Dwayne MacEwen seems to defy anyone’s classification: he is an awards-winning architect, an artist and a sculptor all in one. His abilities blend with each discipline, adding to each. Though he is well-educated in art and architecture, he received his early, visceral education from his father who owned a Canadian construction company. It was there he learned the balance of brick and mortar, piping and valve construction, all the while learning more by digging, building and doing.
His company, DMAC Architecture, is in Chicago, where two diverse approaches combine: architecture with artist. He sees forms and uses materials that others don’t, and creates living textured works in prescient detail. An exceptional example of how his senses combine is his work at The Concours Club, the Miami members-only motorsport facility that combines high-tech driving, and luxury amenities within a resort setting. After Dwayne designed many exteriors and entrance bollards. He wanted to do something else, and that he did.
We were gratified that we could speak with him about his business originality, education and projects.
JustLuxe: You are quoted “We design everything that matters: from the words – the brick, the mortar, the container; to the punctuations – the remarkable moments; to the swear words – the pieces that remind us of our humanity; to the spaces between the words that make an environment truly poignant.” Given this idea, that your designs clarify words, and words evolve into stories, which stories best define your architectural/artistic vision?
DMAC/The Concours Club
Dwayne: Many aspects of The Concours Club do this, and not by accident. From signage, which usually outlines the initial level of engagement, to entrance, the materials further engage the customer. But, I wanted to create something unique within the building of the Concours Club, but I couldn’t define it yet.
Then, one day, I was driving one of the race courses, and listened to the sound of the asphalt on the track. It was then I sensed a sculpture possibility– made from the soul sound of the track. For me, there was something magical about the sound, the speed, the control, and the absolute desire for the perfect lap. The interaction between the driver and the track seemed more like a dance than a battle, the pitch and cadence of each turn created a sense of place both imagined and real. It was the “imagined” that fascinated me – what does the sound of the track look like?
Shapes became an interpretation of what I was hearing – and imagining. Then, I took eleven pieces of wire -11 turns on the track – and started to shape the wire. The final scaled model was formed from one continuous loop of wire, shaped into this imagined track and then 3D scanned and digitally manipulated and smoothed to the perfect geometry for fabrication. The final sculpture imagines what the sound of the track looks like, driver and machine maneuvering in pursuit of a perfect lap. We called it 11 Turns.
JustLuxe: You have said that sometimes knowing that the best ideas come from looking at things sdrawkcab (backwards) Please give a few examples of this.
The Concours Club
Dwayne: There are many, but here are a few: Ol’ Glory, for example, is a wall made from dowels. Ol’ Glory is a reinterpretation of the Betsy Ross flag in the city where it was first created, Philadelphia. In addition, this installation also acts as an acoustical wall, lowering the reverberation in the lively marketplace of the Sugar House Casino.
Ol’Glory is composed of 4,550 dowels manually cut by the design team into 50 different lengths. The dowels were then dipped in a bucket of red, white or blue paint, and tumbled in a concrete mixer through a process that weathered them similar to the city’s streets. Each one of the 4550 dowels was manually installed one-by-one into a 20-foot tall wall made of roughly 300 bricks. From a distance the dowels look like an undulating Betsy Ross Flag. It is Installed in the Casino’s marketplace.
I also could mention the cut nail sculpture at Roka Akor, a robata/sushi restaurant, located in Chicago’s Rivers North, it is a rectangular screen of nails welded together in a delicate balance. We designed and directed a local artist (Yuval Awaze) in repurposing over twenty-thousand hand-cut nails salvaged from an old grain elevator (circa 1887) to form the elegant crosshatch, juxtaposing contemporary and rustic, past and present.
The backdrop of the lobby at Midtown Athletic Club is another. It is comprised of large blocks of Absolute Black Granite that come from the Telangana mountains of southern India. The rough texture and drill marks reveal the process of the original drilling into the mountain to split the stone. These end blocks are usually discarded, but we chose to use the stone for the raw surface, rich with old drill marks, to preserve its natural, unprocessed aesthetic. In total, fourteen panels weighing 15 tons were carefully selected and planned from our design vision all of which bridged geographical boundaries, as well as India’s past forged into our present.
JustLuxe: There must be a time in your creative process where you must be able to listen to your client, yet diverge and add your own ideas. Is this a complex process?
Dwayne: As you listen, you must hear but not be a puppet. You must be aware of the departure point in the creative process, and have faith in your own abilities, juxtaposing your own expertise of materials on the ideas and strategies of the client.
Ol’ Glory/ DMAC
JustLuxe: At what point do you see the possibility of your visions of art and architecture blending?
Dwayne: It blends when something unique is created — there is a timelessness and a hopeful transcendence. Creating a sculpture from hearing sound, putting nails together to make a sheath, dowels to make a Betsy Ross Flag, ancient stone to create a backdrop wall, these transcend the original physical object to create something else, more memorable. In all, there is the emotional blend, where mechanics and aesthetics meet; where seeing things backward (sdrawkcab) allows the viewer to see things forward and in a new, clarifying way.
Roka Akor Nail Sheath Sculpture
Absolute Black Granite lobby backdrop at Midtown Athletic Club