Two Minutes With // Jeff Day, of Min | Day

Hello, and happy First Friday everyone! We have a great interview for you today, one that has been highly anticipated within our studio. Jeff Day, of Min | Day, shares special insight on his firms’ approach to projects, and the meaningful ways they think about design. Min | Day has a compelling way of articulating their ideas through interior design, architecture, and graphic representation. Please take a look and familiarize yourselves with this firm if you haven’t already; the projects that come out of this office are beautiful. Be sure to check out their website to view their impressive portfolio. Enjoy!

Images courtesy of Min | Day.

VT: Your projects tend to have a cohesive blend of color, material, and pattern. How does your design process help inform decisions to achieve such harmonic and graphic uses of each of these elements?

JD: The best word to describe our design process is “evolving”. Each project begins with an exploration of site, client and program and we often start designing without a clear conceptual point of departure. We believe that conceptual rigor arises from the design process itself – concept does not precede design conception. Often conceptual ideas emerge from responses to a specific project’s needs or conditions, and when a strong conceptual idea begins to emerge, we massage the overall design to be consistent with this concept, or at least to complement it. We are not interested in the abuse of conceptual ideas to the point at which they become one liners. Furthermore, concepts do not necessarily carry narrative or didactic intent – it is usually not necessary for a user to understand the intent behind a project. For example, at Pocket Gems in San Francisco the custom floor tile color pattern is a loose index of the program and uses of certain areas in the plan. The visitors and staff in the company may not be able to articulate this, but they read it at a subconscious level. At the Okoboji House, the white walls and ceilings of the public areas are intended to deflect attention to the exterior views and the art collection but as rooms get smaller, interior colors intensify. On the continuum between public and private, color intensifies with intimacy, so small bathrooms are the most brightly colored spaces in the house. These spaces shift attention from the exterior lakeshore site, which is quite beautiful, to an intensive feeling of interiority (color is applied to all surfaces in a room volume). Again, the thinking behind this does not need to be consciously articulated by the inhabitants, but we think they will feel the intent and understand the house as a site of different phenomenal experiences. One last point about this house – there are several other formal, spatial and material ideas at work that are not all related to what I just described. We believe that architecture and the one’s experiences of it can be multivalent, carrying several sometimes contradictory impulses.

VT: Your body of work is consistently unique and seemingly innovative. What would you say are the underlying interests among each of your clients, and how do these interests allow you to achieve such beautiful and well detailed projects?

JD: The uniqueness of each of our projects stems from differences between the specific conditions of the project at hand: the desires of the client, the site, the program, the budget at times, but also our own current preoccupations. We try to approach each project with an open mind and we try to convince our clients to do the same. By being as open as possible we find the work is fresh, interesting and as you say, unique. I understand “consistently unique”, to mean “always new” and “fresh”. Or projects do not have the consistency of form and material as, say Richard Meier, but as a set they speak about an office that is constantly evolving. But I don’t think it is possible to be completely open to the new in each project. The one common factor that cannot be denied is ourselves. We bring our own experiences and interests and these add threads of continuity through the work such as our interest in landscape, the effect and playfulness of color & materials, digital fabrication and advanced techniques used alongside more traditional processes, pattern and mathematical complexity, contemporary art, and so on.

To achieve strong projects takes strong clients and we have been fortunate to have clients who were good collaborators. They respect our work and our process but they bring their own ideas too. The best clients are the ones that push us to do our best work.

VT: The drawings and diagrams that you present with many of your projects are beautifully crafted and technically elegant. How do your diagrams influence the craft and formation of a space (or vice versa) during the design process?

JD: Of course many diagrams come after a project is complete and these act to help interpret the finished work. But we do often consider our emerging design projects diagrammatically – as a set of relationships and spatial conditions that begin life with lots of possibility and promise but not definitive form. The is the best definition of a diagram comes from Deleuze who said the diagrams carry the possibility of fact but are not facts themselves. In other words, an architectural diagram embodies a more essential idea about a project that could manifest in different ways in a completed project. The Okoboji House for example has a simple diagram of spaces that relate the house its site and views – we call these spatial tubes or blinders that guide the experience of the site. The diagram is abstract, but its power exists as material reality in the built project.

I feel it is important to discuss the context of the diagrams first but the drawings themselves are carefully crafted with a consistency that we like to maintain from project to project. It may be a bit old fashioned, but we believe that well-crafted drawings (and these include construction drawings) help enforce strong craft in the final project.

VT: The architecture in your portfolio appears to be carefully calculated. What are the primary concept generators that commonly help to form your architecture, and does the interior program influence this process?

JD: As I described above we prefer to allow concepts and architectural ideas to emerge from the circumstances of the project itself. We are careful not to bring too many preconceptions to a project and we try to get our clients to approach the task with the same openness and inquisitiveness. For commercial work spaces, for example, we would rather begin the conversation with our clients by talking about what they do and how they work rather than talking about what kind of desk they like. We want to get at the core of their needs and not let normative work arrangements or the ad hoc circumstances of a previous work place cloud the discussion of new possibilities. Our commercial clients, especially those in the software and creative fields are pretty savvy about this and usually know the importance a unique fit is to the culture and processes of their companies.