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DIS 2018 and Our Exquisite Corpse Post Mortem

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For our 2018 Design Issues Series (DIS) project, we turned our usual design process on its head to create the Parallax Pavilion, an 8’x8’x’16’ temporary installation that manipulates and celebrates perception. Bigger than a model, but smaller than a building, the Parallax Pavilion is more than an object: it’s an experience that highlights the power of design to shape how people see and interact with the built environment.

Inspired by Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse), a 20th century Surrealist artist parlor game where multiple players contributed pieces to a final whole, five teams from across our three U.S. offices contributed to different phases of the project–each team deliberately kept blind to what would be passed to them. Each team had to be as concise as possible, knowing they could only provide a limited explanation of their work to the next team. As a result, teams had to be careful about what was shown, drawn, or modeled. It also forced us to accept the interpretation and transformation of the work by colleagues. Challenging the status quo is part of GBBN’s culture and upending the way we usually work was revealing. For example, working this way forced us to let go of some of the control we’re used to, but led to a surprising outcome: It allowed us all to be authors of the work.

Additionally, the project was an opportunity to incorporate other goals, like advancing how we work with local fabricators. To CNC mill the 607 separate pieces that make up Parallax Pavilion, we turned to Riverside Architectural Millwork. Working closely with Riverside’s team enabled us to harness their unique expertise during the process. Another important consideration? As drafting and rendering software become increasingly sophisticated, rigor around constructability must keep pace. If we can dream it, can we, actually build it? (Yes! But duly noted: Plywood. Is. Heavy.)

Our work culminated in five amazing events from Louisville to Pittsburgh and back again. We launched the Parallax Pavilion’s regional tour at the Louisville Mini Maker Faire and shared our design process during Cincinnati Design Week. It made stops at open houses in our offices in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before returning to Louisville for Junior Achievement Inspire – a career showcase for over 10,000 8th and 9th graders who are beginning to imagine their future professions.

We’ve had a blast sharing the Parallax Pavilion with our communities. Many thanks again to our happy hour exhibit sponsors: Riverside Architectural Millwork, MadTree Brewing, Couch Brewery, and Phipps Reprographics, Inc.