Trained as an architect, but proficient in all manner of activities, Alexander Girard was introduced to Herman Miller through Charles Eames and George Nelson, established the Herman Miller Textile Division in 1952, and served as its Director of Design until 1973. From his outpost in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he designed over 300 textiles in multitudes of colorways, multiple collections of wallpaper, decorative prints and wall hangings, an expansive group of furniture, and both decorative and useful objects. His passion for international folk art led him around the globe as he amassed a collection of roughly 106,000 pieces, and his many corporate and freelance assignments-including the La Fonda Del Sol restaurant and the total design program for Braniff International-engendered lavish praise for his diverse skills and unique vision.
With a resolute and reserved personality, Girard believed quality should speak for itself-and he did much to propagate the notion that life should be lived with a higher regard for the humanity of one’s surroundings. His uncommon way of seeing and admirably undogmatic approach to each new solution resulted in an unparalleled body of work that is not only staggering in sheer volume and creativity, but due to its fundamental qualities of beauty and usefulness, remains completely relevant today. In 1972, Girard developed 40 decorative silkscreen designs to add an element of “aesthetic functionalism” to corporate environments. Unlike his printed textiles, the panels consist of single, stand-alone images that range from abstract patterns to figurative pictograms. Herman Miller is pleased to make 12 of these designs available once again.
Walking through the 2,000-square-foot showcase, traces of world cultures soon become evident. Girard did not wish to break all ties with the past, but was able to pull together disparate elements-popular culture, non art, folk motifs-and re-synthesize them with harmony and humor. “In the ideology of his work, Girard was about taking the entirety of history but in execution, he was one of those designers who followed nobody’s rules. And because of his skill level, his eye, things looked amazing. Girard could combine 18 fonts on one poster and it looked incredible. He could hand draw entire alphabet in mixed case letters and somehow it all fit together,” says Grawe.
Alexander Girard: An Uncommon Vision, May 17 – May 28, 2014, New York, Sponsored by Herman Miller Collection, Maharam
Børge Mogensen’s widow, Alice, died recently. Since his untimely death in 1972, she had preserved the arrangement of the family’s house in Gentofte, as it was then. Bo Bedre magazine was invited to be one of the last allowed to visit the house before it was put up for sale, and was able to create a photographic document for posterity from a unique universe of old prototypes and carpenter willing details created by one of Denmark’s major designers.
Børge Mogensen died in 1972, when he was just 57 years old. From 1958 the family lived in the house at Soløsevej in Gentofte north of Copenhagen.
During his years at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts the young Mogensen developed a close partnership with his mentor Kaare Klint and subsequently also assumed Klint’s approach to simple and functional furniture design. Later on Mogensen was to work as Klint’s teaching assistant at the Royal Academy.
Functional is the word which best describes Børge Mogensen’s design. The majority of his furniture was designed with industrial production in mind and is characterized by strong and simple lines. His true genius is to be found in his almost scientific analysis of the functionality of a piece of furniture.
A smaller but essential part of Mogensen’s work was the cabinetmade pieces, one of them being “the Hunting chair” from 1950 made by Erhard Rasmussen. A simple low easy chair with an oak frame from where the strong natural leather seat and back is stretched.
Other important pieces include “The Spokeback Sofa” designed in 1945, which with its lightness and simple, open construction differed from most sofas at the time, and “The Spanish Chair” from 1959, a low, robust easy chair.
“A chair is not just a seat — it is the key to the whole interior”
A documentary film about Ilmari Tapiovaara (1914–1999), by Artek
Photographer Philip Sinden has completed a series of environmental portraits and images of the home of legendary industrial designer, Dieter Rams.
