Saturday, March 25, 2017

REMEMBRANCE: Hugh Hardy, ebullient architect whose designs epitomized NY pizazz

Chandelier at NYC's Rainbow Room!
a Hugh Hardy design

The world of architecture lost a blithe spirit when Hugh Hardy, primarily known and admired for his fanciful theater designs, passed away on March 23 in Manhattan. Among his many notable creations were the Majestic Theater in downtown Brooklyn, the "gingerbread" information kiosk in Central Park, and the iconic Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center.
as well as ...

 His renovated auditorium at Radio City Music Hall.
Photo credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Above: Paramount Theatre, Oakland, CA 
Photo by BWChicago

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 Windows on the World dining room, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower, before that terrible day. Designed by Hardy, it was a favorite place for my family, as well as many others, to celebrate special occasions. 

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 Above: New Victory Theater, 42nd St., New York, NY
The venue was built in 1900 by Oscar Hammerstein, 
grandfather of the famous lyricist. It has been renovated and
its mission successfully reimagined numerous times.

"The New Victory is an exquisite jewel on a street of gems" – 
the NY Times 

 The Rainbow Room, Rockefeller Center, NY, NY

Gustavino's Food Emporium under the Queensboro Bridge

The luminous Claire Tow Theater sits atop the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, on which Mr. Hardy had worked in the early 1960s. He had served as mediator between Mielziner, the stage designer for the Beaumont, 
and Eero Saarinen, its architect. The theater functions as a showcase 
for works by new playwrights, directors and designers. 

I am tempted to say what it all comes down to is that for Hugh, all architecture was theater,” said Paul Goldberger, noted architecture writer and critic. ... "I don’t think any architect has better embodied the spirit of New York, not only through his work but also through everything he thought and wrote and did. Every one of us has lived more intensely in New York because of Hugh, understood the city better because of him, and loved the city more because of him.”
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Hugh Hardy, 1932 - 2017

Hardy was born in Majorca, Spain, after his eccentric father left
a lucrative job at an advertising agency in NY and
decided to move temporarily to Europe to write a novel. 
He attended Princeton University where he earned a a master of fine arts 
degree in 1956, and later served in the Army Corps of Engineers  
as a drafting instructor. 

In 1965, Hardy married free-spirited architect Tiziana Spadea. Among other things,
Spadea designed patterns for high-style ladies' coats and separates.

"They were the Nick and Nora Charles of a certain New York set, a group of people who are involved in helping to ensure a future for New York as rich in magic as its nostalgia-tinged past,” Julie Iovine wrote in 1997 in the NY Times.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ODD BITS: Origami, space expanders, and William Morris

"The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in 
all the details of daily life." 
                                                        (Wm. Morris, 1834-1896)

Eva Zeisel salt and pepper shakers

With downsizing and avoidance of hoarding being keywords of the day, one could do no better than to live by the words of art philosopher and textile designer William Morris's well-known exhortation "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." I love to find or make items for my home that adhere to this principle, and doing so really does help to keep the acquisition of stuff under control.

Below are some examples of useful, beautiful, and fun items that bring happiness to the home.

 How clever is this? The common Chinese food takeout box
unfolds into a perfectly proportioned plate.

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While we're exploring the folding arts,
which can be made with paper and a glue stick. 

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The Storyline Shelf, designed by Frederik Roijé, is an ingenious solution 
for storing your books in a modern way. Sound finds a physical identity 
in this beautifully crafted bookshelf. The word that inspired this 
unusual piece was “bliss.”


The classic cardboard egg carton has been around for over a century (it was invented in 1911), mainly because it does an excellent job of transporting the product and keeping the eggs from getting broken. It has actually won several first place awards in international design competitions. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be streamlined a bit, as a Hungarian graphic design student Otilia Andrea Erdély, who reconfigured the egg carton, shows with her smart redesign: a spare, stackable container made from a single piece of cardboard. It cleanly flips open while maintaining a compact footprint.

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I must once again pay a brief homage to British poet, philosopher, textile designer and socialist reformer William Morris. He is the originator of the aforementioned line "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." (I know that I repeat myself here, but I try to live by this quote.) Morris is a revered artist, whose influence is still felt throughout all aspects of fin-de-siecle and modern design.

 Morris wallpaper design

Rose trellis leading up to Morris' famed Red House 

"All artists love and honor William Morris." 
... Frank Lloyd Wright

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This posting is dedicated to our thoughful nephew Theo,
who sent us this gorgeous traditionally-shaped yet
fully modernist menorah last Chanukah. It lifted my spirits
every day during a recent hospital stay. 


Monday, March 6, 2017

BOOK NOTE: Pasta by Design

I was looking over some vintage Mad for Mod postings this morning, and came across my book review of "Pasta by Design" (Thames and Hudson, 2013), which is intriguing and a lot of fun. I discovered this title when I was book reviewer for the late great Modernism magazine. It's the first in what turned out to be a series of book recommendations for holiday gift-giving. Thought I'd repost it today, for no particular reason.

Buon appetito!

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Pasta by Design
Thames & Hudson, hard cover, 208 pages, 189 illustrations (93 in color), $29.95

You’ll never tuck into your fettuccini alfredo quite the same way again, once you’ve perused this one-of-a-kind book, which ranges in tone from whimsical to scholarly to visually enchanting. Author George L. Legendre, principal of IJP Architects of London, presents everyone’s favorite food as an exemplar of design excellence as well as culinary adaptability. He examines 92 forms of pasta, ranging from tubular (cannolicchi) to crimped (saccotini), bell-like (gigli) to rippled (mafaldine). Some shapes, such as lumaconi rigati (“big ribbed snails”) appear to have been designed by NASA engineers, with eye-glazingly complex mathematical formulae illustrating their structural development. Each pasta shape is treated poetically, as a work of architecture and object of desire, and is accompanied by a full-page glamour shot by Stefano Graziani, schematic diagram, tale of its origins, and recommended sauces, meats or seafood to accompany its specific configuration. The book ends with a foldout seating plan for a pasta “Family Reunion”, wherein solid, hollow, and “semi-open” shapes are grouped together for an imaginary evening of – what else? – conviviality and delectable Italian dining.

Originally published 12/4/13