it received lots of positive comments. Not bad for a building in the middle of the U.S.--Omaha to be exact.
The Lab, built in 2007, was constructed with conventional materials (lumber, glass, steel) to create a tree-house like laboratory that serves as Brown’s home and laboratory for mad-scientist architecture experiments (perhaps?). If anything, it shows that there is design happening all over Omaha, the Midwestern “Portland” (to Minneapolis’s Seattle). While it would surprise many to see the amount of Omaha firms out there (and many with a global reach; they may have designed buildings in your hood). Brown is perhaps the most well-known star on the Nebraska scene.
As the recession has cut back business all over the architecture world, RBA (Randy Brown Architects) is still receiving attention for his work; The Optic House, made for a eye glass designer (and inspired by the behavior and properties of light) was recently featured in Dwell as well as the GA Houses: Project 2010 Show.
Farshid Assassi, photographer extraordinaire for Morphosis and others, made a short film about RBA’s DATA office space (that houses the US Data Company in Los Angeles as well as Omaha). Either way, the quirky film features a woman speaking in Mandarin and also in numbers, but more importantly, she is experiencing the space (and so are we). It is green and shifty, a bold interior seemingly inspired by the Matrix.
“From ambitious public buildings breathing life into communities to quirky art/ecological installations utilizing car parts and found objects, a more tactile aesthetic emerges,” reads the RBA website, “We construct with both hand and digital tools.” Brown has certainly breathed life into communities since his most well known project, 120 Blondo, which was featured in the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture. The building, completed in 2001 is still getting people worked up. RBA, humorously, posted this angry email to RBA:
“Dear Mr. Brown, I see that your building on 120th and Blondo is being remodeled. Wouldn’t it be logical to simply tear down that eyesore and build a structure that will not rust and have the appearance of a shed.”
120 Blondo, Omaha, Nebraska
Of course, this is architecture that doesn’t fit into its Nebraska context, or does it? Was there ever a distinct architecture for the American prarie (Frank Lloyd Wright tried, of course). Now it seems that strip malls and suburbia have taken over, and one city is not so different from the next. The purpose of the Bizarre Store (below) is to add glamor and a unique glamorous experience to the city; albeit one that cries for attention. Though it might be fit in better Manhattan or Los Angeles, it may pack an even greater punch in the context of the Omaha suburbs. And maybe it will inspire others to do the same, in a completely new way.
Bizzare, Omaha, Nebraska
Optic House, Omaha, Nebraska. Photo courtesy RBA