Many architects have been up in arms recently over the news that MoMA is going to demolish the former building that housed the American Folk Art Museum. However, some in the arts world say don’t cry over a spilled cocktail — unless it’s a finely stirred Negroni, I say. Anyways, what does this signal? Hypocrisy on MoMA’s part? A lack of understanding for suiting the true function of a museum? Self-absorption by architects? Idol worship? Developer/owner as king? Maybe all of the above, but I think it signals the opportunity for discourse regarding the subject. No better place to join diverse crowds than at the always-worthy hub of conversation — the drinking place. Maybe the one where Mr. Taniguchi drowned his misplaced sorrows that started all this hubbub:
“When Taniguchi was chosen to design the new, vastly expanded Museum of Modern Art seven years ago, a lot of people in the art world scratched their heads. Out of 10 architects invited to compete for this prize commission (all were under 60—MoMA had ruled out the generation of Frank Gehry), Taniguchi was virtually unknown in America, and his scheme for MoMA’s midtown Manhattan site seemed so smooth and corporate—so unfashionably tame—it looked like a long shot next to the provocative concepts of such hotshots as Rem Koolhaas and Herzog & de Meuron. Even Taniguchi didn’t think he’d win. Convinced he’d fatally fumbled his key presentation to MoMA’s trustees, he headed straight to a neighborhood bar to mourn.” — “New York’s great modern museum is reborn, thanks to $425 million and an unlikely architect named Taniguchi” by Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek
Drinks are served on tables, hand-to-hand, on kitchen counters, carts, among many other surfaces. But in modern times, if you’re going to sling, craft, shake, mix, or pour a drink, it’s probably going to be across a bar. However, that doesn’t limit your options.
There is no limit to the layout, material, and size of bars; no standard appearance for any of them, actually. Save for corporate franchises, you have probably never been to the same bar twice, and that’s not just when you walk into the drinking place. You may have carved your initials into the wood while sharing a couple tall boys with your friend, admired your Manhattan almost hovering above the marble, and spun your two fingers of single malt around the backlit glass without noticing the unique nature of taking up space at a drinking place. Every experience is one unto itself, never to be replicated again, and that big hunk of material is one reason why — it has seen all and never forgets.
A fine Tennessee whisky company decided to take up the mantle and bring in some weekend warriors for a good ol’ bar-building competition. Got a free eight hours? Come on down and see if you can design and build the best bar to taste that sugar maple charcoal-filtered goodness. Sawdust for garnish…Why not? Makes my mouth water just thinking about it….
I, too, know what it is to treat the hospitality environments of London as a university…
“…but because I am an American, and my country has been said to represent the cosmopolitan blood of other nations; so that in a sense my response is intended undoubtedly to be that of Germany, of Italy, and of many other nations, all of whom are of us as they are at home…the best that any one nation can do for itself cannot be equal to that done by them all working together and interchanging their ideas; and those who have been the most deeply engaged in this work, and most earnest in the prosecution of it, have constantly felt that they need a sort of university which they may attend; and it does not surprise us that London has become such a university…So we come to London as guests; and what do you offer us? Food and wine, flowers, the faces of fair women and noble men. But you do much more than that. Your hospitality is of the kind which affords the greatest opportunity that could now fall to the lot of those who are interested in the study of town planning — the opportunity to meet and to see the best work of others.” — Welcome Statement by Daniel Burnham at RIBA Town-Planning Conference in London, noted in Daniel H. Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities by Charles Moore, 1921
[Photos by ME]
What happens when you design a building like a bottle? What happens when you design a bottle like a building?
Which is more effective in making an impression in the minds of its user, client, audience, patrons, and viewers? Is scale the defining factor — does size matter?
Design is fluid and transmits across languages, cultures, land, and ocean. Whether you design an object tall enough to view from miles away, or effervescent enough to bring a crowd together in celebration…know that its quality will be measured in units that neither the architect or vintner used. You cannot measure personal satisfaction.
Funny how you can happen upon drinking culture and monumental architecture, sometimes without even knowing it…and that’s not due to the drinks. Not entirely.
If you look in the picture to the left, you’ll see a ghost advert for Emerson’s Ginger Mint Julep, in a photo captured after leaving the Pig & Punch picnic/party at Tales of the Cocktail this year. Me, my pork-loving belly, and my punch-sampling palate had a grand time. But I digress.
