Lead Pencil Studio

During the months of February through April 2004, visitors to the art gallery Suyama Space in Seattle, Washington, were able to view the installation Linear Plenum. Exploring the spatial and architectural qualities of an industrial space, the exhibition featured 19,000 varied-length strands of thin nylon masonry line which filled almost the entire gallery interior while allowing people to easily pass through it. During the three-month show, the light that entered the space through the windows and skylights varied greatly and, repeat visitors discovered, dramatically altered the effect of the artwork. While this ephemeral work has ended, the labors of Lead Pencil Studio, its creators, have not.

Architects Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo, the founders of the firm, met while studying architecture at the University of Oregon and worked together at Seattle-based Miller/Hull. In 1997, the pair decided to form their own office and retained studio space so they could concurrently work on art projects. As a fledgling firm, they were fortunate to get local commercial work—which soon led to the design of offices in other parts of the country.

After five years, their architecture portfolio grew, as did the size of their art projects and installations. The need for more room led the couple to construct their own live-work space, the 4 Parts House. “We wanted to build a very simple space,” says Mihalyo. “Essentially, we wanted an open area that just happened to have people living there.” While the living, dining, and kitchen areas are contained in one volume, their studio is lofted above. Han adds, “The new studio allowed us to move from tabletop-size projects to more space-conscious and architecturally related projects.” The added studio space has become essential—Lead Pencil Studio was recently awarded with a Creative Capital grant in Visual Arts. Their proposed project, Maryhill Double, will be their largest installation to date. The increased space has not been the only advantage: The architects note that since its completion, the press that their residence has received has brought them more work, including the remodeling of a residential kitchen, as well as new residences in the Seattle area and one in Olympia, Washington.

Often asked where their path will ultimately lead them—toward architecture or art—the duo is emphatic that these fields need not be mutually exclusive. “We’re often told, ‘you can’t do both,’ but architecture and art are completely inseparable to us,” states Han. “It’s not even a conscious decision for us, it’s part of our routine.” In fact, part of this routine places the determined couple on photographic journeys around the Northwest and beyond. Mihalyo describes these ventures as “opportunities for research and a continual process of looking and observing.” When starting a new project, the visually oriented Han and Mihalyo often find themselves going through their archives of imagery. The architects have even parlayed some of their photography into themed books: One, Wood Burner, was published in 1997, and another, Foundations, is to be released later this year.

For more information:

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE