Banners Amongst Us

September 16th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:


Yesterday, a large truck arrived at the grain elevator on 34th and Vinton to deliver 22,000 sqft. of banners brought to life by great BIG color in Denver, Colorado.  These banners have been in process since chosen by the jury on May 22nd at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.  Between then and now, the artists and designers have worked diligently to reproduce their original submissions at the gigantic 20′x80′ size.  great BIG color has supported us the whole way through, thanks to the fabulous customer service of Kristin Battenfield, who found out about the project from her parents who still live in Omaha where she grew up.  Kristin called us one day and said “this project is so amazing, what do we have to do to get it?” After some negotiating and a sample banner and re-purposed banner into farmers market shopping bag arriving at our studio the following morning, gBc has been a central part of the team by turning virtual 500MB ideas into a product.

In addition to being a smart business woman who acts fast to be part of an out-of-the-norm project, Kristin generously took some pictures of the banners in process – being printed, sewn, welded, etc.  The banners are basically printed in 10′ strips and hot welded down the middle.  They are then hemmed and grommeted for their life on the grain elevator.  Thanks to Kristin for snapping all these photos.  The banners are resting for the weekend before action begins on Monday, September 20th at 7am.  Keep your eyes on the elevator!


Chef Blog #3: Matthew Taylor, Arbor Day Lied Lodge

September 11th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

One of the many great things about multiple tentacled projects like this is how one things leads to another.  Parts of the project are adopted by others, parts of the project spin off into other projects, and great people lead to other great people.  In the case of Chef Matthew Taylor, we were led to him by way of banner artist Matthew Rezac, both out of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and both with ties to Nebraska. When one Matthew suggests another Matthew, how can one not take notice?  Although Banner Artist Matthew grew up in Nebraska, Chef Matthew has slowly been lured to Nebraska.  The luring is now finalized with Matthews recent move to Nebraska City to assume the position of Head Chef at the Arbor Day Lied Lodge and Conference Center.

When Matthew showed up at our first ‘chef meeting’, having altered his pre-move house hunting visit to Nebraska in order to attend, we knew we had found a perfect fit for this project.  Arms covered in tattoos, charismatically speaking about his love of local food with a slight Chicago accent, and instantly building camaraderie with strangers through his praise of the region’s meats, cheeses, and vegetables.  We were lucky to find Matthew.

Chef Matthew Taylor began his culinary career in the kitchens of renowned chef Raymond Timpone. Working under Chef Timpone at the famous Timpone’s Ristorante in Urbana, IL gave Matthew a taste for the rustic beauty and contemporary charm of Italian cooking. Chef Matthew then moved on to kitchens in the Champaign and Chicago areas. Matthew soon made a tour of kitchens from New York to Seattle. “Working for the chefs I respected and admired has been a great training ground for me”, explains Matthew when discussing his background. Chef Taylor has studied the cuisine and technique of classical French, Italian, and contemporary American cuisines.

Matthew has lived and worked in several regions in the United States. Along the way he has been exposed to a variety of styles and “regional identities” that have shaped his diversified palate. “Wherever I go, my connection with the community is through food.” This is one of the biggest propensities for the sourcing of local foods. Chef Taylor believes in the wholesome, vital freshness that comes with buying food from the farmers here in Nebraska. At Lied Lodge and conference Center at The Arbor Day Farm we try to source as much as possible from local farms to both support a healthy diet and a healthy local economy.

At the most recent chef meeting, Matthew initiated an engrossing discussion about including bison in the harvest dinner event, which then led to a discussion about prairie landscape conservation and restoration.  The following week, we found ourselves speaking with bison ranchers and being asked to pick up a live bison for processing!  The live part was quickly nixed, but bison is now on the menu and we can’t wait to see what Chef Matthew brings to a course that speaks to the deep history of our region, and undoubtedly a burgeoning future market.

‘The Battery’ by Shaun Smakel

September 7th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words: ,

The time has arrived for the FINAL banner blog in the 13-week one-by-one unveiling of each piece of artwork for installation on the grain elevator.  Getting to know the visionary behind each design has become the best part of this project.  Each one provides a unique perspective that we can’t imagine the final installation, as a whole, without. The Chef Blogs will be coming at a rapid pace leading up to the October 3 dinner, and then will dovetail into Farmer Blogs to highlight the folks who grow/raise the food we will enjoy at that epic event.

