‘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.


Banner Blog to Chef Blog #1: Kevin Shinn, bread&cup

August 28th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

As we approach the final couple of banner blogs, perfectly timed with their installation on the almighty grain elevator beginning on September 13, we begin another exciting unveiling of the amazing team of chefs who have come together to breathe life into the October 3 500-person dinner.   This event is truly shaping up to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience of not only enjoying a five course meal next to an enormous piece of now obsolete agricultural infrastructure, but to be served food carefully deliberated and prepared by some of the most seasonally and locally dedicated chefs in the area and grown by folks equally as passionate about how they cultivate the elements of nourishment.


Which brings us to Chef and Farmer Blog #1, beginning in the neighboring city of Lincoln.  Kevin Shinn, chef and co-owner of bread & cup continues to bring passion, insight, and wisdom to each of our chef meetings. After just a few encounters with Shinn, who is notably introspective and thoughtful about what he cooks and where what he cooks comes from, we spent many an hour on his equally as introspective blog to get a better idea of the man behind the elegantly simple Lincoln hotspot. Having just celebrated it’s third year, bread & cup has quickly built a reputation for putting attention on the food and letting it speak for itself.  Of course, not without a highly refined selection process that focuses on seasonality and locality.  A visit to bread & cup impressively greets one with a chalk board displaying of which local producer all of the restaurants pigs are coming from for the week. Our favorite entry from Shinns blog collection possibly sums up why Shinn has joined this epic 500- person dinner adventure:

More than just tying on the feedbag…

I spend a lot of time thinking through why I cook. It’s a common question thoughtful chefs ask. It’s important for us to understand the motive for why we spend such long hours in a profession that has an inordinate demand for inequitable compensation.

But there is also, I believe, reason for why people come to eat the food we enjoy preparing. And I would pose the question here; do you know why you eat?

Once you get past the “duh…because I’m hungry?!?” response, I invite you to go a little further. Sure we eat because our stomachs tell us to, but have you considered what the deeper parts of you are saying? Listen closer and you might be intrigued by what you hear.

We asked Kevin to answer one question:  Why is cooking with local food important to you and why are you participating in this event?  Here is what Kevin wrote:

There are multiple reasons I could list to explain why I  get my food from local sources.  I could describe the benefits for health, or how it helps support the small farming economy.  I could list political reasons, of which there are many.  I could wax on about environmental concerns, about the defense of sustainable agriculture, or how it helps reconnect a generation to its heritage and its connection to the land on which we live.  I affirm and could write a defense about any of these, but instead, I can boil all these reasons down to one single word, one simple idea that makes it all worth it for me.


It is far more pleasing to me to slice into a big, fat, juicy Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato that was grown on a vine 22 miles north of my restaurant and place it on a slice of our bread that was hand made and pulled out of our oven by our in-house baker at 7:20am that morning, along with a few slices of hickory smoked black pepper bacon that was made from the belly of a Berkshire hog raised on a small farm less than an hour south in the opposite direction.

One word.

I take more joy in knowing the man that raises the 18 Cornish-Rock chickens that he delivers to me each Thursday for use on my menu that weekend. And after roasting one of these fresh birds that have never been frozen, and serving it with the greens from the young couple who have started an family owned CSA and market garden, and then hearing the comment from the customer that told me, “That was the best chicken I have ever had…”

That’s why I serve local food.

We can’t wait to listen a little deeper after enjoying Kevin’s contribution to the dinner on October 3.

Coordinating a 500-person Dinner, by Lori Tatreau

August 27th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words:

A: “How would you like to organize a dinner of local food for 500 people at the base of a vacant grain elevator?”

L: “Um, I have no catering or much restaurant experience.”

A: “That’s ok.”

L: “Why not?”

That simple and with as much positive attitude, I have found myself in this new role that oddly calls on most of my life experiences.  A waitress at Baker’s, was married to a chef I helped through the Culinary Institute of America, hostess for a minute, organic farm apprentice, farmer’s market bouquet maker, Local Food Forager for Whole Foods Market, along with a parallel career as a painter and art professor.  From this range of situations, the relationships I have developed with farmers have been the most meaningful.  Take note of that fact – after twenty five years of working life, the people who grow my food are the ones from which I receive the most sustenance.

The dinner; I agreed to coordinate this massive event because it intrigued me that someone thought it up and was convinced it could be done.  I saw a wonderful opportunity to bring together local chefs who are already buying local and bragging about it on their menus, hopefully inspiring others to do so.  And what a great market for our area growers at a time of year when the abundance is often overlooked by customers busy with school, sports and already planning for holiday overextension.  With a shared vision of a long table blending folks from all walks of life, breaking bread and talking about the massive grain elevator behind them and what its use and disuse could mean, I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride of this planning process.

The task seemed daunting; I even considered backing out, so we tried one version of how the day could go and decided it didn’t quite fit.  To have a caterer take care of everything certainly seemed the easy route, but we wanted to provide opportunity for the talents of the community, create a continuous family table to rival the elevator, and afford varied perspectives.  Accepting the challenge along with the satisfaction of doing it as collaboratively as possible, I dove in.  Chefs were invited and many responded.  We apologize if you were missed, and would love for you to let us know if you are also using local food on your menus.  Feats of scheduling have been performed and we have successfully met twice with the whole team to discuss service and menu.

