San Jose Museum of Art — San Jose, CA

2,000 sq. ft. / Art Gallery & Café

Our winning design project for SJMA’s first invitational competition, inspired by the forthcoming exhibition Hidden Heroes: The Genius of Everyday Things, is a celebration of the common paper clip. The museum invited area design and architectural firms to submit proposals for a pop-up installation in the museum’s café, with the challenge to use everyday objects in unexpected ways. The jury selected our proposal from seven submitted designs.

The pop-up installation presents an enormous photomontage of the silhouette of the classic paper clip. The image is embedded with photographs that depict the ways in which artists and hobbyists have creatively modified—or artistically coopted—the humble, common paper clip. A glistening curtain made of paper clips hangs from the ceiling and drapes over the wall. 


This project is about the beauty of simple brilliance—and the vibrant intersection of art, design, engineering, and everyday life. We embraced the intention of the project brief and also addressed the public flow and scale of the café space in an intriguing and unexpected way. In the process, the team created a delightful experience for visitors to the museum and diners in the café.