Many years ago, today, Elizabeth and I were finishing up a walk in the woods with a specific purpose, beyond taking in the crisp air and thinning foliage of late fall in Northern Michigan. It was our Thanksgiving break, and after unsuccessfully attempting to procure either product or supplier of the correct size of tokobashira for a project she had designed and we had under construction, we decided we must procure one personally for our client.
Disappointed that we hadn’t found anything suitable in the woods, we were passing through a parking lot adjacent to the burgeoning Village at Grand Traverse Commons (converted from the old Kirkbride facility – more on that in another post) and, quite fortunately, happened upon this pile of logs prepared for the oven of the local bakery – Pleasanton (their chocolate pistachio croissant is beyond compare!).
Enquiring inside if we might purchase a branch, we were told that if we only needed one it was “gratis” – so we gratefully pulled a few for comparison and sent photos to our client. He liked one best, and we loaded it into the ol’ SUV and brought it back to Chicago. Intended for the salient corner of a bookshelf, it needed a few specific characteristics, including diameter and shape.
The bookshelf sans tokobashira
Those floating shelves really need some support…
After some requisite curing and a dry fit to make sure the bends and crooks lined up, we instructed the contractor to prepare the tokobashira in the traditional way, scraping to a smooth surface, and had them stain to match the rest of our design.
Doing a dry fit…
The result in the end is not only a story worth sharing, but the perfect complement to the room. In this designated time of reflecting on our blessings and acknowledging our gratitude, we’re grateful for generous bakeries (Pleasanton has become a fixture in our Traverse City visits!); we’re extremely thankful for wonderful clients that allow us the opportunity to design outside the typical traditional bounds and, in some cases, even get our hands dirty in order to bring a fun idea to life; and we hope your blessings are easy to count.
Here at MGLM we are extremely passionate about Art Deco and practice it whenever we have the chance. One of the more interesting aspects about Art Deco is that it wasn’t a consistent style, with each country, each region having their own variation of, and in some cases even their own name for, the aesthetic which spanned generally from inter-war periods of 1919-1939. Many items are considered deco that were created before and after that timeframe. Plenty of experts point to the 1925 Paris Exhibition as the introduction of high Art Deco but more research has revealed that a lot of designers were simplifying their forms and adding elements that previewed the style even as far back as 1900, especially here in Chicago. Even though at the time it was considered quite “modern” with the main tenets of modernity, movement, angularity, and luxury of materials, we now look back on Deco and its design language as a logical extension of traditional classicism with its emphasis on proportion, hierarchy, and use of architectural ornament. Deco above all was concerned with the beauty of design, something that Modernists of the same era, especially those involved in the Bauhaus movement and the International Style, considered abhorrent and superfluous. Thus, during the heyday of Modernism (1940’s-1970’s), many Deco gems were destroyed due to lack of appreciation. Fortunately, many people now, including us, consider Deco as the last great flourishing of traditional vernacular language before the advent of the stripped down monotonous steel and glass structures. And it is our intention to pick up the mantle and restore the place of art in architecture!
Lee Lawrie at Rockefeller. Photo by cdscally on Flickr.
Carbide & Carbon. Photo by Terence Faircloth on Flickr.
Manchester Unity Building east facade by Stephen Bain – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
New India Assurance Building by Colin Rose from Montreal, Canada. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Guest Post by MGLM’s Gingerbread Starchitect Mallory Mecham
Dec. 24, 2013
December is a time of year filled with holiday traditions, from the religious to the secular to the…architectural?
In my family, gingerbread is a tradition we take very seriously. Each year on Thanksgiving, we’d break out the bottles of molasses and bags of powdered sugar and whip up several batches of gingerbread and royal icing. We’d make a village that included four small, basic gabled-roof houses and one large church, complete with a steeple and stained glass window.
Over the years, my interest in architecture grew, and our villages grew more and more elaborate.
We diversified our patterns, added dormers and chimneys, and got more creative in the styles of the houses.
It seemed a natural progression to apply this family tradition to the work we’re doing in the office. This year I made a quarter-scale model of an Arts & Crafts house that the office had designed for a competition.
It has a lot of great architectural elements that presented some interesting challenges for the gingerbread/icing construction method – bay windows, columns, engaged dormers, a cantilevered wing with arches and brackets – but as in full-scale architecture, it was these details that really made the gingerbread house special. The following are some photos of the process:
And some photos of it all coming together.
As you can see, it has its similarities to actual construction! Foundations, walls, then the roof.
Despite a few mishaps – broken walls, misshapen edges, and a near collapse – the house came together.
While it may not stand the test of time (it is gingerbread, after all), it brought some holiday cheer to the office and some novelty to a time-honored tradition.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all from MGLM Architects!
How does MGLM make it through demanding (and sometimes unrealistic) deadlines? With the world’s most popular drug of course. To paraphrase the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos, here at MGLM an architect is a machine for turning coffee into designs. We recently used these to help complete more than 40 art glass designs.