in the news (137)

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june 2016 | by cory schott

Sea Reach is developing designs for two visitor centers in Texas. Since both of these projects involve the interpretation of the region when it was a colony of Spain, I was tasked with bringing everyone up to speed on the colonial history of Texas. I graduated in colonial Mexican (and Texas) studies, so this was right up my alley.

Because I work with a visual people, I crafted a presentation that focused heavily on a few key narratives and dazzled them with imagery and textures. Broad swaths of political history were eschewed in favor of illustrative examples. Colorful period maps, carved stone facades, iron implements, and fanciful details from colonial documents let the flavor of the period sink in.

In the end, two concepts seemed particularly important for our purposes. The first is that Texas truly was on the edge of Spain’s empire—just barely connected to the administrative centers in Spain and Mexico City. This sometimes allowed for more fluidity in frontier society. The other is the role of the environment played in the placement of towns, presidios, and missions. In this arid part of the world, development and travel needed to be carefully considered.

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june 2016 | by linda repplinger

I just returned from attending a workshop at the National Park Service headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for three national firms (of which Sea Reach is one) that recently earned an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract to create wayside exhibits in national parks and historic sites.

The trip was abundant with charming experiences. The narrow roads of Harpers Ferry wind down steep hillsides and are closely lined with tall rustic buildings, dating back to the early 1800s. We stayed in an old stone inn, tucked into a nook in the valley’s rocky edge. The next day started with a walk up the Appalachian Trail to Jefferson’s Rock to watch the sun rise over the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers—the scent of damp stone and honeysuckle vines mingled with the call of cardinals. As the sun rose, it highlighted individual trees along the dark sides of the valley. Thomas Jefferson wrote of this view:

"The passage of the Patowmac [Potomac] through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature. You stand on a very high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Potomac [Potomac] in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder and pass off to the sea.… This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic."

Jefferson’s rock was smattered with the names of many others who also felt compelled to commemorate their presence here.

With a nod to the design department at Harpers Ferry, who emphasized honing the interpretation of waysides down to the simplicity, intensity, and direct expression of a subject, I sum up this experience with a haiku.

confluence of time
many feet have traveled through
some have just begun

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june 2016 | by melissa boettcher

We just finished a whirlwind installation trip on the McKinley Chalets Denali campus for a new construction site. Our first stop was to pick up our installation vehicle for the week. As the towering truck pulled up next to us, I gazed up at it and wondered how the heck I was supposed to get into that back seat! A running leap was out of the question. After a few tries, I managed to scramble up. Two hours later we arrived at our final destination, Denali. I leaped out of the truck (literally) and we unpacked the crate to get to work.
We started by setting up an assembly shop in the lobby of the building where we were being housed. From the heights of the towering truck, we now got low: crawling around the floor to prep signs going out on site: new room signs, directionals, identifiers, tenant markers, and more.

Next, we found ourselves back up high. Peter and Chino had to stretch to reach to the bolts to tighten down the fancy new ADA compliant ID signs. We had to build scaffolding to reach 12 ft. above the kitchen in Karstens Restaurant, were we were painting a stencil. Leia and Susan scaled the bars along the side to work on the massive stencil.

Up and down, high and low… we installed four interpretive signs about Denali and its history on the deck rails surrounding the Square, hauled hefty concrete bases for new directionals, then rolled out the double-sided bulletin cases for menus and threaded some banners on the lower rail to polish them up. We also patched up and updated a few signs for the Princess Wilderness Lodge.

In the end we were successful installing all the signs needed to tie together the new chic shopping, dining, and entertainment center for McKinley Chalets… and I was sore from having to climb in and out of that truck!

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may 2016 | by linda repplinger

Signage in general seems to be getting bigger, brighter, and flashier. Instead, let’s create intimate exhibits and hide them in the landscape — beckoning visitors to discover them.

This is the concept behind the exhibits along the Auke Lake Trail in Juneau, Alaska—a trail loved by locals and occasionally discovered by a few of the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Juneau each summer.

The exhibits range in size from 7" to 16". They’re camouflaged, taking their shapes from objects around them, such as skunk cabbage leaves, a section of Sitka spruce bark, and a local fungus called bear’s bread. Grouped by topic in sets of two, three, or four, they may take you off the path into the forest, or along a floating boardwalk, or beside a stream.

One exhibit in each set contains an open-ended question and a QR code that links to the City’s website with further information and suggested activities. By using the QR code, you may see an eagle fly in slow motion, or a squirrel demolish a pinecone in less than 5 seconds. Each exhibit set also has a copper relief illustration (a dragonfly, a squirrel, a mushroom) so children (and adults) can collect rubbings as a memento of their visit.

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may 2016 | by peter reedijk

A reasonably simple challenge: fabricate a fifty-foot outdoor semi-circular mural that can withstand intense sunlight and extreme temperatures, mount it on a cinderblock wall that may not actually be a perfect half circle, and incorporate an easy mechanism for replacing sections of the mural in the future. No problem!

The resulting mural is fabricated out of high-pressure laminate panels—as large as we could possibly make them. The structure is one continuous aluminum frame. Due to the size of the structure, and the expansion and contraction of materials, particularly aluminum over this length, we designed the mural in a series of overlapping or "shingled" panels. This allows the mural to grow and shrink in the changing temperatures and provides the client an inexpensive solution to replace parts in the future.

