Tuesday, April 25, 2017

FLIGHTS OF FANCY: Chihuly glass opens April 22 at NY Botanical Garden

Yellow Boat, Walla Wallas, & Red Reeds

"Breathtaking works of art that dazzle with color, light, and form—by day and night"

                                                                                 from www.nybg.org/event/chihuly/

Sapphire Star 
Photograph by Vincent Tullo for the NY Times

On Saturday, April 22, 2017, a long-awaited phantasmagoria of glass 
and color -- spectacular works by iconic glass artist Dale Chihuly -- 
opened at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.
This is Chihuly's first major garden exhibition in New York 
in more than ten years. 

"Chihuly at the NY Botanical Garden is 
a waking dream."

     Unnamed Chihuly piece outside conservatory at New York Botanical Garden

Kinda Seussical
(that's my name for this piece, not the artist's)

The exhibition will include  films, poetry, and age-appropriate art programs for children, many of them colorful and imaginative tributes to nature. At night, the exhibition will be "infused with a magical energy as the artworks are spectacularly illuminated amid NYBG’s sweeping vistas and magnificent Conservatory."

Below, from a 2006  Dale Chihuly exhibition
at the New York Botanical Garden
Rockefeller Rose Garden Reeds, Rocket Floats, & Cobalt Fiori

Above: Persian Chandeliers, also from 2006 NYBG exhibition

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 This mesmerizing oceanic ceiling is a
permanent feature at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach.
It's my favorite of Chihuly's works.


Monday, April 24, 2017

ODD BITS: Do schools with design pizzazz improve learning?

Jazzy and alluring -- 
but does this environment encourage learning?

School Barvaux-Condroz by LR Architects, Barvaux-Condroz, Belgium

I recently attended the 75th anniversary of my much-loved elementary school in 
upstate New York. Architecturally, there was nothing particularly interesting about the building. It was your standard post-war brick and cement structure, with generic 
desks and classrooms, and a large nondescript playground in back. 
Luckily for us, there was a wooded trail behind the school that led to 
a homemade ice cream shop! With peanut butter and jelly ice cream!
(And 5¢ lime green daiquiris -- I wonder what was in them.)

But ah, the teachers. We were blessed to have the most caring and enthusiastic 
group of teachers a child could hope for. They inspired us to reach for the stars;
my closest elementary school friends formed a coterie that 
went on to become musicians, actors, fine woodworkers, writers, 
a cabaret singer, a jeweler, a sculptor, a boat builder, 
and an advocate for libraries. They came from a simple, 
no fuss environment, the Slingerlands Elementary School, pictured above.

Today's popular educational theories profess
that the built environment has a profound effect on children's imaginations.
It very well may; but perhaps unusual architecture pleases the parents
more than it does the children. 

Whatever you believe, it's fun to see what's going on with school architecture 
in the 21st century. Below are some recently conceived designs from around the world.

Kindergarten Kekec by Architektura Jure Kotnik, Ljubjana, Slovenia

The colorful, imaginative design of this prefab 1980s building is a response to the school's unfortunate lack of play equipment.The exterior walls are made of "toy slats", natural wooden planks that the kids can   play with to "get to know different colors, experience wood as a natural material 
and constantly change the appearance of their  kindergarten,   
all at the same time." 

A UK government spokesman quoted in dezeen.com design magazine asserts that
"There is no convincing evidence that spending enormous sums of money on school buildings leads to increased attainment. An excellent curriculum, great leadership and inspirational teaching are the keys to driving up standards.” 

Central Los Angeles Area High School #9 for the Visual and Performing Arts 
by Coop Himmelblau -- Los Angeles, California

Located just off the Hollywood freeway, this public arts school is known according to the Los Angeles Times "for its stunning cone-shaped library, a soaring lobby opening onto Grand Avenue, a 140-foot tower rising above a 950-seat theater, and giant, circular windows. Granted, all this grandeur comes with a hefty price tag that's spawned an ongoing debate over a campus that flaunts a district's-worth of design at one site."
Timaynta Marta, Coazz
anti  Bailly School Complex by Mikou Design Studio, Saint-Denis, France

The boldly colorful Bailly School refers to itself as a "learning complex." 
Movement between classrooms is through a series of interior courtyards, 
allowing children to get fresh air between classes, and to have 
a refreshing experience of the outdoors during an otherwise enclosed school day.

Kindergarten by Eva Samuel Architect Urbanist & Associates, Paris, France

I would have loved going to this school!
It's been described as a "big, pink-frosted building full
of magical, child-sized playhouses."
(Huffington Post, 1/3/13)

Bonus pic of my favorite/only childhood Mid-Mod  hangout

The legendary Toll Gate, provided a tasty and wholesome
 hideaway for generations of children and teenagers
Established 1949, closed 2017
Photo credit: Times Union, Albany

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

EXHIBITION: Visions of Art Deco and beyond at Cooper Hewitt in NYC

stunning exhibition of Art Deco style and beyond is currenty on view
at The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s at the Cooper Hewitt 
Smithsonian Design Museum, NYC.

A gondola-shaped sofa designed by Marcel Coard (c. 1925)
The textile above it is Fire by Yvonne Cllarinval (1925)
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

1925 brooch by Parisian jeweler Boucheron in diamonds, platinum, 
carved lapis, onyx, coral and jade

Art Deco, perhaps the most popular of all modern design styles (who doesn't love it?)
is characterized by its sleek, streamlined look which is at once
sensuous and futuristic.  

Jewelry, bead-encrusted evening purses and cigarette cases
were particularly desirable items to Art Deco lovers during the Roaring Twenties.
They allowed the buyer to enter the market at an acceptable
price point, and build her/his collection to include larger, pricier items 
such as furniture, lacquered screens and evening gowns.

 Lacy detail of a firescreen by Edgar Brandt, wrought iron and gilding, 1925
The dancing lady at the center is a familiar logo of Art Deco styling.
Many decorative objects in the Art Deco style mimic the shapes of skyscrapers,
which were in their heyday in the 1920s and 30s.

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Below: two photos from Energizing the Everyday: the George R. Kravis II collection,
a 2016 exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt
(both featured in a Mad for Mod posting , June 2016)

Chromium-plated Manhattan cocktail service, 1934, Norman Bel Geddes,
 The Manhattan skyline served as muse to many designers
of the 1930s, with its outline evoking the modernity of the metropolis.

 Skyway Salt and Pepper Shakers, 1939, Russel Wright
These stainless steel & bakelite beauties are labor-saving 
(no polishing required) and whimsically modern.

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If you're an Art Deco fan and you haven't yet seen any episodes of
Miss Fisher's Mysteries, run -- don't walk -- to your nearest DVD store, 
or check out the streaming service Acorn.tv (no .com)

Australian actress Essie Davis plays Phryne Fisher -- a headstrong and lusciously 
attired detective in opulent 1920s Melbourne -- on ABC's
runaway hit. She often shows up at the scenes of grisly murders
dressed like this (see below), usually coming from a cocktail party or a hot date.

Just a few hats from Phryne's overflowing closet

The Art Deco exhibition runs through through Sunday, Aug. 20.
For more information, visit

“A multisensory blockbuster of a show…” —Associated Press