May 9, 2013
Recognizing everything from landscape architecture to fashion, the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt Design Awards recognize the best in design. Some names, like this year’s winner for Corporate and Institutional Achievement, TED, are familiar, while others may be new to most.
Within academic circles, for example, Michael Sorkin is a well-known architecture and planning critic and professional whose texts show up on college syllabuses across the country. His 2011 All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities takes on his own New York City, including the controversial Ground Zero Memorial and proves why his is a bold and valued voice in the field. For this and other works, Sorkin is being honored with the Design Mind award.
For the other honorees, we’ll let their posters, gardens, restaurants and clothing speak for themselves:
Landscape Architecture, Margie Ruddick
When asked to create a “winter garden” for the Bank of America Tower in New York City, Ruddick created this living sculpture. She says, “we created an immersive green environment that is designed to make you feel like you have stepped into the natural world of the city.”
Communication Design, Paula Scher
Known for her rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic–she’s designed posters for Elvis Costello–Paula Scher is a clear voice in communication design. Her advice to aspiring designers? “Find out what the next thing is that you can push, that you can invent, that you can be ignorant about, that you can be arrogant about, that you can fail with, and that you can be a fool with. Because in the end, that’s how you grow.”
Interior Design, Aidlin Darling Design
Aidlin Darling’s design for this ultra-hip San Francisco bar and hangout got almost as much attention as the food. Generous with the wood, the design also employed billowing glass curtains.
Architectural Design, Studio Gang Architects
Designed for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, this structure takes its inspiration from a tortoise shell. The archway was part of a larger boardwalk that transformed an urban pond into “an ecological habitat buzzing with life.”
Fashion Design, Behnaz Sarafpour
Sarafpour began her career in New York in 1989 when she attended the Parsons School of Design. Since then, her work has found its way into special lines for Target and several museums, including the Victoria and Albert in London.
Interaction Design, Local Projects
To gather the stories of a mining community for an area museum, Local Projects built a recording studio from ”a trailer clad entirely in copper…in homage to the single metal that the Southwest is famous for supplying.”
Product Design, NewDealDesign
Based in San Francisco, NewDealDesign combines graphic, interaction and industrial design to create products that also serve as solutions.
Lifetime Achievement, James Wines
Wines has long integrated green design principles into his work, such as this Las Vegas Denny’s that also includes a wedding chapel.
April 17, 2013
On April 16, Smithsonian Institution Secretary G. Wayne Clough testified before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about the impending effects of sequestration. Though the Obama administration had sought a $59 million budget increase for the Institution in fiscal 2014, this year Clough has to contend with a $41 million budget reduction due to sequestration. Gallery closings, fewer exhibitions, reduced educational offerings, loss of funding for research and cuts to the planning process of the under-construction National Museum of African American History and Culture were listed among the impacts of the sequestration.
Clough began his testimony: “Each year millions of our fellow citizens come to Washington to visit—for free—our great museums and galleries and the National Zoo, all of which are open every day of the year but one. Our visitors come with high aspirations to learn and be inspired by our exhibitions and programs.”
“It is my hope,” Clough told the committee, “that our spring visitors will not notice the impact of the sequestration.” Perhaps most noticeable would be the gallery closures, which, while they would not close entire museums, would restrict access to certain floors or spaces in the museums, unable to pay for sufficient security. Those changes would begin May 1, according to Clough.
Clough warned, however, that while these short-term measures will save in the near future, they might also entail long-term consequences. Unforeseen costs may arise in the form of diminished maintenance capabilities, for example. “Any delays in revitalization or construction projects will certainly result in higher future operating and repair costs,” Clough said.
This also threatens the Institution’s role as steward of thousands of historic and valuable artifacts–”Morse’s telegraph; Edison’s light bulb; the Salk vaccine; the 1865 telescope designed by Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer who discovered a comet; the Wright Flyer; Amelia Earhart’s plane; Louis Armstrong’s trumpet; the jacket of labor leader Cesar Chavez,” to name a few.
