Inspiration Abroad: Morocco and Dubai by Atelier Drome

marrakech - jemaa el-fna.jpg

You know when you travel to a place and everyone always craves the “local” experience? Well if you want that, my first suggestion for you would be to visit Morocco. It’s hard not to see and experience the day to day life of locals in the old medinas of Morocco. The old medinas are the ultimate transformation of space. Before 10am and after 8pm the storefronts are closed and streets are for the most part empty (other than your local gang of cats). During the day the streets lined with doors become lines of shops spilling out onto the streets.  Now you’re dodging either the donkey and cart or the man speaking French to you trying to sell you Aragon oil or black soap. The old medinas are where Moroccans spend their days buying, selling, eating, socializing, and of course drinking mint tea.

Opposing the streets are lush interiors containing courtyards filled with plants, intricacies of plaster hand carvings, and tile work. You’d find this type of detail not only in Mosques and palaces, but in buildings like the airport and train station. 

The Yves Saint Laurent museum in Marrakech, designed by Studio kO, was one of the few “modern” buildings we saw in Morocco. Its appearance was out of simple masonry that transformed into a lightweight, delicate material exploring new patterns and defying gravity with an upward sloping curve.

The last stop was to Dubai for a wedding. Most of our time was spent visiting and celebrating with college friends, and not a lot of time for sightseeing. And yes, we were awe struck by the mammoth that was the Burj Khalifa, but it was the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi that I will dream about for years to come. Abu Dhabi is a city that is built on multiple islands and connected with bridges, so a building nestled in the water along with the mangroves only seems natural right? The museum is contained within a series of buildings all being protected by the layers of structure creating the massive dome above. All of the supporting structure of the dome is hidden from the perspective of viewers making it appear to be floating regardless of where you were in the museum. We learned from a friend of Sultan’s, who worked at the Louvre, that the structure is meant to resemble stars and in the morning the light would beam through the dome creating changing patterns on the ground, buildings and water surface. The overall experience was dreamlike.    

Inspiration Abroad is an ongoing series from the travels and explorations of the team at ATELIER DROME team and the things that inspire, delight and invigorate.

This inspirational edition is by designer Cassie Lang, a Washington native who loves getting outdoors, exploring the world and it was through the search for balance between art and math that she found herself falling in love with architecture where the two blended perfectly. Read more about Cassie in her bio.

Learning Curve: Designing Sustainably for the Future by Atelier Drome


Throughout the past few years in architecture school, a major topic of design that professors proposed is how can we design sustainably? Since buildings account for 46% of total carbon dioxide emissions, and 75% of total electrical use, we as architects are responsible for creative integrative system design solutions to ensure a more positive environmental impact. One approach can be the use of energy production components as both an energy system and a visual characteristic for a building.


A unique example includes the New Blauhaus’ that was recently completed in 2015. In its translation from German, the “New Blue House” provides a more contemporary version of bringing the public, education, and science sector together with the energy industry. The project is situated on the campus of Hochschule Niederrhein, University of Applied Sciences in Krefeld, Germany. It grew to be a collaboration between the school and NEW- an energy and water utility company to showcase the groundbreaking developments in the energy sector.


The displayed low-resource energy system of photovoltaic panels not only brings out the sculptural quality of oppositely inclined surfaces varying between these PV panels and blue-tinged glass panel, but also performs as a low-resource energy system. The panels are arranged to perfectly cooperate with the orientation and frequency of solar radiation hitting the site and cover the full energy demand to power the building to make it carbon neutral.  Stepping aside at a distance, these panels become integrated with the architecture to give form to the New Blue House as a sculptural gem.


images from Arch Daily

Learning Curve is an ongoing series from the perspective of our interning students who are currently in school to become the world’s next generation of designers.  

This edition is by Anastasia Spassennikova who is in her first year of the Master of Architecture program at the University of Washington. With a love for both math and art, architecture felt like the obvious path that would meld the two into one exciting career. Her passion for the profession grew when she realized it was a gateway to learning about people and locations in various contexts. Designing a building for a specific client allows the designer to learn more about that individual's background and interests which makes every project unique. With the rare extra time outside of her studies, Anastasia enjoys exploring the world around her through drawing, painting and actively travelling to see things first hand.

Kyle Cook - "Excavated Landscapes" by Atelier Drome


We are excited to host artist Kyle Cook and his new collection, "Excavated Landscapes" in our gallery space from February 1 - March 31.  We also had the pleasure of working with the artist on the design of his studio which you can read more about on our Artist's Studio project page.

