- Michael Graves, FAIA,* honored by Contract Magazine, with the Legend Award at their 2013 Interiors Awards, said in the article, Reflecting on the Legacy of a Legend of Design,** the April 2015 issue, “I’m very anxious in my own work to build up a life of experiences that are positive and get rid of the negative ones. And so, that idea of the practice of architecture for me is the fine-tuning of one’s aesthetic.” Graves died at his Princeton, New Jersey home on March 12, at age 80, after spending more than a decade in a wheelchair. Although he was paralyzed from the chest down and wheelchair-bound following a spinal cord infection in 2003, he continued leading his design firm and lecturing in a long career fine-tuning his approach to design. I remember as a student of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, attending his lectures and panel discussions about his work. To me, Graves, a brilliant architect, was infallible. Reading about his passing was shocking.
Michael with one of his teapots (I gifted this one to my cousin Yael, for her wedding)
Based on my client poll, almost all agree that the kitchen is the core of the home, a gathering place. Architect and designer Michael Grave’s philosophy rated the kitchen a workplace that is symbolic of the family. Graves changed how we see artifacts designed for domestic use, as his tea kettles and fabrics for Target and artifacts for JC Penny depict. He said in a 2003 article for the Miele Resource Group Design Forum, “In my residential projects, I emphasize the quality of “domesticity,” which for me combines my interest in culture with the design of physical artifacts. Nowhere is this more important than in the kitchen. The kitchen is a source of sustenance, warmth and camaraderie. We, and the artifacts we use, should be equally comfortable in the home.
Graves other teapot for Target. Same as in the photo with MG above.
For example, in our own designs for kitchen tools, we keep both the hand and the machine in mind.” In plain language that means use tools that work well and look great.
MG teapot, this one is on my stove, looking elegant. When it whistles, it comes out that little brown bird in the spout on the right. Do you see me at the bottom?
Graves said in the 2003 article that he sees increasing value being placed on the ability to customize residences around lifestyle choices. He expects the future to bring new and exciting selections of well-designed systems and individual designs for houses in their entirety as well as for rooms, furnishings and artifacts based on how one wants to live.” Since the kitchen is the functional and symbolic heart of the house, it has become the forefront of this movement.
Kitchens connect the pieces of the home, as well as the people using the home. Le Corbusier said, “A home is a machine to live in.” Can you see the similarity between the kitchen, as a machine to run the home, to Le Corbusier’s, a home is a machine to live in? Have you kept up with technology? Is your home designed well and does it function for your comfort? Have you brought the outside in, and have you brought the inside out? Do you use LED lamping (bulbs), have you installed solar roof panels? In 2003, some of this power saving technology was only a dream.
Michael Graves, you were here long enough to see those things happen. For one of my architectural genius’s, he has accomplished much, influenced many, changed lives for all. Long ago, I stayed at the then brand new Swan Hotel and did a report about it for my criticism program at Parsons. I am thinking about reporting on the Swan next week. No promises though.
*Fellow of the American Institute of Architects
**By John Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA, Hon. IIDA
Editor in Chief
To read more about the article and Michael Graves, click here: Contract Magazine
Yosemite Falls above the Chapel in Color
Yosemite National Park is intriguing. Lots to discover there. In 1863, Albert Bierstadt painted Domes of Yosemite. That’s the very same painting that inspired my recent book, Indigo Sky. In my next book, my heroine is born in Yosemite. So, I am researching again. This time my research unveiled the chapel. The chapel is located just below Yosemite Falls, that’s depicted in the painting.
Yosemite Falls above the Chapel in black & white, different angle than above
The Yosemite Valley Chapel was built in the Yosemite Valley of California in 1879. It is the oldest standing structure in Yosemite National Park.
Chapel snuggled between mountains and trees
The wooden chapel was designed by San Francisco architect Charles Geddes in the Carpenter Gothic style. It was built by Geddes’ son-in-law, Samuel Thompson of San Francisco, for the California State Sunday School Association, at a cost of three or four thousand dollars.
The chapel was originally built in the “Lower Village” as called then, its site at the present day trailhead of the Four Mile Trail . The chapel was moved to its present location in 1901, as the old Lower Village dwindled.
As stipulated in the organization’s application for permission, the chapel is an interdenominational facility. The L-shaped frame chapel covers an area of about 1,470 square feet (137 m2). It is clad in board and batten siding with a prominent steeple. It seats about 250 people.
Snow in the park, there is snow in California
The chapel was restored in 1965, when its foundations were raised in response to a 1964 flood, but was damaged in the 1997 Yosemite Valley floods and required repair. The chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 12, 1973.
Fascinating, this Yosemite National Park.
Do you think you might like to hike one of the trails?
Horse & cart
My romance with Coney Island, when I was about five years-old or so, began at grandma’s house when the iceman delivered ice on his cart, pulled by a horse. He drove down the street hollering, “Ice for sale, ice for sale.” Looked like to me, those huge tongs could almost pick up a dog. He used them to bring the block of ice into the house, and put it in grandma’s icebox. Some of us had refrigerators, but grandma only had an icebox. The iceman always showed up before the ice was all gone. That’s all I remember about that piece of history. Finally, we moved grandma to a place that had a refrigerator. No one had a TV, people played card games, and listened to the radio. Grandma’s radio was a floor model that would constantly lose reception. When I visited her, and it lost reception, she said, “Bang it hard here, on the side.” That always fixed it.
