Championing Salvage - A Pioneering Tradition
By Marisa Gaggino
Marisa Gaggino is the owner of the heritage co2, a warehouse of architectural and industrial salvage, antiques, collectibles, found objects and folk art established in 1992. She specializes in the design of interiors, stage/movie sets and functional objects which incorporate reclaimed materials. To reach Marisa, email her or visit www.heritageco2.com.
If you saw my offbeat store and studio, you might wonder who authorized this column about design. For a minute, so did I - except every time I walk into my place, I get so jazzed by the cool stuff I get to work with, and being such a passionate zealot about the necessity of what I do - that I see it as a moral obligation to be here. I'm a professional salvager; here to champion salvage of all kinds as an important design resource. I am also convinced that design today and tomorrow will be driven by practical ingenuity, reuse on an increasingly massive scale, and a spirit of do-it-yourself (DIY) inspired by an old pioneering tradition.
DIY Ground Zero
Working in Detroit, you could say I'm at ground zero of this DIY movement. When I started, it was about decorative architectural elements and antiques. But then the paint peeled off entire city blocks of not-so-grand structures and people left with most of their stuff behind them. A whole industry collapsed and factories abandoned their raw materials with beautiful forms; simple and humble, but with integrity and endless possibility.
It looked ugly and hopeless, but quietly another movement was taking shape. Creative thinkers with little means started moving in, not just here, but in other hard-hit communities too. They came together and rebuilt with the discarded material lying all around them. They began growing and making their own food and relearning traditional crafts. The basic need to survive, and the notion that it was an art in-and-of itself, became part of a dialogue about quality of life. Simplicity had become equated with beauty and authenticity to spiritual renewal. People outside the scene (and with means) felt the energy and wanted to be a part of it.
From the salvager's perspective, there is a smorgasbord of design potential out there. On any given day the artistic palette might include the remains of a Girl Scout camp, a tool-and-die shop, a uniform maker's shop, a millinery, or the estate of some first-generation depression survivor. It is a cornucopia of materials, spanning a century or more of taste. And unlike new materials, these carry stories; historic and almost forgotten, personal and collective, hilarious and heart-wrenching too. And perhaps you read this far and cannot imagine how this relates to your business, but this idea of storytelling and materials with soul is selling, and I know you care about that.
Take a look around. "Indie" places have popped up all over and are making news: their spaces, goods and style tell every manner of story - with personal quirks and honesty. A populous has grown tired of homogeneity, where every store and restaurant in every town looks the same. We've become nostalgic for the unique places we remember and see that as a value to hold onto.
Impacting Your Bottom Line
From a business standpoint, this notion of storytelling, of local pride of place, is making a bottom-line impact, while bigger operations are adopting it with measurable success. The question is: Can you achieve this for your project? Everybody and every place has its own story - but getting to the heart of your brand's story and telling it in a meaningful way can build the connections people are craving.
This is how business used to be done. Although it couldn't be an older story, it has never felt fresher. Will old Girl Scout camp mosquito nets do it? Well, who didn't love building forts? Suspended over a workbench for display (you know, the kind in your dad's garage), invites the kid in us to remember. All that lumber from old barns and houses; these are the building blocks of our culture. Cladding walls and floors taps a collective memory of shared history. But using melted plastic toys from a house fire? If you didn't know the truth, it looks like modern art. And it might not represent a "happy" story, but sometimes we have to take risks. Sometimes we can't avoid the truth.
For decades, we didn't treat ourselves and our community well - and yet in this story of urban decline is the phoenix and out of its ashes comes hope of renewal. It's the beginning of real conversation, and an opportunity to connect. Let's see if that doesn't pay off!
Now Performing: Kauffman Center Gift Shop
Recently opened was the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, a Moshe Safdie building that has become an architectural icon and home for the performing arts in Kansas City, MO. The Kauffman Center has changed the city's skyline, as well as the experiences of artists and audiences throughout the region. JGA designed the Kauffman Center Gift Shop, which pays homage to the building itself, defined through a floor-to-ceiling seamless glass curve that seamlessly transforms from a glass "case" to an open and welcoming retail space. An engaging series of touchpoints including a round case and two-sided window display fixtures, and rhythmic and organized series of shopping bays.
