workshop sign

Often, the simplest things are the most complicated to resolve architecturally, but our office building sign at 405 Linden is complete!  We've been thinking about the design on and off since last summer, and went through not only a number of schematic iterations, but have spent considerable time thinking through the actual construction.

In an effort to capture our office's design philosophy, we sought an expression of pure materiality--tectonically pure and simple. Something without trim or unnecessary ornamentation, where every piece has a purpose. Eventually, we settled on the idea of a wood post, treated with a Japanese technique called 'Yakisugi' (sometimes called 'Shou-sugi-ban'). The technique involves charring the surface of wood (in this case cedar) thereby making it exceptionally moisture and insect resistant without the need for additional stains or finishes. It can then be scraped with a wire brush, to produce a range of finishes varying from light chocolate to deep charcoal. We, however, opted to leave the finish raw, both for maximum weather resistance and because we fell in love with the beautifully crackled, almost shiny, blue-black surface the burning produced.

This solid black object is then complemented by raw mild steel. In order both to attach the sign panels and to protect the end-grain of the post, the steel panels were welded into a "U" shape that slips over the end of the post. A 1/4" reveal between the steel and the wood, and a slight taper of the glu-lam, allow for solar-powered LED backlighting, which turns on automatically when the sun goes down. 

As it became apparent that our design was a fairly custom piece, we decided to construct it ourselves: laminating our own glu-lam to allow us to make the necessary cuts, soldering electronics, welding steel, and, of course, charring the wood (see the video below). The only element of construction that we outsourced was the CNC water-jet cutting of the 1/4" and 1/2" steel plate, which was done in collaboration with Colorado Waterjet Company, out of Berthoud. The whole construction was sunk into a 30" deep hole (below the frostline) and cast into concrete. If, in the future, someone else occupies our space at 405, the post can be unbolted from the plate, and another sign attached. 

As the materials age, the black wood will slowly turn grey, and the steel will rust to a deep orange-red, such that they will always provide each other a complementary visual contrast. We always love the way that natural materials patina.

We're pretty happy with the sign, overall, and we learned a lot from it's construction. There are a few things we think we'll tweak in the future (the galvanized spacers are a little too visible, the backlighting at night is a bit uneven) but for now, we're excited to have something permanent. 

Please feel free to come by and take a look, and/or take a look at the photos below, and let us know what you think! If you're interested in the process or doing something similar, we're always happy to discuss. 


Waterjet Cutting: Colorado Waterjet Company

Solar Panel Electronics: Adafruit