Actual-Size Architecture, a San Francisco bay area residential design
WPA Receptionist’s Desk
The Washington Project for the Arts is a gallery and center for Washington D.C. area artists. While at its 7th Street location, it was home to permanent installations by Mowry Baden, Vito Acconci and David Ireland. This entrance desk for a receptionist was commissioned at that time.

The galleries at 7th Street were high, open spaces with exposed mechanical systems in the ceiling. All was painted a uniform white. The desk, placed near the front doors, was positioned so as to delineate the entrance area from the body of the gallery. The end facing the gallery was severed at an angle directed toward the bookstore stairs. Ductwork and pipe suspended overhead emphasized the newly defined spaces.


The functions of the desk itself were designed around the gallery attendant’s activity. The desk displayed fliers and catalogs, and houses papers, messages, a telephone, typewriter, and the mail. Two surface levels were employed, one for writing, the other for typing.

Using elements from the gallery ceiling’s exposed mechanical systems both provided context for the desk and suppressed the piece in relation to exhibits. The gallery’s oak flooring was picked up for the desk surfaces, while ductwork created cubbyholes and mailboxes, and drain pipe displayed schedules and pamphlets. The assembly was unified by an ostensible section of wall.


Built by Geoffrey Gainer and Kurt Kiefer