November 20, 2012
If you think your house is going to be packed for Thanksgiving, imagine the crowds at a Smithsonian museum. According to the Washington Post, the museums had 418, 000 visitors over the holiday weekend in 2010. Though that number dipped in 2011, the institution is still gearing up for a full house.
To help visitors navigate their way through the 19 museums and National Zoo, Smithsonian will be fielding questions before and during the holiday on its Twitter page. Just follow @smithsonian and use the hashtag “#TgivingVisitTips” to stay up to date. Veteran visitors will also post their own tips with the hashtag, including, “1) eat at
@SmithsonianNMAI 2) take a pic at @NMAAHC site for posterity 3) comfy shoes” by Erin Blasco.
Here are some of our own insider tips, from our Greatest Hits guide (now available on your smart phone!):
Smithsonian Institution Building, The Castle: Your first stop for all things Smithsonian, the Castle is home to the information center where you can scope out all the current exhibits around the Mall, including the Castle’s own exhibit, “Experience Civil War Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront.” You can also pay your respects to the founder, James Smithson, who lies at rest in the crypt in the building’s foyer.
National Portrait Gallery: With several new exhibits and a host of permanent favorites, there’s plenty to take in at the gallery (like Alexander Gardner’s famous cracked glass plate portrait of Abraham Lincoln), including the building itself. On the third floor in the Great Hall, is an architectural gem that shouldn’t be missed. The yellow, blue and red stained-glass windows in the octagonal dome, dating to 1885, cast lush hues on sunny days.
American Art Museum: Housed in the same building as NPG, is the American Art Museum, which just opened its splendid new exhibit “The Civil War and American Art,” which is sure to draw crowds. The museum even had its own role in the Civil War: On the third floor near the Woman Eating sculpture, the initials C.H.F. are scrawled on the wall. The work of some hipster tagger? No, the graffiti artist also put a date: “Aug. 8, 1864.” Likely it was left by a patient; the building was a Civil War infirmary.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Not quite on the Mall, the Udvar-Hazy Center (in Chantilly, Virginia—near Dulles Airport) is home to a world-famous collection of aircraft a space vehicles, including the Air France Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery. After seeing those beauties, tell the kids to check this out. Look for seven hidden oddities in the model of the mother ship made from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. These were internal Hollywood jokes that weren’t part of the script. Hint: One is R2-D2 from the movie Star Wars.
Air and Space Museum: The world’s most-visited museum, Air and Space has everything from moon rocks to the Wright flyer. But how did they get it all in there? Look closely at the large window on the west side of the building. The glass slide away like giant garage doors.
American History Museum: Next up from the big three, American History, where even celebrities like Parks and Rec‘s Councilwoman Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) like to hang out. In addition to the brand new exhibit “FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000″ with Julia Child’s kitchen, you’ll also want to stop by the first floor for the Dolls’ House. Inside the house, inhabited by Peter Doll and his family, Christmas decorations are kept in the attic. Each holiday season, curators retrieve the tiny tree and wreaths and decorate the house.
Anacostia Community Museum: After an extensive research process, the museum recently opened its exhibit “Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement” as part of its efforts to reach out to the community. Comparing waterways in L.A., Pittsburgh, Louisville, London, Shanghai and here in D.C., the exhibit is full of artworks and informative displays. Check out the playful piece Talking Trash, kinetic sculpture of fish made from plastic water bottles.
Natural History Museum: The grand dame of the big three museum, Natural History is famous partly for housing the “cursed” Hope Diamond. But it’s not all sparkle and shine. Heard of donating your body to science? Professor Grover Krantz volunteered to be put on display at the Smithsonian–with his dog. “I’ve been a teacher all my life, and I think I might as well be a teacher after I’m dead,” he said. Find the pair on the second floor.
American Indian Museum: What better time to visit the American Indian Museum than November, American Indian Heritage Month? In addition to its award-winning cafe and engaging exhibits, it has a treat for those who know where and when to look. Watch for the lovely play of light in the Potomac Atrium. Eight prisms on the south wall project refractions on the floor. See them at the peak of their brilliance between 11 and 2. On the summer and winter solstice, the light lines up precisely.
