Dan Brunn’s early life in Tel Aviv, subsequent move with his family to Southern California at age 7 and his later nomadic lifestyle as a adult certainly did not make his life easy, yet set the stage for a highly creative and driven character to develop. Someone as uncompromising as he is a kind soul who wants to do good in the world. Dan is a young architect based out of LA creating buildings inspired by the Bauhaus aesthetic he grew up around in Tel Aviv, but also influenced by Southern California modernism. We chatted about what moves him, his very early love for architecture, his influences as well as his love of cars, music, food and travel. Listen in to hear Dan speak about his work and life.
~ 7 Minute read.
In the ongoing raging debate about Toronto’s laneways and what to make of them, no one seems to be able to generate a consensus as to what should be allowed, prohibited and the amount of density that’s reasonable. I have my own opinions on the matter but that’s for another writing.
Working quietly in the background is Womxn Paint, an organization empowering women artists to express themselves through their art. Womxn Paint organizes a yearly jam, now in its second year, to transform a carefully selected downtown alleway into an outdoor art gallery, while making a big celebration out of it.
Beyond the celebratory aspect, it also creates a platform for the artists stories to be heard and raises the awareness of the potential for laneways to be become animated public spaces (more on that later). Headed by our friend, the indefatigable Bareket, Womxn Paint is a celebration of art and a demonstration of how community leadership can bring positive change with nothing more than cans of paint and an unwavering drive. Bareket is known around Toronto for her murals and you will have no doubt seen her “Smile” traffic signal control boxes around the city.
This community enterprise requires serious relationship and entrepreneurial skills, showing us that being an artist, is not just about producing art that gets people excited, and although that’s important, one has to get that art in front of the right eyeballs for it to have an impact. In other words, talent alone does not make a successful artist.
You may have guessed where I’m going with this? Yes, you’re right, this applies to architects too! The most visible ones are not always the most talented ones, but those who have one way or another developed solid business savvy. More often than not, their awesome tactical and operational skills were not learned in school, but elsewhere. It goes to show that soft skills are just as important as acquired technical knowledge to make any enterprise successful, particularly design businesses.
Say what you want about Bareket’s ability to produce beautiful art with a positive message, it’s her communications, relationships and permanent positive attitude, as well as her ability to mobilize an army of other artists that makes her laneway painting events possible.
Let’s not forget about the purpose behind it all.
What makes her successful in bringing all of this together? I’m going to go out on a limb and identify the following key aspects of her success:
The organization has a clear purpose, that makes it easy for like-minded people to get behind it.
The whole project is a collaboration with different entities, both institutional and private working towards a common goal and that goal isn’t “let’s paint pretty murals”. It forces organizations like StART, Womxn Paint (and even rvltr!) and many others, to collaborate with each other in support of that purpose. Without it, it would just be a bunch of people painting murals in an alleyway.
Her event is inspiring and community driven.
She’s a strategic communicator thanks to her past experiences in marketing and PR and knows how to garner attention quickly and effectively.
Did we mention that this whole endeavour culminates in a big party, where the public is invited to take over a laneway for a day and enjoy the art as it’s being painted on walls and garage doors? The warm embrace of the community, both the local residents and owners of the alleyway who have welcomed Womxn Paint in their literal backyard as well as the general public, makes it very difficult to dislike as it is inclusive of just about anyone who wants to participate.
To me, #1 is the key to everything else, without it, it would be a lot harder to get support from all the various stakeholders and would end up having competing interests fighting for limited resources and each trying to pull the project in a different direction.
Womxn Paint’s clear purpose short-circuits all of that and serves as a reminder for everybody involved that the end result is meant to be greater than the sum of it parts (also the topic of an upcoming webinar of ours). Which leads me to my next point.
Collaboration vs. Competition
All these talented artists could be vying for the same rare and valuable mural real estate, each competing for a piece of the same pie. Womxn Paint takes the opposite approach, where they grow the pie itself, allowing a bigger piece for each artist. They do so by creating events and culturally relevant art that people actually want to see, instead of single painted pieces by individual artists. Fittingly, this year’s theme is “Uplifting each other”, underlining the importance of the event in creating a space where the artists can support one another as they’re building their respective careers.