Details are still coming together and may be altered by the very last minute produce offerings at the market that weekend.  Starting with salad mix, dressing with Nebraska made vinegar, cheese, bread, pickles, preserves and honey; we will enjoy five more courses throughout the afternoon.  There will be vegetable stew, pig roasted on site the day before, and in a stunning coup, bison will take over for beef as the red meat entree, head to toe, no less.  This is one of the amazing outcomes of our discussions so far – responsible meat purchasing.  Rather than leave a farmer with pounds and pounds of cuts or grind that they can’t readily sell, we will be utilizing whole animals.  And the chefs are already talking about how they can work together in the future to share purchasing and keep this going.

This is when I get goose bumps; seeing the possibilities for real change in food buying.  Is this the goal of Emerging Terrain’s Stored Potential project? I don’t think there was a goal besides conversation.  Maybe conversation about land use sounds irrelevant, but everything around us is based on land use.  From what we eat to how we get to work to where we live, land use is involved.  Like politics, it is not about right and wrong, and even though it is often decided somewhere else, it does affect our day to day life.  Now change only happens when we begin discussing things, but conversation in and of itself is a necessary and dying art.  Face to face talk about what surrounds us, and over such wonderful food?  Who will be joining us?

‘Corn Cob’ by Mary Day

August 23rd, 2010 : : : : Tag Words: ,

Omaha artist Mary Day scanned an ear of corn for what she calls a ‘cliche’;  to be in Nebraska is to be surrounded by corn, literally and figuratively.  And the image of the corn cob is a most obvious recall of the identity and function of the grain elevator as a structure that originally stored the grain. But Mary’s scan lead her to a submission that is anything but cliche, and rather a re-composition of an iconic symbol of  farmland in Nebraska and the Midwest, based on an implicitly recurring unit of measure. A corn kernel to a corn row to a corn cob to the rows of corn to the fields of corn is an exponentially increasing unit of measure. Mary used her scanned ear of corn as the structural equivalent of “mathematical” divisions in the picture plane, similar to those that strike her each time she flies over the Omaha landscape. The conceptualization of the rows of kernels parallel the larger concept of rows of corn in the field to fields of corn in the landscape, and so on. Breaking the corn cob into informational lines which converge back to an image of corn parallels the artistic process of contextualizing images into information. The handmade mark is important to the concept because it is a visceral response to visually perceived information. Drawing is about the connection of head to heart to hand. The finished drawing on the silo shows the gestural mark held within the structural division of the corn cob. The drawing of the corn cob into informational bits is an equivalent for patterns perceived from an airplane, or Google earth, or NASA satellite photos. These views are all information, just as the hand drawn line is information.
As the rural/urban landscape continues to shift, the silos are providing new opportunities for social engagement, informational display, and historical clarification, as succinctly embodied in Mary’s artistic reinterpretation of otherwise banal systems and objects. Mary Day is a multi-media artist living and working in Omaha, Nebraska. She received her BA in Art History and Photography and an MFA in Painting from Florida State University. She currently has a solo exhibit at the Kimmel Nelson Harding Center for the Arts in Nebraska City. She is a recipient of a 2010 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council. Recent exhibitions include a solo show in 2010 at the Fred Simon Gallery and inclusion in the 2009 Jackson Artworks Mark Makers Invitational. Her work is included in several public and private collections including the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery (Lincoln, NE), Pillsbury Company (St. Paul, MN) and Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.


‘Aerial Production’ by Geoff DeOld and Emily Anderson

August 17th, 2010 : : : : Tag Words: ,

‘Aerial Production’, by DeOld Andersen Architecture, a partnership between Nebraska natives Emily Andersen and Geoff DeOld, depicts the transformation of the Midwest landscape at the city edge from farmstead to suburban and exurban development. Focusing on a swath of land at the edge of Omaha two miles long by a half mile wide, three different stages of land use are captured simultaneously; productive farmland, former farmland in the process of being re-formed into suburban tract development, and a completed and occupied residential development. This abstracted representation of a literal condition unifies the fits and starts by which land development occurs through a lens of production – land that once produced agricultural crops now produces homes and the infrastructures that support them.

The graphic will be viewed against the backdrop of the grain elevator, an infrastructural armature that once supported agricultural land-use, and the neighboring interstate infrastructure that facilitates the ongoing development and access to the newer forms of settlement and everything in between. Viewers of the abstracted graphic have the opportunity to compare the relationship between these different and continually changing land types predominant in the Midwest landscape.

DeOld Andersen, an architecture and design practice based in Brooklyn, NY, grew out of ongoing interest and exploration of topics related to urban and suburban development, such as the impact of big-box architecture on contemporary public space, and the programmatic possibilities of the suburban retail strip. The firm is currently engaged in a range of projects including programming and site selection for a notable international company in New York, interiors and graphic work, a sustainable residence in Nebraska, and continued research projects focused on topics of suburban development and urban infrastructure. Prior to locating to New York in 2001, where Emily was an Associate at Slade Architecture, and Geoff was an Associate Principal with STUDIOS architecture, they both received their Master of Architecture degrees at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

More work from DeOld Andersen can be seen here:  www.d-aarch.com