Dash Marshall

Frequently Asked Questions (2011 Edition)

Do I need Dash?

Of course this answer will be biased, but let’s put it this way: the environments in which you live, work, shop, play, study, etc tend to be considerable assets and also places where you spend quite a bit of time. Shouldn’t they be perfect? We think they can be.

What do you do?

Primarily, Dash designs furniture, interiors, buildings, and outdoor spaces. Some of these are conceived from the start as projects that will grow from rough sketches through to complete plans and then to a finished structure. Dash likes those projects because it’s always nice to build things. We’re also happy to work with clients on much smaller collaborations, such as accompanying them to look at real estate or answer questions about the built environment with quick-fire advice.

We understand space and the way that space shapes and affects everyday life. We are interested in helping apply this knowledge to whatever challenges you face. Ultimately Dash believes that conversations about buildings and cities should involve a strong architectural voice and we’re interested in making this happen any way possible.

How do I apply for a job?

At this time all positions at Dash Marshall are filled. When openings do become available we will post to our Facebook page, so please like us if you want to hear about it first.

What’s your ideal project?

Currently Dash daydreams about designing:

  1. Inner-city school
  2. Small cabin at the end of a long road
  3. House for Charlie Kaufman
  4. Light rail system for any city in America
  5. Offices for lawyers or dentists
  6. Basement bar for homesick scoundrels

Why do your projects all look different?

One of the most significant decisions that an architect must make is to choose a style.

This decision says a lot to an architect’s client, and perhaps even more to their peers in the business. According to current tradition in high-concept, academically influential architecture the notion that one would ally themselves with a particular style is passé. Instead one should be detached from style. We embrace it. On questions of style we follow our clients interests when they have a strong opinions. And when they ask Dash for a nudge, we nudge them.

Style is as much about perception as it is intention. One who attempts to have no particular allegiance to this style or that is nevertheless liable to be perceived as favoring a certain aesthetic or look more than others. This perception is created by the audience, not the performer, as it were. Regardless of what a designer may strive for in the outwards presentation of their work, the true test is how that work is received and how it settles into the world.

The fact is that people usually have opinions about things, especially things as large and present in their everyday lives as buildings. Claiming to design “without any style” is at best shirking one’s obligation to the public, and at worst an act of ignorance. Dash doesn’t like to be ignorant.

When speaking of buildings, the vernacular language comes from an idea of historical phases such as Art Deco, Baroque, Classical, Postmodernist, etc. If there is a difficulty with discussing the style of architecture these days, it stems from the fact that the definition of styles have expanded beyond historical phases and are now just as likely to refer to geography (“this feels like the french countryside”), particular uses of buildings and their typical aesthetic (“loft look”), the nerdy fascinations of the designer (“it’s another CNC project”), or bits of media (“this belongs in a Kanye video”).

Most of these attributions are borrowed from Craigslist. In such cases the boundaries of the style are left vague without the benefit of concerted academic effort to define what’s in and what’s out. Rather, these definitions are throw away; meant to imply a general direction more than specific, detailed rules; and constructed through repetition within a social circle or media bubble.

Dash likes this. We see style as a preference, not a holy war. And preferences change.

We see the rich variety of styles available to those of us living in the 21st century as the primary material used to craft an atmosphere. Designing for specific outcomes with these ephemeral qualities is as much the result of careful use, manipulation, even collage of styles as it is tinkering with the cliche cornerstones of architecture, light and form.

You might have noticed that in a number of the Dash Marshall projects there exists a narrative of time travel. This is a direct outcome of using history as a material. Not ironically abstracted wafts of history, but the dusty, lumpy, charming realities of things from other times and places.

Sometimes we borrow from history, on other occasions we look to the cracklings of today, and when left to our own devices we’re just as likely to look at the chubby trot of a dachshund for inspiration as we are the crystalline geometries of Sol LeWitt.

And when we do defer to the stylistic preferences of our clients, we relish the opportunity. Doing so requires us to look at our own bag of tricks in a new light, to look past looks and find deeper structures of meaning. Dash appreciates this challenge because we care more about what a building does than what it looks like.

We relish the feeling of vertigo one gets when looking over the too-short railings of the Guggenheim New York’s atrium. We cherish the feeling of terror that one gets from walking under a building that appears to float. We enjoy the sheer hugeness of doors on old churches and temples. These are examples of specific relationships between a building and an occupant. That’s the kind of thing Dash likes to explore. How do buildings create new opportunities for relationships between humans, robots, and other forms of life?

So in other words, we’re interested in how buildings foster new rituals of everyday life.

What about decoration?

Dash likes decoration, but probably not for the reasons you might suspect. We are interested in decoration because it’s almost functionless. Deciphering the limited functional role of a decorative element allows us to understand more of the depth of the culture that created it.

Perhaps you’ve seen the baseboard trim that runs along the bottom edge of many walls in a traditional home? This extra piece of material protects the wall at a point which is vulnerable to kicks and broomsticks. It also creates an important and useful bit of wiggle room during the construction process. Buildings things is hard and materials are often unwieldy, so small gaps and misalignments are inevitable. Every building is full of them but few people notice because they’re purposefully hidden behind decorative elements such as trim. This is just one of the stories that decorative elements tell. They’re nice little stories if you have the time to listen.

Wait, back up… robots?

Let’s make sure we’re on the same page here: Big dog, HFT, Siri, Roomba, Furby, and quadrocopter tennis. Robots live in our offices, our homes, and our pockets. You want to ignore them? The default state of our world is now computational. Ignore at your peril. We’re not sure how clients of mixed-humanity change the design task, but we’re keen to figure it out.

While sentient robots are still a ways off, architecture broadly has yet to embrace electricity beyond the levels of simple necessity for gadgets and gizmos (including lamps). In the 1969s the forefront of architecture was thinking about electronic vegetables and today we’re still barely able to tolerate an electronic facade.

Buildings are amongst humankind’s most complicated technologies and yet they remain relatively stupid. Put another way, it took until 2011 for an intelligent thermostat to be invented. Dash looks forward to someday designing the best Sandcrawler you’ve ever seen, but right now we’re more concerned with how buildings will pass through the uncanny valley of literal animation without the benefit of special effects. How can sensors, actuators, networks, and software change our buildings today?

Can you stop it with the references to Sandcrawlers and time travel and things?

OK, let’s talk about Downton Abbey instead. As you might have guessed from our interest in everyday rituals, Downtown Abbey is a confection we enjoy for its peek into the way others used to live (trying to avoid, as we are, the subject of time travel, the phrasing of the previous sentence is problematic because it calls out other Others: The ones in Lost. 4,8,15,16,23,42 was a ritual if we’ve ever seen one).

From Luncheons to valets, it’s hard to not imagine the spatial infrastructure that went into accomplishing such delicate ballets of performance and privacy. Forget paneling and trim and chintz. The complex, Tetris-like interlocking of spaces for servants and masters is far more interesting to Dash. Recently the current residents of Highclere Castle, the location where Downton Abbey is filmed, found a previously unknown staircase!

Are we really talking about this?

Yes! Absolutely we are. And if you were into classical music and exotic orchids we would be talking about that too. Our job is to understand the context that we work in and then reflect back into the world new ideas about how things might be different and better. To do this well, Dash has to be as engaged with the technical concerns of designing and delivering a building, as we are with the financial issues related to such a significant asset, as we are with the cultural envelope in which our work will exist. So yes, we’re talking about all of it. We take it as it comes.