Freer Gallery: Amid the jades and bronzes from Asia, a fierce fight is playing out. The two birds depicted squawking in battle on the back wall of Whistler’s Peacock Room represent a real-life contretemps between the artist and his patron over a disputed fee for the artwork.
Sackler Gallery: With a new blockbuster exhibit, “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Sackler is as busy as ever. This year, the Sackler celebrates its 25th anniversary of the 1987 gift of some 1,000 works of Asian art from Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), a New York City physician.
Hirshhorn Museum: Contemporary art lovers will be filling the circular gallery space to check out Barbara Kruger’s installation and the new exhibit, “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” But you’ll be headed outside. Ready for a little covert operation? Check out the sculpture Antipodes just outside the front door. The piece has two encoded texts, one related to C.I.A. operations and the other in Cyrillic related to the K.G.B.
Museum of African Art: The current exhibit, “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts” is out of this world, combining science and the arts over time. Our insider tips combines its own bit of science and art. Check out the sculpture of Toussaint Louverture. It is made of a mysterious substance that the artist also used to waterproof his house.
Renwick Gallery: Just a few steps from the White House, the Renwick is a must-see in its own right, listed as a National Historic Landmark. Up the stairs is one of the city’s premier galleries, the Grand Salon, modeled in the French Second Empire style.
National Postal Museum: A stamp collection that can’t be beat, including the first ever U.S. government-issued stamp from 1847, is just the start of the Postal Museum. This building was designed by Daniel Burnham, the protagonist of the best-seller Devil in the White City.
National Zoo: In addition to the cuddly cuties on display, the Zoo is also launching this year’s seasonal display, ZooLights, Friday, November 23. As you wander through the animals, listen for the morning songs of the white-cheeked gibbons. They can be heard up to one mile away.
Don’t forget to download our Visitors Guide and Tours app. We’ve packed it with specialty tours, must-see exhibitions, museum floor plans and custom postcards. Get it on Google Play and in the Apple Store for just 99 cents.
September 9, 2012
Sadly, Bill Moggridge, director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City, died yesterday, at the age of 69 years old. According to the museum, he died after battling cancer. His visionary leadership will be sorely missed by the Smithsonian community and surely the design world at large.
“All of us at the Smithsonian mourn the loss of a great friend, leader and design mind,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. “In his two short years as director of Cooper-Hewitt, Bill transformed the museum into the Smithsonian’s design lens on the world, and we are forever grateful for his extraordinary leadership and contributions.”
In recent years, Moggridge described his career as having three phases. Early in his professional life, he was a designer. In 1982, he developed the first laptop computer, known as the GRiD Compass. Later, Moggridge was leading design teams, having co-founded IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm with David Kelley and Mike Nuttall in 1991. In the last decade, he considered himself first and foremost a communicator, sharing his ideas about the role of design in everyday life in his books (Designing Interactions, published in 2006, and Designing Media, in 2010) and lectures.
The Cooper-Hewitt honored Moggridge in 2009 with its National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. A year later, he joined the museum as its fourth-ever director. In his two years of direction, Moggridge encouraged lively conversation about all realms of design, engaging the field’s best and brightest—YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, Google CreativeLab’s Robert Wong and architect Michael Graves, among others—in an interview series called Bill’s Design Talks. He was also overseeing the ongoing $54 million renovation of the Cooper-Hewitt, which is due to reopen in 2014.
“During his tenure, Bill led the museum to the highest exhibition attendance numbers on record, pioneered bringing design into the K-12 classroom and dramatically increased digital access to the collection through vehicles like the Google Art Project,” said Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture. “His innovative vision for the future of the museum will be realized upon reopening, and his foresight will impact museum visitors and design thinkers of tomorrow. He will be greatly missed.”
