Most Baltimoreans have probably never heard of Danny Barnycz, a 53-year-old Charm City native who still lives in his hometown. But leaders of major corporations and governments the world over know he's the go-to guy when it comes to designing ahead-of-the-curve, over-the-top technological wonders.
Barnycz is the founder and "chief creatologist" of The Barnycz Group, headquartered a few blocks away from his Canton rowhouse.
"We're experiential designers. We've worked for the biggest brands and retailers in the world and rulers of countries. We create experiences," says Barnycz, describing his business. "Our tagline is: Everything matters — people, places, pixels. Our mantra is; What's going to get people excited about coming to this location? How are they going to notice this location, when they have hundreds to choose from? And once they've entered that location, how can we get them to experience that brand's DNA? What's the point of view of that brand, mall, country, city?" he says.
That means using state-of-the-art technology — like video screens and surfaces, interactive systems, elaborate lighting, music, huge structural designs, shows, storytelling and even water.
Barnycz's creations include the Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park and the American Eagle Outfitters Times Square Spectacular, the largest video boards in New York City's Times Square, as well as all of the entertainment technology within the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai and the Dubai Mall — the largest shopping mall in the world.
His company is steadily busy, says Barncyz, with current projects that range from Washington to Dubai to the Msheireb Downtown Doha in Qatar, where he is designing the entire area's massive technology system as the city readies itself to host the 2022 World Cup. Barnycz said that project literally began from the ground up.
"Imagine taking any city in the USA and leveling it. They leveled their whole downtown area in Doha, then made a five-story deep hole. All the parking is underground and you'll be able to drive there [from] anywhere in the city, and pop up [to ground level and various structures] using elevators and escalators," he says.
Strangely enough, Barnycz has never created anything for the hometown he loves. He says he's never been asked. However, he does have one ongoing personal project here: the renovation Barnycz and his wife, Michele, began a few years ago on the Canton townhouse they've shared for 20 years.
His home and office — his own experiential environments — house Barnycz's most prized possessions, including some that he created. Those favorite things give us a peek inside the head of this visionary, where the sky isn't the limit. In Barnycz's world, it's just for starters.
Fireplace. "We worked with Jonathan Maxwell, a local metal artist. We wanted it to feel like a one-and-a-half-inch piece of steel was leaning against a wall. Jonathan came up with this great detail where we could build the thing out of 1/16th-inch piece of steel that makes it look that way. Those are 100-year-old barn beams with nail marks in them."
Wet bar and wine. "Wine for me is the transporter room of the Starship Enterprise. It's an experience in a bottle. When I'm drinking an amazing Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I'm immediately transported to Paris. We entertain a lot. So we have two wet bars [including one that he designed]. This one has an integrated wine rack. The counters are made of recycled metal shavings and epoxy."
Beatles memorabilia. Barnycz owns several pieces,including a pen and ink self-portrait by John Lennon and signed handwritten lyrics to "In My Life." "Growing up, you were either into the Beatles or the [Rolling] Stones. I was heavily into the Beatles. I don't have thousands of pieces, probably about six amazing ones. …I've always loved this song. It's probably one of the top five Beatle songs of all time."
River, the couple's dog. "One summer evening, my wife took my nieces and nephews out kayaking. I had to work. …There was a woman on the side of road who asked them to watch a box of puppies [she was trying to give away] while she went to the bathroom. Well, once you hold a puppy, that's it. It was at the beginning of their vacation, so they brought him along and he loved playing in the river and kayaking with them. That's where his name comes from."
Nuts and bolts sculpture. "Everything is a nut, a bolt, a lock and key," he says about the piece acquired at the American Craft Council Show about 20 years ago. "It reminds me of my 15 years in the rock 'n' roll entertainment business," says Barnycz, who began his career mixing audio for rock bands, eventually touring with national acts.
His and her iPod/iPhone dock. "Every room in the house has structured cabling, so it can continue being adapted to future technology; house-wide sound, video, surveillance, intercoms, doorbell. I wanted a place where when you walk in the door, you could put your phone down and also be charging it. The whole system is designed for 'him,' 'her' and a guest. Everywhere I go around the house, my music follows me. The same goes for [my wife]. There's a controller on every wall."
Framed pictures of Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. "When Steve Jobs died, our generation lost a leader who was singlehandedly changing the world. I don't think people get the magnitude of who he was. This is a lineup of the game-changers," Barnycz says about the pictures that he created after the Apple co-founder's death in 2011. "It reminds me everyday that excellence can be achieved."
Antique cash register. "We do so much retail. We're doing mega malls and unique spectaculars all to get the cash registers to ring. This is to remind me that all the cool things we come up with needs to be deeply rooted in a business case."
Cuervo y Sobrinos watch, marked no. 5 of 28 made in this design. "I decided I wanted to get a special watch. I'm a nut about design, so I spent hours upon hours looking online, until I found this one. It's designed in Cuba, but made in Switzerland. …Then, the thing shows up in a gorgeous humidor."
Guinness World Record for the World's Largest Outdoor Chandelier. "A friend connected me to the Playhouse Square Foundation which had saved and renovated and revitalized these gorgeous theaters in Cleveland. They also bought most of the buildings around them for about four blocks. We created gateways that introduce you, digital screens on the sidewalk, architectural lighting around the district, a big fire pit and built-in stage in the outside plaza with built-in sound and lighting," Barnycz says about the design of the project, which opened in May and features the wold-record chandelier as its iconic centerpiece. "The chandelier is 20 feet tall and 17 feet wide with 4,000 crystals."
Heated river stone floor. "There's nothing better when you get up on a cold morning and the stones are massaging and heating your feet," Barnycz says about the floor he designed for the master bath. "It's a guilty pleasure."
His Canton office. "We're in the experience business. So I wanted to make sure that our office wowed people. The retail lighting is really key. They are the same lights you use in a high-end retail store. So, the colors render precisely accurate."
This is part of an series of occasional articles featuring prominent local residents and the possessions they treasure.