Meet Christopher Henderson

—An interview with Epicenter Principal Jack Forinash and incoming Epicenter designer Christopher Henderson.

ch_city_countyChristopher Henderson in front of the City/County Building in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Incoming Epicenter designer Christopher Henderson is a design/builder currently practicing in Salt Lake City, Utah. His practice REXX is a multi-disciplinary creative, design, and build studio. Christopher received his BFA in Industrial Design (Product Design Emphasis) from Brigham Young University in 2006. Since then he’s designed and built furniture, craft supplies, tools, and storage in Salt Lake City (UT), Centerville (UT), and San Francisco (CA). Before founding REXX, he most recently was an exhibit designer at The Leonardo, a science, technology, and art museum in Salt Lake City.

“The Epicenter is an intriguing idea. It can’t be easy. It couldn’t have seemed easy before you took it on. You all have tried something hard, and despite the difficulty—or perhaps because it was/is difficult—made something remarkable.

The spirit of this place is that we do hard things. We do them because they are hard. It’s built into our DNA through mineral miner grit and socialistic pioneer cooperation. It’s the spirit that saw a desert and made it a community. It’s a particular and peculiar West, and I love it.

I feel like what little aesthetic and cultural identity we have left is slipping away, replaced by suburban sprawl, corporate uniformity, and rote reproduction of design ideas from larger coastal cities. I want to explore our aesthetic, our culture, our community. I feel like The Epicenter shares that point of view.” –excerpt from a letter from Christopher to Epicenter.

Jack Forinash: What are you currently working on?Christopher Henderson: I’m working on an installation for a library that is meant to mimic organic cloud formations, but is constructed from a system of tessellated polyhedra. Once I found the shapes I liked, the challenge was in figuring out how to produce hundreds of them quickly, cheaply, and consistently. I developed and refined a tabbing system such that the pieces could be die-cut and scored and then simply folded together quickly without glue or tape. I’m using a plastic coated card-stock that is rigid, but still light and cheap enough to allow for maximum flexibility in the final assembly. So yeah… nerd alert.

J: You’re a Libra. Do you invest any credit into the typical attributes of a Libra?
C: I am almost completely unaware of what the typical attributes of a Libra are meant to be, so yes, unequivocally.

J: Your Myers-Briggs personality type is INTP, what attributes seems accurate or inaccurate to you?
C: Wow. Pretty accurate all around. Accurate: “They seek patterns and logical explanations for anything that interests them.” —Totally. “They love new ideas, and become very excited over abstractions and theories. They love to discuss these concepts with others.”—So fun! Relatively inaccurate: “They may seem “dreamy” and distant to others”— No one I don’t think has ever described me as “dreamy.”

J: What would be your superpower?
C: First I thought invisibility, because I could walk around naked. But then I decided on flight, because I could fly around naked.

J: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life, and why?
C: Hmm.. maybe Dr. Strangelove. It’s a perfect blend of silliness and doom. I saw it first when maybe I was too young to fully grasp the satire, but it certainly tinted my world view.

J: What were you for the last Halloween?
C: Last Halloween I was grinding out a deadline and only had energy and time enough to throw on a Misfits t-shirt and paint black around my eyes. I know, weak.

J: What’s your favorite card or board game, and why?
C: Chess. I’m not great at it, but it’s an endlessly challenging and nuanced game. Plus, nowadays you can play online against other lonely nerds from all over the world!

J: Who are you named after? If not anyone in particular, why did you parents chose this specific name?
C: You know, I never asked… or maybe I did and there just wasn’t an interesting answer. I do know I was meant to be named Christian, but my parent’s best friends had a boy a few weeks before me and stole it. “Christopher” I guess was close enough?

J: Do you have any siblings? If so, where are you in birth order?
C: I have 5 siblings, 6 of us total kids. I’m number 5 in line. Second youngest.

J: What about the natural landscape around Green River excites you most?
C: All of it really. I’ve been a city boy for a long long time. Excited to get back out in the elements.