And that’s the basis of creating value, as the total value of the project is much greater than the sum of its parts. It does so by building and fostering a sense of community around a topic that these people are passionate about.
I will sound like a broken record, but designers have a lot to learn from this. Instead of competing for the same pie, there are things that can be done to raise the way we value design as a society. Toon Dreesen, Principal at Architects DCA is a tireless advocate for #architecturematters and design as a way to bring about positive change in society. A lot of what he bring to the public discourse touches on how the higher upfront cost of good design can be offset by massive savings down the road in the way buildings are operated and maintained. Value engineering has a tendency to save costs upfront and defer them to future generations.
If a vocal and intransigent minority of architects, following Taleb’s example of the dictatorship of vocal minorities banded together with the likes of Toon, it wouldn’t be long until the changes we are seeking would come into effect. Alas, the industry is very siloed with people who are friendly-ish with each other, but still compete for all the same jobs at the micro level and then complain that their pricing structure is a race to the bottom, without looking at the state of the industry at the macro level.
Dreesen argues that if design and architecture were more valued as a society, then there would be more money spent on good design, because there would be an underlying tacit understanding of its intrinsic value. There are countless examples out there of markets that were created virtually overnight simply by finding new and innovative ways to demonstrate the value of a product or service (check out Terry O’Reilly’s podcast for that, he tells these stories better than I ever will).
The million dollar question is: What can architects do today, to raise the cultural awareness of the value of good design the same way Womxn Paint is doing for mural artists?
One final thought.
Art is a powerful tool for transformation. It has the amazing ability to draw us out of our day-to-day routine and send powerful messages, whether it’s mesmerizing visuals that get you to zone out and create your own universe in your head; or in the case of Womxn Paint, the activation of an underutilised and drab laneway, turning it into an open-air art gallery, bringing people together. Until the condos start sprouting up that is. Art is often relegated to the “nice-to-have” category, but I believe that what’s happening with Womxn Paint shows us that perhaps we have our priority backwards. Creativity and play should be encouraged, fostered and celebrated every day.
If you liked this or think you have an answer to the question above, please share with a friend and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
The HGTV effect.
Architecture is a slow craft that takes years to master. Creating something as complex as a building involves a tremendous amount of expertise. It is common for even the simplest of today’s buildings to be touched by hundreds of hands in the process of designing and building it. It is also a concept that’s very difficult to grasp for neophytes. Somehow, it is very common to find people who think they have a good understanding of building science and the art of designing buildings even if their experience stops at being a mere building user.
Let’s call it the HGTV effect, which makes designing building, house flipping and home renos look easy because it is scripted for TV and this mass-consumption content is designed to make complex issues appear effortless. We all know that the reality is vastly different. So, what to do when a client shows up and they think they know everything and can “do it themselves”?
Empathy and listening skills.
This is where empathy and listening skills come in. The same way you wouldn’t trust a doctor who would prescribe a treatment before a proper diagnosis, your duty as a designer is to diagnose your clients from the start to ensure that your work with the right people and that your relationships are being managed properly.
A proper diagnosis starts with asking the right kind of questions and then listening. Intently. This is where the magic happens, because all of a sudden, your clients are given the space to open up and say what’s truly on their mind. You can really get gold from doing this and it’s a skill that just about anyone can acquire with enough deliberate practice. Asking great questions early and often will also contribute to positioning you as the expert in the relationship as you are purposely taking the reigns of the relationship. Remember, this is what clients are paying you big money for, to lead the engagement and guide them gently but firmly in the right direction.
Don’t tell them what to do.
We live in a culture of telling, which makes this kind of more reflective practice at times difficult because our instincts push us to talk more than we listen. Telling people assumes that the other person does not know what you’re talking about and can be condescending, which in turns impedes the building of trust-based relationships.
A ready-made method for better relationships.
