Design

Places that Work: HOK’s New York Office

Individuals send messages about themselves that they feel are important and set a mood through the way they personalize their homes – they make certain sorts of experiences more likely than others. Organizations also convey information and produce psychological effects through the design of public environments. HOK’s New York office is a place that works because it effectively uses its…

Places that Work: The Urban Garden Room

The Urban Garden Room at One Bryant Park (Bank of America Tower by Cook + Fox Architects) in New York City is a place that works – and not simply because of its greenery and daylight. These elements appeal to our senses and emotions in a deep, primal way. Extensive writings on psychological value of being in spaces with green…

Three Novel Lighting Designs

Even with the necessary emphasis on LED technology and efficient materials, many lighting designers can’t resist experimenting with products that are just, for lack of a better word, cool. While strict functionalists may cringe, I admire this vein of creative conceptual design, in the tradition of Isamu Noguchi’s sculptural Akari lamps. Last week saw the debut of three new lighting…

Places that Work: Seattle Central Library

The Seattle Central Library works so well because of something obvious: its architects carefully considered the role of a public library during its projected lifetime and designed it accordingly. When Rem Koolhaas, Joshua Prince-Ramus of OMA/LMN, and their teams set to work they went into a detailed analysis of what it would take to enrich citizens’ lives and how the…

The Grand Dame of Textile Art

Sheila Hicks's brilliantly colored loops, tangles, weaves, and tassels produce an instantaneous, visceral reaction.

Sheila Hicks’s brilliantly colored loops, tangles, weaves, and tassels produce an instantaneous, visceral reaction.

Places That Work: Soane House

Courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum. Photo: Martin Charles We have a fundamental psychological need to express who we think we are by personalizing our homes which, in turn, give us comfort and solace. Our personalized rooms tell others about us. They have the added benefit of reminding us about what we feel is important to us….

Places that Work: The Gensler Chicago Library

The library at Gensler’s Chicago office is a satisfying space in many ways. By being situated on one of the design firm’s main circulation routes, this resource room naturally occupies the center of the action. The materials and catalogs that fill the shelves communicate, to employees and visitors alike, how much this group of designers value knowledge. The library shouts…

Places That Work: A Chicago park bench

A curving bench dominates the pocket park next to the Chicago Temple, at the corner of Washington and Clark. The first time I walked by it, I realized that this piece of furniture is a masterpiece, psychologically speaking. Research tells us that we flourish in places where we feel in control, and this bench provides all sorts of options.  I’ve…

Places that Work: Holland’s Sidewalks

Years ago, a small town in Michigan, best known for its annual tulip festival, diverted waste heat from its power plant into pipes that run under streets and sidewalks in the central business district.  For generations Hollanders have appreciated their forefathers’ prescient decisions, especially in hard, freezing winters with their Lake Effect snow storms.  Thanks to the underground pipes, no…

New Craft: A Return to the Hand

The renaissance of craft among artists, designers, and DIYers otherwise glued to their screens speaks to a universal longing for the tactile and real.

The renaissance of craft currently occurring among artists, architects, designers, and a generation of DIYers otherwise glued to their keyboards speaks to a universal longing for the tactile and the real.

Places that Work: Milwaukee Art Museum

Image courtesy the Milawaukee Art Museum, Photo: Timothy Hursley. Whenever I’m in the Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum, I have to catch my breath. Being there is an exhilarating, intensely positive experience. The space works hard to prepare visitors for the experiences they’re about to have as they proceed to view the collection–this makes the dramatic pavilion a place…

Places that Work: IND Airport

While checking in at the Indianapolis International Airport, I was thrilled to find a number of biophilic design principles in use, particularly in the airport’s Civic Plaza. IND is the first greenfield airport built after 9/11, designed by HOK, and opened in November 2008. Biophilic designers recognize the positive influence nature has on human well-being. So the HOK architects, working…

Places that Work: The Grainger Ballroom

The Grainger Ballroom, in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) building, is a terrific place for listening to music. It’s a room where the design works to make the audience comfortable, and this, in turn, allows us to respond emotionally to what we’re hearing. The ballroom was designed by Daniel Burnham at the turn of the century and opened 1904. Burnham…

Places that Work: Miniature Rooms

A15: New York Parlor, 1850–1870, c.1940, Mrs. James Ward Thorne, Miniature Room, Mixed Media, Interior:  12 3/8 x 17 1/2 x  21 in., Scale: 1 inch = 1 foot, Gift of Mrs. James Ward Thorne. The Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago celebrate the diversity of spaces that human beings can call home. They move visitors, gently, to think about…

Places that Work: Art Gallery in Christchurch

Courtesy of The Buchan Group. Photographer: Murray Hedwig At the Christchurch Art Gallery in New Zealand, you can observe how the building’s   design connects to the natural environment that surrounds it, as well as its cultural ties to the town after which it’s named. The shimmering, undulating glass façade is reminiscent of the ripples in the winding River Avon which…

Places that Work: A Rural Library

Library visits may be fewer in December and January as avid readers plow through their holiday cache of books. But that trend might not apply to the Round Top Family Library in rural Round Top, Texas. Here, on a recent visit, I discovered the library that dedicated townspeople have made into a place to enrich their community’s lives in many…

Places that Work: The Swedish Embassy

The House of Sweden (Swedish Embassy) in Washington, DC is a striking manifestation of Swedish culture; in fact it may be among the best architectural embodiments of culture/brand I’ve ever visited. As the year winds down, you may see this modern building in the background of end-of-year retrospectives that feature picturesque Georgetown. On television, it might appear as the backdrop…

Life, Edited.

The heyday of the McMansion has been on its way out for quite some time – perhaps more by economic circumstance than by fashion of choice – but Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill is out to actively sway our consumption preferences. His latest project, LifeEdited, is “tiny huge design contest” that calls for a crowdsourced redesign of one spatially economic, 420-square…