Architecture in our lives
Artoberfest exhibit, tour showcase this intimate and ubiquitous but often overlooked art
Of all the art forms, the one most intimate to our daily lives is architecture. The buildings we live and work in, the ones we enter and exit in the course of a day—grocery stores, the library, a car dealership, the doctor’s office, a restaurant—owe their shape and feel to the work of architects. And architecture done well—that is, with the desire to create a structure that is unique and intriguing, even beautiful, as well as structurally sound and responsive to a client’s desires—is an ancient and venerable art form.
So it’s appropriate that Artoberfest, Chico’s month-long festival of the arts, is opening with an exhibition, called Architecture as Art, that showcases the work of 10 Chico architectural firms. It’s an unprecedented event—not only the first time Artoberfest has celebrated architects and architecture, but also the first time a group of architects has come together to showcase their work.
Unfortunately, it will be up only a few days, through Saturday, Oct. 3, so we’re hoping this extensive preview will motivate readers to take a look.
The exhibit is at the 1078 Gallery, and from what organizers tell me it will have a shape that’s as creative as the subject matter. It was Tim Leefeldt, one of the architects featured and also an organizer of the exhibit, who came up with the idea. He explained that he was trying to think of a display system that was inexpensive and versatile when, one day, he saw a man carrying a metal bed frame. Eureka!
He contacted Square Deal Mattress Co., which donated 10 frames, one for each architect. They will be hung from the gallery ceiling, and each architect will construct a display module by hanging images—photos of buildings, drawings, site plans—from one of these “flying mattress grids,” as Leefeldt calls them.
Architect Dave Schleiger, another organizer, called every architect listed in the phone book and got the 10 firms to commit. This was back in January, and representatives of the firms have been meeting every two weeks since.
There are a couple of other important elements in the show.
One is that it includes a self-guided tour on Saturday, Oct. 3, to up to 18 Chico buildings—from homes and shops to the Wittmeier Ford dealership and the Enloe Outpatient Center—designed by the 10 architects.
In addition, Debra Lucero, the executive director of Friends of the Arts, the lead organizer of Artoberfest, assigned some of her interns to do video interviews with the architects and produce a video about them and their work. It will be showing in a tape loop during exhibition hours.
One of the reasons these architects have been able to put together this show is because they’re working less these days. Like everyone in the construction industry, architects are feeling the pain of the economic downturn.
Chico’s not an easy town for architects in any event, Leefeldt and Schleiger said. There’s a Walmart mentality when it comes to paying for good design, they said, and the bigger jobs often go to out-of-town firms. The university, notably, rarely hires a local architect to work on its buildings.
Most Chico architects operate one-person shops. Of those represented in this show, only Thomson & Hendricks and Griffith & Associates have larger firms, which is why they tend to get the larger jobs—for example, the new Catalyst building, in Thomson & Hendricks’ case.
But there are plenty of office buildings, houses and commercial buildings that need architectural services, and most of the architects featured in this exhibit are widely known in the building community.
Some have specialties, like Schleiger, who long has been the house architect for the Community Housing Improvement Program, which builds mostly multi-family complexes, and Thomson & Hendricks, which has built many of the schools and government buildings in the area. Some, like David Griffith and Tom Tarman, have LEED “green-building” credentials. Others primarily design homes.
Leefeldt has perhaps the most interesting background. For a decade, before coming to Chico, he specialized in designing for big events like the Super Bowl. He’s also an inventor.
Altogether, these architects have influenced the cityscape in profound ways that most of us rarely notice, until it is called to our attention. That’s the purpose of the exhibition and this photo spread: to remind Chicoans of the importance of the architecture and architects in their lives.Participating architects
Arcademe/Patrick Cole www.arcademe.com
Griffith & Associates David Martin Griffith, AIA, LEED AP www.griffithandassociates.com
Tim Leefeldt www.leefeldtarchitecture.com
Glenn Bruno www.glennbrunoarchitectbuilder.com