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.
[Photos by ME]
“Shut down your operation, closed for business/
Leave a foul taste in your mouth, like Guinness…” — Mobb Deep, “Hell on Earth”
You don’t have to be a fan of Bar Rescue to know that countless drinking places close every day…gone forever, lost to the memories of the former patrons. While there is a range of emotions that set in upon the closing — disappointment, heartache, happiness to some, anger to others — it eventually dissipates as we find another bar stool with our name on it at another establishment. Is that all it takes — on to the next one? What does the literal “Last Call” mean to the built and social fabric of our communities?
What does it mean to the patron? To the common visitor or urban transplant, it’s a lost opportunity to make a new acquaintance, learn something unexpected about their new surroundings, or see that new culture “in action”. This may not resonate with residents, as they may not give the same value to certain places that have “been there forever”. However, it’s a problem for them as well — the next time they want to show a visiting friend what their city is truly like, it may look the same as every other city in FranchiseTown, USA. What made that particular city unique passed on right under their noses, as they didn’t lift a finger to try and prevent it.
Let’s discuss the perspective of the changing city. When all this urban energy and social activity is gone, doesn’t it make our cities feel a bit dormant, just a little empty? Maybe lacking for that excitement and experience that you go home and tell someone about, or are able to pass along in recollection to a friend in a fond retelling? Every urban environment may not be like Vine Street in late 19th-century Cincinnati, which had 136 drinking places along its downtown stretch in 1890. That speaks to a certain culture of industry that sustains that level of activity — an industry long gone, with only physical remnants still visible.
Finally, the industry. One truism espoused by Bernard DeVoto was, “The surest proof of the moral foundation of the universe is that you can always find good whiskey if you will go looking for it.” If one places closes, we can surely find another place willing to suit our tastes of fine cocktailing. However, what does that do to the local industry? In these tough times, it’s not easy to just set up shop somewhere. In simple terms, it’s hard out here for a publican. Small business loans, identifying and reaching a target user group, sustaining sales to woo continued supply — it takes more than just pouring a pony of spicy brown into a glass.
So, friends, in the words of Sean Connery, what are we prepared to do? The answer — realize that we can’t do it all ourselves. We must join together to keep our cities alive. About to enjoy that bottle of sweet brown you picked up the other week? Call over your buddy you haven’t spoken to in a month of Sundays to help you, so he knows what to look for upon his next visit to a drinking place. Stopping off for a quick cocktail with your main damie before a snazzy event? Have her girlfriends join you, and soak in their comments on how impeccably detailed a combination your suit and cufflinks make. Had an unexpectedly-informing exchange with the bartender at that corner spot, where you went for a “one and done”? Tell a couple people about it and send some business their way. The city will always be there, but it’s up to us to live in it.
“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.
“Taverns played a little-known but vital role as an important center of community life and activity…
Two forms of the early American tavern were closely modeled on English institutions and were found exclusively in urban settings: the city tavern and the coffee house…
Tavern activities in the city establishments were centered around economic life, everyday business transactions, mercantile exchange, and events such as auctions of goods, property, and slaves; city officials frequently held their meetings in taverns…
Small taverns were clustered along the docks of…port cities; catered to transient seamen or day laborers…” - - Text from Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers by Kym S. Rice
Ice and cocktails go hand in hand. The sling, the sans bitters precursor to the cocktail, was a combination of spirit, water, sweet, and sour. Water may enter a mixed drink in its fluid form, as with a couple drops added to scotch to release the essence of its flavor. But more often, water’s frozen friend is utilized — ice.
Ice brings rhythm to the cocktail world, helping to “wake up the spirit” inside shakers. Many savvy cocktail bars have instituted their own ice program, cutting blocks by hand, mallet, and pick. Machinery also comes into play, with KOLD-DRAFT machines and specialty ice-sphere machines creating harder, purer ice that won’t screw up the delicate balance in today’s craft cocktails. A slower melting ice cube
also helps with the dilution of your cocktail — allowing just enough water to help with the alcohol absorption into your system, while not drowning your scotch.
Some products would stop here, but ice strives for more, truly earning the “S” on its chest. It also shares a basic role — to keep food from going bad. In colonial times, way before the days of machines that produce 65mm ice spheres for the low cost of 650 pounds sterling, ice was relied upon to keep that 8 billion pounds of crab you bagged on your fishing trip cool enough to make crab cakes for a while. But since Frigidaire wasn’t in business yet, where did people store the ice?
Naturally, they’d want to keep it close to the chest. Back then, if you couldn’t hold it at your home, your local tavern was just as good. Ice wells were prevalent, like the one above that was kept at an Alexandria, VA tavern frequented by a whiskey distiller. It’s been mostly covered up by a couple centuries of transportation infrastructure and urbanization, but there are enough reveals to tacitly show the history of its usage. Quite the congenial way to display technological ties to our past, no?
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.
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]
[Photos by ME]
Soda is irreplaceable in bartending and mixology. From cocktails such as the Scotch & Soda, the Gin & Tonic, and the Cuba Libre, to using club soda over ice to chill a cocktail glass, to the omnipresent soda gun, it’d be quite tough to man a bar without soda.
But there is another side to soda — the soda fountain and soda shops. The fountain would serve all types of fanciful carbonated beverages, that we’ve all had and enjoy nostalgic feelings about: root beer, orange soda, Green River, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper…the list goes on and on. “Soda jerks” were masters of the pour in their day, and served a clientele aged from 8 to 80.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, the fizz on top of the proverbial soda. When you add ice cream to the mix, another world was created. The ice cream sundae, with hot fudge, butterscotch, caramel, whipped cream, bananas, chopped peanuts, toasted walnuts, and the cherry on top — enough to make grown men cry. Or at least wipe the side of their mouth.
