Using the digital scanning and laser printing techniques, McQueen employed Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights on one top, Byzantine motifs on another, images of saints pulled from frescoes in a dress, and angels photographed from bas-reliefs in a gown.
The photo at the top makes reference to the right panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights, representing hell.
The Modernist Movement was sparked by a desire by artists, architects and craftsmen to break free of the perceived bonds of “looking backwards” for cultural influences. Art historians have pointed to the British Arts & Crafts Movement, which began around 1880, as the beginning of this forward-looking push for fresh and unexplored creative thinking. It lasted well into the mid-twentieth century.
Pulling back the curtain to reveal one piece in the growth of the Modernist period, the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) began in 1903 by two men, Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser, as an offshoot of Vienna’s “Secessionist” movement. For nearly 30 years the artisans of the Werkstätte designed and produced textile designs, glasswork, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry and furniture with the unifying mantra to bring a heightened sense of design to everyday objects. The earliest years saw designs that were highly influenced by some of the more formal qualities of Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928). While numerous Werkstätte designers chose ornamental restraint, others pushed decorative ornamentation to excess.
Obsessed with quality and a high-level of craftsmanship, eventually the Wiener Werkstätte was unable to produce enough products to keep up with demand. Their work was expensive, and mass-production was never an option. This spelled their eventual demise, but left deep roots for the growth of modernism to come.
A Wiener Werkstätte textile sample, c. 1910
The Sitzmaschine Chair, (No. 670) by Josef Hoffmann, c. 1905
Textile Sample, Designer Unknown, Wiener Werkstätte, c. 1910–28
Josef Hoffmann (1870–1956), Five pieces from the ‘Flat Model’ flatware service, consisting of crab fork, sardine server, pastry serving spoon, cheese knife, and butter knife, Vienna, ca. 1904–1908.
Stella Maxwell & Paula Bertolini in Man Kim shot by Cara Stricker for Riot of Perfume no. 2 2013
After a 5 mi hike and 7 mi run, I’m ready to unwind with some wine and a film. Body felt good today, so I’m confident that I’ll be ready to summit in a month.
I love graphic design. I understand the importance of way-finding systems. I own a label maker. I wish I had a color-coded closet. But architecture needs to work without words. The building should point your way to its entrance without an arrow. Finding the visitors desk should not require a level change. If everyone is putting their feet on the wall, the bench is too close.
This may seem like an obvious statement, but on three recent occasions, in buildings designed by architects for the display of art, the signs crept in. At the James Turrell-created Skyspace in Houston the lettering was a rogue gesture, born of the frustration of the maintenance staff. At the Parrish Art Museum on Long Island, the landscape architecture (by Reed Hilderbrand) undermined the architecture (by Herzog & Meuron) by suggesting there were two ways in to the museum when in fact, there is only one. My kids ran down the other path the first time, reading the windows of the staff offices as an opening rather than a sealed surface. At the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the entrance rotunda had been emptied of any form of greeting, sending the visitor into the museum’s taupe depths in search of a map. Up? Who wants to go up? We just got here. Especially when you have a stroller. (I’ve been told the new director will be moving the visitor desk back downstairs, an indication of the whiplash the staff is currently feeling.)
An intuitive understanding of where to go is a hallmark of the best interaction design, one of the many places the physical and digital worlds (should) overlap. But I wonder if our increasing reliance on apps isn’t sapping design attention to real portals. It is certainly sapping the ability of the general public to read maps and make advance plans. I could stand in the IMA atrium and look up a map of the museum on my phone. But why? I should be able to find art without asking any questions, reading any signs, turning to my digital companion. Or reading too many “No”s about my art-viewing behavior. Inviting people in goes beyond free admission, which they have at the Skyspace and the IMA, but not at the Parrish. Entice them in through glimpses of actual art rather than lobby art, or a lobby masquerading as art with its pretty colored glass panels. The Parrish reads as a museum through our prior knowledge of the art barn type; that typology doesn’t include information about whether you enter at the end or on the side.
I recently describd an ideal, frictionless, wordless environment in an essay on the children’s app maker Toca Boca on the New Yorker blog. In Toca Boca’s case, much of their target audience can’t read, making words superfluous and irritating, as well as adding extra costs for translation. I feel strange asking architects to treat us all as children, but that may be the easiest way to test the effectiveness of buildings at working without signs. Imagine a five-year-old dropped into the parking lot or campus. Where will he go? What will she climb on? Can they, pulling together, open the front door? Architects should not allow the visitor to trip, physically or graphically, on the threshold.