Childs in its day
My romance grew. Ever have a Chow Mein sandwich? I thought it was a Nathan’s of Coney Island specialty, but I found this in Google: Originating in Fall River, Massachusetts, in the 1930s or 1940s, the chow mein sandwich is a hot sandwich, which typically consists of a brown gravy-based chow mein mixture placed between halves of a hamburger-style bun, popular on Chinese-American restaurant menus throughout southeastern Massachusetts and parts of neighboring Rhode Island. This sandwich is not well known outside of this relatively small area of New England. Really? What are they talking about? The chow mein sandwich was mega popular in Coney Island at Nathan’s, and a favorite of mine. So . . . did Nathan’s steal the idea, or were they the originator?
The teen years are fun to save for another blog, but a foodery I loved, was Childs Restaurant.
Coney Island institutions have a way of disappearing without leaving anything on the boardwalk to remember them by. That’s so with Childs Restaurant, the seaside outpost of a popular early 20th Century lunchroom chain, that was built in 1923 and whose frame still stands today. If you’ve ever taken a stroll on the boardwalk, west of the parachute jump and Keyspan Park, you’ve probably noticed its massive facade, leftovers once adorned with flamboyant nautical details.
Childs now . . . Designed by Dennison & Hirons,
The building is now vacant and boarded up. Story of this great restaurant is that it has stuck around for so long because it’s kept a steady number of tenants over the years, including a chocolate factory and then a glitzy roller rink.
Roller rink inside the defunct Childs
Terra cotta details once on Childs facade by Atlantic Terra Cotta Co.
On a visit to Coney in 2010 I found the building derelict. So sad. I took lots of photos and have been painting from my camera shots.
After the destruction from hurricane Sandy in 2012, Coney Island has been restructured, rebuilt and re-energized. It’s a wonderful place to play, have Nathan’s hot, buttered corn, people watch, and walk in the sand, fish from the pier and ride water scooters over the waves. Fireworks used to be every Tuesday night. Hmm, I wonder . . .
What do you think?
Buffalo monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Indigo Sky, my soon-to-be published historical romance, is centered in the nineteenth-century, and partly takes place in Yosemite. While researching Yosemite again for my next book, I uncovered a prize in Yosemite—Buffalo Soldiers.
“Buffalo Soldiers” was a nickname given to the Negro Cavalry by the Native American tribes they fought in Yosemite. In September 1867, Private John Randall was assigned to escort two civilians on a hunting trip. The hunters suddenly became the hunted when a band of seventy Cheyenne warriors swept down on them. The two civilians quickly fell in the initial attack and Randall’s horse was shot out from beneath him. Randall managed to scramble to safety behind a washout under the railroad tracks, where he fended off the attack with only his pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition until help from the nearby camp arrived. The Cheyenne beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind 13 fallen warriors. Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 lance wounds, but recovered. The Cheyenne quickly spread word of this new type of soldier, “who had fought like a cornered buffalo— who like a buffalo had suffered wound after wound, yet had not died; and who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane of hair.”
The term eventually became synonymous with all of the African-American regiments. During the American Civil War, the government formed “colored troops.” After the war, Congress reorganized the army and authorized the formation of two regiments of black cavalry with Infantry designations. Some took the job of protecting Yosemite, others in Yellowstone.
The late 1800’s saw civil rights issues at its extreme. Discrimination increased as the number of African-American U.S. soldiers increased. Racial segregation plagued the nation, yet our soldiers of color exhibited an attitude that reflected their “distinguished service,” protecting their country. In 1886, uncontrolled fires traumatized parks and its inhabitants. According to the National Park Services, in the mid 1800’s, army regiments were dispatched to Yosemite. Four of the six regiments that patrolled Yosemite National Park were African-American–the Buffalo Soldiers, whose duties were evicting poachers and timber thieves and extinguishing forest fires.
Not exactly current events, but some relatively recent history: The 1960 Western film Sergeant Rutledge tells the story of the trial of a 19th-century black Army first sergeant of the 9th Cavalry, played by Woody Strode, falsely accused of rape and murder. One of the characters narrates a history of the term “Buffalo Soldier” as coming from Plains Indians who first saw troopers of the 9th Cavalry wearing buffalo coats and caps in winter, and thought they looked like buffaloes. The movie’s theme song, titled “Captain Buffalo”, was written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston. In the last decade, the employment of the Buffalo Soldiers by the United States Army in the Indian Wars has led a few historical revisionists to call for the “critical reappraisal” of the “Negro regiments.” In this viewpoint, shared by a small minority, the Buffalo Soldiers were used as mere shock troops or accessories to the forcefully-expansionist goals of the U.S. government at the expense of the Native Americans and other minorities.
The Buffalo Soldier Cavalry Regiment was formed in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was an active regiment until the Korean War in 1951. The last and oldest living Buffalo Soldier, Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 on September 6, 2005 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. An honor reserved for those who have gallantly served our country.
“History is a source of strength,” says Pulitzer Price winning historian, David McCullough. “It sets higher standards for all of us.”
What era in American History surprised you?