Welcome to Mad for Mod!


Welcome to Mad for Mod!

My blog highlights trends in jazzy modernist design -- from soap to sofas, buildings to bags -- and is my way of staying in touch with the worldwide community of 20th century design aficionados. Notes about museum exhibitions and design festivals, book reviews, remembrances, features on objects of desire, and occasional oddball items will appear on no set schedule. Please visit often to find new surprises!
Enjoy  ~ ° ° ° ~  Judy

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 Zeisler 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 old 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. Thought I'd repost it today, for no particular reason. Buon appetito!

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I discovered this intriguing title when I was book reviewer for the late great Modernism magazine. My original review is below. This is the first in what turned out to be a series of book recommendations for holiday gift-giving. Buon appetito!

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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

EXHIBITIONS: London Design Museum does some California dreaming ...

 Spectacles by Snap, Inc.

The innovative and exuberant spirit of California and its design sensibility will
be celebrated at the stylish new London Design Museum, beginning on 
May 24 and running through October 15, 2017. While California’s mid-century 
modernism has been well-documented, California: Designing Freedom 
is the first international show to examine its strong global appeal,
whose essence is exploring the tools of personal liberatioh.

From skateboards to iPhones,
snazzy sunglasses to political posters and LSD blotting paper,
Waymo’s self driving car, the first consumer GPS device
and a replica of the Captain America chopper from Easy Rider,
the exhibition "explores how 'designed in California' expresses a 
distinctive approach to design and life." 
Patent drawing for the geodesic dome courtesy of The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller/Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio - See more at: http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/california#sthash.Z4xKFCS9.dpuf
Patent drawing for the geodesic dome courtesy of The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller/Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio - See more at: http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/california#sthash.Z4xKFCS9.dpuf
Patent drawing for the geodesic dome courtesy of The Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller/Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio - See more at: http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/california#sthash.Z4xKFCS9.dpuf
Patent drawing for geodesic dome, R. Buckminster Fuller,
America inventor, architect, and dreamer 

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."

 Black Panther poster, 1968

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 California, Designing Freedom comprises approximately 200 objects, organized into 
five thematic sections. Collectively, these works assert that design in California is distinguished by an emphasis on individual freedom. The Brits seem to remain fascinated by America's spirit of independence and individuality, despite having moved toward a less rule-bound society themselves.

The five sections of the exhibition are organized as follows: 

GO WHERE YOU WANT: Tools of movement and escape
Many of the innovations associated with California, from LA’s freeways to Google Maps, revolve around freedom of movement. This section of the exhibition focuses on mobility, from navigation to portability and exploration. 

Waymo's sef-driving car 


Tools of self-expression and rebellion

California has a unique history of fostering freedom of expression, from from the Berkeley Free Speech movement to new graphic languages and social media. This section explores the state’s culture of communication through posters, magazines and online platforms. 

SEE WHAT YOU WANT: Tools of perception and fantasy
California is of course known as the land of make-believe-- the home of Disney, Hollywood and videogaming. This section explores how California has pioneered new ways of looking at the world, from acid trips to virtual reality. 

Above: LSD blotting paper featuring the lads from Liverpool


Tools of production and self-reliance
Perhaps no place has done more to democratize access to industrial technology than California. This section features tools that have made it easier and more accessible 

to handcraft simple, utilitarian objects. The Whole Earth Catalog
the counterculture’s "bible of self-sufficiency",  
stood at the forefront of the "maker culture."

 Earthrise, by William Anders, an astronaut on Apollo 8 (1968), shot the iconic photo
that was to become the cover of the second and third editions of the catalog.

Tools of collaboration and community
Since the founding of California, the freedom to create your own community has been considered essential to success and survival. From hippie communes to Facebook, this section examines tools that enable communities both on the ground and online. Exhibits include a geodesic dome, Sussman Prejza’s designs for the 1984 LA Olympics and documentation of the early Burning Man festivals. 

Opening ceremonies, 1984 Olympics
Los Angeles 
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Below: Notes on the Design Museum

London's striking new Design Museum, designed by John Pawson,
 opened in late November 2016.

The 10,000 square metre venue, which used to occupy a former 1940s banana warehouse in Shad Thames, was relocated last year to the new building on 
Kensington High Street in west London. The new site is a quick 
walk to the Royal College of Art, the V&A museum, 
the Science Museum and the Serpentine Galleries. 
You could easily spend several days just wandering the neighborhood.

The move is expected to bring in an extra 400,000 visitors each year. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

EXHIBITION: Pierre Chareau's Chic Modern Architecture and Design at NYC's elegant Jewish Museum

For the next two months, New York City's elegant Jewish Museum will highlight 
the design work and architecture of noted French artist and arts patron Pierre Chareau. 
Though not quite a household name like his friends Piet Mondrian, Amedeo Modigliani, Jacques Lipchitz, and Max Ernst, Chareau was an internationally recognized artist
who specialized in high-style designs for the film industry during the period 
between World Wars I and II.

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Below: Chareau set designs, c. 1938

Chareau was a man of numerous talents and interests. He collaborated with modernist architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, creating furniture for three French films by director Marcel L’Herbier; opened two shops in Paris in the mid-1920s, one that sold cushions and hand-throws, and the other that sold furniture and lighting; designed stage sets for Edmond Fleg’s production of Merchant of Paris at the Comédie Française in 1929; and hosted salons, together with his wife, Dollie, for the celebrated artists, writers, 
and musicians of his time.

 Above and below:
Chareau is noted for building the first house in France made of 
steel and glass, the famed Maison de Verre (1928-1932).

“No house in France better reflects the magical promise of 20th-century architecture than the Maison de Verre,” then architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote in an August 2007 New York Times article, after having spent a few days at this famed Left Bank abode.

Rendering of the garden of the Maison de Verre, Paris
Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Jewish Museum exhibition also addresses Chareau’s life and work in the New York area, created after he left Paris during the German occupation of the city. This includes 
the house he designed for painter Robert Motherwell in 1947 in 
East Hampton, Long Island.

section of the Robert Motherwell house

Bad reviews for this project led to a decline in commissions for the designer, so he 
earned money by giving cooking lessons to wealthy Americans and by 
selling art from his personal collection. Critics!

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 Views from the exhibition Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design
running through March 26, 2017 at The Jewish Museum, NY. 
Photos: Will Ragozzino/SocialShutterbug.com

 For more information about this exhibition, link

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 And don't forget to check out the new Russ and Daughters deli
at the museum, a long-awaited and instantly popular addition 
to the uptown Manhattan eating scene.

The Anne: wild Western nova smoked salmon, smoked yellowfin tuna, 
sable, smoked brook trout, and wild Alaskan salmon roe. Photo: Paul Wagtouicz