While the image of that advert might have you searching the French Quarter for a barkeep named Emerson that mixes up the stiffest, sweetest, spiciest ginger-enhanced bourbon cocktail, it’s actually closer to a mint-enhanced ginger ale — check the definition of a julep in this previous post. But after a bit more research, I found that this Emerson fellow was into a bit more mixology, a little closer to home. One of the more architecturally-notable buildings in Baltimore is the Bromo-Seltzer Tower, built in 1911 and one of the tallest buildings in the city for the early part of the 20th century — you can check the stats on Wikipedia to be sure. The company mainly produced a granular salt headache remedy, which I’m sure was useful to factory and shipping workers by Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point — possibly a hangover cure to a night drinking after second shift? Maybe so, but the final link in the drinking chain is explained in an anecdote on how they concocted their julep mastery:
FIZZIES® was also invented by Emerson Drug Company. The idea derived from scientists working with chemical formulas similar to “Bromo Seltzer” and wondering if a fun, fruit flavored drink could be developed the same way. “Wouldn’t it be grand if we could drop a tablet in a glass of water and have an instant soda pop?” After long hard work, they finally figured out how to combine the right combinations of fruit flavoring, sweetener, citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (a substance that is much like baking soda) into a magical tablet that when dropped into water, turned water into an instant sparkling, effervescent fruit drink!
Aha!! So to bring this whole cross-country carbonated connection to a close…while you may have gotten warm thoughts of a craft soda jerk taking finely shaved ginger, muddling that with the finest crystals of Demerara sugar, giving a loving and playful spank to heavenly-grown mint, then pouring carbonated water akin to Niagara Falls into a tall glass with ice that only a mother’s heart can make — you’d be on the wrong side of the bar. Imagine a cloudy glass with tap water, then taking what amounts to a “Sea Monkey” and dropping it into the glass. A few bubbles and voila — ginger mint julep. Sounds tasty. Harrumph.
I gotta go find Emerson — maybe he’s got a pill for a Gimlet. Or a Negroni. Or an Old Fashioned. Hope springs eternal.
“A lot of architects design a lot of details,” Taniguchi was saying. “I try to conceal details.” His brand of modernism doesn’t always express its structure; instead, his buildings tend to have a lightness of being, defying the steel, glass, concrete and stone it took to make them. Their exquisite craftsmanship is legendary, and Japanese contractors are proud to oblige him…
Later, ordering drinks before dinner, Taniguchi talked about how different building methods are in America. But he never really answered the question of why such a famous architect at home had taken so long to design outside Japan. “You are psychoanalyzing me,” he said with a slight smile.
Then his cocktail arrived. It was a Manhattan.
— Excerpt from “Red Hot MoMA: New York’s great modern museum is reborn, thanks to $425 million and an unlikely architect named Taniguchi,” by Cathleen McGuigan, Newsweek
This research discusses how changes to the urban environment has affected the “city center” not actually being the center of the city. We can begin the conversation here, discussing what the “shape” of the city is, and how that allows for connecting people to activity via the interconnections of buildings to sites to neighborhoods. Traditional ways of reading and navigating the city have been altered, due to the ebb and flow of the city and its suburbs, where people choose to work, and where development takes place. When you conceptualize a “city center” or “downtown” where a lot of urban activity is occurring, is that really in the center of the city?
How do you find out what is going on in your city — what does “happening” mean to you and what does it look like? We can continue the discussion by analyzing how the buildings help us find this urban activity; how it contains it, displays it, and leads us to it. Do you happen upon gatherings of people at an establishment, seeking to find a friend and leave the “lonely planet” behind you? Do you feel that the city still caters to smaller, more focused gatherings of people, allowing visitors to engage those groups to find out more regarding the city’s culture, so they can begin to move and shake along with the movers and the shakers? Are you intrigued by the new urban playgrounds of “destination developments”, that open the city up to residents and travelers both near and far?
Traditional means and avenues for design resulted in allowing energy to sift through different layers of the building, avoiding a stark inside/outside relationship. People could congregate directly at the front, or at the side in an exterior garden space, creating “overlapping social networks” that connected to passersby and sidewalk activity. In lieu of traditional means, what is left for the one who seeketh urban energy? Is social media the tie that binds those with common goals and similar perspectives, though separated by miles, subdivisions, and condo boards? Or can you still successfully find a slot to input your two cents on the future path of the city, and help tie into the social fabric? Good luck if you do; we all must keep striving. At times, it seems like there ain’t no love in the heart of the city.
