Brilliant Simplicity: Fresh Inspiration for Architecture and Design

Last week, we had the honor of hosting Metropolis magazine editor Susan Szenasy for Brilliant Simplicity, a film based on the work of winners and runners-up in Metropolis’s Next Generation Design Competition. The contest asks designers, ten years or less in practice, for workable ideas that will make our world sustainable, accessible, technologically-savvy, and historically relevant.

A few of the innovate ideas in the film, include:

  • The creation of an entirely new building material/method inspired by the structure of spider webs and super-lightweight airplanes using software-directed robots.
  • An entirely new way of capturing the sun’s energy by analyzing space-age technologies and miniaturization and working with specialists as far afield as nanotechnology and psychology.
  • High-tech structures that collect and store precious rain water based on ancient building techniques observed in Yemen.
  • Poetic room dividers that show an understanding of the open spaces and delicate materiality of traditional Japanese houses while it pushes paper technology to new levels of expression.

Brilliant Simplicity is about the happy outcomes of smart design decisions that can lead to seemingly simple solutions. And what did the designers at LPA think of the film, and the discussion afterward with Susan? See for yourself, in the video above and responses below.

“It’s always nice to get another point of view: from academia, from the ‘other coast,’ and from the research side of things. The true learning comes from the dialogue between the ideals and the practice. Without the dialogue, there are only echoes.” – Jim Wirick, Principal, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

“Brilliant Simplicity shows us the visionary talent that will shape our world 70 years from now!” – Kim Coffeen, Senior Educational Facility Planner, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, CEFPI, REFP

“For me it was exciting to see a competition that is not limited to a single discipline. It’s refreshing to see one that merges out-of-the-box design ideas, grounded in a potentially feasible reality. They were not design-out-of-the-box for the sake of design-out-of-the-box. These things could actually happen.” – Ti Than, Project Designer, LEED AP BD+C

“As a firm that is deeply involved every day in very real and practical projects with deadlines, budgets, and building codes to meet, I think it’s fantastic that we take the time to invest in learning about what’s out there on the leading edge of design – particularly as it relates to sustainability and integrated design. Metropolis Magazine Tour Brilliant Simplicity at LPA Inc.Friday’s presentation was another example of LPA’s commitment to pushing ourselves forward, and not just resting in the complacency of doing what’s always been done because it works. We are always striving to do better.” – Melody Jiang, Project Coordinator, LEED AP BD+C

“The film centers on the power of lateral thinking to solve common problems in the realm of sustainability. Though different in nature (less abstract), most of the problems that we encounter in our integrated design practice today can be approached in a similar way. The underlying thinking pattern in the film clearly overlaps our own design philosophy: challenge convention, build smart and do more with less, some of the driving principles that we leverage to create complex projects at LPA.” – Franco Brown, Associate, LEED AP BD+C

“It was great to see the fresh ideas presented by the young designers. In school, we all had hundreds of ideas and were forever inspired. Then we graduated and started working in the real world. The film was a great reminder to continue discovering what inspires you, and to never stop having crazy ideas.” – Lindsey Engels, USGBC Orange County Executive Director, Architect, LEED AP BD+C

“Our business model can only be successful with a staff that is creatively motivated to stretch budgets and basically find ways to do more with less. We have to embrace that journey because it is our reality and films like Brilliant Simplicity are important because the problems and design solutions that each of these young professionals are dealing with can inspire and inform us individually and collectively.” – Dan Heinfeld, President, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C

“The film was a great reminder of being in college, learning about all the cutting-edge research going on. It’s always refreshing to take a step out of our typical boundaries and see what is going on in the world!” – Emily Koch, Interior Designer, CID, LEED AP ID+C

“Innovation, research, and development in other industries tends to come from the largest, most successful companies (e.g., Apple, Google, Toyota, Boeing). The building industry is dominated by relatively small design and construction companies producing unique projects for specific clients, which is not a great situation for R&D of new products and solutions. At LPA we work closely with our clients, with contractors, and with product vendors to come up innovative solutions to our clients’ problems – keeping in mind that our clients’ buildings are all prototypes and that design innovation must be in balance with smart, cost-effective, appropriate, and proven design solutions.” – Erik Ring, Associate, PE, LEED AP   

To learn more about Brilliant Simplicity, visit In photo, counterclockwise from top left: Jim Wirick, Kim Coffeen, Ti Than, Melody Jiang, Franco Brown, Lindsey Engels, Dan Heinfeld, Emily Koch, Erik Ring, and Metropolis magazine Editor in Chief, Susan Szenasy.