Show Statement

I believe the experience of the sublime in nature is a result of a multitude of emotions, truths, and stories being unearthed and simultaneously grappled with in our consciousness. Though we still feel small and powerless in relation to the forces of nature–its vastness and unpredictability–nature also mirrors back the tremendous power we have in reshaping and impacting the environment, climate, people, cultures, and wildlife. My interactions with the landscape are both a space for reflection and a catalyst for my imagination.

This body of work aims to depict its own creation, and I strive to deliver a moment in the process where the work feels independent, unfamiliar, and beyond my preconceptions. I begin with a series of gestural, automatic marks and diagrammatic lines, which establish a spatial framework that allows for painting and drawing to allude to, describe, and construct real and imagined forms in an envelope of atmosphere and light.

I’m continually questioning where forms and ideas exist on a spectrum between realism and abstraction; this often leads to the development of motifs, such as scaffold-like constructions, fishing nets, carbon dust-clouds, and geometric lines, many of which symbolize human impact and manipulation of the environment. Additionally, the creation of realistic works informs my understanding of space, scale and color . Much as the light or weather shifts, our relationship to the landscape is not fixed. I hope these paintings generate unique experiences of an environment that is layered and dynamic–altered, excavated and reimagined.


Kyle Cook + Atelier Drome

To let your eyes journey through one of Kyle Cook’s paintings is to venture on a transcendent tour of the impact nature has on our senses. When we first experienced Kyle’s work, we were struck by the sense of awe encapsulated within –– to look at them made us feel small, the same smallness that overcomes us when we take in nature’s wonders with our own eyes. But the process and vision behind Kyle’s brushstrokes take the work further, beyond an interpretation or retelling of that which remains unspoiled in our environment.

These pieces transpose the elements of form, line, color, and space to a point where they take on the singularity of a moment, one beyond the familiar, beyond –– as Kyle puts it ––preconceptions, and wholly independent. And in doing so, they share with us the skill and awareness of an artist in touch not only with the process that allows for vision to be effectively captured on canvas, but of how we have affected nature.

“I’m continually questioning where forms and ideas exist on a spectrum between realism and abstraction; this often leads to the development of motifs … many of which symbolize human impact and manipulation of the environment,” Kyle notes. This is an impact clearly seen in the straight lines and angles incorporated into some of the pieces, often as splashes of color, and one that for us at Atelier Drome resonated with how we are tasked with imposing our own constructed beauty and function in a space that nature holds. It speaks to the balance we all try to achieve in our work and in our lives, a balance that can be hectic to achieve, but one that nature, ultimately, created effortlessly.

Images below are from his opening reception during the First Thursday Pioneer Square Art Walk on February 1st.


More info can be found on Kyle Cook from his website at
Atelier Drome design for the Artist's Studio can be found in our portfolio.
Photography by G+L Studio

Mya Kerner - "Piercing the Infinite Sky" by Lisa Town


We are excited to host local Seattle-based artist Mya Kerner

in our space this quarter from October through January. The opening reception for her latest new collection, "Piercing the Infinite Sky," will be during October's First Thursday Art Walk on Thursday, October 5th from 5pm - 8pm.

Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
Mont Blanc appears—still, snowy, and serene;
Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
And wind among the accumulated steeps;

Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni
Percy Bysshe Shelley


Show Statement

I regard the mountains as stoic icons reflected by mortality, records of the movements of the earth and the torrents of the sky. They represent a collision, or maybe, a collaboration of the elements and forces of life. Though continuously rising or falling, the mountains stand, silent, weighing on the shifting fragments of the earth, moving at an incomprehensible rate.

In these works, I depict geological disruptions, carved moments and parts within the landscape. Records of denudation captivate me, as these notes present a segmented image of the whole. Mountaintops stand crisp against a stark white, reaching for an infinite sky. Descending are scratched lines, which break through the slopes, while flecks of white dapple eroded surfaces, recalling cooler seasons. These finished pieces linger on the threshold of completion, for what memory is complete upon its conception? The image often disintegrates as it nears the base of the painting, referencing the deposition of mountain and mythos.

I approached these white panels with turbulent, yet restrained mark making. Mixing oil paint above and across graphite marks, I soften or exaggerate the contours of the landscape. In some areas, the imagery holds, stable, while across the scene, a moment of textural play denotes action, erosion or sliding, moving away from the sky, down to the chaotic base. My paintings depict the tranquility of nature, while whispering of unpredictably and grandeur far beyond human conception or control.

As the threats of a changing climate are reawaken our terror of the Sublime, we fear the loss of human constructs within the false façade of permanence. We are reminded, to Nature, the individual is irrelevant, lost to the vastness and susceptible to the ephemerality of being.