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may 2016 | by susan jurasz

I admit, I am a little nervous. We have an eight-foot by six-foot sign to hand-paint on custom tongue and groove barn wood, twelve feet above the floor in a brand new fancy restaurant. Holland America Princess (the cruise line) just added new visitor amenities to their McKinley Chalets campus. Sea Reach did all the planning, design, fabrication, and installation of the signage required to open the new facility: code signs, building identities, pedestrian directionals, maps, regulatory and warning signs, and interpretive exhibits all had to be designed and installed by May 14th…

…including this new restaurant sign. The intent is to make the sign look as though it has weathered in place, but that rough look takes lots of care; there can be no mistakes! We borrow scaffolding from the general contractor on site, and two of us start work first thing in the morning. It takes nearly two hours to get the stencil level and centered on the wall. From there, it’s a slow sponge painting process—the paint has to be just thick enough so that it will not bleed under the stencil. Bit by bit, the sign begins to reveal itself. The final result: just what the client wanted. Whew!

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april 2016 | by susan jurasz

If you were privileged to go on grade school field trips, then you may empathize with me when I say that field trips were momentous events in my childhood. A field trip was the first time I held a boy’s hand (in the back of the bus) and a field trip was where I learned that the money you put into the bank is not exactly the same money they give back to you. The first time I ever thought about electricity was on a field trip to a hydropower station. I still hear the deafening sound of the water surging through the turbines and feel the fine mist as water was pulverized.

Today, we are designing experiences for school kids to learn, via hands-on experiments, about the tremendous technological leaps of the industrial age. At the Lowell National Historic site, miles of brick buildings once comprised a massive industrial cotton mill complex. In the late 1800s, water was channeled to run huge turbines beneath each building. The turbines turned a complex system of pulleys (three to four stories high). The rotational movement of the pulleys was transformed into up and down movements using pistons and cams. All this energy, starting with the movement of water, was used to transform tufts of cotton into fine linen.

I was astounded at how much I learned as we worked with the University of Massachusetts and the National Park Service to design exhibits that allow students to experientially learn about the innovations of the industrial age.

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april 2016 | by peter reedijk

I remember the distinct "aha moment" when I found out that the Milky Way was the spiral arm of our galaxy. And growing up in Southeast Alaska, away from city lights, I got to see the milky way regularly. In college, I was struck again, when my astronomy professor said that there are millions of solar systems — in our galaxy and beyond. Recently, I saw a Omimax presentation about the Hubble Space Telescope, where we are now photographing other galaxies and naming them.

Why all this star talk? We just finished installing a mural of the night sky in the Great Basin National Park Visitor Center. The park was designated to protect and celebrate the Great Basin — one of the largest land-bound watersheds in the world. The Great Basin drains 200,000 square miles into lakes, not into an ocean (that’s why the Great Salt Lake is so salty!) Great Basin National Park also includes one of the largest stands of bristlecone pines (the oldest living things on earth) and the Lehman caves. Today, there is also the recognition that this area is great for star gazing. Miles of flat scrublands, relatively low mountains, and no city lights — here, you can still see the Milky Way on a nightly basis.

The mural surrounds the theater room. When you sit down, you are surrounded by the night sky in a rich indigo blue. Along the bottom perimeter, if you look closely, you can see desert inhabitants amount the sagebrush: a coyote, cougar, hare, deer, and bats. You are in good company.

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march 2016 | by peter reedijk

Saddle shoes, poodle dresses, elvis presley, mariyln monroe, polka dots, leave-to-beaver, and drive-in theaters are just a few of the things conjured up when we remember the 1950s. Today, entire neighborhoods built a half-a-century ago are being recognized for their iconic architecture. We were recently approached by a neighborhood group in Portland, Oregon wanting to celebrate their roots in the swinging age of rock and roll to design some public benches. As the design process began, requirements started to pile up, and the opportunity presented an interesting set of challenges. Not only does the design need to reflect the " Jet-Age," we also need to be mindful of ADA requirements, sustainability, longevity, vandalism, maintenance, cost efficiency, and we need to accommodate several different configurations depending on the public space . . . No problem!

We started with a wide range of choices to quickly render it down to a basic design form we could all agree upon. After we agreed on the look and feel, we chose the materials and fabrication methods. The system uses two vertical stainless steel circles as the stabilizer of the bench and a 2" thick beautiful alaskan yellow cedar horizontal platform that would give us the ability to "stretch" the bench from it’s basic 6 foot long, to an infinite number of connected seats. The system can be used as a standalone bench with or without backrest, or a variety of connected modules depending the needs of the environment.

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march 2016 | by peter reedijk

It was not our intention to build exhibits engineered to stop a speeding car from a 150-foot-plunge into the Willamette River, and yet, that is precisely what we were asked to do… so our drawings were judged not on the basis of aesthetics alone, but also from a highway safety standpoint.

Exhibits were fabricated with 1" thick steel plate attachments and then galvanized and powder coated. Massive carriage bolts anchor the exhibit structures to the bridge in the gaps left in the railings for this purpose. The stories memorialize the old bridge, the challenges in building the new bridge, the history of the surrounding communities and life along the river. There are twelve exhibits total spaced along the bridge and the adjacent park & cemetery.

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