The great hall of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is a soaring vaulted space, vast and imposing and seemingly symmetrical. The massive central dome and the smaller domes surrounding it are richly decorated with tiles and frescoes, and at the corners hang enormous round wooden panels imprinted in flowing gold-lettered Arabic script with verses from the Qur’an. Sunlight streams through high windows, spotlighting the extraordinary ornamentation, illuminating dust particles suspended in midair and... Read More
A couple of weeks ago, while attending the New England Museums Association conference in Portland, Maine, I had a lovely meal at Isa, a little bistro in the city’s Bayside neighborhood. The food was delicious, the space well lighted and designed, the service attentive but informal, the atmosphere convivial – a happy local crowd on a weeknight out. But maybe the nicest thing about the whole experience was how refreshingly straightforward and unpretentious it was.
It’s no secret that in... Read More
Every year in early fall a big truck comes lumbering down our narrow dirt road, scraping against encroaching branches on both sides, and disgorges two or three cords of fresh-cut firewood in a great heap at the edge of my lawn. The load is usually mostly oak, with occasional veins of maple, birch and ash; heavy, wet, and fragrant. It tends to sit there for a month or so, waiting a bit reproachfully until I get around to stacking it.
I enjoy stacking firewood. There is something... Read More
As a little boy growing up in New York in the early 1960s I was fascinated by the little windows cut into the rough plywood walls of construction barricades. The cranes were nesting all over the city in those days, and it seemed like every other corner sported a cavernous excavation or a skeletal frame of steel beams rising tentatively into the sky. On daily walks with our old black lab I’d pester my parents to pick me up high enough to peer through the hole. I might just have been going... Read More
Making interactive exhibits and experiential environments can be breathtakingly expensive, with both design and fabrication costs driven ever higher by the one-off nature of almost everything we do. (As Lyn Wood, principal of the wonderful design/build studio Hands On! Inc. once put it, “Everything bespoke, nothing off the rack.”) So we need to be as efficient as possible, but as we’re huddled together over the conference table or in front of a screen trying to puzzle out the solution to... Read More
Why are airports so big? What’s the point of all those cavernous terminals with 60’ ceilings? It’s certainly not practical or efficient, so it must be for effect: to remind us that airlines are great and powerful, like the buildings they build.
It’s important to remember that the places we design will have an impact on the people who visit and use them, and to make sure that the impact they have is the one we actually want them to have. We might make a nature trail that winds and... Read More