‘Food Miles’ by MAKE Collaboration

MAKE Collaboration have focused their banner on the topic of local ‘food miles’ – a term becoming more and more common in conversation, referring to the distance food travels from production to consumer. Given the two banner topics: Lands Use, Food, Agriculture, and Transport(ation), this is an appropriate and poignant merging of them both. They began by asking the question: What is Omaha’s role in global, domestic and local transportation of goods, and more specifically food? Their findings were shocking, yet not surprising: goods that are part of a local movement are transported an average of 56 food miles before they reach their consumer while goods that are not, travel 1,494 food miles (96 percent farther than the former, 4 percent of the latter) (Cited via Checking the food odometer). 

In order to depict this phenomenon, MAKE utilizes a slice of Omaha from the 2005 Nebraska Land Use Map analysis, represented by circles, as the graphical backbone of their banner image.  Only four percent of the circles are highlighted in color to graphically display this outrageous comparison. Simple and direct, this image is both stunningly beautiful and appropriately concerning about our local food system. In addition to addressing ‘food miles’, MAKE also sets an example of ‘bag miles’ with their image.  Designed within the banner are tote bag cut-lines to guide the reuse of the banner for local bags. These bags will eventually make a statement by traveling 56 or less ‘bag miles’ to transport their goods.

MAKE Collaboration works with a philosophy of bringing to fruition the moments of insight that cause the mind to begin to tick. One of their operating priorities is to always function as a whole; “We are not a firm, we are a collaboration.”  This sets up an opportunity to break the conventional hierarchy commonly associated with design agendas.  Their approach to this Stored Potential submission is an example of how utilizing diverse data sets leads to a new understanding of the situation at hand. There is always another way to look at the problem. MAKE has made a splash on Kickstarter these past few weeks nearing their goal with only 14 days to go.  Check out their PROP product design (and banner submission on the wall in the background) here.

Team:  Erin Brouillette [architect-in-training, Encompass Architects, P.C.], Justin Brouillette [UNL M.Arch thesis student], Nicholas Pajerski [Princeton University M.Arch student]

‘A Friendly Reminder’ by Ashley Byars and Bill DeRoin

‘A Friendly Reminder’ by architectural designers Ashley Byars and Bill DeRoin seeks to graphically illustrate the gasoline consumption of an average daily Omaha commute. The purpose of the banner is not to incite or inflame, but to make visible something not typical seen. As suggested by the common phase “A picture is worth 1000 words”, seeing a statistic graphically can be more profound then reading it. Bill and Ashley hope the illustration encourages discussion about fuel consumption, commuting, and transportation in Omaha.

The idea for the banner began with the site itself. Rather than treating the grain elevator as merely a gallery wall, Bill and Ashley wanted the physical characteristics to inform their idea. The iconic structures have long served the important role of storage, and given the topic Transport(ation), Bill and Ashley began to wonder how the structure might once again embody energy storage, and even perhaps connect the contemporary use of corn as the fuel powering much of our transportation. These observations led Bill and Ashley to ask the question: “How much of a silo would be filled with all the gas used in Omaha’s typical daily commute?”

The quickest place to start was determining the volume capacity of a single grain elevator. For the sake of simplicity, the silos were perceived as perfectly hollow cylinders with thin exterior walls and an average dimension of 12.5’ radius and 101’ height. With these dimensions the volume (V=[pi]R^2 x H) was calculated to be 49,553 cubic feet.

The next (and more difficult) calculation to find was a quantifiable value for how much gasoline Omaha commuters use on a daily basis.  Employing various methods including online resources and actually driving typical commute routes, the following criteria was determined:

No. of Omaha Passenger Vehicle Commuters             =            273,936 (1)

Average Passenger Vehicle Fuel Efficiency              =             21 mpg (2)

Average Omaha Commuting Time                        =            17.3 Minutes (3)

Average Omaha Commuting Distance                        =            13.3 miles

273,936 commuters x 13.3miles / 21 mpg and reached the value of 172,188 gallons, or 23,018 cubic feet.  This volume was placed into the elevator volume capacity, and resulted in a final value of the daily gasoline consumption equaling roughly 46.5% capacity of a typical silo.