There are three definite things in life: death, taxes, and cities changing. How can you gauge this change, and where can you go to witness the change? Drinking places are the heritage keepers within cities, where you can discuss issues that might not be on the front page of the newspaper or Facebook. A very informal way to find out where your city has been and where it is going. Grab a cold one and enjoy the discussion!
“Such is the withdrawing-room to which, because of its showy discomfort, no one withdraws; wherein visitors do penance at morning calls; where the common-sense that often rules the living-rooms is left behind at the threshold, and nothing useful is allowed to enter lest it fail to be ornamental.” — The Drawing-Room: Its Decorations and Furniture, by Lucy Orrinsmith
Say “drawing room” to your favorite neighborhood architect and they’ll probably conjure up a plethora of images: the design studio of their undergraduate studies, their kitchen table, Mike Brady’s den, the office they worked in after attaining their professional license, among many others. If you asked that same question to a member of the upper crust around a century ago, they’d start talking about this place where they had the General and his wife over last summer, or where that deal was cemented to purchase those acres to grow the company.
The drawing room was not as indispensable as a kitchen or bathroom, but it filled the role of entertaining where other rooms just couldn’t rise to the occasion. Wonderful items you’ve purchased on international travels? Perfect place for the drawing room. Want to exercise your creativity through otherworldly use of wallpaper? No place better than the drawing room. When you have that extra room, that bonus room, the space that you really could do without — what better use for it than to mis-use it?
However, what other place could you truly focus on discourse with your guest? Zone in on a particular topic, or bring people together in great fellowship? Allow them to see a side of yourself that they might not get from the other rooms? In modern times, and other cultures, a lot of this interaction takes place in the kitchen and the living room, but a drawing room truly allows you to take it slow and comfortable, in a more private environment than other rooms, but not as suggestive as the boudoir.
What would be in your drawing room? What materials would you choose to express it, and would you have elements defining the space or more suggestive, semi-hidden display and storage? Would your seating be more flexible or stationary, allowing for different people to shift places or sink down into their position? So many questions, so little time…why not think about them at this quaint watering hole in Chicago?
“Hey boy…you drink?”
“Yeah…some rum and some cognac sometimes…”
“You want some Hennessy? Go on and get yourself some…”
*pours Hennessy into ice-filled glass*
*pours cranberry juice into Hennessy*
“Awwww, come on…you’re killing it!”
The shortest month of the year just got a bit longer. February 29th does not come around too often, just every four years, Lord willin’. But while it marks the Leap Year, it also marks the quadrennial extension of Black History Month.
That’s good in some arenas. I can recall learning in elementary school about the work of Garrett Morgan, who invented the gas mask and traffic signal. I learned in my undergraduate studies about great thinkers like W.E.B. Du Bois & Marcus Garvey, and connect them with the work in which Dr. Cornel West & Tavis Smiley are engaged. I can reflect on the works of Julian Abele, Paul Williams, and Robert R. Taylor — African-American architects that did great work in the 19th and 20th centuries — and connect them with the work that Phil Freelon, David Adjaye, & Max Bond (deceased) are completing today on the NMAAHC. And there’s no equal to connecting the work that freedom fighters did to bring about our Black president.
In drinking culture, I’m at a bit of a loss. I have no start and no finish, no connections, no common thread, no alpha and omega. I do not know the person who invented scotch, tequila, or vodka, but I’m pretty sure they were not of African descent. I highly doubt that the person who invented the julep strainer, cobbler shaker, or cocktail glass would’ve been subject to Jim Crow laws. While there are notably historic African-American bartenders, there have just not been enough inroads made in cocktailing and drinking culture on par with other fields. Not sure what I’m searching for, but I guess it is what it is.
This doesn’t mean I have nothing to reflect upon. I reflect upon my personal experiences, like the exchange with my uncle from above, where he schooled me on enjoying spirits neat. The greatly rewarding visit I made to the local pub of my cousin that was born and lives in Somerset, England. I recall a time with a family friend I had a tasting session with — we enjoyed and compared a couple of fruit and grain wines and spirits that his uncle had moonshined. I think of the friends and colleagues I have today, that push me to succeed and further the cause of mixology. If the purpose of Black History Month is to think about how role models of the past inspire you to great things, I can’t help but think about how my family and like-family has set me upon this path. I’m forever thankful for my people.