The last, but certainly not least, banner ‘The Battery’, designed by landscape designer and urban planner, Shaun Smakal was the only submission out of 150 to embrace the crucial global topic of energy.  During Smakal’s background research for his entry, he accidentally discovered that a silo is the exact proportion of a AA battery, and their past use as grain storage certainly represents enormous quantities of energy storage.  Without getting into the complex physics of energy production, consider the transference of sun, water, and nutrients into a new harvestable, and edible form that even now produces fuel for our cars.  Energy indeed.  According to Smakal, landuse, agriculture, and energy are the complex and intricately interwoven pieces of the larger human landscape.  The role that energy plays in the landscape is often ignored or unseen by many Americans, so by utilizing the instantly recognizable form of a battery, he seeks to coalesce this complexity into a 3-tiered format that is iconic and visual enough to be recognizable to someone driving by on the interstate, and also able to develop a broader energy/landuse discussion. The positive and negative terminals represented by a battery are an important component to any discussion about landuse and energy that, according to Smakal, is often missing in our oil focused society.

The image as a whole, represents a battery, and each subsequent spectrum of color a battery itself and a graphic image of sixteen potential energy resources as identified by Scientific American, in order of increasingly irreversible impact on our larger landscape. The graphic images visually highlight the energy resource itself, with an emphasis on how it exists in the landscape or its raw form,  and the colors reference both a natural rainbow and the Dept. of Homeland Security’s National Terror Alert System:

Shaun Smakal, a Master of Landscape Architecture candidate at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and a graduate of the Resource Planning B.Sc. program at the University of Michigan – Flint, specializes in imaging how cities, especially the declining, post-industrial, rust belt cities of Detroit and Flint, would look, function and change through radical landscape and urban development that makes them into environments that regenerate the human, ecological and infrastructure functions that comprise them.

His professional design work began with a role as a memorial designer for a small, family-owned monument design company. During his academic career, he served as a writing tutor on campus, teaching assistance and designed and built sets for student-run plays. He’s also participated in several award winning charrettes including Vancouver’s entry in the CitiesPlus Integrated Design Workshop and the Community Roof Garden & Food Security Charrette for the Collingwood Community Centre, among others.  Shaun has spent the last 3.5 years as a landscape and urban designer and planner in Flint, MI where his work and personal interests, in addition to standard landscape projects, has included presentations on urban agriculture, design and communication materials for urban infrastructure and downtown revitalization in Flint, large-scale infrastructure enhancements for brownfields and highways, and serving as a facilitator for the City of Flint’s Neighborhood Action Sessions and on several event and neighborhood committees.


Chef Blof #2: Elle Lien, Daily Grub

September 5th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

The seemingly large shifts Omaha has made as a city in the last 5 years can undoubtedly be attributed to the action and passion of individuals.  For someone who has been away from it all during this time-frame, a return is met with more choices and perspectives, and vibrant burgeoning pockets in previously underutilized parts of town.  And for the most part, the city seems to excitedly embrace and support the courage, dedication, unique vision, and hard work of these individuals.

One such example of dedication and vision can be witnessed, daily, on the Facebook page of the fresh and simple whole food diner, Daily Grub, on 20th and Pierce.  Updated almost daily by the restaurant’s gracious purveyor, Elle Lien, and not yet open for a full calendar year, Daily Grub’s page has over 900 ‘fans’ and regular ‘daily’ postings of tantalizing menu items, news, and snippets into the daily life of feeding people outside of a luxurious kitchen, staff, or investors.  Everything to come out of the simple open kitchen is thoughtfully planned, sourced, and prepared by Elle herself.  A visit to Daily Grub is not just about satiating a growling mid-day stomach, but doing so in an intimate space akin to someone’s home, a vision Elle has cultivated for years through several ventures that began when she opened up her home for a Sunday brunch of vegan raw food and waffles. It began with close friends and family and grew to include up to 80 people a day. From there, Lien took brunch to the Empty Room in the Slowdown complex for a residency she called CLEAN PLATE where she prepared and served raw and local food for a month.