To graphically represent these findings as a 20’ x 80’ banner, tick marks were established on the vertical edge of graphic, much like the respective markings on a car’s fuel gauge. Since the banners only cover the top 80’ of the 100’ structure, the bottom tick mark actually represents 1/5 full. Likewise, the fill level of the liquid being shown on the image, though it is in the bottom third of the 80’ banner, will actually represent much more closely to 46.5% full level on the actual site. Other elements include a silhouetted Omaha skyline, providing a visual reference to the subject city. The gas pump nozzle clearly illustrates gasoline but hopefully leaves some mystery,  inspiring further investigation by the 76,000/day passerby-by viewers. Since the statistics used include neither commercial vehicles, nor out-of-town daily commuters, the amount represented is likely underestimated, but nonetheless offers commuters a new perspective of resource consumption.

Ashley Byars is an architectural designer at Min|Day Architects and 2010 graduate from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln with a Masters of Architecture degree.  Co-designer, and husband, Bill DeRoin, works for HDR Architecture in Omaha, and also earned a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 2007.



(1)  – http://www.city-data.com/city/Omaha-Nebraska.html

(2)  – 19th Ed. “Transportation Energy Data Book,” by the U.S. Department of Energy

(3)  – 2005 US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey

‘This Blows’ by Henry (Hank) Novak

After last years truly gorgeous crayon drawing of tomatoes, by then 10-year old grain elevator neighbor Tinca Joyner, we received a greater number of submissions from younger entrants this year.  And like Tinca’s ‘Tomatoes’, one of these submissions blew the jury away both in visual and conceptual content, truly expressing imagination on the topic Transport(ation).  ‘This Blows’ by 12-year old Omaha native Hank Novak is a simple pen drawing of a dandelion on a vibrant yellow background. Cropped perfectly to interact with the gap in the silos, thus sending the seeds blowing into the Omaha horizon, the image was furthermore a strong jury selection because of Hanks explanatory poem about the innovative movement of dandelion seeds:



Dandelion seeds
Flying everywhere,
Helicopters and airplanes
Racing in the air.

I see car commercials
Almost all the time,
Their MPG’s are a revolution
But sometimes I wonder what
Transportation would be like
If we did not have evolution.

Henry Alois Novak is an artist living and working in Omaha, Nebraska. His chosen medium is a black pen and a blank piece of paper.  Hank has created and drawn many characters, most notably Chap Clapper, Cube Cat,  Octo-Pig, Cock-a-Doodle-Doofus, and The Bean Series.  Hank is a 6th grader and is currently working on unlocking the third galaxy in the seventh world of Super Mario Galaxy Two. Hanks parents, Nancy and Paul Novak, are now regretting a dollar for dollar match they have promised Hank and his twin brother for anything they earn on their own, encouraging them to be entrepreneurial.  It seems Hank’s artist stipend will be going much farther than the other artists.

‘Omaha Underground’ by Geoff DeOld

As the City of Omaha works toward completing a new Transportation Master Plan by the end of 2011, “Omaha Underground” imagines a mass transit alternative to the existing automobile dominated transportation infrastructure shaping much of the Omaha landscape, with an underground metro often found in larger metropolitan areas such as London, Beijing, or New York. The proposed layout of distinct subway lines mimics several of the existing transportation corridors servicing the Omaha area, with an emphasis on providing greater connectivity to the first and second rings of suburbs where existing mass transit opportunities are in greater need.

Oriented east-west top to bottom with the Missouri River and Council Bluffs at the top of the map, the graphics are contorted, sublimating proportional accuracy for the sake of fitting the banner format and emphasizing Omaha’s east-west direction of growth.  Although a subway system is somewhat of a fantastical transit dream for a city the size of Omaha, the notion addresses edges and peripheries and the WHOLE metro region as an interconnected system, as subways often do.

