Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wrightian elements in the Charnley-Persky House

Louis H. Sullivan, co-principal of the firm Adler and Sullivan, in 1891 designed the Charnley-Persky House in Chicago. At the same time, twenty-four-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright was the firm’s chief draftsman and for the Charnley House project he designed many of the details (with Sullivan’s approval) including the decorative ornamentation. Indeed the decoration in the Charnley House was a design objective.

One of the first details upon entering the house on the inside of the vestibule door is the beautifully stylized representation of oak leaf flora that is constrained within triangular frames. The triangular pattern is echoed in the main staircase. As one ascends the staircase the elongated vertical canes suggest the forms of Wright’s weed holders that are associated with his Oak Park period. On the stair post is the natural oak leaf motif within the patterns of a circular frame that’s framed by the square. This frame within a frame emblem would be associated with Wright’s Prairie style.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Michael Graves and the 2012 Driehaus Prize

This is a rather atmospheric photograph of Michael Graves on the platform of the John B. Murphy Auditorium Chicago during the 2012 Driehaus Prize presentation colloquium. photo by versluis

Last Saturday, March 24, architect and product designer Michael Graves was in Chicago to receive the annual 2012 Driehaus Prize for sustaining the principles of traditional and classical architecture. The award is presented through the auspices of University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and the ceremony took place at the John B. Murphy Auditorium. In addition, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers was there to receive the Henry Hope Reed Award for promoting the values of traditional city design, architecture and art through writing and advocacy. Graves is Founding Principal of the firm Michael Graves & Associates (MGA) and the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus at Princeton University.

Chicago is a city of grand architecture that definitely has soul so I was a bit surprised by a comment Graves made while accepting his award, regarding the Art Institute of Chicago’s new modern art wing. He remarked that the modern wing was a perfect building but it “lacked soul.” His statement was meant to make the point that being a classicist architect provides a precedent — a background, a compositional language, which confers meaning on place.

To introduce the 2012 Driehaus Laureate, Graves asked architect Andrés Duany, a previous Driehaus award recipient to do the honors. Duany gave some interesting insights into Graves as a teacher. He lauded Graves as an open-minded and persistent teacher who’s always most interested in learning. Graves does this best by pointing students to others rather than to himself.

John B. Murphy Auditorium

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Carl Regehr: “Make Right Decisions — FAST.”

Carl Regehr, Untitled, Type Collage in Mixed Media, 4.25" x 5.625", 1982. Out of friendship and appreciation, this piece was given to Rick Valicenti by Robert Vogle (VSA).

Starting in the early 1970s Carl was a professor at the University of Illinois, after a very distinguished career as a graphic designer in Chicago.

Thirst design director, Rick Valicenti tells this story about the late Carl Regehr (1919-1983): “Early on when I was making the move to my own practice I had the occasion to ask Carl what advice he could give me about the graphic design business. Regehr replied: ‘Make Right Decisions — FAST.’ What struck me, [Rick adds] was Carl’s initial statement and pause followed by emphasizing the word ‘fast’ that expressed Carl’s personality and thoughtfulness.”

Carl Regehr’s quote and sketch by Valicenti hangs on Thirst’s refrigerator.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete Identity

A Chicagoland based Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete Truck delivering to a building site on Clark Street and Grand Avenue in Chicago. According the the Company’s website, “Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete, a family-owned business is believed to be the first concrete company in the country to convert fourteen of its mixing trucks to run on natural gas.”

Logotype and truck icon was designed and drawn by David Versluis in 1983.

Nearly thirty years ago I worked with Martin Ozinga III to design an Ozinga logotype, graphic identity and stationery system. For the stationery and business cards the logo was a combination mark with a carefully rendered and reproducible icon of their highly recognizable red and white striped trucks juxtaposed with the logotype illustrated above. The truck itself was the graphic identity and there was never any reason to change it. As part of the graphic program I indicated where the logo should be placed on the truck doors.

The logotype was used for a while but eventually was replaced by a script-style logotype. Recently, however, I was surprised to see new Ozinga trucks around Chicago carrying the sans serif logo, very similar to the one I designed in 1983.

An interesting connection is that the annual Hilda Ozinga Art Scholarship offered by Dordt College is funded through the generosity of the Ozinga family. Hilda’s husband, Norman was a partner when the company was known as Ozinga Bros. Inc. Norm was an uncle to Martin Ozinga III, the company’s president.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Renée Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma: a Chicago “pop-up” concert (03.19.2012)

Above is a photograph of soprano Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing “Vocalise” by Rachmaninoff. The keyboardist is Matthew Piatt from the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The photo was taken with a regular lens and available light. Obviously, I was incredibly close to the performers—the sound and clarity was absolutely stunning. photo by versluis.

