May 17, 2011
The recent launch of our online store offered up the unique opportunity to shoot Herman Miller designs in iconic homes. Working closely with Hello Design and photographer Juergen Nogai (who was the late Julius Shulman‘s longtime partner) Herman Miller’s Steve Frykholm set out to showcase our pieces in some pretty amazing settings. This is the first of five interviews with the architects who designed the houses we shot in. All reside in California and each has an interesting and unique story to tell.
We start with Jim Jennings who founded his practice in 1975. When interviewed by Architectural Digest for their top 100 designers list Jennings said of his work, “it always begins with the site and with the clues and conditions found there. Each physical circumstance suggests a particular expression of scale, space and material. For me, a great building is one that is both rational and poetic—and projects a quiet strength.” For more from Jim and shots from the shoot check out our POV site.
Your recent work spans so many climates – with the retreat you designed for yourself in Palm Springs and a house on the beach in Oahu. Yet even with the very different terrains I see a common language in your forms. There’s a strong horizontal quality to your work and a use of sliding walls, screens or open rectangular spaces that engage with the outdoors. What drives those design decisions? The two houses (Lanikai and Palm Springs) illustrate a similar approach to architectural form. They are both rectilinear in composition with strong hovering roof planes. Both have walls that open large areas of interior space to the outside Both respond to the need for shade and the free movement of air. Although the formal aspects of each building link them, each is conceptually grounded in its very specific place with opposing site conditions. The Lanikai house is designed to block heavy ocean breezes, which is why it stretches the entire width of the site. Glass doors will stop a strong wind but can be pocketed to modulate airflow. Teak lattices can be positioned to provide protection from the sun without interrupting moving air or visibility. The house is permeable.
The Palm Springs house is the opposite. It is a walled enclosure that is inwardly focused, protective, self-contained. The surrounding wall is designed to create an environment that relates only to itself and the nearby mountain that dominates the view. When the glass doors are opened, the house becomes the entire space inside the wall.
It’s always interesting to see how an architect, who designs homes for a living, has set up their own home. You are based in San Francisco. How did that city impact the way you designed your own space? My residential loft is adjacent to the studio in a mixed industrial/residential area. Very urban. Very convenient, in the way that cities are. While occupying the same building, the residence has an outside entrance on a different street from the entrance to the studio, enhancing the separation between them. As a response to the urban condition, large areas of translucent glass let in a great deal of light without compromising privacy. At a smaller scale than is typical of my work, the space is simple and logically organized similar to client projects.
What inspires you in your work? Looking—really looking—at buildings. As with the differences between the Lanikai and Palm Springs projects that take a little time to discern, I find that buildings often reveal principles or motives or things in operation not obvious at first glance. For a San Francisco example, the overall form of Wright’s V. C. Morris shop on Maiden Lane (above) is greatly influenced by the subtle way the mortar was used in the brickwork. Emphasizing the horizontal coursing by employing Roman brick, raking the horizontal joints, and flush-grouting the vertical joints unifies the entire mass of the building.
I’m also inspired by artists that respect physics and materials. Long before his Torqued Ellipses, Serra inserted a sheet of steel into the corner of a gallery. To me, that simple act of defining space in a way that respects the physical world is remarkable—both obvious and sly. I deal with gravity and leverage every day in my work, and to see those forces at the center of a work of art inspires me.
Portrait and Palm Springs home by Joe Fletcher
May 16, 2011
The Editor’s Choice Awards were announced last night and we were on hand to receive the Best Outdoor Furniture award for the Eames Aluminum Group pieces – we put them together in a slideshow (above). The editors involved this year included Anniina Koivu of Abitare, Sam Grawe of Dwell, Annie Block of Interior Design, Nadia Lionello of Interni, Bénédicte Duhalde ofIntramuros and Paul J. Makovsky of Metropolis. There were 16 categories including Best Booth, won by Tom Dixon; Best Lighting went to Wastberg and Best School project went to “Tools at School”. This was a really cool joint project by The School at Columbia University with Aruliden and Bernhardt Design. Read an interview with Bernhardt Design’s Jerry Helling over at PSFK.
Photo: Tom Dixon booth via Mondoblogo.
Balance, Design, Products
May 16, 2011
We had a busy day yesterday with bloggers from all over the blogger-sphere dropping by our booth. It was great to finally put faces to names. Definitely look out for Jaime Derringer ‘s ICFF round-up on Design Milk. And for an extraordinary array of interviews with designers you can’t go past PSFK – plus their map has been a great guide through the ICFF maze. PSFK’s senior editor Dave Pinter dropped by the booth yesterday armed with two very serious looking cameras. You can check out his coverage here. We spent a bit of time with Lloyd Alter from Treehugger. We’re thrilled to announce we will be sharing stories with Lloyd over the coming months. Look out for those. Lloyd was particularly impressed with Wastberg’s paper lamp (pictured above). I put him onto the lovely Cappello lamps (below) by Molo – a great little desk light for Lifework readers.
