I had lunch over the holiday break with Nick Cooper — now leading Hanbury‘s Richmond office — and SMBW’s An Liu. With a modest grant from the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design, An created the piece of experiential art called “Helper.”

An’s proposal was to create a piece, designed on the basis of “found” or discarded materials. An came across 2,600 “spikes” — slivers of wood trimmed from slats for a parking garage screen-wall under construction in Richmond — otherwise destined for the dumpster.

An’s design — prickly, aggressive, and frenetic from the outside, like the quills of a porcupine, and composed, calming, and sort of settling from the inside — both employs and was inspired by the discarded materials that he came across.

An agile, nimble, and resourceful way to design.

Many thanks to An for his passion of bringing the experience of design to all in the community. “Helper” is on view in the Branch’s courtyard through Spring, 2022.

— Rob Reis, AIA

About the Author

Robert Reis is a design principal and design director at Hanbury, providing leadership for the firm in both projects and competitions. His award-winning designs throughout the United States and abroad include a wide range of project types in government, higher education, and corporate-commercial sectors