Designer (Builder) Profile: Dakota Witzenburg

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Looking for a builder who thinks out of the box? Well look no further Dakota Witzenburg's company called To Do Something (323 314 5342).

Originally from Iowa, and son of a builder, it was only natural for Dakota to follow in his father’s footsteps. Intrigued by each building challenge, Dakota finds pure satisfaction with each project and appreciates working in small spaces. If you are Looking for custom bookshelves, a secret bookcase or handcrafted chairs, Dakota will build it for you.

(Interview with Dakota below the fold)How did you come to be a craftsman/builder?

Building/making things has always been in my family. My father is a builder and he built the house I grew up in. I learned to use a hammer before I could speak and I think it sort of shapes the way I look at the world. In addition to experience from various related jobs and going to art school, I take time to observe and think about how things go together. For the most part, I learn the most by actually building something.

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What's your favorite material to work with and why?

Well, it changes as I learn about new and old materials. I like quality materials that are consistent and nice looking. I use a lot of plywood & salvaged woods. I want to start working more with green materials like wheat board. Materials are becoming more and more expensive, so I like to use efficiently. There are also several “faux” materials (brick, wood, tile) that I like to use in my art projects and for other experiments. Materials that have certain associations that affect how one relates to an object.

Which architects, past or present, do you most admire?

Samuel Mockbee is an architect I admire. He had a great philosophy on building and learning that I respect and understand. His rural studio program is a great thing for the community and teaches the students through experience how to build and for whom they are building. The way he used materials was also eco-friendly and great looking without being too hippy-dippy.

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If you could rebuild any space, past or present, what would it be?

That’s a tough question. If I could have stopped the first person, if there was a person, who had the idea, or started the trend of “mcmansion” style houses, living in the states would be different, if not all together a better experience. Things are slowly changing as resources become scarcer, but there is a long way to go before people will give up having so much space. The “bigger” is “better” mentality messes things up. I’m all for smaller and smarter usage of spaces, where quality wins over quantity.

What so far have been the biggest challenges to building or crafting a piece?

One of the biggest challenges is time. It takes time to be precise and measuring twice (x3), cutting once; all of sudden becomes an afternoon. As I learn more through experience, the tricks of trade and the tricks in my own head present themselves and it becomes easier. There is too much to learn and not enough time to take it all in.

If you could build/design your own dream project what would it be?

I really want to build my own house some day. The entire thing. From digging the foundation, to the framing, to the plumbing, to the electrical, to the drywall, to putting the last piece of furniture in place. I'm interested in the physical relationship to a space and the objects within it. If I had all the time in the world, I would like to customize everything.

If you hadn't become a craftsman/builder what do you think you would be doing now?

I’d be playing a Hammond B-3 organ.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Working on interesting projects with good people in Los Angeles or some town in the middle of nowhere. I hope the movement towards more sustainable building practices continues and that I can be somewhere within it.

-Vanessa (aka Turquoise)

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