J: How does working with Epicenter fit into your big picture?
C: I’m very interested in the prospect of practicing design in a rural setting. It’s something I’ve thought about for quite a while. Aside from that, working with as dedicated and talented a group as the Epicenter is a great opportunity to learn and grow professionally.

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
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Meet Ryan Baxter

—an interview with Epicenter Principal Jack Forinash and incoming summer intern Ryan Baxter

Baxter_RyanPhoto: Ryan Baxter at Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite.

This May, Ryan Baxter will finish his final year of the five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture program at the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, and then he’ll join Epicenter for the summer! Although he thinks he could live and work anywhere, he only see himself staying somewhere where he “can daydream effortlessly and where inspiration is as expansive as the skies.” Sounds like he was made for Green River, right? We think so.

“I haven’t made the same career plans that many of friends have made. In fact, I’m not sure where I’ll be in five years. I do, however, know that I will be working at a firm where I am engaged in every part of the design process. I have a never-ending interest in the field of making things and in the people who have the same desire to make our daily life a little better for all peoples.” –excerpt from a letter from Ryan to Epicenter.

Jack Forinash: Let’s start with your name. Who are you named after? If not anyone in particular, why did your parents chose this specific name?
Ryan Baxter: My mom says that my name was given to me because my dad insisted. My dad has no memory of this. My best guess is that it has something to do with the names of my brother and sister: all of our names start with an “R.”

J: How does this internship fit into your big picture/career/life?
R: This internship fits my belief that architecture (and all fields of design) are of public domain. The ideas that can give people a better life and enhance their experience of built and non-built environments should be available to everyone. Good design doesn’t need a large pocketbook when designers make good decisions based on intuition and understanding.

J: What about the natural landscape around Green River excites you most?
R: The skyscraper-lined street canyons of Manhattan and Chicago have nothing on their analogue. The way the sun bounces across the rippling rock walls and disappears to an early sunset, giving the twilight another hour or more to the canyon’s inhabitants is remarkable. I grew up hiking in Arizona’s canyons and it is clear to me that Green River has no lack of this fantastic beauty.

J: What would be (or what is) your superpower?
R: Flying and teleportation have their advantages sure, but the superpower that I have wanted for quite some time is the ability to instantly understand and speak any language (see Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “Babel Fish”). This power would not only be the ability to comprehend but to be essentially native, with all knowledge of idioms and dialects for the complete grasp of cultures, people, art, and love.

J: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life, and why?
R: It’s difficult to parcel out my library into only a few books that have inspired me the most; however, Ray Bradbury must be the author to whose stories my mind returns the most. His evocative landscapes, sculpted with a flowing poetic prose, may be the settings for his wonderful stories, but for me they are free-standing environments where things lay halfway in shadow and halfway in light.

J: What were you for the last Halloween?
R: My girlfriend and I went as Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s Duck and Decorated Shed (I was the shed).

J: What’s your favorite card or board game, and why?
R: My favorite board game would have to be Cranium; just as you get bored of Charades or Pictionary, you get to do a word puzzle or play with some clay.

J: You’re a Taurus. Do you invest any credit into the typical attributes of a Taurus?
R: I am a Taurus, but to be honest I never knew more than that until now. I suppose that I do exhibit some of the attributes assigned to the typical Taurus. I am loyal and dependable and I don’t mind taking the long way around if I think it’s the right way to do it. Though I normally wouldn’t associate myself with a bull. Really, if I were an animal, I’d be a wolf: independent and fiercely loyal to his pack. In this way, the description of the Taurus and the Wolf fit quite well together.

J: What are most looking forward to in your work with Epicenter?
R: I can’t wait to work with the people of Green River to develop a plan for downtown revitalization. I know that everyone will be bring a lot of energy and ideas to the table and I’m excited to be a part of the team that helps Green River plan its future.

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
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Meet JD Scott

—an interview with Epicenter Principal Jack Forinash and incoming Epicenter Housing Specialist JD Scott

JD-scottPhoto: JD Scott assembling a conference table.