“Dieter Rams may have just celebrated his 79th birthday but he is still as passionate as ever about design and architecture as he was when starting out at German manufacturer Braun back in 1955 at the age of 23. Sitting in his house, designed by himself, on the outskirts of Frankfurt he reflects on his career and with no children of his own he hopes to help other, young designers take his principles of design and create products that enhance our lives and add to the ever-changing story of good, simple, honest design. Having designed his own home, from the bespoke white tiles with dark grey grouting, made for the Vitsœ showroom in Frankfurt at the same time to match perfectly to the dimensions of his 50-year-old shelving system to fixtures for his tools in the downstairs workshop‚ a room that saw many secret product development when it was even too secretive to be worked on at the Braun factory, Rams is a perfectionist to a degree that most of us would not even comprehend. Only a few items have made it in to his home that have not been under the microscopic view of his eye before heading to mass-production.”
- Daniel Nelson
Over the last year we’ve seen continued economic stagnancy. Many architects have been hard hit. How has your residential practice dealt with the downturn?
When the recession hit we were affected like everyone else. But starting this year work has been picking up and most of the projects we had in the pipeline are back on track. We’ve also acquired a few new residential projects on both coasts with more in the development stage. I guess we’ve been lucky. We just hope things continue to get better for everyone, not worse.
Are you seeing a turnaround?
We have seen a few hospitality projects pick back up as well as some luxury developments, which we see as a good sign of the global economy. Somehow Israel seems to have weathered the global recession quite well. We have a 37-story residential tower in the heart of Tel Aviv that is finally underway. It is right in the heart of the city and we hope it becomes a landmark and a new standard for design in Tel Aviv.
The biggest buzzword in the industry now is sustainability. How does today’s call for an ecologically sensitive architecture differ from that of the 1970s?
We were always making sustainable buildings, even in the 70s and 80s, they just weren’t calling it that back then. Not many people realize that the Getty was the first LEED Certified building, awarded after the fact. It comes back to our design philosophy. Daylight and energy consumption have informed our design for years. Today we are taking it to new levels, incorporating new technologies like double skin facades for heating and cooling buildings, self-cleaning, pollution-eating concrete and vertical light-reflecting louvers that rotate with the sun.
You design houses for some of the world’s most connected individuals. Is “environmental impact” a topic that generally comes up in your discussions with clients?
It depends on the client. Some clients want a “green” building and are willing to spend the money. We always try to suggest sustainable materials and propose sustainable ideas, but these are sometimes costly. Luckily we have a client base that tends to be very educated on these issues and often see it as a worthwhile investment.
Is the building industry ready to absorb the kind of environmentally focused change people are talking about?
Yes, they have to be. Legislation will soon require environmental codes and energy conservation. A handful of states and cities already require new public buildings to meet sustainable design benchmarks, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED. We estimate that in the next 25 years, three quarters of US buildings will be new or substantially renovated. The cutting edge of this effort will be to design buildings that generate their own energy through new technologies and reuse rain water to lesson the depletion of natural resources.
What do you think of prefab as a building alternative?
In general, it’s an interesting concept when tight schedules are critical as it can drastically reduce construction timeframes. Some other apparent advantages include assurance of quality control and very efficient coordination efforts due to the use of programs like Revit from the beginning of design to fabrication. It can also eventually help reduce costs over traditional construction methods. In terms of sustainability, it reduces construction waste in a controlled environment. There are however still a lot of limitations and caveats mainly related to transport and guaranties. But the concept has existed for many years, and actually most curtain walls we design are prefabricated in shops and shipped to construction sites ready for installation.
As a building alternative, it could potentially lend itself to our approach, as it is becoming more customizable especially with new technologies and applications currently available and continuously evolving. It has gained more popularity recently, especially after MoMa’s Home Delivery exhibition, with more new firms and young architects exploring concepts that deal with economical and modern solutions.
Name one building type that you’ve always wanted to do but has thus far eluded you.
What was the design lesson you’ve learned since building your first house?
There is no such thing as “natural” materials.
What are the most challenging demands that a residential client has made of you?
Lastly, what current project on your boards, residential or otherwise, most excites you and why?