I had the great opportunity to interview Moggridge in early 2011 for Smithsonian magazine, after he had received the 2010 Prince Philip Designers Prize—Britain’s most prestigious design award—for his contributions to the field. Design, he said in the interview—”It’s all about solving problems.” What I remember most though was Moggridge’s adoration for the simplest of designs, and his eloquence when it came to describing them.
“I love something as uncomplicated as a paper clip, because it is such a neat way of solving a problem with very little material,” he said. “If I think about something more sensuous, I’ve always been interested in the perfect spoon. It is delectable in a multisensory way: the appearance, the balance and feeling as you pick it up off the table, then the sensation as it touches your lips and you taste the contents.”
July 16, 2012
Buzzy titles like these now populate the TED talks website and attract thousands of viewers the same day they appear. Few people haven’t been told they “have to watch this one lecture on TED” by friends amped on a new idea. But the very first TED conference back in 1984 was a relative flop, according to its creator Richard Saul Wurman.
Though Wurman led TED into more prosperous times, still enjoyed today, he tired of the format and sold the enterprise to Chris Anderson in 2001. He is now preparing to unveil his newest project, WWW, calling it the conference of the 21st century. Wurman, this year’s winner of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Lifetime Achievement Award, is known both for founding the blockbuster conference series and for his propensity to grow restless and move on to the next thing.
Starting in architecture, he hopped from book writing to conference organizing. With each venture, whether he was writing a guide to investing or a foreign city, Wurman used new ways to visualize and communicate information. Sometimes called an “intellectual hedonist,” his work follows his curiosity as it zigs and zags across media.
“I am an unusual choice to win the lifetime achievement award,” insists Wurman. His path to success doesn’t trace the typical vertical route up the hierarchy. Instead, he says he’s worked horizontally on disparate ideas united by his impulse to design and explain.
Along with this year’s nine other Design Award winners, Wurman had a packed Friday dining at the White House with Michelle Obama, but began his day at the Cooper-Hewitt’s third annual Teen Design Fair. Students from New York City and Washington, D.C. were invited to talk with dozens of experts working in architecture, fashion, urban and landscape design, industrial design and communications.
Students circled around Wurman, whose craft was listed as “Architecture/Interiors.”
“I don’t own a suit,” he tells the students. “I don’t own a tie. I never dress up.” Wurman delights in the iconoclast role and drew the students in with his frank way of talking. It’s no coincidence his TED conferences were modeled on the same kind of frank, anti-establishment thought.
Wurman began with one of his five methods of innovation: subtraction. “I subtracted panels of white men in suits, CEOs and politicians, lecterns, long speeches,” recalls Wurman.
By now his signature 18-minute time frame is familiar and the diversity of speakers he attracted introduced new voices to the spotlight. These bite-sized, personal lectures, though held in a very exclusive setting, make online viewers feel they are part of the idea and not just hearing about it. But even that format has grown cumbersome in Wurman’s mind.
On the move yet again, Wurman is working on a new project called WWW, which he describes as the conference of the 21st century. TED now falls squarely in the 20th century, according to him. Subtracting both set presentations and time constraints, WWW will create “intellectual jazz” between two “of the most extraordinary people” Wurman knows. For good measure, musical directors Herbie Hancock and Yo-Yo Ma will add improvised contributions. The whole project is driven by the experimental whims of its creator; “When I’m tired of listening to them, I pull them off stage.”
The first talk is set for September 18-20, but he says he has no clue who the participants will be yet. Once he settles on guests, Wurman will help build an app for each conference allowing viewers to learn as much as they possibly can about each speaker. If the speaker is Frank Gehry, “They’ll see Frank Gehry talking about 30 buildings he never got to build,” explains Wurman, promising interviews, baby photos and even a look at the personal notes and work of each subject.
Branded as the future of conferences, WWW actually draws inspiration from 19th century salons with Wurman playing the role of Gertrude Stein. As TED moves further into the realm of lectures and ideas that “make a difference,” Wurman seems more concerned with the very nature of an idea as a social product.
And, of course, he’s concerned with staying curious. As soon as something fails to hold his interest, he’s on to the next project.
It’s Wurman’s salon, after all, and we’re just stopping by.