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October 31, 2009

Are You Riveted?

Studs and rivets have been showing lately in great places, on necks, arms, feet, all over. A current interior and graphic design project I'm working on includes rivets, which I designed on window frames, as a cool nod to the client's high tech machinery. Ever since that project, rivets and studs have been affixing themselves everywhere. It's a style trend but still, a case of life imitates art. Here are some shining examples.

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October 9, 2008

Eiffel Tower Has the Blues

France's Tour Eiffel or Eiffel Tower, probably Paris' most famous landmark, is decked out in blue light for six months in honor of being the current head of the European Union. The blue light with yellow stars signifies the EU flag. A gorgeous architectural tribute.

Blue Eiffel Tower

Photos by Linda Mathieu — by way of Just Muttering

August 7, 2008

Bridging the Gaps

Bridges can be taken for granted, though we depend on them.

Brooklyn Bridge then and now

Above: The Brooklyn Bridge in 1899 and circa today

The Brooklyn Bridge is one that people walk across more than many. For New Yorkers who don't know Brooklyn well, a stroll across the bridge might be a good way to get acquainted with the borough. This bridge plays an integral role in the life of its neighborhood. It is a presence and character, not just a means of transport. It has personality besides good looks. Hail to the engineering and design that goes into such a monumental feat as building a bridge. If our mental bridges can be as sturdy and elegant as the Brooklyn Bridge, they will no doubt serve to link precarious gaps between difficult concepts and constructs that deserve easy access to each other's benefits, as do the worthy next door boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

May 8, 2008

Moving Through Space: Visionary Frank Lloyd Wright

Larger than life architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a chaotic personal life yet created soothingly organized architecture and designs.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum

Frank Lloyd Wright's dramatic Guggenheim Museum interior, designed when he was in his 80s

I popped his logo on the image above because as a graphic designer, it's something with which I'm so familiar and I love it. His architectural handwriting has been made into gorgeous typefaces by several prominent type foundries.

Frank Lloyd Wright's personal life created scandals in his time (wouldn't as much so now, although he wasn't an easy guy) but his driving passion for work outwitted and outlasted his personal turmoil. His life would be splashed all over tabloids today. He was a flamboyant and unique man.

Frank Lloyd Wright chairStructures should come out of nature, he believed, and blend with it and he accomplished this in a way no one else has done, almost like a poet to my mind. Although I find his continuous earth tones to be too monotonous, I still love much of the design, both architectural and in the countless other items he designed. He designed everything inside the house as well and a client had to conform to his dictates or they could not have his house. He designed furniture, tableware, lighting and even one hostess' dress. Numerous “in the style of” designs have been spawned by present-day manufacturers.

He went through long periods of disfavor but was most successful from age 70 to 90, a true artist in his approach to life. Asked how he could work so hard in his later years, he said he could shake the designs out of his sleeve and couldn't get them out fast enough. He hit his full stride at a time in his life when some people have "turned in.” One worker described him as “200% alive.”

His Imperial Hotel in Japan was the only building in the city that survived a massive earthquake right after it was completed. The building had been constructed of  non-standard materials and as an engineer, Wright had calculated that earthquakes were regular occurrences in Tokyo.

Here is a link to a beautiful new structure created 50 years later from an unbuilt Wright design. 

November 4, 2005

Streets from Another Time

Driving through Cobble Hill in Brooklyn today, I discovered streets I hadn't known. This beautiful neighborhood is overflowing with graceful brownstones.


Enticing stores beckon from the main avenues. What struck me the most, though, was the narrow streets, built in a time before cars. On the main roads, you can drive just fine. But on the densely-inhabited inner streets, cars line both sides and there is only room for one average-sized car to ride down the middle. I cannot imagine how a truck (moving, for instance) would maneuver these passageways. It was a striking indication of how we are living in history.

The houses were built and lives were lived in them well before cars were an everyday fact. It makes you wonder who lived in each of the dwellings, besides how they got around. As a lover of Jane Austen, my mind drifts to her tales of early 1800s social goings-on and calling cards left behind in elegant foyers. For those who don't know, such “calling cards” were the precursor to today's mandatory business card. They began in the 1800s and were exclusively used by the upper classes at first. They contained only the person’s name in the center of the card, indicating that person had called and would appreciate a return gesture. (My design business can make you a gorgeous unusual or sedate and tasteful business card.)

Seeing the reality of life still thriving in these lovely houses gives me a calming sense of continuity. I hope these homes live long into the future and imagine they will. If you think about it, they long outlive us. They are, among other things, a testament to the builders’ skills, still going strong many decades and even centuries after their origination. May we all leave such a useful and appealing piece of ourselves for the future to enjoy.