SACD Lectures

We Start with the Things We Find

Wednesday, March 20
5 - 7:30 p.m. EDT

University of Detroit Mercy, Loranger Architecture Building
4001 W. McNichols Rd
Detroit, Michigan 48221

Join University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture & Community Development and Cranbrook Art Museum for a screening of We Start With the Things We Find a film by Tom Piper featuring Ada Tolla and Guiseppe Lignano of LOT-EK, a New York City based architecture studio. Following the screening Tolla, Lignano and Piper with be joined in conversation by Kimberly Dokes of Dokes Design Architecture and Andrew Blauvelt, director of Cranbrook Art Museum. The conversation will be moderated by Tadd Heidgerken, associate professor of Architecture and Community Development at University of Detroit Mercy.

The design studio LOT-EK is a visionary practice at the intersection of art and architecture that specializes in upcycling, which is the art and science of repurposing, remaking, rethinking, reimagining and using old things in new ways. The shipping container is the thing that has captured their imagination for over a quarter-century: They have remade containers into homes, schools, galleries, libraries and more. With hundreds of millions of obsolete and unused containers around the world, this is a new and necessary architecture of the future, that repairs and regenerates the unnatural environment that we have inherited from the past.  

We Start with the Things We Find is a feature-length documentary of this vision, and of the soulful lifelong partnership of the people behind it — designers Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano.

The documentary shows us a way to be radically optimistic, creative and constructive during times that can feel the opposite of all that. Director Thomas Piper takes us from spark-filled workshops to a container ship sea voyage and explaining all the prosaic and poetic design thinking behind how LOT-EK brings the container to life. The film shows how all we have can become all we need, how resourceful subsistence can feel like beautiful abundance, and how to keep going when we now know there is no such thing as a fresh start. The film is a humanist essay not only about a new kind of design thinking, but about a new design for life. 

Piper is an award-winning filmmaker specialized in documenting contemporary artists and designers. He has directed, photographed and/or edited more than 25 films on painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, and writers. His most recent film, Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf, won the 2018 Polly Krakora Award for Artistry in Film from the DC Environmental Film Festival, and was in global theatrical release through the pandemic. 

LOT-EK are Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano. They have masters degrees in Architecture and Urban Design from the Universita’ di Napoli, Italy (1989). After graduating they completed post-graduate studies at Columbia University, New York (1990-1991) as visiting scholars. They founded LOT-EK in Naples, Italy, in 1993 and opened LOT-EK’s New York studio in 1995. They also teach at Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in New York, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture and Planning in Cambridge, Mass.

LOT-EK is an award-winning architectural design studio renowned in the architecture/design/art world for its sustainable and innovative approach to construction, materials and space through the upcycling of existing industrial objects and systems. Their work has been exhibited in major museums, including MoMA, the Whitney Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Guggenheim and the MAXXI.

Detroit Mercy SACD Lecture Series is presented by the support from our generous sponsors.