Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Frick garden is saved

Wonderful news for all who love the unique ambiance of The Frick Collection and its delightful Russell Page garden: The museum has announced today that it is abandoning its ambitious expansion plans, designed by Davis Brody Bond. The additions would have subsumed Page's elegant garden beneath a massive, six-story-plus addition (seen to the right of the entry in the above rendering) that also would have overwhelmed the original two-story, Louis XVI-style Frick residence, the heart of the museum, and left it a mere appendage.

The press release states that the Frick will regroup and develop a new expansion plan, and that the second-flooronce family rooms but today executive officeswill be converted to exhibition space. Having visited and dined in these rooms several times, we can attest that they will make excellent additions to the museum's exhibition space, though the executive staff will lose a magnificent perk and be forced from the old Frick residence.

The statement reads:

The Frick remains committed to furthering its mission by attaining its goals, among them having additional space for the display of works of art, including galleries on the historic second floor of the mansion, dedicated classrooms for education programs, updated facilities for the care of our art and research collections, and better public access between the museum and the Frick Art Reference Library. We also plan to improve visitor amenities in general while offering equal access for visitors with disabilities. At the same time, preserving the unique residential character and intimate scale of the Frick will remain our top priority.

Well, no one can argue with thatat least until we see the new plans. Part of the solution should be to rein in ambitions and ponder how best to enhance the Frick while ensuring that it remains what it isthe best small museum in the world, with an accent on small. Does the Frick truly need to expand both its mandate and its facilities to so great an extent as first proposed? Or will expansion destroy this unique house museum? After all, the Frick is a house, albeit a grand one, and to ensure success in this venture, those guiding it must not lose sight of that fundamental, defining fact. Logic and moderation counsel that the Frick should maximize its existing assets, purchase or lease administration space adjacent to the property and seek creative and judicious rationalization of the built fabric it already has.

In the meantime, we can all rejoice that Page's oasis of verdant civilization has been spared from New York's relentless redevelopment mania. The Frick is unique and should be thoughtfully preserved; after all, what other building in New York can boast its own front yard bordering Fifth Avenue and Central Park?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chelsea Flower Show: Clone wars & that '50s vibe

The winning designs of the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show have been announced, and Dan Pearson's preternaturally natural recreation of a slice of woodland at Chatsworth (above, from the UK's Telegraph)  has won Best in Show. Another microplot of meticulously contrived virtual reality,  James Bassen's Perfumer's Garden in Grasse (below), was awarded a gold medal.

Both gardens are stunning recreations, kudos to both design teams for jaw-droppingly flawless execution,  especially Bassen, whose garden is particularly lyrical. But the thought occurs, Should one really call them gardens? They seem more like extraordinary clones, the Dolly the sheep of garden design. They also remind one of the current hyper-realist waxwork fixation in contemporary art, exemplified by artists such as the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, who fashions remarkably lifelike wax effigies of historical figures and then photographs them in "portraits" (below, HRH Princess Diana, in wax).

One frankly designed garden, an elegant chessboard based on de Stijl geometries by Marcus Burnett, may not have been particularly innovative but it was so expertly balanced and flawlessly executed that it also won a gold medal.

Unsurprisingly, with our current hipster-driven fixation upon elevating nostalgia for days of future past into a cultural obsession, a number of winning designs seem to have come straight from the well-thumbed pages of that postwar horticultural bible, America's Garden Book, specifically the chapter on contemporary garden design from the iconic 1958 edition. Bush-Brown's Eisenhower-era masterpiece encapsulated the heady design moment when America discovered pebble-encrusted concrete pavers, the Southwest, and redwood plank.

Below, gold-medal winning gardens by Harry and David Rich, Adam Frost, and Chris Beardshaw.

For complete coverage, we'd highly recommend a visit to the website of the UK's Telegraph, which has devoted an entire section to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chinoiserie notecards in World of Interiors

In the better-late-than-never department, we would be remiss if we didn't note the March issue of World of Interiors, which featured Aglae Auersperg's watercolors of her family's Chinese pavilion in the gardens at Vlašim, a Bohemian estate in the modern-day Czech Republic. The pavilion (above) has been impeccably restored and the watercolors are atmospheric and charming, and the issue was, as usual, intriguing, informative and visually stunning.