Red Line – Dodge Street Corridor Stations and Cross Streets: North Main Street (Council Bluffs), North 35th Street (Council Bluffs), 13th Street, Joslyn, Midtown Crossing, UNMC/Saddlecreek Road, 50th Street, Dundee, Memorial Park, 72nd Street, Children’s Hospital, 90th Street, Westroads, 120th Street, 168th Street

Pink Line – Cuming Street Corridor and Loop Stations and Cross Streets: North Downtown, Creighton, Dundee, Western Avenue, Creighton Prep, Blondo Street, Underwood Hills, 96th Street, Westroads, Happy Hollow, Town Park, 84th Street, St. Mary, Crossroads

Cyan Line – Leavenworth / Pacific Line Stations and Cross Streets: 13th/Leavenworth, 36th Street, 42nd Street, 50th Street, 60th Street, Elmwood Park, 84th Street, 90th Street, Happy Hollow Country Club

Blue Line – 13th Street Corridor Stations and Cross Streets: North Omaha, Eppley Airfield, Gallup Campus, North Downtown, 13th Street, Old Market, 13th/Leavenworth, Henry Doorly Zoo

Green Line – Saddle Creek Corridor Stations and Cross Streets: Adams Park, Bemis Park, Creighton Medical Center, Leavenworth, Field Club, MCC

Purple Line – 50th Street Corridor Stations and Cross Streets: NW Radial Hwy, Metcalfe Park, Underwood Avenue, Dodge Street, 50th Street, L Street

Orange Line – Midtown Loop Stations and Cross Streets: Ames Avenue, Western Avenue, Memorial Park, 60th Street, Holy Cross Field, Stinson Park, St. Mary, 84th Street, Country Side Village, West Dodge Road, Underwood Hills, Keystone Drive, North 72nd Street, Benson

Yellow Line – 72nd Street Corridor Stations and Cross Streets: Maple Street, Blondo Street, Crossroads, West Center Road

Geoff DeOld is a partner at DeOld Andersen Architecture (DAA), an architecture and design practice in Brooklyn, NY. He received his Master of Architecture from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and located to New York City in September of 2001. Prior to forming DAA with partner Emily Andersen, he was an Associate Principal at STUDIOS architecture in New York City where he contributed to several notable and award winning projects.

Geoff formed DAA with Emily Andersen after collaborating together on several projects addressing the suburban landscape and the role architecture and design might play in an otherwise generic environment. The firm is currently engaged in several projects including showrooms and offices for a fashion company in the Fashion District, and two streetscape / urban design projects in the Bedford Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn.

‘Ant Trails’ by Bethany Kalk

Our blog is fallow lately as Emerging Terrain is like a moving train requiring a brisk run to keep up with.  Last year Stored Potential was the only thing on our small organizational plate. A year later, installing 12 more banners on a grain elevator is one of many moving parts, along with another epic celebratory community event. We have given much consideration to what, when, where, why, and how to not replicate what was done before (dinner), but rather create another unique and memorable moment in place and time.

We are excited to announce an event with seasonal emphasis on Spring 2012, on a bridge over I-80 with full view of both sets of topically intertwined banners: Land Use, Agriculture, Food, and Transport(ation).  What kind of event could possibly merge these two topics? After brainstorming with many involved last year, we have landed on a type of mobile food party/parade where foodies will team up with artists/designers to create a moving structure related to land, food, and mobility, from which to feed people.  We hope this inspires beyond the food truck and into the imaginations of chefs, farmers, artists, and designers.  More details on how to submit an idea for consideration will be released in October.

Meanwhile, the banners will simultaneously be installed in May 2012. We have a few months to showcase them here on this blog, one of our favorite parts of the project because we learn about the amazing people discovered through the blind selection process. This year required more work between the jury and results as the images are more complex with the topic Transport(ation). Encouraging them to work together as a cohesive piece is more challenging with many representations of networks, both natural and constructed, at similar scales. Once again, we find ourselves amongst a truly talented group of individuals.

Banner Blog #1! We are pleased to have found painter, designer, and muralist Bethany Kalk. Although Bethany does not live in Omaha, she has made a big impact on the city as a founding partner of the Midtown Crossing collaborative Peerless. Bethany’s submission ‘Ant Trails’ caught the jury’s attention because of it’s multi-layered interpretation of Transport(ation).  By intertwining the networks of constructed roadways in Omaha with ‘transport’ formations produced by insects – ant trails and bee honeycombs – the resulting image is a visualization of the similarity and interconnection between human and natural realms of movement. It is always interesting to find out how submission ideas come into being; while Bethany was pondering her entry, she was babysitting her nieces and took them on a walk.  They were overturning rocks on a hunt for insects to lessen their fear of “bugs.” Under many rocks were ant trails and the correlation became obvious; ants and humans transport food (and goods) with similar methods of networked systems.  The honeycomb form of ‘food storage’ layers yet another important process into the overall image and idea. All these networks represented here at the same scale blurs the hierarchy of our often competing worlds and renders them equal in importance.