GlobalShop Presents an Inspirational View from India
On Leap Day 2012, GlobalShop celebrates its 20th anniversary with the world's largest trade show and conference dedicated to store design and shopper marketing. The event that runs from February 29-March 2 at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas, features a session with Ken Nisch and Indian retail expert Deepak Deshpande on Thursday, March 1st at 12:00 Noon. "An Inspirational View from India" addresses the country's unique position as both a destination and source of new internationally benchmarked retail brands and concepts. Information systems, product development, architecture, art and retail are all "exports" that have found ready-consumers interested in the culture, creative, and design aspects of India's business savvy, internationally-focused companies. Case studies of JGA-designed projects for Tashi by Tata International and Parx will be featured. For more on the session, click here or to register, visit the GlobalShop Official Website here.
Feel Right at Home at the
Centex Home Store
The JGA-designed Centex Home Store debuted in Fort Worth, Texas at the Carriage Hills Community. Designed to be open, inviting and easy to navigate, the layout was configured to instill confidence in first-time buyers so that they will be comfortable taking the next steps to putting themselves in a better place - a new Centex Home. The standard Home Store layout is a 20x20 garage space that includes a gallery and two consultation offices. The offices have sliding glass doors to allow for an open transparent environment, but yet ensure privacy and enough space for buyers to spread out when reviewing paperwork. Instead of a standard office desk and client chairs, this concept has a round table and work station that encourages a sense of collaborative conversation and creates the opportunity to build trust and intimacy with the customer.
Tashi Takes the Gold
for Being Green
Taking the Gold Award for Green Design at the In-Store Asia Conference in New Delhi, India, Tashi by Tata International was recognized as best in show by the VMRD Design Awards. Ken Nisch and Sanjay Agarwal of FRDC (Design for Change), India, accepted the top award for Tashi's sustainable design. Tashi was recognized as the Gold winner for its interior materials, methodology and design that complied with LEED under USGBC. An effort was made to reuse existing materials and minimize imports. For instance, leather waste from shoe manufacturing was used in the design of the stores, utilized as wall finishes. The green focus began with site selection, targeting locations in proximity to community services. Their staff is encouraged to recycle, with all paper waste recycled/reused. As one of the most energy efficient stores in India, it conserves as well through efficient lighting sources and solar panels that supply 30% of the store's required energy. For more, read the latest project feature by Martin Pegler in Retail Design International; click here.
NBC NYC: Make Meaning Opens
on Upper East Side
Make Meaning, an innovative store for families and kids to create meaningful memories through creative activities recently opened on 3rd at 85th on New York's Upper East Side. From creating and customizing soap, candles and jewelry, as well as painted ceramics, glassware and decorating cakes, the store includes a retail boutique featuring gift items. For more on the unique environment designed by JGA, check out this feature from Channel 4 in New York: click here.
The 3Rs of Retail Experience
IMAGES Business of Fashion (India) recently published an editorial by Ken Nisch on "Making Small Changes to Create Big Impact to Your Retail Experience." The 3R's are "Reinvent, Reshape, Rethink" and Ken explains how they can create maximum impact. He suggests, "Touchpoints such as scent, sound and the thousand details that make for a successful retail store can be executed in elements such as finishes, fixtures, propping, lighting, and shop-keeping standards." For more, click here.
The Drive to Survive and Thrive
A recurring theme of recent articles has been how to survive and thrive in today's economic landscape. Gift wholesaler Darrah & Company recently featured an article in their quarterly publication on how retailers can "weather the storm." JGA director of client strategy, Patrick Dalessandro, had this advice for retailers, "What we're seeing is that retailers really have to be part entrepreneur, part accountant, part salesperson, part PR/marketing whiz, and part social psychologist. That's a daunting prospect for a small-business owner. Being able to identify within your business what you as an owner are good at and not, and finding the right people to supplement that is extremely important. If you're a natural with numbers but not so good with displays, make sure you have someone on staff who is, or hire a consultant. Conversely, if you're a visual merchandising powerhouse but hate tracking the stats on sales per square foot, you may need to complement your skills with someone else's. If you're able to mix the back-office operational discipline with front-end creativity, you're going to win, especially if you have a very good understanding of who your customer is." For more, read here.
Retail Customer Experience: Target Leads Fight to Stop "Showrooming"
In a news feature on how Target is trying to combat the "showrooming" effect (people browsing at stores as showrooms and then buying online), Ken Nisch was quoted about what retailers can do to overcome the E-tailers. Nisch said, "Finding ways to differentiate these 'standard' products will be the challenge. For example, maybe a big-box retailer develops a partnership with a major designer and Sony to create a specific TV to be sold only at that location. Another example could be selling a greener version of a standard cleaning product. It can't just be a shell game though. It may be tempting to just use a different SKU or manipulate the shell, but the customer will figure it out, and that will be a huge black mark for the retailer."
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