A Pictorial Blog of Things I Make,
Items I Collect, Architecture I Love,
and Other Stuff

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Selections From My Collection of Mall Post Cards: Water Feature Series

 The auditory stimulus of a water fountain induces, so it is said, a relaxed mental state and psychological contentedness--perfect for shopping. Westland Center (above) in Westland, Mich., opened in 1965 as the Mitten State's first fully enclosed, climate-controlled mall. It was designed by Victor Gruen Associates and Louis G. Redstone Associates.

 Canton, Ohio: Belden Village Mall's fountain, circa 1970, no longer exists, displaced by a generic food court. The designers of our nation's mid-century souks at first thought that distributing eateries throughout a mall would impel patrons to walk the concourse and thus pass more storefronts.

Tacoma, Wash.: The Tacoma Mall opened in 1964 and was designed by John Graham. This stepped fountain has been replaced by an information desk.
 Phoenix, Ariz.: In the Chris-Town Mall, which opened in 1961, J.C. Penney's (on the right) fronted what was known as the Court of Fountains. Penney's is now a Costco, and the clattering of its monster shopping carts has supplanted the soothing sounds of the fountains that were removed when new flooring was installed. Note on the left the slipper-arch stairway, now long gone as well.

 Biloxi, Miss.: Edgewater Mall opened in 1963 and took a very bad hit from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

 Here's a better look at Edgewater's fountain.

 West Palm Beach, Fla.: The central feature of Palm Beach Mall, which opened in 1967, was the Wonderfall, just beyond the bridge above. It was substituted for a new fountain with a seahorse theme in 2000. The mall closed permanently on January 31, 2010.

 Dearborn, Mich.: Fairlane Town Center's multi-tiered fountain remains intact to the mall's original, somewhat Wrightian 1976 design. Note what is called the "Octa-Lift" elevator--a nod to John Portman's designs for Hyatt Hotels.

Winter Park, Fla.: The Winter Park Mall, circa 1966, has been demolished.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not Reindeer, John Deere

 The first John Deere trademark with the leaping stag was registered in 1876 and has over the years been followed by seven variations. The latest, shown here, sprung into being in 2000. The tractor is a button. The screws on the corners are actually brads.

 A brad is a metal whatchamabob with tabs that fold back to hold papers. A couple of years ago John Deere put out a suite of three different kinds: Tractors . . .

 . . . the logo . . .

 . . . and tractor tires.

One yester-yule I received a John Deere pedal tractor, Model 20, manufactured by Eska, planting in me a life-long liking for the lucid design of the tractor. Perhaps in a nod to its brawn, this scaled-down model was cast iron and no picnic to move around on.   

Friday, December 3, 2010

Art Nouveau in New York City

 Otherwise dense with representations of various design trends, New York is relatively dispossessed of one: Art Nouveau. The organic, floral- and plant-inspired motifs of the style garnish the Decker Building at 31 Union Square West, designed in 1892 by John Edelman. On the sixth floor from 1968 to 1973 was home of Andy Warhol's Factory, where he was shot by Valerie Solanas.

 No. 65 Bleecker Street: Edelman’s protégé, Louis Sullivan, designed the terra-cotta-clad Bayard-Condict Building in 1897, one of city's first steel skeleton-frame skyscrapers (at 13 stories) and Sullivan's sole work in New York. Over the architect's objections, the angels were a belated addition at the request of the client.

 Sullivan's celestial beings, by the way, predate by four years those on one of Vienna's most celebrated exemplars of Art Nouveau, Oscar Laske's "Angel Drugstore."

 No. 561 Broadway: The steelwork of Ernest Flagg's Singer Building of 1902 expresses another attribute of Art Nouveau--flowing curvilinear forms.

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Installed exactly three years ago tomorrow after being in storage for more than four decades, the Wisteria Dining Room is the only complete French Art Nouveau interior on display in the United States. It was designed in 1910 by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer for a home in Paris near the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Wisteria elements flourish on every aspect--including the door handles and drawer pulls. The standing lamp is meant to evoke the twisted trunk of the wisteria vine.

 Madison Square Park: Many authorities consider the meandrous relief by Augustus Saint-Gaudens on this pedestal (designed by Stanford White) as the first example of Art Nouveau in America. It was unveiled in 1880. On the left is Loyalty, on the right, Courage, and standing above them is a bronze Admiral Farragut (of "Damn the torpedoes" fame), also by Saint-Gaudens.

 Saint-Gaudens distributed a hefty application of lettering on the monument, unprecedented at the time, and the font looks very Art Nouveau. 

 Central Park: Nighttime electrification of the park began a century ago, in 1910, with lamps designed by Henry Bacon that bear a marginally Nouveau signature. Bacon soon afterwards designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Williamsburg Bridge: This 1903 suspension bridge, the second to cross the East River, opened at the peak of Art Nouveau popularity. In some of the details of this otherwise purely machine-age span, architect Henry Hornbostel seems to acknowledge the trend. 

Grand Concourse, Bronx: On a 1937 Art Deco building designed by Emery Roth are these stunning (yet out-of-sync) Nouveau-esque numbers.

 No. 132 West 89th Street: The Richard Rodgers School of the Arts and Technology went up in 1898, and though its overall style is Collegiate Gothic, the letters over the front door look distinctly Art Nouveau.

 No. 2 West 64th Street: The New York Society for Ethical Culture Hall  departed starkly from the prevailing building styles of its time, and architecture critics built it up as one of the best Art Nouveau buildings of the century. It was 1910 and the Art Nouveau movement was coming to an end.