Bethany grew up in Papua New Guinea and her art is indebted to oceanic pattern and methods of simplification. Her works are rooted in natural forms, usually as layered abstractions where elements mimic growth and decay. Imagery comes mostly from borrowing and combining shapes and textures from found objects such as rocks, vines, grasses, insects and other tangled forms.  She collects these sources for abstraction from her surroundings and as she travels or is invited to artist residencies from rugged coastlines of the Pacific northwest, Midwestern lakes, Eastern European hillsides to South American jungles. Each new place provides new elements to add to her visual vocabulary. She also teaches in the art and design department of Morehead State University in eastern KY.

A New Variation and Theme

Stored Potential 2 kicked off earlier this month with a whole new set of submissions spanning the gamut of ‘Transport(ation)’ – from fun and wacky to critical and informative – a likewise new jury had their work cut out for them. For 9-hours in the back gallery at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, 4 jurors narrowed down submissions in a blind process to 16 short-listed entries with the most time spent talking about Trains. Trains of 2011 are the Corn of 2010, in every possible medium and representation. There is no doubt in our minds that Omaha is a solid train town. The surprise of the day was a lack of entries dealing with bicycles – only 1 or 2 total – despite Omaha’s recent bicycle advocacy surge. Regardless, the shortlisted entries lean towards a representation of ‘networks’, both real and abstract, man-made and natural, and in general are more complex than last years, and almost all shortlisted artists and designers are local.

Now the challenging work begins of doing 1:1 mock ups of the shortlist to determine which ones will print best at this scale. This past week saw the first, and most challenging, mock-up with success and next week will see more. It has been exciting to start meeting a new group of artists – our favorite part of this process. Last years artists have turned into some of our closest friends and colleagues. Once the mock up process is further along, we will begin blogging about each final image, idea, and artist. Meanwhile, thank you Omaha for your participation in this project. We look forward to a new fall face on the grain elevator.

10 Days

Ten days ago, 40+ community and arts supporters filled a board room on the 7th floor of Omaha City Hall to voice opinion through physical presence. Ten minutes later, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted 5-0 in favor of expanding the grain elevator banners on the topic of Transport(ation). The room erupted in applause, and the previous months meeting that left the project in a lurch, was reversed. It was an occasion and moment perhaps less about grain elevator banners, and more about shifting things slightly enough to represent the type of projects, and therefore city, we desire. Thank you to those who worked behind the scenes to compose letters of support, those who took a break in their workday to be present at the meeting, and to those who sat at the table with us in favor and support of continuing, and completing, the project.

Ten days from now, the call for submissions for Stored Potential 2 comes to a close. Both submissions and questions have been trickling in, and the jury is composed and ready to represent big ideas in graphic, spatial, and city design.  We look forward to receiving and considering all of your visions and ideas for the most crucial and timely topic at hand.  Good luck!

Continuing Potential

Photo by Bryce Bridges Photography

It has been 8 months since our last post, just a few days after the epic dinner in October. Sometimes a climax needs to be honored, and allowing that post to remain at the top was the honorable thing to do. Hopefully that event has solidified in minds, and everyone involved are now rested and recovered. Several of the chefs have escalated their restaurants to new heights, farmers have taken on more land, new organizational relationships have formed. And now we dream of what’s next.

Meanwhile, the banners remain a topic of conversation. Will they stay? Will they go? How long will they last? What do they really mean? How do we change ordinances so more projects like this can happen in our city? Can more banners be added to finish the whole west side?

Yes, they will stay. We have heard you, and very much appreciate the support the community has shown. Some neighbors had concern with the lighting and increased foot traffic. We have addressed these and will continue to monitor.

The current banners will stay for the life of the material, as determined by the Zoning Board of Appeals earlier this year. Because this project is unprecedented, and the images are not actually ‘signage’ but art, figuring out how to manage them within the public process has been a new challenge for everyone.

