Craft + Innovation

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Craftsman at American Soil + Stone working on Meta Headquarters (MPK 22 Park) water feature.

1. Visible Forces

Beauty can easily be found in natural landscapes. Forces are made visible in the shaping of the terrain: tectonic upheavals, volcanic flows, unloading and exfoliating glaciers, thermal expansion and contraction, erosion by wind, waves, rivers, and rain, fire and ice cracking fissures, gravity pulling down hills in landslides or toppling rocks off cliffs. When we are on the edge of these spaces or deep within them, we often stop and stare, trying to make sense of what we are seeing. Such wonder! These movements shape landscapes over time and tell a story about how they came to be. This is something we try to emulate in our work—allowing the forms within our projects to be enriched by the process of making.

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.Mark Twain

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Tara Donovan, Giants Causeway, Meta Headquarters (Classic Campus) water feature studies, Daggett Park.

2. Material Honesty

Play and exploration are axial to innovation. It’s in this creative environment where we make discoveries—about how materials behave, where they can be pushed to new limits, how they talk to each other, how they settle into form. We find richness in the relationships between places, forms, and materials. CMG embraces a simple and straightforward approach to the use of materials and detailing that reveals the way things are made. Whether expressed within overall projects—where materiality of the site and design intention intersect directly, or within singular moments—where the materiality of objects and making intersect in clear sculptural responses, it’s this basic, elemental design that excites us.

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Yerba Buena Community Design bench, Headlands Center for the Arts, Meta Headquarters (MPK 22 Park) water feature, SFMOMA Rooftop Garden bench, University of California San Francisco 4th Street plaza benches.

3. Time + Accrual

We are compelled to create places where flows and rhythms of use accrue with the passage of time—places that allow adaptability and change, flux and negotiation. It’s in these moments of both social and natural interactions that wear, and weathering occurs. The spaces and objects we make encourage people to sit, touch, walk, run, play, dance—to be in and with. They are also exposed to the elements. For this reason, we look for and work with materials that get better with age – that collect energy, are softened by use, that reveal time in an intentional way.

If I were solid and strong, would I even have heard the rhythm?Clarice Lispector

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Weathered wood, Meta Headquarters (MPK 22 Park) water feature.

4. Beauty + The Particulars

Encounters with beauty shake us awake and connect us with something greater, something outside of ourselves. It induces awe, makes us: stare, reach, replicate. And it’s inclusive in how it captures all of us with its spell. Within our work, it inspires us to innovate—and to be intentional in making room for beauty to exist.

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Barchan San Dunes, Meta Classic water feature and studies, Jae-hyo Lee

Beauty takes place in the particular, and if there are no particulars, the chances of seeing it go down…At the moment one comes into the presence of something beautiful, it greets you. It lifts away from the neutral background as though coming forward to welcome you – as though the object were designed to ‘fit’ your perception.Elaine Scarry

Case Study: The Palms

The Palms is a 300-unit condo complex with a lush interior courtyard designed to enhance views for residents living on all levels. The site is a unique challenge: the long and narrow courtyard is surrounded by five levels of housing, resulting in a canyon-like space, plus the garden is on-structure, meaning soil depths cannot be achieved without building up.

The design responds to this challenge, creating a multi-strata landscape that residents could enjoy at each level. Addressing this condition, dense planting and massive planter cones create a visual diorama for the lower residents, while glowing glass discs and palm trees create visual interest so that middle level residents can also enjoy the garden and benefit from increased privacy.

The planting design features adapted tropical planting, including succulents, palms, and ferns. This jungle planting is contrasted by the stark white of custom concrete planters and the pop of color from the glass to create an oasis, a place that has a separate identity from the world outside.