department of cautionary warning

Nicolaus D. Wright


StoreFrontLab invites you into the absurd and uncanny world of the department of cautionary warning, a playful parody where Public Works meets provocateur. As the final exhibition of our Season 2 City Making series, dept.caut.warn. underscores the tedious operations and codified creativity of city government with a sincere concern for the poetics of public life.

the department of cautionary warning is a trans-municipal para-governmental organization whose mission is to enhance the creative expression of urban environments and the interpersonal consciousness of their inhabitants.

the department of cautionary warning has requisitioned the StoreFrontLab project space as the home of a temporary branch of the bureau of signifiers and poetics. This branch will provide and regulate citizens in the production of signs that mark the public space of the city with poetic phrases writ in forms and colors of potent visual character. Submitted and approved poetics will be realized and installed by permittees with the guidance and assistance of official department of cautionary warning employees throughout the city. 

Panel: Signifiers and Poetics

A discussion about signs, graphics, and written language; how these modes of communication intersect with authority and activate the public realm. Moderated by Nicolaus D. Wright. 

Click here for the complete, annotated conversation.

Panelists include:

Paul Chasan, San Francisco Department of Planning
Mr. Chasan just celebrated his 4-year anniversary as an urban designer with the San Francisco Planning department. He manages the implementation of landscapes in Rincon Hill and Transbay planning areas, and co-manages the City’s Living Innovation Zone program. Paul formerly managed the Department’s Parklet Program where he authored the San Francisco Parklet Manual and was the lead urban designer for the Green Connections project. Paul has over 10 years’ experience working in various capacities in positions related to the built environment in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Paul master’s degrees in Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington. In his spare time, Paul enjoys biking and admiring utility access panel covers. He also sits on the board Youth Art Exchange, a San Francisco organization that provides free after-school arts classes for youth in the City’s public school system.

Chris Guillard, CMG
Mr. Guillard is a founding partner of CMG Landscape Architecture and is an accomplished designer who is creating public landscapes of all types and scales. His work and research is focused on the value of public open space and urban landscapes that integrate multiple functions into communities. Mr. Guillard currently serves on the board of the Neighborhood Parks Council, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that advocates for superior, equitable, and sustainable park and recreation system. In 2001, he received the outstanding alumni award from the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech.

Jeremy Mende, Mende Design
Mr. Mende is an artist and designer working in San Francisco, California. In 2000 he founded MendeDesign, a creative practice that balances commercial projects with visual research and public art. The studio has been recognized internationally for its work and currently has pieces in several collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Jeremy is a professor of design at California College of the Arts. In 2010-11 he was a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.

Leah Nichols, SITELAB
Ms. Nichols is a San Francisco-based urban designer and art activist. She currently works at SITELAB urban studio, implementing public realm possibilities within a range of scales, from multi-acre mixed use developments to art installations within a neighborhood block. Her previous work at non-profits, such as Habitat for Humanity, Greenpeace, and Public Architecture, has informed her community-based approach to the full design process - from outreach efforts to master plans.