Outpost Office is a design practice based in Columbus, Ohio where principals and co-founders Ashley Bigham and Erik Herrmann teach at the Knowlton School at The Ohio State University. Outpost Office seeks new public audiences through experimental creative production ranging from the serious to the absurd, often simultaneously. Inventive applications of off-the-shelf tools and industrial-grade materials often characterize the practice's work. Their designs propose that architecture can be projective and impactful while at the same time inexpensive, temporal, and open-ended. Particular focuses of Outpost Office include experimental platforms for gathering and speculations in and about the American suburbs. Recent projects include Drawing Fields, a temporary performance space for the Ragdale Foundation; A Long House, a proposal for exurban collective housing; and residential projects for a few private clients. Outpost Office has been named a Next Progressives by Architect Magazine and recognized with numerous design awards. Bigham and Herrmann’s work and writing has appeared in Log, Perspecta, Metropolis, MAS Context, Plat, Clog, and Avery Shorts, among others. The practice’s work has been nationally and internationally exhibited at venues including the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Tallinn Architecture Biennale, Roca London Gallery, Yale School of Architecture, Princeton School of Architecture, Harvard GSD, and The Cooper Union. Co-directors Ashley Bigham and Erik Herrmann each hold a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Architecture from Yale University. Ashley is a Fulbright Fellow and a MacDowell Fellow. Erik is a German Chancellor Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and a MacDowell Fellow. The work of Outpost Office has received support from several cultural institutions including The Ragdale Foundation, The Cranbrook Art Museum, and the US State Department.
Cover the Grid is a series of architectural-scale urban land paintings produced with GPS-guided robots in the neighborhoods of North Lawndale and Pilsen. The typical application for these semi-autonomous robots is the painting of sports fields. Cover the Grid uses this temporary space-making technique to prototype and envision futures for underutilized and underserved locations on Chicago’s West Side. Each urban painting engages civic boundaries, public rights-of-way, the Chicago grid, and existing neighborhood infrastructure. Cover the Grid produces a dynamic, temporary civic space with no associated material waste or demolition costs. The project is expansive, not expensive. Cover the Grid’s semi-autonomous robots ensure the project eschews the waste consequences often associated with temporary architecture. It is a temporal installation that disappears with only sun, wind, and rain.
Cover the Grid transforms vacant territory into landscapes for civic gathering through the modest act of painting; this installation activates civic space by superimposing new programs, remapping existing urban boundaries, or re-parceling existing lots to reveal the potential of existing parcels in TheAvailable City. The project embraces the improvisational approach encouraged by TheAvailable City, with complementary concepts that respond to the distinct and dynamic contexts of Pilsen and North Lawndale. In North Lawndale, the project focuses on essential community assets such as the WACA basketball court and adjacent Pink Line station. In Pilsen, the project expands the footprint of El Paseo community garden, prompting visitors to speculate on future uses for this growing community asset.
Cover the Grid is the latest in a series of installations for civic gathering by Outpost Office that explore how architecture might be simultaneously impactful and inexpensive, temporal, and open-ended.