Embracing the Handmade

Materiality
Nicole Germano, NCIDQ, IIDA
Jensen Architects is known for its collaborations with arts institutions and artists, but occasionally our work affords space for our own creative exploration. The murals for our work with YouTube is a recent example. Nicole Germano, senior interior designer, shares her process.

With all of our work with YouTube, we are always thinking about how the space can reflect and support the company’s culture and creative ethos. Our approach for this interior refresh imagines what the home and studio of a creator might look like today, with a style that moves away from slickness and towards texture, warmth, pieces with personality, and the unexpected. Our concept for the murals continues this thinking. The idea of using collage, ​ a very accessible form of artistic expression, really resonated with this larger theme, the mission of YouTube as a platform where people can easily share ideas and connect.

Creating a Scene

While we already had experimented with using painted graphics to animate YouTube’s offices, with this project we were able to go further. The murals push this idea of motion and animation by creating scenes of irregular shapes that travel through the space. Like the furniture and art we selected for the project, the varied shapes – around 40 in total – have a sense of the human hand and are detailed to retain their cut-out quality.

Creating the murals started with black construction paper and a pair of scissors. Each shape cut generated new shapes from the paper left over; a welcome effect. We then scouted locations by walking around the 3D model, and tested many combinations of shapes and placements before landing on the final set. The selected shapes work as a cast of characters that play off one another, sending a message that we’re all different and that’s beautiful!

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A Conversation

At the building’s three elevator lobbies the shapes form full-color scenes, set inside existing icon-shaped light boxes and framed by a field of saturated color. Here the shapes are given dimension and shadow, and treated with color combinations that we tested and dialed to reach a happy harmony, seeking just the right degree of contrast.

From this colorful welcoming point, the shapes recede into the background in dark hues. Their compositions communicate different feelings related to the type of space. Most of the shapes are focused in social areas, like the kitchens, lounges and collaboration areas, where their arrangement heightens the sense of interaction. Others are sprinkled along hallways to show transitional movement and create moments of surprise.

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Analog to Digital and Back

The final step, painting the murals, was about as analog as where our process began. Using tape and detailed dimensions, the team from Burdick Painting meticulously laid out and painted the compositions. In between, we applied a number of digital tools, moving from paper to Google Slides, to Sketch-up and Revit, to get to the detailed 2D drawings used in the field. It was the perfect conclusion to a design that celebrates the unique characteristics of the handmade.

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