May 15, 2011
By now you’ve read an awful lot about the Miller House, both on Lifework and Discover. Well, now we’re giving you opportunity to actually visit yourself. Just enter the getaway sweepstakes for a chance to win a weekend in Columbus, Indiana and a tour of the Miller House.
May 14, 2011
One of the exciting things about ICFF is seeing people’s reaction to new designs. When they arrive at the Herman Miller booth I love watching them sit in the chairs, stroke the mesh, squeeze the leather and generally relax. Wandering around the show is exhausting so it feels to good to offer people a bit of relief when they reach us.
What was interesting this year is we were actually going back to an original design with the re-issued Eames Aluminum Group chairs – of course, with some significant updates (technology lets us do cool things with mesh). The iconic chairs, that are so well known to Lifework readers, actually originated as outdoor furniture designed for the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana. Ha! I can hear the penny drop. So that’s why we designed the booth with the Miller House in mind. It all makes sense now. You get to see the new/old design in their natural setting – an iconic modern home with a seamless flow between indoors and out. You can read more detail about the booth and chairs here. But I thought you’d like to get a glimpse of them asap.
May 14, 2011
Day 1 here at ICFF and it has been a very busy morning. I finally got to see the new Eames Aluminum Group (EAG) pieces and they are pretty amazing. It’s been fun watching people almost double-take as they see the chairs in their outdoor setting. The booth was inspired by Eero Saarinen’s Miller House which in turn inspired Ray and Charles Eames in their EAG pieces. But more on the story over on Discover next week. The pieces will be available to the public next Spring.
We’ll have a slideshow with images from photographer Paul Warchol - a step up from my iPhone snaps! I think I made Paul a bit nervous waving the phone around but I couldn’t resist posting some pics of us setting up this morning.
May 13, 2011
Here is Tina Roth Eisenberg‘s Dumbo studio. Recognize those chairs?
May 13, 2011
Where we’ve been this week…
1. Fast Company for the piece on why Microsoft is buying Skype.
2. Grain Edit for the story on chalk artist Dana Tanamchi.
3. Design Mind for their awesome blogs. Always something interesting here.
4. Unhappy Hipsters because it is still really funny.
5. Design Traveller because we all need a break now and then. Be inspired by these amazing interiors.
6. bltd for its cool design and great design content.
7. Desire to Inspire for their home office round up.
8. The Cool Hunter for an extraordinary range of material you just don’t see everywhere else. A consummate design curator.
9. Elle Decor for its home office with matching white Eames Aluminum Group chairs.
10. Vanity Fair for their wonderful “My Desk” series.
Balance, Design, Products
May 13, 2011
Had a very nice lunch today with Tina Roth Eisenberg of Swissmiss, Brain Pickings‘ Maria Popova and Sharon Lee, president of Culture-Brain. Three smart women doing very interesting work. We ate at the studio run by Tina. It’s a shared workspace on the water in Dumbo. (You can read more about it here). Conversation ranged from Malcolm Gladwell’s ego and the role a second child plays in a family to the delicious local Himalayan hot sauce and Milton Glaser on the power of really knowing what you’re capable of doing.
Back at the hotel I’m now set up to work. Kind of. While I love the view from my hotel window the cord situation is driving me crazy (see below). I came across the Applecore cable tamers (above) on Tina’s blog. Perfect for the cable-heavy world I seem to exist in.
For now ICFF beckons. More on that tomorrow.
May 13, 2011
Andrew Berardini has a long list of accomplishments and enthusiasms: he is an American art critic, writer, and curator of contemporary art; he has published articles and essays in numerous art publications; lectured on art history at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and has guest lectured widely. He was recently made adjunct assistant curator at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and is currently Los Angeles editor for Mousse and senior editor for Artslant. All this thinking and writing happens at a desk and a chair, which become - between dropping off and picking up his daughter at school- a room of his own.
Space is an awfully difficult thing to deal with. It’s not even really a thing, which I suppose is sort of the problem. I actually wish that space was just an emptiness waiting to be filled, a vacuum to easily occupy with dancing fantasies and comfortable sofas; a clean, well lighted place, but it, perhaps unfortunately for us, isn’t. For any space to exist, it has to have some parameters of reality, some boundaries or markers that make it a space. Take Montana, a spacious place by most popular reckoning, it has that huge blue dome painted with wisps of lonesome clouds, the horizon line stretching in all directions giving way to fields and plains and badlands and the feel of the earth and grass beneath your feet, the smell of dust or cattle or big-rig exhaust and the sound of Hank Williams or lowing cows or wind or Eminem echoing in your ears. Or, let’s take another space. Even the whitest white box of an art gallery, all accouterments stripped down to their most starkly minimal, still has all the connotations of what it is: the drywall and white paint, the polished concrete floor, the spot lamps. They all mean something, a spatial language developed over years and years of showing art. Even when reduced to what seem the simplest and most spacious places, they all still give shape to the liquid of space.