Many buildings are placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Religious buildings like Quinn Chapel in Chicago; colonial-era buildings like the White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI; sites in the nation’s capital like the Cogswell Temperance Fountain; and Southern showpieces like the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Since the recognition symbolizes national significance, sometimes a flag-raising is in order.
The Jack Daniel’s Distillery realized this in 1976, and set out to enact a raising of the flag. This ad from that year stated as much. Distilleries are part of a nation’s history, whether it’s Bushmills in Ireland or the Hacienda Corralejo, they showcase a nation’s manufacturing mettle along with its artistic spirit; this is very much a cause d’celebre. As the distillers of Old No. 7 believed, you should wave your flag in honor of your favorite spirit — maybe they forgot that Ol’ Blue Eyes set the standard two decades earlier:
“The legendary residence was host to some of the valley’s most glamorous parties with Hollywood’s brightest stars of the day. The twin palm trees located poolside, appropriately name the infamous estate. Frank Sinatra often hoisted his Jack Daniel’s emblem flag on the flag pole once positioned between the twin palms, which indicated an invite to his Movie Colony neighborhood cronies that revelry and cocktails were in order.”
Le Corbusier once noted that architects can have success in obtaining projects by “drinking the right cocktail to secure the commission.” While tales have been told of some architects’ failures at winning over the crowd at a dinner party, one architect that may be a step ahead is Michael Graves. I mean, when you can design a knockout cocktail set, you’re already ahead of the curve!
Graves has a knack of designing products with a touch of whimsy, harkening back to his post-modern design background. That leads to him reconsidering design, history, or culture when he makes a reference — bringing a new perspective to the conversation for a new audience. Whether through architecture by putting new clothes on the classical emperor with the Portland Building, or putting on a product design hat to create a mash-up of drinking styles for the mixologist and sommelier, Graves has set his own standard for interdisciplinary creation, turning design on its head.
Is he an architect? A glassware aficionado? What about a graphic design specialist, or a vanguard of universal design? It doesn’t matter — you know it when you see it, and Graves’ products truly give you a congenial feeling.
“Robert Rebutato, the son of the restaurateurs, was an architect in Le Corbusier’s Paris studio. For many summers, he had been Le Corbusier’s constant companion for the vacation routine of two swims a day, one at the end of the morning, the next in the late afternoon, each followed by an aperitif. Over ritual drinks, Le Corbusier would hold forth to his acolyte about architecture, nature, color, or whatever the passionate theme of the day was.” — Le Corbusier: A Life by Nicholas Fox Weber
This research discusses the redevelopment of historic urban districts, offering analysis of change at the scale of a neighborhood. Neighborhoods are flexible in terms of city scale — macro-attributes such as socio-economic and changing demographic issues, as well as micro-attributes such as interpersonal relationships and signs & symbols on buildings. Opportunities for redevelopment can touch upon many of these issues as themes, tying together the neighborhood in a way that reflects its past and creates a responsible and promising trajectory for the future.
Contemporary breweries and microbreweries tend to be isolated from the built and social fabric of urban neighborhoods — either located in unadorned, industrial areas or totally unrelated to other services in the vicinity. Historically, breweries were large-scale operations, sustaining the economy of large swaths of a region and creating a need for services that extended down to the neighborhood level. Breweries were connected to local craftsmen for construction and engineering services, to local drinking places for patronage of their products, and to personal customs of the workers and their families. The overarching drinking culture contains objects for architectural commentary and metaphor, which are especially promising for success in redevelopment of historic urban districts, as shown above: historic buildings that reflect the “urban narrative” that future development should follow, building symbols and imagery that reflects cultural ideals, and looking to create a synergy between current professional opportunities and previous crafts & occupations that used to sustain the neighborhood.
A successful example of an urban redevelopment that brought all these attributes together is the Distillery District in Toronto, which successfully maintained the heritage of the area and its inhabitants, creating responsible development with smart and compatible uses.
[Research by ME]
“There were no banquets or speeches, just a quiet dinner party and a cocktail party at Sert’s. When the guests arrived they found Le Corbusier standing among the early arrivals in the patio to the rear of Sert’s house drinking Pernod.” — Le Corbusier At Work: The Genesis of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts