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October 30, 2008

Chapter 486: Q & Arch [01] feat. Solutions Twin Cities

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In the first ever edition of Q. and A.rch we'll be featuring a pair of designers Troy Gallas and Colin Kloecker of Solutions Twin Cities (www.solutionstwincities.org). Architects by day and Solutionists by night this duo has been working together since they met while attending the University of Minnesota and has continued their efforts to improve, advocate, and educate for and about design in the Twin Cities. With their events nearing the double digits they work in a variety of ways but predominantly through a series of "Volume" events every 6-8 months and as series of smaller collaborations and interactive events in between. Each of the large presentations is presented in a Pecha Kucha format (they'll touch on that later) and features designers of all disciplines that have a connection to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. I was lucky enough to speak at there Solutions Vol. 2 event and am pleased to have Troy and Colin as my first of hopefully many guests on the Up Your Architecture Q. & A.rch column. Hope you all enjoy.

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Troy Gallas (on the left) has a background in visual arts, performing arts, and architecture. A Twin Cities native, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in architecture. He has learned and practiced traditional methods of building in Mexico, Nova Scotia, and Spain, and has explored other methods throughout Europe and the US. In addition to co-founding Solutions Twin Cities, he is currently working at LHB, a Minneapolis firm focusing on affordable and supportive housing, and is a steering committee member of Architecture for Humanity: Minnesota

Colin Kloecker (on the right) has been living in the Twin Cities for 6 years. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in architecture and has since been working at Cermak Rhoades Architects in St. Paul, a small firm with a focus on affordable and supportive housing. In addition to co-founding Solutions Twin Cities, he is a member of Architecture for Humanity: Minnesota steering committee. You can find his thoughts on architecture and humanitarian issues online at Blog Like You Give A Damn.

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1. In an earlier discussion we talked about how Solutions Twin Cities is almost acting as "city design advocates". With that in mind, give us a short explanation of how you came to be and what you are as an organization.

We founded Solutions Twin Cities about a year and a half ago because we wanted to create spaces for exploring new ideas and drawing awareness to existing solutions here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Design is a really big part of this, but we're really advocating for people and projects that are making a difference in new and exciting ways, what we like to call "future-positive creativity."


2. It's been a busy year for you guys and this may be a bit of cut and paste after an introduction but tell us a bit about what you've been up to [i.e. Solutions Vol. 3, Solutions for the Other 90%, W(e are) Here]...

It's been soooo busy. Yikes! But it's been a lot of fun too. Going back a little further then a year, we kicked off this crazy adventure with Solutions Volume 1 in May of 2007. The "Volume" series is our flagship program and it's a hybrid event showcasing future-positive creativity in action. It highlights an up to the minute cross section of exciting people, projects, and ideas in the Twin Cities using a Pecha Kucha presentation format. Volume 2 was in October of 2007 and Volume 3 was just last August. We'd like to continue doing these at least twice a year. Last July, we had the great opportunity to curate an event for the Walker Art Center called Solutions For the Other 90%. The event was in conjunction with an exhibit the WAC was hosting called Design For the Other 90% and acted as a local counterpart to this international exhibit.

We've also started to branch out beyond one time events. In early 2008, Intermedia Arts asked us to curate an exhibit for one of their galleries. This led to W(e are )here: Mapping the Human Experience, which ran from March to May of this year. The exhibit explored the intersections of communication, technology, and aesthetics through data visualization, artistic expression, and interactive installations. Our interest in mapping emerged from an underlying desire to make intangible connections visible. Whether it's tracking emotions across the totality of the Internet, or one's personal and biological response to the built environment around them, we really think the artists we found for this exhibit challenged our notions of what a map can be and how it can be used.

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3. Volume 3 was an outdoor event and had an interactive component, how did you like this format as opposed to the interior events you've done in the past? Can we expect more in the realm of interactivity and indoor/outdoor? Solutions TC: Volume 4- Wash & Wear?

We've challenged ourselves to create a unique experience for each new event or program. Our events have taken place in an gritty urban theatre, a cavernous sound stage, a formal art museum "cinema" (not so exciting), and a grungy graffiti-walled parking lot, projecting onto a brick wall. Each event has presented it's own learning curve, and we've never done the same thing twice (however stupid or smart this might be, we haven't decided yet). The event outdoors (Solutions Volume 3) was definitely the most challenging, nearly putting us $8,000 into debt, not to mention multiple near casualties (don't ask). At the same time, it allowed for the most creativity. We asked a local new media artist, Christopher Baker, to install his "Urban Echo" project - an interactive projection that allowed the audience to communicate with each other on a large scale via text message.

We're in the process of narrowing down our thoughts for Volume 4: Hot air balloons, Mississippi river barge, roaming bicycles, or possibly the Xcel Energy Center (OK, give us a year or two for that one).