The issue's Inspiration page featured our boxed Tea House silhouette notecards and one of our folding cards reproducing our watercolor of the Pagoda at Rheinsberg, which once stood an extensive eighteenth-century folly garden created by Prince Heinrich of Prussia, brother of Frederick the Great.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Renovating a website today

For those of you who manage your own websites, you know that overhauling them is a massive undertaking, and often requires you to rebuild the site from the ground up. We've just endured such a two-month-long process, which was the most thorough and extensive rebuild we've ever undertaken (actually every new renovation takes that title, truth be told), and are delighted first that the project isat long lastfinished, and that the new, expanded is purring along pretty much just as we envisioned it. We invite you to take a look and take it for a spin, and tell us what you think.

We'll spare you the gory details, but the take-away from the experience, from someone who actually coded the first incarnaton of in html back in the day, is that web design and coding have become as complicated and arcane as tensor calculus. Complicated, not complex, and comparable to Russian nesting dolls, with software nested in software, esthetically modded by themes, refined by plugins and apps and mapped across your server in a staggeringly vast tree of files residing in literally hundreds of folders. A mighty oak of php!

Wordpress includes: indeed it does!

One untoward result: all those hordes of code kiddies have been diligently polishing and elaborating all things php until it often requires a week of sleuthing to discover how to change a precoded line of text on what you naively thought was your own website to a phrase that suits you.

Yes, that sort of complexity is the main drawback of the maturation of the web, but the result of the ongoing coding frenzy is that you can do some pretty amazing things with a webpage todayyou can have parallax effects, fullscreen video headers, carrousel image galleries... Just about any sort of bell or whistle you can imagine, and someone's got a plugin that will enable it. In fact, you can do so much with webpages today that the pendulum has swung and there is now an outright rebellion against all those bells and whistles (ironically, driven by the very same web-centric cadre creating them) and clean, minimalist web design is all the rage.

We've always been strong believers in clean, minimalist web design and were never fond of yesteryear's obsessions with shiny-glass buttons and later faux brushed aluminum, design trends which always seemed to us patently absurd. So we welcome the embrace of minimalism and simplicity, and the underlying acknowledgement that a webpage is indeed just that, with text and graphics frankly expressed.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Shared holiday photos

We rarely receive such delightful and unexpected messages as that which came to us on Christmas Eve from a customer in Fairfax, Virginia, who shared with us her photos of our Tea House (above) and Nutcracker Pavilion table lanterns in her home.

They are so evocative that we requested to share them here, and she graciously accepted.

Happy holidays and all the very best for the new year!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lecture and Master Class at the ICAA

We would be remiss if we did not mention our recent lecture at the ICAA, the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art in New York, entitled Pencil and Brush: Architectural Watercolors, held on the evening of the 23rd October. It was an illustrated lecture on the history of French classicism from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and we were delighted to see many familiar faces and speak to a sold-out house.

As the body of the lecture was illustrated with images of rather staid classical buildings, we ended the talk on a lighter note with the image of this tent (at top) once in the gardens of the Parc Monceau here in Paris, and an audible gasp actually went through the audience.  

The Saturday following, we held a master class on watercolor technique for architectural rendering, sharing our trade secrets to an over-subscribed audience. It was a day-long affair, from 10 am to 6 pm, with an hour's pause for lunch. We enjoyed giving both presentations immensely and the organizers were very pleased with the response, and we look forward to a new series of talks next year.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Our Architectural Desk Boxes Featured in Traditional Home

A far-too-long hiatus, but we are back to report that Traditional Home has featured our new desk boxes in their holiday issue. A small neoclassical ensemble for your desktop.

There are three boxes, each of them in architectural shapes: the Tower stacking box, the Orangerie pencil box and the Palace letter caddy (above, with the original watercolor).

You can find them at our AW online shop.

And here is the Traditional Home clipping:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A new video featuring AW journals, boxes, stationery and table lanterns

Recently, we've been busy in the editing room and are happy to post a new video compilation of the first two seasons of paper products we've designed for Libretto Group of NYC.

The video runs just over two and a half minutes and showcases our boxed note and correspondence cards, hardbound journals, desk boxes, table lanterns, nesting boxes, and holiday items as well. Enjoy.

To locate a store near you, visit Libretto Group, or order at the AW online shop.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A new video of our book
CENTRAL PARK NYC: An Architectural View

We are delighted to post this new video of our Rizzoli book, CENTRAL PARK NYC: An Architectural View. It runs two minutes and features numerous images, both our watercolors and photography old and new, that enrich the book's pages.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

An ICONic Article

We are delighted to note that, this past Sunday, our work was featured in Welt am Sonntag, the Sunday magazine of Berlin's newspaper of record. In a rare honor, the watercolor vignette of A is for Acanthus from our Architectural Alphabet was featured as the cover illustration.

But of course it was Einkuss, Bernd's Belgian pug, who stole the show.