 No. 8220 Narrows Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: The Howard E. and Jessie Jones House, with its sinuous pseudo-thatchery, is one of two examples in New York of the fairy-tale fantasy known as Black Forest Art Nouveau. As much Arts and Crafts as it is Nouveau (the styles are kissing cousins), the house was designed in 1916 by James Sarsfield Kennedy.

The Museum of Modern Art's Sculpture Garden: A 1900 entrance to the Paris Métro by Hector Guimard. To look at more organic design, visit: Rustic Architecture and Accoutrements in Central Park

Thursday, December 2, 2010

M'm, M'm Good

This emblem of art and agora has changed little since its debut in 1900 at the Paris Exhibition, where the public also got its first taste of talking pictures and escalators. It was at the exhibition that Campbell's soup earned the gold medal that appears in the center of the label. 

The original Campbell's labels were black and orange, but a Campbell's executive pursuaded the company to change the colors to cherry red and white because he liked the uniforms of the Cornell  football team. Above is a collection of teeny Campbell's soup cans for a doll house.

 Some years ago I acquired several dozen miniature rolls of  breath mints wrapped with the iconic label.

A button (repro, alas) for one of Andy's gallery shows in the early '60s. He at one time supposedly ate Campbell's soup almost everyday for lunch, prepared by his mother, tomato his favorite

 Some of the 32 canvases hanging in the Modern that represent each of the soup varieties Campbell's offered at the time Warhol silkscreened them in 1962.  

In 2006 Barneys had exclusive rights to sell a limited-edition of these cans and they have ever since been on display like this in my kitchen cabinet. (The soup expired in 2008.)

On plywood around a construction site at Avenue A and First Avenue, I recently chanced on these posters for Stephen Colbert that cleverly reappropriate what Andy brilliantly appropriated.

Every month an unknown person places a can of Campbell's soup (along with some pocket change) on Andy's tombstone at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church Cemetery in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Chimerical Cultivations of Mr. Pearl Fryar

 In Bishopville, S.C., is the eccentric garden of Pearl Fryar, self-taught topiarist.

 Mr. Fryar's horticultural handiworks trim the three acres surrounding his home at 165 Broad Acres Road.

Stymied by his job as a maintenance engineer at a soft-drink can plant, he carved an outlet for his creativity through shrubs and trees, many of which had been rescued from the compost heap of a local nursery that had considered them too sick or ugly to sell.

 He began snipping, nipping and clipping his living sculptures in 1983.

 The Fishbone Tree, a Leyland cypress that is considered Mr. Fryar's signature creation, was planted in 1989.

Nearing 71, Mr. Fryar and and his wife, Metra, built their home in 1980, and the at-first everyday, garden-variety shrubs around it were his inaugural project.

The Garden Conservancy, a national nonprofit organization, intends to preserve this exceptional garden in perpetuity.
To look at other exceptional sights in the area, visit: Curiosities in the Carolinas

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Salute to the Seventies in Stamps

 Created in 1963 for a life insurance ad campaign, the Smiley face by the mid-'70s sunnily grinned on 50 million buttons, of which this is one. Smiley and its many variations live on these days as emoticons.

This nowadays generic emblem for peace derives from the superimposed semaphore signals for N and D, standing for nuclear disarmament. The letter N in semaphore is formed by a signaler holding two flags in an upside-down V. The D is formed by pointing one flag straight up and other straight down. British designer Gerald Holtom created the symbol in 1958 as the logo for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

 Not too long from now is the 40th anniverary of the first broadcast of All in the Family on January 12, 1971. Archie's chair (and Edith's, too) went to the Smithsonian in 1978. Costly replicas were created for the remainder of the series.
To see another post about this sitcom, visit: Three Humble Historic Houses

This stamp (issued in 1998, as were the three above) pays tribute to the disco decade's bellbottom jeans, platform shoes and Qiana shirts.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rustic Architecture and Accoutrements in Central Park

 Peppered throughout the park's 843 acres are varied specimens of rustic design--like this wisteria arbor near 72nd Street and CPW.

 One of the grander exemplars of this bucolic style is Cop Cot near Sixth Avenue and Central Park South. (Cop Cot is Anglo-Saxon for hilltop cottage.)

 Here's a humbler instance--across from the American Museum of Natural History.

 Landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing is said to have introduced the rustic style to our youthful nation around 1850. As an advocate of good taste, Downing was the Martha Stewart of his day and, for the time, just as much a celebrity. Bridge No. 32, above, provides passage over a stream in the North Woods.

 It was in Central Park that Americans were first exposed to the Arcadian allure of the rustic style, thanks to the designs of Calvert Vaux, a protégé of Downing and, along with Frederick Law Olmsted, co-designer of the park. Above is a graceful suite of benches in the Shakespeare Garden.

 Adirondack architecture is a byname of the rustic style, expressed here by a shelter in the Dene near 68th Street and Fifth Avenue. Olmsted bestowed quaint appellations to various features of the park, and dene means dale or valley.
 Since mid-19th-century Americans held deep-seated beliefs that our new nation's spiritual values rested in nature, this rustic bench--near the Pool--can be construed as a lofty cathedra from which the masses could savor it. 

Affording a path over the gorge that flows from the Ramble into the Lake is the Gill Bridge, newly constructed from black locust.

 Many other naive hallmarks of the park (like these rustic railings near Shakespeare Garden) are fashioned from black locust, sometimes from trees that grew in the park. Cedar is another typical material.

 Reflecting the organic ideal of the rustic style--but in an almost Modernist way--these steps were inscribed into mica schist near Central Park South. This 450-million-year-old schist occurs not only in the park but throughout Manhattan, providing foundation for the skyscrapers that assert such blunt contradiction to the park's sylvan designs.
To look at more pictures of Central Park, visit: Springtide in Manhattan