JD Scott is a public interest designer currently residing in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he is nearing completion of his Master of Architecture degree from Tulane University. JD and Epicenter are a match made in heaven: in addition to his design-build experience, he is a Bike & Build alumnus and was a site supervisor for a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Colorado! We’re ecstatic to add him to the Epicenter team in May.

“Making is my obsession. This is evinced by my independent work in the visual arts. I am constantly searching for new media, new tools, and obstacles to challenge my hands. What began with the simple pleasures of charcoal on paper has recently shifted into collage, furniture design, and printmaking. Far more satisfying, however, are opportunities to make with others. This past fall, I had the opportunity to participate in a design-build studio at the Tulane City Center. My teammates and I designed and fabricated a mobile produce market for a local non-profit dedicated to food justice. I found this environment — characterized by collaboration and improvisation — to be a limitless source of inspiration.” –excerpt from a letter from JD to Epicenter.

Jack Forinash: Let’s start with your name. Who are you named after?
JD Scott: I’m named after my grandfather, John David Scott.

J: You’re a Pisces. Do you invest any credit into the typical attributes of a Pisces?
JD: I’ve never been interested in astrology, but I do think qualities like compassion, adaptability, and devotion are important to me. Qualities like laziness or escapism have never really applied to the way I live.

J: How does this internship fit into your big picture/career/life?
JD: I see this position as an opportunity to learn from a model of practice that is interdisciplinary, highly collaborative, and rooted in a specific community. These are values that I can apply to my career goal, which is to establish a community-based design practice in my hometown of El Paso, Texas.

J: As an El Pasoan at heart, what of El Paso’s history, demographics, and/or prestige do you find to be the biggest draw for you to one day come back to?
JD: I don’t know where to begin. It could just be the smell of the creosote bushes in the desert when a thunderstorm approaches. It could be the huevos rancheros at H&H Carwash, the machaca burritos at Lucy’s Cafe, or the horchata that old ladies serve on the streets downtown in the summer. It could be the trails in the Franklin Mountains that I have explored since I was a kid.

As a designer, the place interests me for many reasons. It sits next to Ciudad Juarez, which in my teenage years was one of the most violent cities in the world. So perhaps design can facilitate healing there. Texas Tech University recently opened a school of architecture in downtown El Paso, so that represents an opportunity for me to teach one day. The city (like most places in the southwest) suffers tremendously from sprawl, yet it has many opportunities to create pedestrian and bicycle corridors. El Paso has a thriving music and arts scene, yet few venues actively promote these sectors; so perhaps design could help to create a thoughtful backdrop for this culture.

J: Name the character you would be for a day in a TV show you’re currently watching, and describe why you would take on that persona.
JD: I don’t watch TV currently, but when I used to watch TV, one of my favorite shows was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. I would take on his persona for obvious reasons – he constantly gets to experience new cultures and meet new people. Beyond this, I really appreciate his work – a mix of film, writing, food, and relationships. Bourdain represents someone who uses his training and knowledge base (cooking/writing) in a very public setting; this is how I’d like to practice.

J: What’s your favorite card or board game, and why?
JD: Liverpool is my favorite card game. It is slow-paced and social; you can easily eat and drink while playing (the game takes a long time to finish, so this is crucial).

J: What book, movie, or person is significant to your work/process/life, and why?
JD: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’ve read it twice now, and each time it has prompted me to reflect on my life and to critically evaluate the work that I do. As a designer, I can get caught up in the details or in the simple joy of making things. This book is a reminder to constantly be mindful of broader social issues.

J: What about the natural landscape around Green River excites you most?
JD: Canyons and dark night skies.

J: What are most looking forward to in your work with Epicenter?
JD: I’m looking forward to a lot of things. I’m excited about the hands-on problem-solving offered by the Fix it First program. I’m excited to engage with local residents and to work on projects that can directly improve their daily lives. The opportunity to be involved with other Epicenter programs and projects is exciting to me as well. I’m looking forward to meeting new collaborators and to learning from their skillsets.

J: What would be your superpower?
JD: The power to breathe underwater.

Monday, April 4th, 2016
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