Friday, May 31, 2013

“flowing curves and simple elegance” — the cantilevered MR Chair (named for its designer Mies van der Rohe)

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, designer
German, 1886–1969
Manufactured by Bamberg Metallwerkstätten, Berlin, Neukölln
Armchair (MR20), designed in 1927, manufactured 1931
Nickel-plated steel, steel and cane seat
From the collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Photographs by versluis 2013

Although the tubular steel chair was perfected at the Bauhaus in the mid-1920s by the development of Marcel Breuer’s four-legged Club Chair. Equally impressive are Mies van der Rohe’s cantilever tubular steel chairs that were designed and manufactured from 1927–31 and inspired by technology as well as Dutch architect Mart Stam. The MR Chair was a collaboration with designer Lilly Reich. Miesian tubular steel furniture are perfect accents for his architecture, particularly for his residential interiors designed with Reich.

In their very fine biography titled Mies van der Rohe coauthors Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst describe the MR Chair as having “flowing curves and simple elegance.”(1) The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art didactic for this piece explains the chair this way:
The architect and designer Mies van der Rohe asserted, “Form is not the aim of our work but only the result.” With the MR20 chair, Mies aimed to mass-produce inexpensive furniture from innovative materials such as tubular steel. The result was this curvilinear, lightweight chair that comfortably bends beneath the sitter’s weight while maintaining a sleek, elegant appearance. Mies stripped the traditional armchair of its bulk and relied on the light and flexible steel frame and cane seat to provide comfortable support. The fusion of handcrafted detail with modern technology embodies the ideals of the German design school, the Bauhaus (1919–1933). With his contemporaries, Mies the Bauhaus’ last director, brought the design principles of the Bauhaus to America [United States] in the late 1930s.
For further reading about the Bauhaus here is a wonderful reference piece from Archdaily: Infographic: The Bauhaus, Where Form Follows Function.
  1. Schulze, Franz, and Edward Windhorst. Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography. revised ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2012. 104-05. Print.

Read More......

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sullivan’s the Peoples Federal Savings and Loan Association Building (1917), Sidney, Ohio

Peoples Federal Savings and Loan Association Building was erected in 1917-18 in Sidney, Ohio. The Ohio Historical Marker for this landmark states, “One of the last works of Louis Henri Sullivan (1856–1924), the American architect whose original ideas of functional design and decorative ornament provided a basis for modern American architecture.” Photographs by versluis 2013.

The western facade with a framed bank of art glass windows reinforces the geometry of the building.

Terra-cotta ornament detail indicating a classical style handiwork with indigenous plants and leaves symbolizing a bountiful land of progress and prosperity. The photograph also shows Sullivan’s signature “jewel box” bank building material: tapestry brick.

Interior view of art glass windows by Art Institute of Chicago professor Louis Millet celebrates the exterior ornamentation and creates the emotive effect of natural light through green foliage.

Read More......

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sullivan’s the Farmers & Merchants Union Bank (1920), Columbus, Wisconsin: “a little bit of cathedral in it”

Interior view from just inside the entry doors of the Farmers and Merchants Union Bank.
Photograph by versluis, 2013

All of Louis Sullivan’s “Jewel Box” Bank buildings celebrate light with a wonderful sparkling emerald effect created with art glass. It seems that Sullivan  uses stained glass with a sprightly touch to create a spiritual clerestory wall of weightlessness. This metaphor of light contrasts beautifully with the solid masonry wall underneath.

Dordt College engineering professor Ethan Brue shares this quote from writer Samuel Florman with his students. The passage fits Sullivan very well:

Not only cathedrals, but every great engineering work is an expression of motivation and of purpose which cannot be divorced from religious implications. This truth provides the engineer with what many would assert to be the ultimate existential pleasure.
I do not want to get carried away with this point. The age of cathedral building is long past. And, as I have already said, less than one quarter of today’s engineers are engaged in construction activities of any sort. But every man-made structure, no matter how mundane has a little bit of cathedral in it, since man cannot help but transcend himself as soon as he begins to design and construct. (1)

This 1920s interior view is looking back towards the entry doors of the Farmers and Merchants Union Bank, which has the distinction of being one of Sullivan’s last architectural projects that was built.
Photograph by Clarance Fuerman (Fuermann, Henry, and Sons [Chicago])
Location: 159 W. James St., Columbus, Wisconsin
Image is from the Art Institute of Chicago, Archival Collection Name Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection. Image is copyrighted
  1. Florman, Samuel C. The Existential Pleasures of Engineering. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1996. 125. Print.

Read More......

Friday, May 3, 2013

New Work: AIGA South Dakota’s QUOTE THIS! art gallery show — Tis the season for graduation cakes.

This is Versluis’s piece for AIGA South Dakota’s QUOTE THIS! art gallery show. The QUOTE THIS! group exhibition features handmade typographic renderings of one’s favorite design quote. The show is now on view at the Sioux Falls Design Center from May–July 2013. Versluis’s piece is a photograph of a custom-ordered, hand-lettered graduation cake that honors a quote by designer Morton Goldsholl who once stated, “Bad Design is Useless and a Sham.”

About a year ago while spending Sabbatical time at Thirst (3st) I found this wonderful quote by Morton Goldsholl while studying one of Rick Valicenti’s fabulous sketchbooks. Valicenti had heard Mort make this statement:

And speaking more about Rick’s connection with Morton Goldsholl — here’s a recent designboom interview in which Valicenti responds to a question:

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? 
Something that I always remember was told to me by Morton Goldsholl, a Chicago design legend and student of Moholy Nagy’s first class at the New Bauhaus: on a rainy night some 30 years ago I drove to Mort’s office to meet the man with a friend, Michael Glass, and together we stood soaked, knocking at his front door. When he answered, we were both completely tongue tied. Out of panic, I asked, ‘If you could share any wisdom with two young designers what would it be?’ Mort answered with, ‘I have three words for you both – take a risk.’ Then he closed the door, and we left! (1)
  1.  “Rick Valicenti (3st) Interview.” designboom., 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 2 May 2013.

Read More......