This morning at Thirst we all received a fantastic invitation from the great folks at the Lyric Opera of Chicago to come and hear a short program by Renée Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma. Rick Valicenti, design director at Thirst has had a long and very fine association with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The lunchtime performance was held at the James R. Thompson Center Chicago. This so-called “pop-up event” was a collaboration of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the purpose as the program sheet stated was, “to help celebrate the value of music in our daily lives.” Also part of the program were choruses from Lake View High School, Chicago High School for the Arts, and Merit School of Music as well as members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The program sheet further explains:
This concert is part of ongoing initiatives [CSO’s Citizen Musician and the Lyric’s Renée Fleming Initiative] by both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Renée Fleming is the Creative Consultant for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Yo-Yo Ma is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Adler and Sullivan’s Charnley House, Chicago

Chicago architect Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924) is remembered for orchestrating lush architectural ornament that integrated organic forms with an underlying geometric structure. The iron oak leaf garland on the front door window grille of the Charnley House in Chicago is indicative of Sullivan’s ingenuity. He also seems to contrast the ornament of his buildings with the geometric forms of the structure itself. For Sullivan this “geometry” was architecture that expressed the idea of democracy.

Additionally, the motif reveals the elegant interior ornamental system and pattern found inside this residential building. As one enters the entry hall of the Charnley House from the foyer, you’re immediately face-to-face with the warmth of the hearth and tiled mosaic pattern as illustrated above. From this vantage point the dining room is to the left and the front parlor and upstairs stairway to the right.

The website for the Society of Architectural Historians states: “Adler and Sullivan’s most renowned residential design was the commission for James Charnley on Astor Street in Chicago, completed in 1892. On commissions that the firm received between 1887 and 1893, his highly talented draftsman and fellow designer, Frank Lloyd Wright, assisted Sullivan.”

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Sabbatical status after a month at Thirst (3st) weeks 3-5

Above is an example of a product sheet for Hale’s Tidal Shelf (wall shelf), one of 22 product tearsheets that Thirst has developed for industrial designer, Jonathan Nesci. 

Rick Valicenti, design director; Bud Rodecker template design; David Versluis, production designer. Thirst is a design collaborative /

Things are going well and I'm making the most of my time here in Chicago by cultivating connections and taking advantage of educational opportunities. Since I document almost everything, you can always check the status on this blog.

At the moment I'm helping to produce product sheets for high-end furniture designer, Jonathan Nesci. Jonathan’s furniture is produced for Hale, an industrial design company which he founded in 2006, based in Chicago and Scottsburg, Indiana. My role in the process is to retouch, crop, size, and place the product photography in each tearsheet, as well as clean up and size the line drawings for each product in order to achieve a consistent line thickness.

Nesci’s furniture designs for Hale look deceptively simple and chic. Intrinsic in the production process is quality craft in the form of precision machining and fabricating methods, necessary in producing furniture that’s so elegantly minimal.

Last week I was included in a very informative meeting at Thirst with Classic Color company executives to discuss and get feedback on some unique website concepts for Classic. Rick Valicenti and John Pobojewski held the conversation.

I also enjoyed a visit with former student and Dordt College alumnus, Sarah Franken on Monday afternoon, 27 February. Sarah happened to be in town and contacted me, asking if she could stop by and see Thirst’s office; she was graciously received by everyone in the office and seemed to enjoy her time. I have had a few other Dordt alumni inquire about visits as well.

As a very pleasant surprise, veteran Chicago graphic designer Jack Weiss from Evanston came to Thirst one afternoon to meet with Rick about an upcoming book on one of Chicago’s graphic design pioneers, Carl Regehr (1919–1983). The book will feature Regehr’s “Mail Art.” Rick introduced me to Jack and we had a great time conversing about Chicago’s rich graphic design history.

As a follow-up to an earlier blog piece — the article on Team !melk got some national buzz (Thirst is one of the team members). Last Friday Thirst received this e-mail from !melk in New York City:
Subject: good press — our great pier: Hello team !melk, I thought I'd share with you just some of the blogs that our Chicago Navy Pier project has been posted in this week! Great work gets around :), Archdaily, DC AIGA, E-ARCHITECT, PLUS MOOD, ARCHISCENE  
As Rick Valicenti said, “David, you’re in good company!” Good company indeed.