4. You've been involved in other non-events/games/national events such as Park(ing) Day and Urban Capture the Flag. How can people get a hold of you or get your ear about events they would like you to be involved with?

You're right, beyond the events and exhibits we've done so far, we want to create more informal spaces where people can come together to do a wider range of activities. Like the two examples you cited above, we'd like these to be themed around new ways of interacting with the city. Another example of this was a psychogeographic map making party we hosted during the W(e are )here exhibit. These are all things that we plan on doing on a ongoing basis.

The best way stay in the loop about these events, or anything else we're up to, is to sign up for our mailing list - which you can do here. You can also contact us directly at info@solutionstwincities.org.

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5. Park(ing) Day happened to fall on Talk Like a Pirate Day this year, any interesting anecdotes or overlaps?

Nope, sorry! (We actually weren't that involved in the Park(ing) Day Activities this year, but we have big plans for next year). But we are full fledged advocates for Talk Like a Pirate Day... very future-positive.


6. You've been asked to participate in a collaboration with the Humphrey Institute and Science Debate 2008 similar to the event in coordination with the Walker, can you tell us a little bit more about what's going to be poppin'?

Our event is part of a larger conference called Innovation 2008, a two day conference organized by the Humphrey Institute and Science Debate 2008 taking place at the University of Minnesota on October 20th & 21st. We're putting together an hour long Solutions style showcase that will precede a keynote address by Ira Flatow, host of NPR's "Science Friday" and founder/ president of TalkingScience, on the last day of the conference. 7 local scientist/ artist/ educators will deliver short presentations on their work while addressing some of the key issues raised by the 14 Science Debate 2008 Questions for the President. In addition, these presenters have been asked to think about how art might be used to connect science to the public in more meaningful ways. Click here to learn more about the conference.

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7. This year has been pretty packed for you two, besides Innovation 2008, anything more before the new year rings in?

No! We've been working on events almost non-stop since we started and have decided to take a much needed programming hiatus. This will allow us to focus on some long term strategizing, finalizing our non-profit status with the government, and begin the search for major funding (readers, if you're loaded and think what we're doing is cool... let us know!). That doesn't mean that we're totally stagnant - we're working on an exciting project with METRO Magazine to expand the concepts developed in the W(e are )here exhibit to a monthly feature on their back page. Look for that to start in January! (Fingers crossed!)



8. Moving forward, where would you like Solutions to be in a year? In five years?

Our goals for the next year are to continue the programming we've established while working towards dedicating more and more time to Solutions projects. We're both currently working full time at local architecture firms (Colin at Cermak Rhoads Architects, and Troy at LHB), but hopefully we'll find enough funding to allow us to take on Solutions Twin Cities full time.

One long term goal is to find a storefront space for STC. Using the Storefront for Art & Architecture in New York City and SuperDeluxe in Tokyo as precedents, we're envisioning this space as a "Storefront for Ideas." We'd also like to see Solutions style organizations starting up in other cities around the US. While we'd like to maintain our focus on the Twin Cities, it would be awesome to enable people in other cities with what we've learned. How 'bout it James, Solutions Biloxi?

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9. Whom or what in the design world are you into right now?

Hassan Fathy : http://archnet.org/library/parties/one-party.jsp?party_id=1

Edward Burtynsky : http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/
Cenci Goepel and Jens Warnecke : http://www.lightmark.de/

Theo Jansen : http://www.strandbeest.com/

Sterling Prize: http://www.architecture.com/Awards/RIBAStirlingPrize/RIBAStirlingPrize.aspx

Dave Eggers re: 826 Velencia (a precedent for a future Solutions storefront):: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/dave_eggers_makes_his_ted_prize_wish_once_upon_a_school.html

Wholphin DVD Magazine: http://www.wholphindvd.com/
(they will be represented at Sound Unseen this year)

Archi-blogger Jimmy Stamp interview with Charlie Kaufman about his new movie Synecdoche, New York and the role of architecture in it: http://lifewithoutbuildings.net/2008/10/heres-what-happens-when-you-look-for-truth-life-without-buildings-interviews-charlie-kaufman.html

Museo Aero Solar: The Solar Baloon Project: http://museoaerosolar.wordpress.com/


10. What's your solution for a young designer to up their architecture?

As soon as you can, get involved in architecture, design, or community organizing outside of your formal education or career. Join up with your local Architecture for Humanity chapter. If your city doesn't have one, start it. As students, getting involved with AFH - Minnesota really opened our eyes to the possibilities for good that our education could provide. This was the seed that eventually led us to start Solutions Twin Cities.

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I'd like to personally thank Troy and Colin for all their help in getting this together and being patient as I got it up and out on the site. I encourage you to check out what they and the people that have spoken at their events are doing in the Twin Cities and beyond. Cheers.

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