The banners do have meaning beyond their beautification and it has been fun to hear people discover and discuss them. The intent of this project is to see everyday parts of our city anew with possibility and to initiate conversation.

Yes, we are going to add 12 more to finish the whole west side, thanks to support from the Omaha Venture Group. The current banners will be moved to the northernmost silos, and the new images on the topic of Transport(ation) will be installed where the current ones are. This also provides opportunity to UV coat the current panels for a longer lifespan.

We did hit a snag with the Zoning Board of Appeals a couple weeks ago in acquiring approval to add these new banners. We will go before them again on June 16 for a final vote and are meanwhile launching the competition as planned. We are gathering letters of support from public entities and agencies, and would like to invite the community to that meeting to show support not only for this project, but as a voice for a creative and innovative city.

June 16, Zoning Board of Appeals Monthly Meeting
1819 Farnam Street (City Hall), Room 702
Noon: Soup Revolution will be serving lunch near City Hall Plaza, let’s eat together!
1:00 Meeting begins

Meanwhile, download the Call for Entries, and start working on your submission……………

A Week to Reflect

One week ago today seems like forever past.  Although the events of last Sunday required an immense amount of planning and preparation, they unfolded in a fraction of the time.  Monday morning brought what seemed like a deserted space, so vibrant and energy filled just a few hours prior.  We gathered, we saw, we ate, we reflected, we toasted, we shook hands, and we departed slightly changed – a little more connected with our neighbors, our city, and a place within it so long forgotten in ambiguity was brought to life in a new way.  The poetics of the juxtapositions of the project played out so close to the minds eye of the projects creators; infrastructure, scale, community, commodification, creativity, landscape, sustenance.  Very satisfying indeed, and motivation to go on creating more.

It is truly impossible to thank the hundreds of folks who made the day happen; from paltry paid organizers working out of passion, artists who flew in from far away places, volunteer table setters, animated servers, dedicated chefs and their staff, farmers, iron workers, fabulous photographers, grain elevator owners, neighbors with wheelbarrows and rakes, large format printers, people with the city who lent a hand, and sponsors and supporters who offered financial resources to something unknown and unprecedented, and of course those who blindly purchased tickets; the list is massive.  Thank you all.

Images courtesy Bryce Bridges Photographic & Andrey Mikityuk Photography
photos by
Bryce Bridges
Andrey Mikityuk
Corrie Suhr
Kameron Bayne

Chef Blog #10: Tim Shew, La Buvette

Watching Tim Shew in the kitchen at La Buvette is like witnessing a craftsman who has practiced his trade for decades.  He manuevers around the sparsely applianced, well aged space like second nature, while entertaining patrons eating and drinking at the bar with conversation about literature, obscure film, and his outdoorsman adventures.  The ease by which he multi-tasks is reason enough to sit at the bar.  In an hours time, I counted over 20 plates he composed from a couple of hotplates and a small counter oven.  Meats and cheeses, mussles with chorizo, clam fettucini, and creamy soups with beef cheeks.  Everything that comes from his hotplate is simple, elegant, and comforting.  Tim is a good fit in the space at La Buvette.

When asked about food, he talks about his fondness for simple, French cuisine.  Not fussy, but quality, recognizable, locally raised ingredients that can make even his eldest customers compare it to the olden days; when chicken actually tasted like chicken.  He raves about some of his favorite producers – mostly meat – and how ‘clean and real’ their products are.  If he had his own restaurant, it would be simple, farm to table, and lots of foraging – not growing, but truly foraging – finding things in the wild to incorporate into the menu.  The outdoorsman comes through here, and in some ways sets his personality apart from the other chefs.  He talks about being part of this project having exposed him to food technology – cryovacs, etc.  I suspect he will take it all in, but gladly go back to foraging in the woods.

Tim Shew is an Omaha native. He is a graduate of Central High School and holds a degree in Literature from Creighton University.  Tim’s mother was a home-ec teacher in the 1970′s, and though she was not in this line of work when he was born, she put great importance on learning to cook and family meals.  Therefore, like most cooks, Tim is a momma’s boy and learned to love the kitchen from a very young age.  After working at many local restaurants including California Taco and B&G Tasty Foods, Tim acquired a job cooking at La Buvette during his junior year of college.  He managed La Buvette for a year and a half and now cooks there four nights a week.