Anniversary of the Tokobashira

In this designated time of reflecting on our blessings and acknowledging our gratitude, we’re thankful for wonderful clients that allow us the opportunity to get our hands dirty…

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The tokobashira (rough hewn column on the right) has a little story behind it

Many years ago, today, Elizabeth and I were finishing up a walk in the woods with a specific purpose, beyond taking in the crisp air and thinning foliage of late fall in Northern Michigan. It was our Thanksgiving break, and after unsuccessfully attempting to procure either product or supplier of the correct size of tokobashira for a project she had designed and we had under construction, we decided we must procure one personally for our client.

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Elizabeth selecting the finalists…

Disappointed that we hadn’t found anything suitable in the woods, we were passing through a parking lot adjacent to the burgeoning Village at Grand Traverse Commons (converted from the old Kirkbride facility – more on that in another post) and, quite fortunately, happened upon this pile of logs prepared for the oven of the local bakery – Pleasanton (their chocolate pistachio croissant is beyond compare!).

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The Finalists

Enquiring inside if we might purchase a branch, we were told that if we only needed one it was “gratis” – so we gratefully pulled a few for comparison and sent photos to our client. He liked one best, and we loaded it into the ol’ SUV and brought it back to Chicago. Intended for the salient corner of a bookshelf, it needed a few specific characteristics, including diameter and shape.

 

After some requisite curing and a dry fit to make sure the bends and crooks lined up, we instructed the contractor to prepare the tokobashira in the traditional way, scraping to a smooth surface, and had them stain to match the rest of our design.

 

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Notching into the salient corner of the bookshelf
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The tokobashira slotting into the shelves near the pocket door

The result in the end is not only a story worth sharing, but the perfect complement to the room. In this designated time of reflecting on our blessings and acknowledging our gratitude, we’re grateful for generous bakeries (Pleasanton has become a fixture in our Traverse City visits!); we’re extremely thankful for wonderful clients that allow us the opportunity to design outside the typical traditional bounds and, in some cases, even get our hands dirty in order to bring a fun idea to life; and we hope your blessings are easy to count.

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Art Deco? Yes. Art Freakin Deco.

Here at MGLM we are extremely passionate about Art Deco and practice it whenever we have the chance. One of the more interesting aspects about Art Deco is that it wasn’t a consistent style, with each country, each region having their own variation of, and in some cases even their own name for, the aesthetic which spanned generally from inter-war periods of 1919-1939. Many items are considered deco that were created before and after that timeframe. Plenty of experts point to the 1925 Paris Exhibition as the introduction of high Art Deco but more research has revealed that a lot of designers were simplifying their forms and adding elements that previewed the style even as far back as 1900, especially here in Chicago. Even though at the time it was considered quite “modern” with the main tenets of modernity, movement, angularity, and luxury of materials, we now look back on Deco and its design language as a logical extension of traditional classicism with its emphasis on proportion, hierarchy, and use of architectural ornament. Deco above all was concerned with the beauty of design, something that Modernists of the same era, especially those involved in the Bauhaus movement and the International Style, considered abhorrent and superfluous. Thus, during the heyday of Modernism (1940’s-1970’s), many Deco gems were destroyed due to lack of appreciation. Fortunately, many people now, including us, consider Deco as the last great flourishing of traditional vernacular language before the advent of the stripped down monotonous steel and glass structures. And it is our intention to pick up the mantle and restore the place of art in architecture!

In the beginning…

MGLM Architects has a passion for all things designed.  Our focus and training has been in Architecture, Urban Design, and Ornament but the desire to bring beauty to all things has expanded our work to include the arts, furniture, textile, and industrial design.  MGLM approaches each project individually, analyzing and evaluating the challenges specifically, and designing solutions uniquely tailored to resolve the issues.

A little bit about us: we enjoy challenges, obstacles, and Portillo’s Beef-n-Cheddar Croissant (but we disagree on the peppers).  We are passionate about design, sketching, painting, woodworking, and chocolate.  We love Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, and Art. We have an affinity to Voltron and the Ghostbusters.  We work late and enjoy outdoing one another at costume parties.  We believe nothing beats a Lavazza Cremespresso and a soft macaron, except a happy client.  We are prone to superlatives but we always mean it. What some might call fantastic, we call design-as-usual.  We hope that you will contact us to see what we can do for you and your particular project.

In the meantime, please enjoy the posts here.  We intend this to be a collection of the things that inspire and impassion us.  We hope to spend some time highlighting projects, issues, ideas, fantastic (and sometimes horrible) details, and things we find interesting.