This week’s Friday Five lands us in New York City, spotlighting Jeff Johnson who began his career as an architect after earning a BA in Environmental Design from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a M.Arch with honors from Pratt Institute. After his schooling, he headed to the Netherlands for four years heading up large scale commercial projects in Europe and Asia, specifically the HVA Amsterdam and The Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore. Johnson’s architecture career has landed him at prominent architecture firms including UNStudio, ASYMPTOTE, and MESH, all preparing him for his current venture as the Creative Director and Co-Founder of The Arrivals. Johnson launched the NYC-based outerwear brand along with Kal Vepuri in Fall 2013 after his searches for design-focused outerwear that could stand up to multiple Amsterdam winters came up short. Once he landed back in NYC, he gathered a team of people and set out to break the mold of traditional, boring outerwear that does nothing but shield you from the elements. They launched the first collection in Fall 2014 via their online-only model featuring architecturally-inspired pieces that yield the same high-end quality found in brick-and-mortar stores. Each piece is thoughtfully designed with a strong focus on both form and function. Read on to see what he lists as five of his favorite things.
1. Braun FP 30 film projector:
Before I knew his name or implications on the functional design movement as a whole, my fascination for Dieter Rams and BRAUN products was absolute. Growing up in the mid-80s, I remember watching family films from this futuristic looking piece of equipment that was part movie projector, and surely part time machine. I loved everything about it, from the use of brushed aluminum to its ability to instantaneously project images from the past with elegant ease through its two oversized retro-futuristic reel-to-reel tape mechanisms. Coining the term “Less but Better,” the understanding of restraint and expression in Braun’s work fascinated me early on and continues to inspire my design approach toward creating function driven products with an element of wonder.
2. Trouw Amsterdam
Anyone that has spent time working within a prominent international architecture firm understands that hours can be demanding, with late nights turning into later mornings and weekends disappearing completely. Having spent four years at UNStudio, Amsterdam, finding a counterbalance to blow off a little design-steam was imperative and came in the form of underground shows at Trouw, the abandoned newspaper factory turned 24-hour Deep House music venue located in East Amsterdam. Everything about this venue screamed gritty European house scene, from the echoed reverberation of the sound system on the bare concrete walls, to the eclectic swaths of Amsterdam’s youth, synchronously bobbing their blonde heads to each indiscernible track. Like all things too good to be true, the venue was eventually shut down, but for a few sweet years provided myself and countless others with a little glimpse of Amsterdam’s experimental music scene.
I began racing road bikes when I moved out to Boulder in 2001 to attend the Environmental Design program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Shortly after moving to the “other” mile-high city, I quickly picked up my first road bike and immediately caught the cycling bug. For four plus years, be it sun, rain or snow, I spent nearly every day-lit hour on that saddle, often spending 4-6 hours in some sort of pain induced rhythmic trance, riding through the rolling foothills of the rocky mountains. Graduating in 2005, the twists and turns of Colorado’s highways feel like a lifetime ago, yet they left me with a deep appreciation for the therapeutic simplicity and quiet focus of endurance sport. Cycling remains my moment of zen where I find a calm contrast from the craziness of everyday life.
4. Marcel Breuer, Architect
Whether you find his work to be inspiring or intimidating, Marcel Breuer has undeniably shaped the perception of modern architecture. Typified by his heavy-handed concrete works of the Brutalist Era, Breuer’s work speaks to his unyielding ability to challenge familiar vernaculars with modern building materials. For me, his bold design philosophy reminds me that every project is a manifestation of its time, place and purpose.
5. Weekend Warrior
Admitted weekend warriors, my wife Lotte and I booked a long weekend trip to Morocco while living in Amsterdam. Upon our arrival in Marrakech, we immediately decided to hop into a grand taxi (posh name for vintage Mercedes taxi with wooden doors) and make the trek up to Imlil, as small outpost as the base of the High-Atlas mountains in Northern Morocco. 30km into our 2-day hike and completely out of our element, our tour guide smirked at my wife and I asking us what we did for a living, as if to inquire, what the hell are these two lanky folks doing on a 12,000ft glacier in jeans and Nike Fly-Knits. I was lucky enough to find my partner in crime while living in Amsterdam, and feel extremely blessed to share our weekend adventures with each other, giving us a little perspective on the bigger picture and our small part in it.