Friday Five with Heather McGinn of ALLTHATISSOLID

Heather McGinn is an architectural designer and partner at the Los Angeles office of ALLTHATISSOLID (ATIS), a design collaborative interested in conceptual and material experimentation at all scales and typologies, from living room objects to ecological watersheds. The four ATIS partners met during the March program at UCLA, and share a collective vision of architectural design in the modern age as the design of responsive and informational systems. Reflecting the diversity of their practice, recent projects include a public pocket park at Sunset Junction in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, an actor’s residence in Los Angeles, a series of coffee shops, and a men’s lifestyle boutique in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The ATIS thought project on rising tides, entitled Swamp Thing, is featured in the newest edition of Bracket [goes soft]. This week’s Friday Five features McGinn’s must-haves.

1. Lightning Field
Located in New Mexico, my home state, the Lightning Field (1977) is a work of land art by Walter de Maria. A bit of a pilgrimage to visit, the piece is located in a somewhat remote part of the state, and consists of steel poles arranged in a one mile by one kilometer grid meant to attract lighting during storms engaging the space between earth and atmosphere. It is exquisite to find art outside the confines of gallery walls, in unexpected places, and on massive scales such as this. I have always felt an element of the familiar in desert environments from Morocco to Joshua Tree and find this sublime work perfectly suited to its surroundings.

2.  The Graphics on Golden Record
The Golden Record is a collection of images and music from earth launched aboard spacecraft Voyager One in 1977 as the ultimate message in a bottle. The record was included in the statistically unlikely chance that Voyager One will one day encounter intelligent life. The graphics designed by Carl Sagan and his team are instructions of how to play the record. Their design task was nothing short of transmitting an instructional message to an alien species in another time and place in an environment wholly unimaginable to us; the smallest of gestures in the most infinite of spaces. Currently the Golden Record and Voyager One are reaching the edge of our solar system, where the sun’s influence ends and galactic winds begin, the farthest any human designed object has traveled from earth.

3. Storage Clouds
Storage Clouds free us from place, making our information available everywhere instantaneously. From Spotify to Dropbox, Evernote and more; clouds for your music, clouds for your files, clouds for your images and ideas. The international ALLTHATISSOLID practice with four partners in three cities would have been near impossible without these tools.

4. Theme Vals Peter Zumthor
This is a wholly immersive piece of architecture. As with the Lighting Field, the pilgrimage required to visit makes it that much more appealing. Zumthor’s use of stone, light, and chambers taps into something primitive, a sort of collective consciousness. What the photographs cannot fully capture is the interplay of inside and out, the dark spaces, the steam, the trickling light, the cows in the surrounding mountains with bells around their necks. The architecture curates an experience. When you are here, you are only here.

5. Survival Guides
Like many city dwellers I know, I have a post-apocalyptic fantasy in which I am readily prepared for everything from zombies to living off the land. I sometimes interpret this as a need for more public green space injected into our urban fabric, something that ATIS often tries to champion in our own design work. Regardless of the reason, these army-issued guides help fuel the fantasy, although I am quite sure that reading about it is not the same as doing it. Even if you will never have to chop open a cactus and suck its milky pulp for sustenance the amazing illustrations make it worth the read.

Marni Elyse Katz is a Contributing Editor at Design Milk. She lives in Boston where she contributes regularly to local publications and writes her own interior design blog, StyleCarrot.