Monday, February 11, 2013

Jacobsen-French Chef-Armory Show (11-17 February)

on this date in Design…

Arne Jacobsen, Danish architect & designer, birthday 11 February 1902
The French Chef, American cooking show, premiere 11 February 1963
The Armory Show, 1st avant-garde art show in the US, opening 17 February 1863

Luckily for us, Arne Jacobsen listened to his father and opted for a more stable career of architecture than painting.  The wonderful aspect about Arne’s design was he was able to take Functionalism and translate it into products & spaces that were anything but sterile and unwelcoming putting him at the forefront of the Scandinavian design movement.  Inspired by Charles & Ray Eames, he worked with carpenter Fritz Hansen to develop the Ant Chair: a simple bent plywood piece with three legs.  This made it light weight, compact and stackable, very similar to the concept of Alvar Aalto’s three-legged Stool 60. 
Arne was commissioned for what could be considered the world’s first “designer” hotel, the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, designing everything from the furniture to the ashtrays.  It was for this project that the Swan and Egg Chairs were developed.  The gentle curves of the Swan Chair welcome the curves of the body and the envelope of the Egg Chair creates a cozier wingchair for the new age.  Both of these designs in addition to numerous others are perfectly adapt to contemporary spaces.
It may seem out of place to have the premier of a televised cooking show on the list.  However, Julia Child had a broad impact not just on the psyche of the American housewife.  This and subsequent cooking shows have had an enormous impact on the design of the American home.  With Julia’s easy-going and effervescent attitude she made expert gastronomy look easy by showing us at home it was OK to make a few mistakes in the pursuit of perfection. 
With “The French Chef”, PBS allowed Julia to take intimidating recipes such as the meticulous 20 page recipe for French bread and demonstrated how accessible delicious food could be.  This lead to more and more equipment and gadgets to be collected by the at-home-cook until the kitchen became the enormous gourmet extravagance and center of the home it is today.  No longer was the suburban kitchen a lonely closed off room tucked away from formal spaces. 
Now guest are encouraged to share the kitchen, indulge in a world of flavors as their waistlines expanded as well.  Home design has come full circle to meet the needs of the modern family lifestyle.  Formal spaces have been abandoned in favor of open floor plans which, good and bad, invite guests into the bosom of the home.
100 years ago, America was introduced to modern art at the Armory Show of 1913 in New York City.  It may seem counter intuitive to call something “modern” that is over a century old but it was the new way of thinking that truly defines where we as a society are headed.  In terms of social consciousness, identity, global connectivity, we are still on the cusp of understanding of how we, as humans, fit into a drastically different world than centuries past and thusly how we communicate and express ourselves.
The debate “What is art?” still rages today as Marcel Duchamp begged the question with his signed urinals hanging on the wall.  Abstraction and Expressionism attempted to communicate the artist’s thoughts in non-traditional medium.  No longer was Realism in the traditional sense necessary, there was the photograph for that.  However, how the photograph and realistic painted imagery were used to communicate social and political ideas and thrust forward to the viewer that same nagging question.  Americans were for the first time exposed to European masters such as Manet, Munch, Rodin, Picasso and many, many more.  At the same time, they discovered their own home-grown modern artists such as Stella and Whistler that would pick up the baton and make New York City a new hub of the artist community. 

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