A Speck of Zen

Restaurants serve food. And talented chefs can blend flavors and textures in exciting and delicious ways.

But simply knowing how to prepare good, delicious or even phenomenal cuisine does not a great establishment make.

In order for a place to succeed, the ambiance has to please, and the food must arrive on schedule.

Shola Olunloyo has designed Speck — his forthcoming New American in the Piazza at Schmidts — to achieve just that.

The kitchen is a focal point. The chefs are on display, visible from almost every seat in the house, behind the open counter that hosts a nightly tasting menu.

A carefully thought-out arrangement of interlocking counters, stoves, refrigerators and storage allows up to seven cooks to work the small space at once.  High-tech automatic ovens and circulator baths are tucked behind thick metal planchas and smooth induction burners. Continue reading A Speck of Zen

Desperately Seeking Designers

If you are not a  TV-watching type, you might be surprised to discover that a) there is a whole channel called Home & Garden Television, and b) it produces a top-rated show in its fifth season on which designers compete for a chance to win.

Win what? Why, their own show on the same channel. It’s a gloriously self-propagating scheme.

HGTV Design Star is currently holding open casting calls for their sixth season, and will be in Philadelphia this coming Monday, Jan 10th. Who do they want? Someone with:

  • Extensive design knowledge
  • Personality that pops
  • Passion for design
  • Lots of energy and enthusiasm
  • A clear and unique design perspective

No biggie! Of course, in addition to a good portfolio, you have to look the part (headshots are a required part of the application — this is a visual medium, after all).

Not sure what kind of design skills they’re seeking? Considering the name of the host channel, we gather it’s interior designers they’re after.

You’ll no doubt get to buy all kinds of kitschy tchotchkes, and maybe even use power tools, while the network finds ways to plug product placements from their sponsors.

You don’t even have to attend the casting event to apply – just send in a home video. For anyone interested, click the image for a PDF or see below:

Monday January 10, 2011
10 AM to 1 PM
Embassy Suites Hotel
1776 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19103

A bit of advice for HGTV: looking at your PR/marketing materials, you should find some relatively-skilled graphic designers before anything else.


Talk about an upgrade.

This November, the National Museum of American Jewish History will open their brand new building on the Independence Mall in historic Philadelphia.

Since breaking ground in 2007, the impressive, 100,000-square-foot structure has been steadily rising, on time and under budget, just across from the Liberty Bell and the National Constitution Center.

The new location is a stone’s throw from the museum’s former home in a building shared with congregation Mikveh Israel. The old facility offered less than 2,500 sq ft of exhibit space.

Almost complete, the five-story outer facade glints in the afternoon sun, awaiting installation of an 8-foot LED light sculpture that embodies the qualities of a flame.

James S. Polsheck, founder of Polshek Partnerships (now Ennead Architects), whose past works include the Rose Center for Earth & Space in New York City, designed the outer glass structure to symbolize the translucency afforded Jews who have found sanctuary in America, and the fragility of this freedom.

Each floor of the museum opens onto a terrace encased in this artfully glazed glass, offering fantastic views and a space to clear your mind as you traverse the capacious exhibits.

Inside the glass, a terra cotta cube defines the inner volume. This hearty structure represents the solidity of the liberties that protect all Americans.

Warm anigre wood and cool glass create an exciting interior, focused around an 85-foot high atrium lit from above by skylight.

The top floor is event space, and already has several weddings, bar mitzvahs and other gatherings on the books.

Throughout the rest of the $150 million building, the extensive collection of Jewish Americana (the largest in the world, with over 25,000 artifacts) will be supplemented by a series of truly innovative displays. Continue reading Rekindled

Arts and Punishment

Smooth slabs of flecked marble. Slate gray walls. Arched ceilings. Ax murderers?

The recently opened Dostoevsky Station in the Moscow subway has all of that, and more.

One of a series of metro stations named after Russian literary heroes, Dostoevskaya features murals that depict scenes from his famous novels such as Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot and Crime and Punishment, as well as a stern portrait of Fyodor himself.

The wall art is austere, featuring black and white silhouettes of the books’ characters in action: a man is raising a gun to his head. Another holds an ax above his, waiting to bring it down on a women nearby. Continue reading Arts and Punishment

Anna and the Universe

What is space?

Most likely, it is a property of the human mind. An algorithm, like time, that helps consciousness make sense of the world around us.

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That our idea of space is relative can be illustrated simply, without need to delve into quantum physics.

mirror bookTake the “Magic Mirror” toy that was popular in the late 19th century. Images that appear to be distorted blobs become detailed drawings when viewed in a different way — in this case as a cylindrical reflection. This is an example of anamorphosis, which has been used in art since Leonardo Da Vinci and by many since, including Salvador Dalí and Marchel Duchamps.

Putting the concept into practice in a very modern way is one of Swiss design firm Zmik‘s latest installations, appropriately entitled “Anna.”

The main corridor in the new offices of Swiss interactive firm iart is visually expanded by a series of large-scale drawings.

From five set viewpoints, these sketches coalesce to reveal wireframes of (both real and imagined) spaces behind the walls. Viewed from any other position, the design appears to be simply a rather random pattern of graphic lines.

Zmik describes the work as an “allegory for the quest of new perspectives.”

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It can also be viewed as a metaphor for the “fixed vantage point” each of us holds in this journey of life, along with its accompanying limitations, biases and opportunities.

But this rigidity is changing. Whole new online communities — such as Twitter, World of Warfare, Second Life — are forming with their own, different rules of space and time.

Dr. Robert Lanza says, “Reality is simply an information system that involves our consciousness.”

Understanding consciousness and the way it shapes our worlds is the next big step in evolution.

Let’s be intent on getting there.

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[via core77 and dezeen, interior photos by Eik Frenzel]