A Valicenti sketch to this author for the Hale project on Rick’s yellow paper.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thomas Ankersmit: an avant-garde music performance at the Graham Foundation/Chicago

A phone photo of Thomas Ankersmit using his computer in performance at the Graham Foundation/Chicago. Photo is courtesy of Lampo via Twitter.

On Saturday night (02.25.12) under the auspices of Lampo and the Graham Foundation I attended a hour-long, solo improvisational auditory art composition performed by Thomas Ankersmit of the Netherlands. The new performance piece could be characterized as an assemblage of painting and dance in electronic sound that’s orchestrated with precision. The compositional impact of Ankersmit’s musical sounds seem to range from whimsical to rowdy and is highly organized chaos. Additionally, the performance had emotional intensity and energy—indicative of experimentation.

Lampo is an organization based in Chicago, “that promotes and supports artists working in electronic and electro acoustic music, free improvisation, sound art and other new forms.” Here’s information taken from Lampo’s website:
Lampo and the Graham Foundation are pleased to welcome Thomas Ankersmit as he performs new work for the Serge analogue modular synthesizer, an instrument originally developed by Serge Tcherepnin at CalArts in the 1970s.

Ankersmit has been artist in residence at CalArts since December, where the historic synthesizers were restored for him to work with. …[At the Graham Foundation], he’ll play his own Serge modular live, paired with sampled material from the old Serge synths, processed in real-time, all in quad.

Thomas Ankersmit (b. 1979, Leiden, the Netherlands) is a musician and installation artist based in Berlin and Amsterdam. His main instruments are the Serge analogue modular synthesizer, computer and alto saxophone. He works frequently with New York minimalist Phill Niblock. Other collaborators include electroacoustic artists Valerio Tricoli (spin their acclaimed “Forma II” on Pan) and Kevin Drumm. Ankersmit performed at Lampo in September 2008.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

New work: The 2012 Sioux County Oratorio Chorus Poster

Graphic designer: David Versluis 

This year the Sioux County Oratorio Chorus is scheduled to perform Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Northwestern College’s Christ Chapel on Saturday, April 28, 2012. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.

The visual impact of this year’s poster is the typographic boldness of Elijah’s name along with the fire image. These design elements were inspired by the Elijah story (1 Kings 18: 38-39) where the water-saturated altar and sacrifice is instantaneously consumed by fire. The event is a powerful testament to the power of the Yahweh.

The poster was designed by David Versluis and printed by Demco Printing Company in Boyden, Iowa.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

George Nakashima and George Nelson: consummate designers

While on Sabbatical, this semester, working at Thirst (3st) in Chicago during the day “beautiful and practical things” surround me. Pictured here are just a couple of examples. Pictured above: George Nakashima’s (1905-1990) “Conoid Table” with a “‘New’ Chair” and below is the “Home Office Desk” designed by George Nelson for Herman Miller.

According to the George Nakashima website, “The sculptural lines of the conoid base suit a more free-form tabletop….” In this example, the tabletop is one piece of beautifully figured wood. Along with the table is a single “New” Chair made of American cherry with hickory spindles, 1955-1984, 18.5" w x 17.5" d x 35" h.

Here’s a brief Nakashima biography taken from his website:
George Nakashima (1905-1990) was born in Spokane, Washington in 1905 and grew up in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in architecture at the University of Washington and a Master’s from MIT in 1930, as well as the Prix Fontainebleau from L’Ecole Americaine des Beaux Arts in France in 1928. After spending some time in Paris, he traveled around the world and secured a job at the Antonin Raymond office in Tokyo which sent him to Pondicherry, India, where he was the onsite architect for the first reinforced concrete building in that country and became one of the first disciples of Sri Aurobindo. 
“There are no formulas, no guidelines, but only experience, instinct and a contact with the divine.” — George Nakashima

George Nelson (1908-1986) was one of the founders of American modernism. In addition to being a very fine designer he was also an exceptional writer about design and published several books and numerous articles.

Pictured above is the “Home Office Desk” for Herman Miller designed in c.1946. The materials list for the piece is walnut, leather, chrome-plated steel, perforated aluminum and the dimensions are, 54.5" w x 28" d x 40.75" h. The desk features two drawers, two doors concealing two drawers and five shelves and one flip-top compartment.

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