We have a lot of interesting projects on at the moment. I’m very excited about the apartment tower in Tel Aviv. Apparently there is a giant billboard with my face on it right now in place of the actual building. I hope they can take that down soon.
We are also building a new 30,000 SF home in Tianjin which is on a private island surrounded by an 18-hole Phil Mickelson Golf Course. It is a beautiful home. It has a tea room, a party room, a dining room that seats 60. It is quite a house.
And there is a new 10,000 SF private home in Long Island we are working on. It’s in a beautiful location, with a beach pavilion on the water, and has a lot of the curves and light in our signature work. I love doing houses. I feel it’s a bit indulgent, so then I take on a cultural or civic project to balance it out. I’ve always been a proponent of building beautiful public spaces, but creating a personal sanctuary is also satisfying.
Richard Meier has been awarded with the highest international honors in architecture including the AIA Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects (1997), Praemium Imperiale from the Japanese Government for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (1997), a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1995), Deutscher Architekturpreis (1993), Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Government (1992), Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (1989) and the Pritzker Prize for Architecture (1984). Richard Meier is celebrated for his acclaimed designs including The Getty Center and the Museum of Television & Radio in Los Angeles, California; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; the Charles Street and Perry Street residential towers in New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Spain; the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome, Italy; and the Arp Museum in Rolandseck, Germany. His current projects include an 8-star hotel in China (2011), Rothschild Tower in Tel Aviv (2013), an urban master plan for Newark, NJ (2012) and a residential tower in San Francisco (2012).
Read more about Richard Meier
This significant exhibition is the first in America to explore the work produced by German designer Konstantin Grcic, one of the most important industrial designers working today. Grcic is known for his logical designs, driven by an honesty of materials and an appropriateness of production methods, yet injected with an inventiveness and originality that set his work apart.
Konstantin Grcic: Decisive Design, November 20 – January 24,
at Gallery 184, The Art Institute, Chicago, USA
The unsung hero in any product development is the model-maker. This is set to change with the inauguration of the Giovanni Sacchi Archive in Milan. Giovanni Sacchi’s model-making workshop was an important point of reference for many Italian master designers and architects including, Vico Magistretti, Enzo Mari, Achille Castiglioni, Ettore Sottsass, Marco Zanuso and Aldo Rossi who designed these espresso makers, the models were executed by Sacchi. An entire working environment has been reconstructed in the Archive, completed by an area equipped with new machinery where it will be possible to organize model-making workshops with teachers, students and professionals.
LIFE photographer Gjon Mili visited Picasso in 1949. Mili showed the artist some of his photographs of ice skaters with tiny lights affixed to their skates jumping in the dark–and Picasso’s mind began to race. The series of photographs–Picasso’s light drawings–were made with a small flashlight in a dark room; the images vanished almost as soon as they were created.
Picasso’s Light Drawings, Photographed by Gjon Mili, for LIFE
From the 1920s to the 1940s Constantin Brancusi was preoccupied by the theme of a bird in flight. He concentrated not on the physical attributes of the bird but on its movement. In “Bird in Space” wings and feathers are eliminated, the swell of the body is elongated, and the head and beak are reduced to a slanted oval plane. Balanced on a slender conical footing, the figure’s upward thrust is unfettered. Brancusi’s inspired abstraction realizes his stated intent to capture “the essence of flight.” This particular conception of “Bird in Space” is the first in a series of seven sculptures carved from marble and nine cast in bronze, all of which were painstakingly smoothed and polished.
“Bird in Space” has broken the world auction record for a sculpture in 2005 by fetching $27,456,000 at Christie’s New York to an anonymous buyer.
Bird in Space by Constantin Brancusi
Google has made available images from LIFE magazine. The Industrial designer Raymond Loewy was the icon of the age and often photographed for lifestyle magazines as well as featured on the cover of Time. These images date from 1947 and 1948.
Raymond Loewy House, Palm Springs, California, USA, Photographed by Peter Stackpole, for LIFE