Ed Schein, in his book Humble Inquiry teaches us how to practice such a deliberate and structured form of listening. In it, he explains in great detail and with very telling examples how humble inquiry works. It requires being in a state of mind of non-judgmental curiosity, where the questions we ask are genuinely and openly giving the interlocutor permission to speak freely, without trying to lead them in a particular direction.
It also requires the willingness and ability to put oneself in a temporary vulnerable position of humility, described by schein as “here and now humility” which demonstrates that we are willing to put ourselves in a position of dependence with regards to the other person, which builds trust and enables them to open up more. As we are all more or less dependent on other people, there are many situations in life where this skill can come in handy.
For people at the top of any kind of hierarchy, it is even more critical to learn how to master those skills, as people in position of power tend to be by default deferred to, making it more difficult for subordinates to bring up difficult topics. In a designer-client relationship, this is particularly helpful because it gives the client permission to be more open about their fears, desires and aspirational goals. It also breaks down the natural defences that we all tend to put up when we find ourselves in a situation where saving face is more important than achieving our goals.
How does that apply to a design practice?
In the running of a design practice, we are reliant on our clients to get critical information to make any given project successful. Mastering humble inquiry, puts the client temporarily in the driver seat, giving permission to share information in a safe, non-judgmental way. After all, we all strive to look good, but that comes with a price, when putting up a always-positive front, we tend to engage our ego, that’s just human nature. It results in a skin-deep image of our self that we project to the world. Breaking down that barrier and getting deeper in a relationship is where the magic happens.
Every step of the design process ideally requires our clients to freely express themselves and talk about their aforementioned fears, desires and aspirations. When we get to the point where open and trusting relationships are created and maintained with our clients the information flows freely and our work becomes easier.
This in turns makes you more effective, which ultimately means more profitable because you don’t spend a lot of time -if any at all- dealing with “emergencies” that are often the result of poor communications. It is also important to note that this does not mean that we have to turn ourselves in order-takers, simply executing our clients’ every whim. Becoming a master of our craft is about finding a balance between being a spineless order-taker and an egomaniacal diva pushing people around. It’s about pushing and pulling, but always doing so in a way that both gives out clients permission to fully express themselves while maintaining the position of the expert leader, paid to lead the client to the desired result.
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In episode 3 of our second season, I talked to David K. Levine a distinguished academic, political economist and popular author. We talked about his midwestern childhood, how economics can explain a lot of modern society challenges, his transplant life in Europe and how one of the biggest risks he took was a late-career change, taking on subjects he was not an expert in. Listen in to hear more about David and his accomplishments.
Writing these articles for you my dear readers, is always a challenge.
“Will they like what I have to say?”
”Does it even make sense?”
“Will I look stupid?”
“Is it a bad idea?”
“Will it fail?”
“Is there value in it?”
Those are some of the questions that I constantly have to grapple with, in an effort to fight off my second-guessing self, that little voice that always finds very rational, if not “beneficial”, reasons to not do something. I’ve learned from experience that this gut feeling, this fear, is my brain pulling convincing tricks on me to keep me inside the proverbial comfort zone.
I also know that coming out of that comfort zone is where the most learning and growth happens. I’ve seen it time and time again, in me and others. I know people who purposely push themselves past every one of their fear as an exercise in testing their boundaries. In return, they get so much more than they bargained for.
Historically Influential figures like the Eames and Bukowski, among many others, overcame their fear of failure on a daily basis which in turn shaped them as the masters of their respective fields we know today.
The Eames invited and welcomed failure. They saw it as a way to quickly learn and come to an optimal solution, the result of many brains, not just their own, tackling a problem, failure being the mechanism enabling them to shed the bad ideas and only keep the good ones, slowly arriving at a solution that while maynot have been perfect, it had been optimized through an iterative process. It’s been said that new hires in their office would be tasked with work they had no expertise in, like a graphic designer being asked to think up a building concept. It was a clever way to send a powerful message to their employees: don’t let fear of failure stop you.