When Elle chose the name Daily Grub for the latest iteration of her ongoing quest to sustain people, perhaps she was setting into motion both the daily interaction with guests, who may choose to visit the restaurant based on the ever changing menu contingent on Elle’s interaction with the ephemeral ingredients harvested by local urban gardens, neighbors, and farms.  She wants the restaurant to be even more farm-sourced, one reason she recently decided to forgo weekend brunches for the summer: “I want to be at the (weekend) farmers markets and talking to growers and knowing what’s out there,” she said.

The influence of Elle’s upbringing as a corn fed, free-range Midwestern farm girl from Ashland, Nebraska showed up much later in her career.  Or maybe it was percolating and maturing during the time she worked as a writer and journalist in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and South Carolina where she discovered Charleston’s vibrant food culture based on a deep connection to its regional culinary roots and an abiding commitment to the idea that the best food comes from collaboration between cook and grower. It was in this atmosphere that Elle began to hone her kitchen skills, develop relationships with local chefs and farmers and entertain many of them.

When Elle returned to Omaha it was only for a brief stay on her way to graduate school in London. Now four years later, she continues to provide Omaha with great food and atmosphere. From her home, to CLEAN PLATE to now Daily Grub, Elle is undoubtedly a central figure in breathing new life into not only an old, dingy, bar on 20th and Piece, but to the city’s culture of people and connections; something we look forward to in her contribution to the giant community dinner in a forgotten space next to a once derelict, now evolving, agricultural food storage structure.

‘concre(A)te synergies’ by Brian Kelly

August 30th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words: ,

With the silos positioned prominently in the middle of Omaha along Interstate 80, a major artery that moves from the east coast to the west with 450 miles through the state of Nebraska, Brian Kelly, an Omaha architect and educator approached his submission as a prime opportunity for initiating dialogue about the issues affecting the population both locally and globally.  Rather than attempting to resolve an architectural design problem, he is interested in encouraging an exchange of ideas about the possible reuse of agricultural and industrial relics such as these, and the catalytic change that urban infill can generate.  His idea seeks to simultaneously celebrate the silo’s history and suggest a rejuvenation of the edifice that points to a synergetic contemporary culture and its lifestyles.

As an architect, educator, and amateur photographer, Brian has a deep fascination with the power of the image and the ability of Montage Theory to create, as Sergei Eisnstein called it, “tertium quid” or third thing.  This theory suggests that the assemblage of various, unrelated sequences in a film may be combined to produce a situation where the sum is greater than its parts.  In concre(A)te synergies, a series of images of unrelated building components were assembled to create a visual alluding to something outside itself.

In the interest of legibility, readily recognizable symbolic forms are used to communicate the new livable function. Additive elements such as stairs, planters, and shutters are juxtaposed against the subtractive elements of window voids that penetrate the massive cylindrical volume contained within. This legibility is assisted by conveying scale through repetitive (and easily recognizable) elements that suggest floor levels and internal spatial arrangements.

A technique of photo montage was used to create clarity and association with the proposal.  For the sake of cohesion, static building elements, which are the vehicles for the activity of life, such as the stairs, were left grey tone.  Components of the graphic depicting life, such as the people, planters, and the interior face of the shutters, were intentionally saturated with color.  Existing grain movement equipment, re-purposed as parasitic planters, are precariously positioned along the silo. These planters suggest that they are only there for a short time, and that tomorrow they may possibly be above, below, or on an adjacent silo.  Together, these elements and techniques suggest the potential synergy that can be created through the unique association between existing context and a new injected use.

Brian M. Kelly, RA is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln College of Architecture.  His previous teaching experience includes Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture in Springfield, MO and California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.  Prior to joining the faculty at UNL, Brian served as lead designer in the office of Randy Brown Architects, designing several award-winning projects of various types and scales.  In addition to teaching, he and his wife, Andrea, have recently started their own practice, ATOMdesign, focusing on smaller scale architectural projects, objects, and graphics.

Brian’s teaching focus is in the areas of beginning design, architectural representation theory, and the craft of making.  His student work has been featured in academic journals and his design work has been published nationally and internationally.