Design Vessel is a full-service design-and-build company, specializing in exterior landscapes, interior installations, one-of-a-kind furniture, and much more. Their concept-driven designs are utilitarian works of art, and this year’s Put A Bird In It birdhouses are no exception.
We recently sat down with co-owners/designers/builders Eric Delph and Mark Soasey to hear about their creations for the upcoming WeMake Celebrates event, and find out how the magic gets made.
How did Design Vessel get started?
We met in architecture school at Portland State—we both have degrees from there—and came out of school with the realization that architecture was very disconnected from the build world. We liked the hands-on aspect of that, so we developed a design/build company where we could incorporate design aspects into a built world, and not have a disconnect between the two. Not have it lost in translation.
A lot of times there’s this bad communication between the builders and the designers. I thought the only way to breach that was maybe to be a part of both. Everybody in theory wants the same product built, but they seem to argue as far as the practicality versus the theory and that sort of thing. So being able to control both is an amazing thing.
What first got your interested in architecture?
I had been working in a very technical field, and I had some experience in construction, but I’d always been interested in art. I decided to go to school at PSU and do graphic design—my mother is a graphic designer—but at orientation I learned a little bit about architecture, and thought you know what? I’m gonna go check that out today. It felt like it was a better mix of the technical side that I was used to and still provided some artistic accommodation to it.
My grandpa was a woodworker and my dad was in construction, and having some experience there, I felt there were a lot of things done in those fields that could be more functional. And so to me, architecture was one way to do that.
What about your background in art and design?
I went to the San Fransisco Art Institute for a year—I went to school for film—and it just exposed me to other genres of art that I could express myself in. I pursued other levels of art but was into construction too, and I thought architecture was amazing because it’s this great combination of the two. You can do design and you can get hands on, and it was just the perfect sort of scenario for me.
Kind of bringing the practical to the artistic?
And I think that’s kinda where we met in school. We both wanted to get back into the artistic nature of architecture. To make really functional and beautiful things at the same time.
Tell us about your birdhouse designs.
The approach we always take is sort of coming up with a theme, and working off of that to help inform the design. So this year our theme was evolve. How can things evolve and be this combination of man-made and nature working together?
You always see birdhouses in a house shape, but with this evolve theme, we’re thinking habitats evolve in seasons. So our concept here was to plant a vining plant that will encompass the house, and make it a livable space.
Right now it’s not a house that a bird would want to inhabit, because a bird wants to inhabit something that has to do with nature. If we build something man-made but add the nature to it—like the vine—it will grow around it and lose the shape that we’ve provided for it. Nature will kind of take over.
Yeah, so it evolves from nature.
A bird can always put a nest in any tree, so if were gonna intervene and make our own things, we wanna work with nature. I think that’s the way we were approaching it.
What about this second birdhouse?
So the concept on this one was to build something that can grow as the tree grows. It’s sort of adaptable to the size of the tree.
Oh wow! So these springs would stretch as the tree grows?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s not affecting the tree. It’s a different way of hanging it. It’s, again, working with the nature of the habitat for the bird.
How did this process relate to the process you go through with your clients?
Attention to detail. Longevity also. It’s creating something that’s gonna last. I think that’s where the evolved idea came from, is something that could continue to work and be added to.
I think with every project, not only for the client’s needs but for our needs as designers, we always try to push it a little, so it’s not as tedious. We try to do something a little bit different each time.
The challenge is fun that way. That’s what keeps it interesting.