Bukowski wrote for over 25 years before he got his first novel published, at age 50. An epic failure by any conventional standards, but he didn’t write to fulfill someone else’s definition of a successful writer. He wrote because he had an insatiable urge to create and overcame his fear of not making it by not worrying about the outcome, he just wanted to write. He was eventually able to make a living as a writer. Ironically, the first two thirds of his life before his late career as a full-time writer are in large part what made him such a compelling writer. Indeed his semi-autobiographical novels were heavily inspired by his own life and we wouldn’t have his amazing body of work to enjoy if it weren’t for him grinding for 25+ years relentlessly sending out manuscripts to publishers.
Fear keeps us from doing what the Eames, Bukowski and countless others have done before. Fear of failure, fear of not being able to pay the bills, fear of not looking good, fear of disapproving opinions and the countless other excuses that our cunning little brains cook up to keep us safe. The problem is that this safe zone is antithetical to growth, learning and accomplishing something greater than ourselves.
The key to overcoming fear and become comfortable with being uncomfortable is to find what moves you. Call it a purpose or a mission. With a clear mission, it becomes a lot easier to push past fear and be uncomfortable, in service of something greater than ourselves. With strong values and a clear goal, the path lays itself down and all it takes is actually doing the hard work to make it happen. Hard work being the operative word. In the course of this work, failure is inevitable, embrace it and make it a central part of your learning.
The most successfully durable companies in the world, are those with an undeniable sense of purpose and a clear mission (Zappos and Whole Foods are great examples of this) and if you look into their history, their wake is littered with personal and professional failures. But it is their seeking and embracing failure as well as their ability to learn from it in order to better themselves that makes them great today.
Don’t wait for permission to do something, nobody will ever give it to you. Get out there and try new things. If it fails, you’ll learn more from failure than you will from success. It’s time to boldly get out there and kick fear in the nuts!
If you liked this, share with a friend and let us know in the comments!
In episode 2 of our second season, Stefan Hunt, recounted his -short- life story, from a typical western childhood in New South Wales, Australia, to his early foray into film making, crossing the US at 18 with no money, a bieber haircut and a drive to surf all 48 states, including the 20+ landlocked ones. His first film, self-described as “cringeworthy”, got him some attention and eventually led him to become the multi-talented professional filmmaker, artist and storyteller he is today; all the while continuing on his literally off the beaten path journey. Listen in to hear more about how one can be a highly creative, decent and compassionate human being at the same time.
Press Contact Info : arnaud marthouret | revelateur studio toronto | t: 647-996-9220 | firstname.lastname@example.org
For immediate release.
featuring Ultradistancia by Federico Winer and Architectural Inoculation and Attracted Opposites by Arnaud Marthouret.
Toronto – 18 March 2016 – “TAXONOMIES” featuring Ultradistancia, Architectural Inoculation and Attracted Opposites was a massive success. The dynamic playful show lived up to expectations providing a perspective centered on global human placement, as well as a look at how we as a species interact with the surrounding environment; built or natural. This is not a critique or praise of human activity, but rather a starting point for discussion for the viewers. For them to come to conclude their own perspectives on today’s times, and our interactions with the world at three different scales: Macro, Meso and Micro.
“…Opening night, over 200 art lovers and collectors came to see “TAXOMOMIES” and Ultradistancia… It helps you to understand that your art can reach all audiences, such as the fantastically curious and educated Toronto scene,” says Federico Winer, (macro + Ultradistancia). Further, Federico remarks, “… the show was a perfect collaboration between artists who are devoted to space, though we see the way we see the earth in diffferent ways, we can appreciate this is the way we both perceive earth and space.
In short, “TAXONOMIES” is Arnaud Marthouret and Federico Winer “brainchild” after meeting 6 months ago via Arnaud reading an article about Ultradistancia. Feeling inspired to contact Federico -- they have been on a roll ever since. The two began discussing how to collaborate on a show, found a gallery that fit their style and built a small international team to make it happen.
