Miki Iwasaki, who has taught at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design (NSAD) as an adjunct faculty member, recently completed a motion sensor-equipped public art project at the San Diego International Airport. Iwasaki, an artist and designer, credits the project’s success to teamwork, including the contributions of two NSAD alumni: Matthew Greco, who graduated with a Master of Architecture in 2011, and Kent Coston, who graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1998.
“The lessons I would share with other architecture and design students would be that all projects are team projects, and you will always encounter unexpected issues,” said Iwasaki. “You can always look back and say things could have been better, but don’t let that prevent you or paralyze you from aspiring to bring your vision to life.”
The project, a series of wooden boxes equipped with motion sensors that cause the boxes to light up when people walk by, is a public art piece in San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 1. Greco said he was invited to work on the project after meeting Iwasaki several times, starting when Iwasaki was a juror at an NSAD presentation. One of the most memorable parts of the airport project, he said, was installing it at odd hours. The team would typically work from 11:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., but sometimes they had to wait for delayed flights to land before getting started. “I learned a lot … from new woodworking techniques, basic electronics, to the logistics of putting together an art piece of this scale,” Greco said.
Greco helped fabricate the piece, which incorporates 592 boxes that started out as 8-foot-long planks of walnut, maple, and cherry wood. Greco said he was involved in cutting, shaping, sanding, joining and finishing the boxes. He also helped make the frames on which the boxes are mounted, and he assisted in installing LED (Light-Emitting Diode) power supplies, CPU (Central Power Unit) fans and wires that were part of the project.
Coston brought a different level of expertise to the project. He had worked at several architecture firms, including one where he met Iwasaki, before starting his own firm, Coston Architects Incorporated. Coston most recently has been involved in a restaurant expansion in La Jolla and working on documents for a 16,000-square-foot residential renovation, also in La Jolla. He started working with Iwasaki on the airport project about a year ago when he assisted with putting together project proposal-related documents. Coston said he was involved in the more administrative aspects of the project, such as budgeting and management and addressing construction issues.
“Since there were not a lot of existing drawings, we had to survey the location well and document it all,” Coston said. “Another challenge, like most projects, was innovation and how to accomplish design intent and still make it work and become something that could be constructed.”
The other team members Iwasaki credits with helping him develop and complete the project are Mark Villaneuva, Mario Campuzano, James Pham, Derrick Chaney, Dan Gill, ANP Engineering, Jacob Buller and Fernando Becerra.
Coston said the project was a chance to apply his skills to a more focused design art project, compared to the other kinds of projects he typically works on. Coston noted that he is currently working on a 150,000-square-foot renovation of an office commercial space and that Iwasaki and he are in the process of developing a collaborative partnership on that project. Greco said he’s also working with Iwasaki on some other projects, including a bathroom remodel and some furniture pieces.