A wonderful day spent with Joel and Kate of EKE and HumanKind discussing all things great. A short preview of their part in a documentarty we are working on. The good life is very possible in Philadelphia.
Perched behind and on top of a mid-19th century solid construction that had been the storefront and shop of a silversmith for its most recent life, Joel and Kate have built and adapted the living quarters above, and the spacious 3 story shop/studio/ warehouse behind, into a powerful example of a place to conduct work and life that blends, overlaps, and compliments. They have plans for the street-facing storefront too. As well as the adjoining lot that expands into am amazing hidden green space off of Germantown Ave. The first, a showroom/collaborative design space that can showcase work to Germantown Ave. The second, a semi-public, and collaboratively produced sculpture garden. They have plans for everything.
And this is the very feeling you get when eating an amazing multi-course brunch with the them that they cobbled together from the local Weavers Way co-op. They have plans on how to directly make their life their own, and it is something to see.
Every part of their home and workshop/ studio has the feeling of having been deliberated over and acted upon. The parts that are in process or that are left in states of disarray, have the feeling of inevitability applied to them via their surrounding and wonderfully thought out spaces. It isn't a place for anyone that does not want to live and work in a space in process though. It looks as if it will always have parts in motion.
We filmed Joel and Kate for most of the day and managed to make it through our interview questions despite the many enjoyable diversions.. The questions were largely talked through prematurely due to our already established conversation. Some of the more critical points that continued to come up were in relation to their rather hard to define practice, and related to a statement from Joel that seemed to deal with such complexity- "There are always two truths to any one question." This is paraphrased, and to be fair, Joel said this was specifically the way that he and Kate approached things. I'm not sure if he is concerned about the scientific validity of the statement.. Only its relevance to the life they are living.
They come from different backgrounds. Joel, studied cultural anthropology outside of the States which later helped format his specific approach to design and fabrication. Kate received her MFA here in Philadelphia at UPenn. The two convergent directions has produced and interesting alchemy of sorts. Something along the lines of what you see when looking around their multi-use space. They work as both fabricators, producing products and work based on their expertise in concrete, metal, wood, and polymers. They also are established artists, having completed many public art works over the last 5 years since meeting, that both compliment and contrast their work. One of these public art works can be seen at the Temple University School of Medicine here in Philadelphia. It is a compilation of 55 suspended examples of the wonderful microscopic world that might inspire the medical students that walk underneath them in the large volume of the main public hall. The overall exhibit is 120' x 30' x 30'.
But I would have to say that there home is their greatest accomplishment to date. It seems to represent much of their collected thinking about their belief in the way one should pilot ones life. If it were a ship, it would be a very well designed one. A very sea worthy vessel. But not a new one. One that was assmebled from various, curious, well wrought components. They have cut into the roof of the shop/ studio portion of their world to provide a more inspiring work space based on their direct observations of other historic creative spaces they have visited and worked in. By creating a large (approximately 12' x 24') skylight, they have allowed natural lighting to reach through both floors, saturating the entire space in wonderful reflected light. It makes one question why we ever went in the direction of closed artificially lit workspaces during the day.. On top of this space is something even more surprising. Reached through an unpredictable door in the back of the master bathroom (a story in itself), is the rooftop that is the home of a luscious green roof and a very content beehive.
I want to say more about Joel and Kate, and their space.. but will leave it to them when they talk about there practice and intentions in the documentary we are assembling, bit by bit, with these wonderfully productive folk that make Philadelphia such an incredible place.