As part of a firm-wide rebranding effort, BVH Architecture recently redesigned the front reception desk in their Lincoln, Nebraska studio. The goal of the project was to create a design that embodied the firm’s new brand and that also reflected the vision and emerging interests of the firm. Provided with a small budget for the fabrication and installation of the new desk, the lead design team set out with the goal of leveraging the effects of quantity to transform a limited palette of common, everyday materials into something that could spark the curiosity of studio visitors and ultimately lead to a sense of surprise or wonder.
The completed desk consists of over 18,000 wood and acrylic dowels that together establish an implied three-dimensional surface extending across three sides of the desk. To create this implied surface, each of the dowels was cut to one of twenty-five standardized lengths and inserted into a predetermined location on the desk. Computational modeling software was used to generate the specific length and location of each dowel and to test a variety of forms prior to the final fabrication of the dowels.
Set within this otherwise smooth, continuous surface are areas of localized difference that introduce moments of perspectival play. Dowels in particular areas of the desk are slightly recessed in relation to the field of dowels immediately adjacent, creating an embossed effect that becomes legible as one moves around the three sides of the desk. These subtle surface irregularities invite visitors to explore all sides of the desk.
While the design team was able to utilize a variety of digital fabrication technologies to fabricate the wood and acrylic dowels with relative ease, the overwhelming quantity of dowels required a collective installation effort. Ultimately, in order to install the over 5,000 linear feet of dowels required for the project, the firm enlisted the help of its entire staff as well as a number of its clients and consultant firms.
BVH Architecture staff installed all of the wood dowels over the course of two weeks. Assembly keys of six-inch square sections of the desk surface were distributed to the staff in order to facilitate this process. By using these keys or maps, staff members were able to install the appropriately-sized dowels at the correct locations, and an otherwise overwhelming process was able to be broken down into smaller sections that could be completed over a lunch hour. In total, thirty-five BVH staff members were involved in the installation of the wood dowels. The remaining acrylic dowels were etched with the names of clients and consultants and subsequently mailed out with invitations to the firm’s new brand and vision reveal party. During this event, guests were invited to insert the acrylic dowel they had received in their invitation into the remaining holes in the surface of the desk. In this way, the ultimate completion of the design was a collective effort between multiple firms, agencies, and community organizations.