Frédéric Bartholdi, French sculptor, birthday 2 August 1834
Charles Gwathmey, American architect, death 3 August 2009
Joe Colombo’s work can best be described as “space-y”; everything that lead to the ridiculousness of low-budget scenery of sci-fi productions from the 1960s and 70s. However, Colombo was the original and as so often happens, the intended vision gets lost by the imitators. After inheriting the family electronic business he expanded into a range of design that sought to challenge traditional aesthetics that no longer applied to the modern lifestyle. He created micro-living environments in which each element was strategically placed for
efficiency and functioned like a living machine. Many pieces were designed to be transformative and multi-dimensional such as his Boby Trolley and the Tube chair. His own apartment was a testing lab for pieces such as the Cabriolet-Bed. All this innovation came about in a few short years as Colombo had the inauspicious honor of passing away on his own 41st birthday. It is amazing to think of that brief period Joe Colombo’s influence could be so far-reaching even to this day.
Although Frédéric Bartholdi is best known for his work “Liberty Enlightening the World” (a.k.a. the Statute of Liberty), he had a career that spanned decades both in his home country and in the U.S. After being trained in multiple disciplines in Paris he established himself as a preeminent patriotic monument sculptor, the majority of his work is in his hometown region of Alsace. Additional work this side of the Atlantic includes a statue of the Marquis de Lafayette in Union Square, New York City and the Bartholdi Fountain at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. But without a doubt, it is the Statue of Liberty; the new Colossus will remain his most notable commission. Bartholdi’s knack for self-promotion was employed by gaining a patent in the U.S. for the design and reproduction of the statue in miniature. The proceeds of the sales of these souvenirs before there was an attraction, “pre-venirs” if you will, raised the funding needed to see the statue come to life. This tactic has been also been used by another notable French duo, Christo and Jeanne-Claude. It is rumored that Lady Liberty’s face is modeled after his mother and the body after his wife, a subject it could be imagined would make for uncomfortable dinner table conversations at the Bartholdi residence.
One of the New York Five who sought to elaborate on the Corbusian vision of modernism, Charles Gwathmey extensive career may be most notable for his addition to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York City. Some have described it as the tank to Wright’s toilet bowl but it is in reality a perfect example of elegant high modern simplicity and was inspired by an original rendering by Wright. The addition seamlessly integrates into the urban landscape
without detracting from the original structure; a method of design that lead him to become the president of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. In addition to this and numerous public buildings including the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Gwathmey and his firm were sought after by many wealthy clients for private residences. These works were so successful that many became repeat customers.
The Joe Colombo Studio website
The Tube Chair at the Design Museum, London
Joe Colombo pieces at MoMA, New York City
The Statue of Liberty webpage at the National Park Service
"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus
Make your own Statue of Liberty souvenir!
Bartholdi Park at the United States Botanic Garded, Washington, D.C.
Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates website
The Guggenheim Museum, New York City
The Institute for Architecture & Urban Studies website
Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami
Charles Gwathmey's obituary in the New York Times