More than Meets the Eye

More than Meets the Eye

When Vertical Arts Architecture recently moved from the RiNo neighborhood to our new office space in the Golden Triangle neighborhood at 1150 Speer Blvd., we aimed to somehow differentiate ourselves from other local design firms. But how? It turns out that all we needed was a spark. Literally.

Our Project Architect, Brian Patty, met James Davis, a local artist, at an event at Walker Fine Art. James was showing a video of a relatively unknown design process called electrical erosion and Patty was intrigued. Electrical erosion involves exposing wood to an electrical current and burning patterns into the wood’s grain. Despite being relatively new to the interesting process, Davis was excited about its potential and his infectious excitement spread to Patty.

To distinguish our firm from others, Vertical Arts partnered with Davis to collaborate on an organic, unique centerpiece for the office — an electrically eroded ping-pong table.

At Vertical Arts, we love playing ping-pong to clear our heads, freshen our perspective and build a fun, team-oriented culture, and we combined that affinity with our propensity for practical and functional design to create a ping-pong table that does so much more than suffice as our recreation space. The piece serves as a tool for promoting Vertical Arts’ company culture by reflecting the fun, different and innovative nature of our firm. The ping-pong table features a detachable net that transforms the recreation space into a sizable conference table for meetings. Also, along the underside of the table there are easy-to-use latches that allow the table to be split into a pair of equal, more traditional work tables.

To fabricate the one-of-a-kind piece, we worked closely with Davis on the details and the design of the table, but this new aesthetic was difficult to control and posed new and exciting, yet ultimately rewarding challenges. Basically, Davis sent an electrical current through several microwave transformers to a clamp attached to a piece of walnut butcher block, burning lightning-like fractal patterns into the wood’s grain. To allow the electricity to flow through the walnut more easily, a thin layer of conducting solution — water, salt and baking soda — was applied to the desired area to reduce resistance. As the electricity burns the wood, it follows the path of least resistance, usually the grain, allowing unique patterns to be revealed.

The table’s design fits well within our design practice — it features wood and steel but is still tactile and natural. The unique electrical erosion sparks conversation and provides us with a tool to educate clients on an emerging design technique. The functionality component is typical of our design, and we strive to make furniture that serves a purpose. The piece serves as an opportunity to highlight the firm’s devotion to work with local artists, as well.

On a collaborative project like this one, the creative energy of all parties involved truly allowed the piece to tell a unique story. We are dedicated to telling our clients’ stories and bringing their unique visions to life.

More than just a cool piece, the ping-pong table truly communicates our approach to design for our clients and our culture, as well as our creative take on what is so much more than a traditional ping-pong table. In fact, it was featured in the most recent issue of Modern in Denver magazine. You’re welcome stop by for a look — or a game!

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