Watercolors by Centerbrook Architects

By David Holahan

When Centerbrook Architects recently added biographies of every one of its employees to the firm’s website, partner Mark Simon was struck by how many of his 70-odd colleagues professed to be artists in their spare time – painters, daubers, pen and inkers, random sketchers, even sculptors like himself. Simon proceeded to invite the staff to contribute their watercolors to an office art show, sort of a Centerbrook Has Talent affair.

And contribute they did. Fifty works by 14 staff members are now hanging on the walls of the Drill Bit Gallery ¾ the firm’s office in Essex, Connecticut is in a repurposed 1893 factory building. The exhibition is open to the public free of charge from 10-5 on weekdays.

The inspiration for the works on display varied. They painted from life (i.e. eyes or iPhones) or from their imaginations. They depicted buildings they admired or had helped to design. Their subjects were located in disparate places, from Copenhagen and New Orleans to Cape Cod and the millpond behind the office. Their creations were quite recent, some inspired by Simon’s call for submissions, or from years or even decades ago: for school assignments, for relaxation, therapy, or the sheer joy of it.

“Watercolor is basic, inherently intermediate and emotional,” said Hyeon Ju Son. “That is why I like it.”

Anna Shakun said, “Watercolor painting, similar to a sketch or life itself, is done alla prima – at once, with no way to repeat, overwrite, or correct a mistake. It is as good as your attention at the moment, your ability to see and recognize important elements.”

“Water coloring is an imperfect art for an imperfect hand,” said Elizabeth Hedde. “As a discipline, it is a productive foil for the rigor of computer-aided drafting.”

Simon is contemplating future exhibits. “Architecture is part art and part science, of course.” said Simon, who contributed several pieces to the show. “But I was stunned by how important artistic expression was to so many people here, how in some cases it determined their career path and has informed their subsequent design work.”

The exhibiting artists are Dan Batt, Jim Coan, Bill Grover, Elizabeth Hedde, Justin Hedde, Hyeon Ju Son, Patrick McCauley, Matt Montana, Charles Mueller, Andrew Santaniello, Anna Shakun, Jennifer Shea, Mark Simon, and Laura Taglianetti.

To learn more about them, visit http://centerbrook.com/about/people

For a sneak preview of the exhibit, visit http://centerbrook.com/blog/2014/05/art-for-architects-sake/

[slideshow id=1213]