Soda shops like the one pictured above, Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor & Museum in Columbus, IN, were all over the country. And their amenities and finishes were top-notch, as seen in the marble fountain, the ornately carved wood backbar, pristine counter, room partition, and pendant lights. But why would grown men come here? The layout of the space, even the brass rails on the bars, the bric-a-brac telling you to “Drink Moonshine” and “Orange Julep”. Why didn’t people just head down to their local watering hole? Ohhhhhh, that’s right….because of….
Photos of the Hacienda Corralejo — built in 1775, the first estate to produce commercial tequila in México — and the birthplace of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the Father of the Nation of México.
“The hacienda, an institution of agrarian exploitation, was one of the important pillars of México’s economic life from the colonial period until the Revolution and, along with encomiendas and mining, a fundamental element in México’s colonization.
The encomiendas were of diverse magnitude: some comprised great expanses with thousands of tributaries, and others were only small villages lost in the mountains. Each establishment was not only a place consisting of a plaza, a church, and a cluster of houses, but also represented a moral body, a community of medieval traditions jealous of its autonomy and rights — an institution.
Discounting some very important ranches or some sugar plantations, grand constructions were reserved for urban residences, at least until the late 17th century. This explains why there are no traces of farm buildings. They were generally constructed of adobe, rarely of stone, and thatched with straw or shingled — in contrast to the grand sugar plantations…From early on, sugar plantations called for a new kind of farming operation in which the natives were integrated and conformed to a new type of social organization. These plantations were almost completely self-sufficient, and from the 16th century onward became the forerunners of the classic Mexican haciendas.” — The Hacienda in Mexico By Daniel Nierman, Ernesto H. Vallejo
What does a drinking place look like?
Does it have the same materials as any other designed space? Or is there opportunity to meld its cultural objects with the designed environment?
Several drinking places have taken on this aim of “self-representation.” Recycling and reuse of materials is prevalent in spirits production — using pomace to make grappa, using the “tails” of distillations for future batches, and reusing bourbon casks to age cognac. There’s also a distillery that is striving to take recycling methods to new economies of scale. But is there a simpler way to achieve this? If the key to a wondrous spirit lies in the “hand of the maker”, can’t the designer use one of his in the same manner?
The Blatz was a brewery in one of the great cities of the German Triangle — Milwaukee. When it was redeveloped into condominiums in 2006, the designers input some objects of drinking culture into the “new” space. Outside of a lounge are ginormous pivot doors, inset with old Blatz bottles. The visual effect is immediate; the attraction almost magnetic. And a good thing that they are large pivot doors — they don’t swing quickly and harm people looking at them from a nose’s distance!
Other drinking places are using a lighting approach to offer lonesome beer bottles a second chance at life — because what good is beer if you can’t see it, right? Revolution Brewery in Chicago grouped together 99 beer bottles (reminds me of a song….) and applied a glassblowing technique to them, creating a new shape that takes a bit to immediately recognize it. Maria’s Community Bar, also in Chicago, also used a cluster of bottles, but instead cut their bottoms off to create a sharp modern aesthetic. These approaches — whether creating a “chandebier” (see what I did there?) or the bottle wall at the Blatz — surely lead to patrons gaining a better understanding and meaning of “the great, good place.”
This research discusses how the cultural appearance of buildings helps to steer people’s perceptions of an area — determining whether or not they’ll frequent that establishment, that street, that neighborhood, and so on. This is especially important when considering a person that doesn’t have background history of that environment, such as a transplant, tourist, or other “outsider” in that situation. The buildings above are all located in Cincinnati: a jazz speakeasy, an “English pub”, a historic saloon revived for a festival, a historic cafe that was recently closed, and a new restaurant/bar located in the downtown area.
The building’s appearance played a large part in determining and evaluating the culture of each of these environments. How would a person know that a warm, jazz-filled room was right in the heart of a downtrodden, culturally-disenfranchised community — especially when two green lights at the doorway were the only signal of activity? If an award-winning restaurateur opens an establishment that appears to be a nightclub to many prospective patrons, how would that affect their engagement of the establishment — help or hinder? If a 19th/20th-century era cafe falls in the city, does it make a sound, if no one with any ties to the heritage is around to hear it?
This research led to formalize responsive, and responsible, mechanisms of design and redesign. This approach would seek to resolve the disconnect between appearance and experience that these buildings exemplified.
[Research by ME]
“It is helpful to consider the built wall of the Seagram building together with Mies’s sketches for the sculptures…The sketches have a kind of hit-or-miss quality; they can be taken lightly, as if they were never meant to go into production, as if they had flowed from Mies’s ruminations over the famous cigar and whiskey in the leisure time still allowed to the social mandarin back in his Chicago apartment.” — The Presence of Mies by Detlef Mertins
Drinking culture surrounds us; a great and tangible thing, it is. All the tacit nuances that exist within urbanity express this — examples are too vast and numerous to relegate drinking places to indirect objects of common culture and unworthy of analysis. Their centuries-old history is not akin to a tree falling in the forest….
“Even the most perceptive writers about them have tended to treat them as folk-art and taken it for granted that exact dates, names or architects and craftsmen, or particulars of what they cost or who commissioned them cannot be hoped for…
In the center of London, they still exist in abundant numbers…In Victorian days, their abundance was reckless and, in the eyes of the Temperance reformers, scandalous.
As the streetlights dimly lit up in the twilight the pubs lit up far more brightly; long rows of monstrous lanterns stretched out into the street on curling and caparisoned tentacles of wrought iron and underneath them walls of sinuously bending and elaborately engraved glass were lit from the inside by an inner row of blazing globes…” — Victorian Pubs by Mark Girouard
[Photos by ME]