“… The show itself is a culmination of months of work, with a great team, which made it successful… and as my first professional art show, I look forward to doing many more. I truly enjoy discussing how blending art and architecture, specifically as the line between them grows thinner and thinner -- especially given my day job as an architectural photographer -- is extremely exciting for me...” says Arnaud Marthouret, (meso + micro/Architectural Inoculation + Attracted Opposites)
ONLYONEGALLERY was an extraordinary space for the event. The artwork, being architectural and environmentally focused was very complimentary to the 3,000sf raw gallery space. Large walls, tall ceilings and multiple levels gave viewers opportunity to see art at all scales: Macro, Meso and Micro.
Gallery owner, Cais Mukhayesh said, “… “TAXONOMIES” featuring Ultradistancia, Architectural Inoculation and Attracted Opposites was a huge success with serious continued interest… people have returned to the gallery daily since the opening.” He also stated, “the show was an amazing time, people were super pleased with the artwork, and there was a constant flow of people over the course of 6 hours… what more can you ask for!” Cais also mentioned, “ONLYONEGALLERY goes above and beyond to bring new and upcoming artists and concepts to light. Providing a platform for showing new works, potential collaboration with other artists (as well as what I would call an almost “mentorship” by Cais); truly a unique opportunity for up and comers.
“TAXONOMIES” featuring Ultradistancia, Architectural Inoculation and Attracted Opposites is up through March 26, 2016 at ONLYONEGALLERY (located at 5 Brock Ave. Toronto, Ontartio, M6K 2K6). Their hours are Sunday through Tuesday by appointment only (email@example.com); Wednesday through Friday 3:00pm to 7:00pm; and Saturday 12pm to 5pm. Make sure to call ahead, the artists love to hang out at the gallery!
For professional photographs from the show visit the ONLYONEGALLERY Facebook page HERE!
About the Artists + Gallery
Federico Winer, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a multi-faceted artist, photographer producer, a habitual traveler and super friendly, colleague and collaborator. With his background in Political Science, Philosophy, Architecture and the arts, it was natural for Federico to become a professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Buenos Aires, where he is currently teaching. He is also the founding member of the Experimental Group of Experimental Thought Soy Cuyano, with several academic and art performances in Argentina and Europe.
Born in Grenoble, France, Arnaud Marthouret, founding partner and lead photographer of revelateur studio is a trained architect and architectural photographer. As an inherently creative person, he brings an imaginative perspective that often categorizes him as quirky artist but that only feed his insatiable curiosity and thirst for the new and unusual. These traits he cherishes and nurtures to this day, as they allow him to understand the world with a different attitude.
revelateur studio (Arnaud Marthouret)
revelateur studio brings together many curiosities uniting slightly schizophrenic yet opposite lifestyles: hip cosmopolitan urbanite vs. outdoorsy nature lover. The studio’s work goes the extra mile to ensure integrity for each building, photographically, which inspires and deserves the best photographic representation. revelateur studio works with a team of the highest level photographers, photography assistants, PR professionals, stylists, film-makers, graphic designers, coaches and mentors.
For information visit www.revelateur-studio.com
ONLYONEGALLERY (OOG) was created in December 2011 as a limitless experiment in concept space. OOG is about collaborating, creating, and demonstrating something special - a live physical experience. OOG is a multidisciplinary studio and gallery that hosts and produces individual and group exhibits. OOG is proud to support emerging and established artists alike, to present a roster of ambitious exhibitions, and to act as a creative hub where ideas come to life. In July of 2015 OOG relocated to a new 3000sq ft. gallery space in the heart of Parkdale, Toronto.
Cais Mukhayesh is the owner, director and curator at ONLYONEGALLERY located in Toronto, Canada. Since 2011 he has worked intensively with both local and international artists, photographers, and musicians; producing over 30 art shows, exhibitions, and events showcasing primarily urban contemporary art, music and culture. Cais has worked on many successful creative partnerships with companies such as Absolut Vodka, Jameson Whiskey, Havana Club, Molson-Coors, Steamwhistle Breweries, Iishiko Japan, Hennessey and Saks 5th Avenue; as well as established an impressive roster of talented artists.
For information visit www.onlyonegallery.com