How Ordinary Materials Can Create Extraordinary Textures by Lisa Town

Here at Atelier Drome, part of the regular design process involves creating a board of inspiration images which means we are always on the look out for new ways of using materials to create beautiful spaces and structures as well as solve design issues. Sometimes the difference between creating something truly unique that fits the character of the space does't involve the use of new and advanced materials but rather using an otherwise ordinary material in an extraordinary way to create an entirely new experience.

For a residential building in Tehran, the material of choice for Admun Studio is brick which is a typical material used throughout Iran. The design team was brought on after the structure itself was completed and they were left to resolve several issues through the design of the façade. They describe the need to “provide maximum privacy yet fulfilling other features such as moderating light, limiting view from outside, organizing chaotic experience of the terraces and decreasing high-traffic neighborhood noise” that lead them to the artistic design of a modulating textural surface. Using these simple materials in a new way, the surface not only solves several issues at once but creates a unique visual piece in the neighborhood

Images © Mehdi Kolahi

Repetition is often the key to creating what looks like a new material by way of using a simple smaller piece multiple times that is then transformed into a larger surface structure. In Japan, Kengo Kuma & Associates did just that with a Starbucks location. The design sought to marry a new, modern space with the surrounding design aesthetic of traditional Japanese structures by using “a unique system of weaving thin woods diagonally.” The result is not only unique but creates kind of a vortex that feels as though it wants to suck the passerby into the café and possesses that dynamic energy that goes beyond just creating visual cues or leading lines intended to draw people inside.

images © Masao Nishikawa

In Spain, the simple material of wooden sticks is used as well but takes on an entirely different character designed by Ideo Arquitectura. This time, the surface takes on a softer feel as the ceiling of a bakery that is in a long narrow space lined with old, exposed brick that would otherwise feel like a dark cave. Instead, the sculptural ceiling guides visitors in and creates an almost glittering surface and reinforces the overall brand of the shop while creating visual interested that works with the highly textural existing walls without clashing or completely dominating them.

images © Imagen Subliminal

Small Spaces | Big Impact by Lisa Town

Each September, all corners of the globe participate in an event called Park(ing) Day, a worldwide experiment in reclaiming public space. Rebar in San Francisco launched the event as a statement on the use of public space. Their one pop-up park was on display for a mere two hours – all the time the meter would allow. Unknown to them at the time was just how much people would embrace the concept, and what first began as an intervention has since exploded into a world-wide event, with some cities even allowing for multi-day installations. The movement has even spurred the implementation of permanent parks designed and maintained by private entities in the public domain for public use. There projects have many names: parklet, streetseat, micro park, people spots, to name a few. And here in Seattle, a new typology has recently emerged called a Streatery. This new idea marries an outdoor eating space with one of these parking space parks. Picture a fixed-location food truck with seating or an extension of a nearby established restaurant that resides where there was once a parked car.

As outdoor space in our cities becomes more and more scarce and the desire to make our streetscape more interactive — outdoor spaces where people can find respite from the concrete jungles as well as enhance public safety with more eyes on the street — people are exploring every possible angle to bring additional public space to the urban realm. What Park(ing) Day started was a revolution for people to look at the use of our public space more critically and consider the needs of the surrounding community. Today, these parks, both permanent and temporary, have taken on a wide range of looks and usage, well beyond the simple days of a park being little more than some grass, a tree and a bench.

What follows are a few inspiring examples of parks in the public space. First up is a micro-park project in London by WMB Studios called Parked Bench that converted two parking stalls into a bright, sculptural seating element from simple and inexpensive off-the=shelf materials that catches the eye. Both artful and functional, this park space offers comfortable seating for individuals, houses an air quality monitor and acts as a buffer between the pedestrian zone and the busy street. 

 photography by Ed Butler and Mickey Lee

In San Francisco, the birthplace of this movement, Interstice Architects designed the Sunset Parklet which looks like an undulating deck with pieces that rise up out of the ground for seating, both for small groups and community gatherings along with tables, spaces for native planting and an area that flattens out to provide bike parking. Inspired by the striations created through water and land, this parklet brings a natural feeling environment to an urban setting that provides much needed space for people.

  photographs and imagery courtesy of Interstice Architects

In Boston, Interboro designed two projects to kick off the parklet pilot program with the transportation department. Both are created with a simple yet smart movable block system they've called ad-bloc made from durable rotomolded plastic that are easy to configure and low maintenance. With only two pieces - a block and a cylinder - endless configurations and designs for seating, eating and greenery are possible and easily configurable for any size space. The blocks bright colors and fun, child-like appearance akin to giant legos, this system appeals to adults and kids alike.


 photographs and imagery courtesy of Interboro

This year’s event takes place in Seattle on Friday, Sept. 15 and we’re excited to participate. Stayed tuned for coverage of our own installation as well as the spaces we find inspiring from 2017!