During the summer of 2015, Ayers Saint Gross completed the addition of a wood shop including a 3D printer and laser cutter. Employees were invited to take training and safety courses in order to use the newly available equipment. I jumped at the chance and did the training. I was very excited and inspired about the prospect of building models of our projects in the shop, but I also realized that not a lot of Ayers Saint Gross employees would get the chance to use it, since the task of model-building is typically relegated to interns or junior architects.

I approached a few of the senior architects at the firm about the idea of creating an in-house design competition. This would encourage the use of the shop and especially encourage the growth of our employees through learning how to use both traditional tools and newer ‘maker’ tools, like the laser cutter and 3D printer. The growth of maker culture has been exponential over the past couple of decades, nationally and globally, and architects stand to gain much by exploring its possibilities. We know this, so it wasn’t hard to convince the Executive Committee to approve this endeavor. Without the support of forward-thinking leaders, proposals like this wouldn’t come to fruition. I formed a committee and moved forward with the development of the Ayers Saint Gross Maker Fair 2015, with the intention of it becoming an annual event.

The aim of the Maker Fair is to present would-be competitors with a small, self-contained, hands-on design challenge. The committee met and discussed a few options, finally landing on the challenge of designing a light fixture using a simple bulb and chord provided upon entry. This was in part influenced by the upcoming Light City Baltimore festival, set to take place in the spring of 2016. The Maker Fair was announced to the Baltimore and DC offices, with a kick-off charrette open to competitors for the last couple of hours of the following day. Competitors were given two months to design and fabricate their lights. They were encouraged, but not limited to, the tools available in each office. When all of the submissions were received, the lights were displayed in the entrance corridor of the Baltimore office.

During the week of January 4th 2016, the lights were turned on in the late afternoon so that voters can see them in action. Voters are asked to consider the use of materials, design process and production, and of course, the Vitruvian ideals of structural integrity, utility, and beauty. The ballot required voters to rank their top five favorite designs, with points awarded in ascending order according to standing. Winners were announced at the January Office Meeting.

Thanks to my supportive committee that made it all possible – Scott Vieth, Kevin Johnson, Alvin Rudolph, Joe Kim, Logan Mahaffey, and Brandon Moore.

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