Stephen Varady
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chromatc

Founder
New York, New York
2011 - 2013

"chromatc is the photo booth reincarnate for the digital world. Smaller, faster, more beautiful and better connected, this unique product captures and shares moments like no other device on Earth."

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In collaboration with

Brett Renfer
Philip Kuperberg
Holger Sindbæk

 

As Paul Graham once wrote: 

"In particular, you don’t need a brilliant idea to start a startup around. The way a startup makes money is to offer people better technology than they have now. But what people have now is often so bad that it doesn’t take brilliance to do better."

Such is the case with the photobooth. We decided to tackle the problem because it a) occurred to us that the available solution was extremely outdated (this goes way beyond sentiment) and b) we actually had the skillsets to do something about it.

The first time I ever considered the idea was while waiting for my prints to develop from one of those nostalgic photobooths at the Ace Hotel in Portland. I paid $5 (or 2.5 tall boys of Rainier in beer currency) to wait 10 minutes for a print that I couldn’t share with anyone. The machine was also massive, presumably very expensive and required regular maintenance. Eventually, a still-wet series of black and white photos dropped out of the machine. I picked it up, Instagram-ed it, and left.

When I returned to New York, I dove into some research and tried to figure out what interesting things people were doing with photobooths those days. The results were bleak. I found tons of corporate event rental photobooth companies that were happy hawking half the space on their photos for advertisements. There were even more companies with crated, unattractive wedding photobooths that took boring photos. Eventually, I learned that the world’s preeminent photo kiosk company was about to release a brand new booth designed in collaboration with Philippe Starck. I presumed that, given their considerable resources and expertise, they would have cornered my fleeting market opportunity. But when the design was unveiled a few weeks later, I was utterly floored at how bad it was…even for Philippe Starck.

All of this conspired to convince me that it wouldn’t really be that hard for us to make the best photobooth in the world. So we did: chromatc Beta.

Select clients: bpmw Fashion Agency, New Museum: Ideas City, The Feast Conference, GACHOT, The Moon Group, Made in Lower East Side, Damsels in Design, The Liberty, Randolph Engineering, Bushwick Country Club, The R.E.A.D. Project

Federal Office Building

Thomas Phifer and Partners
New York, New York
Lead draftsman
2011 - 2013

I could tell you where this project is located, but then I'd have to kill you.

Thomas Phifer and Partners was tapped by a clandestine agency to design this complex in 2010, and I assumed the role of draftsman once granted security clearance in 2011. Over two subsequent iterations on the 200,000SF and $75,000,000 project, I grew into the role of lead draftsman and assumed the responsibility of facade development.

An awkward site coupled with domineering security requirements informed the massing of a nearly cubic office tower set atop an extremely long and low plinth. The plinth housed a parking garage along with some large, vaguely programmed spaces for undefined/unspeakable activities.

The entirety of the stark massing was veiled in a steel mesh shroud that coaxed the disparate forms into a singular visual language and kept curious eyes off interior activities. The lightness of the scrim lent a delicate appearance but was actually an extremely robust armor capable of withstanding a direct impact.

Even secret agents need light and air, so my main objective was to design the facade in such a way that afforded the right rooms the appropriate amount of daylight and views, all while maintaining the quiet and beautiful aesthetic of Thomas Phifer and Partners' work.

Ultimately, inspiration and solution was found in the subtlety of Hiroshi Sugimoto's ethereal Seascapes below.

Sugimoto 1

Sugimoto 2

Sugimoto 3

Bananas NYC

The Generalists
New York, New York
2011

Bananas are a tasty, nutritious, and highly portable snack. It’s no surprise that New Yorkers eat more bananas than any other fresh fruit, about 112 million pounds annually. But bananas are not native to the United States, or even North America. The delicate tropical fruit is shipped thousands of miles in refrigerated vessels to the fruit stand, generating millions of pounds of greenhouse gases in the process. ((( NYC is a proposed architectural solution to this problem, an ultra-dense vertical farm capable of producing over 5,000 tons of bananas annually, or about 10% of New York City’s demand.

New York City fruit consumption (in tons)

2 Carbon footprint of 1 ton of bananas (in pounds) 

3 ((( NYC bananas: “local” doesn’t have to mean “native” 

((( NYC is divided into five farm towers for optimum efficiency. One tower is harvested every 2 months, ensuring a constant supply of fresh bananas. 

The exhibition space unites the base of each tower along with the rest of the public program (cafe, classrooms lecture halls). 

6 The farm utilizes an aeroponic system to reduce water consumption, and curtail disease within the crop. 

7 By utilizing robotic harvesting, ((( NYC is able to eschew floorplates and becomes a continuous, hyper-dense, highly productive vertical farm. 

8 The service level (below the ground floor) houses the nurseries, laboratories, ripening room, central control room, and composting facility. 

The Bootstrap Union

University of Oregon
Portland, Oregon
2009 - 2010

The “Motor City” is dead. Bankruptcies in General Motors and Chrysler sent the metropolitan area’s economy into a nosedive and the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 30%. Ford Motor Company managed to keep its doors cracked without government aid, but not before massive layoffs and asset fire sales. The situation is dire and unprecedented: no other American city has seen both economic highs and lows like Detroit. Once referred to as “The Paris of the West,” the city has fallen from its industrial age glory because of shortsighted business practices by the auto companies that inspire its moniker. Despite hard times, Detroit is alive. It just needs a new nickname.

In order for the metropolis to thrive in the 21st century, Detroit must transition from an industrial economy to a more relevant service-based economy. The mission of The Bootstrap Union is to inspire and reinvent the city under a new production model: creativity. It is imperative to attract young and creative people to take up residence in the city, so user-centric marketing principles have been applied to the vision, programming and physical design of The Bootstrap Union. This results in an environment reflective of the desires and aspirations of its tenants. Enroute to its success, The Bootstrap Union must function as more than a building, becoming a vehicle for the provision of the American Dream and symbol of Detroit’s return to the world stage.

The Balloon Chair

Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts
Copenhagen, Denmark
2009

The Balloon Chair is crafted from a single piece of dry, rough sawn Danish Maple. Its surface is sanded to a silky white texture then treated simply and naturally with furniture soap. Over time, it will develop the rich golden patina of Nordic wood. The seat is formed by one continuous (30m) piece of 3mm thick marine-grade nylon. The cord ends are finished, or unfinished, in a manner that enables the seating surface to be re-tensioned as it sags over time. This one off piece was designed and hand built over the course of several weeks in Copenhagen.

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