Anticipation is high for the TWA Hotel. Opening on May 15, the new hotel has transformed Eero Saarinen’s 1962 TWA Flight Center into a new lodging option for travelers passing through New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport. While there are a few unconventional airport hotels already out there, such as Stockholm’s 747-housed Jumbo Stay hostel, few are as all-encompassing as the TWA Hotel. Fully connected to the transportation hub's facilities, the project will feature a slew of quirky details and period-sensitive design elements. The former terminal’s neo-futuristic architecture will be accentuated by key space-age and midcentury modern furnishings. Ahead of its opening this May, the multifaceted project has been in the news a lot. While it was revealed late last year that one of the historic airline’s decommissioned Lockheed Constellation jetliners would become a cocktail lounge, it was recently announced that early reservations for the hotel’s 512 rooms would open tomorrow, February 14. Another overlooked but equally-important news item is the project’s use of custom-built millwork. Despite lower bids from international vendors, MCR/MORSE Development—the hotel's major owner and operator—opted for locally sourced and milled walnut for the guest room martini-bars, tambour wallcoverings, and other finishings. The developer turned to Highland Wood Products and Hilltop Woodworking, two Ohio-based Amish companies, for their expertise. Using twenty 18-wheelers’ worth of locally sourced walnut, 200 craftspeople produced over 40,000 square-feet of tambour wood. The skilled workforce employed age-old, analog techniques like steaming, suspending, sanding, staining, and sealing to ensure the material’s longevity. Channeling the same attention they often give to highly-intricate furniture, the craftspeople fitted out compartmentalized martini bars. Combined with brushed brass trim, mirrored glass, and backlighting, these pieces achieve a glamorous yet restrained look in perfect keeping with the project's overall interior scheme.
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Opening today, Breaking the Box is Sebastian ErraZuriz’s inaugural exhibition at New York collectible design gallery R & Company. On view until March 9, the show presents a curated selection of the Chilean-born, New York–based designer’s functional sculptures, as well as new works from his Mechanical Cabinet series. ErraZuriz's approach transcends disciplinary boundaries. His projects range from public art to interior architecture, experimental furniture, and product design. Whether it's a large video installation in Time Square, women’s shoes, or a shelving unit held up by 3-D-printed reproductions of ancient Greek and Roman busts, ErraZuriz’s designs always contain an element of surprise. The multifaceted talent employs a diverse set of technical skills, material knowledge, and aesthetic styles to produce works that challenge the standards of function. ErraZuriz’s Mechanical Cabinet furniture series is an ongoing project reimagining how people perceive and interact with this type of object. For the latest additions to the series—debuting as part of the Breaking the Box exhibition—the designer utilized traditional woodworking techniques and hidden spinning mechanisms. Though they appear to be simplistic boxes at first glance, the new works can be transformed into modular credenzas and cabinets. While the Fan Cabinet's flexible slat surface opens into concentric patterns, the Grand Complication piece unravels like a Russian nesting doll. Fan Cabinet by Sebastian ErraZuriz, 2018 from R & Company on Vimeo. The Grand Complication by Sebastian ErraZuriz from R & Company on Vimeo. “We tend to understand reality by constraining meaning into closed and simplified boxes defined by previous cultural conventions. We live within these pre-established cognitive borders, where we only tend to see, recognize and accept as true, that which has been previously ordered and defined,” said ErraZuriz. "In Breaking the Box, I use art, design, and craft to break open our relationship to objects, beauty, and time, in order to reconsider conventions."
Seven design variations are applied across 17 custom wooden benches, fabricated by Mark Richey Woodworking.Sited above a vehicular tunnel and therefore bereft of old growth trees, the Plaza at Harvard University, with its aggregate porcelain paving and curvaceous, sculptural benches, stands in stark visual contrast to the school’s notably shady yard and north campus. Designed by Stoss Landscape Urbanism, the plaza serves as a multi-functional space for staff, students, and the local community. A large part of accomplishing this goal fell to the unique seating solution, a collection of custom-designed, wooden slat benches that aim to increase the function and user comfort of the public space. Some of the benches are meant for lounging with no back and a low seat height, while others are higher with full seat backs. Some twist in the manner of a Victorian tete-a-tete settee, while still others support a touchdown working posture. Stoss's design for the benches, sliced like a loaf of bread, was achieved in Rhino with a Grasshopper plugin. The parametric modeling tool was instrumental in defining the benches' complex geometries. "At every change, the curves meet two general sections so there's a morphology of that form work," said Erik Prince, an associate at Stoss who worked on the plaza. "The wooden slats are an incremental radial splay of the overall geometry so every rib has a unique angle to it." The design team produced a 3D model for each of the 17 benches. Since the benches were manufactured based on information contained in the digital files, a substantial portion of time was spent developing accurate models that could be extrapolated for the fabrication process. "It was a deep model, so even the smallest changes would cascade throughout the design," said Greg Porfido, chief operating officer at Mark Richey Woodworking, which fabricated the benches. Further intricacies of the manufacturing process came from the slight change in the angle of each rib to accomplish the complex twists and turns of unique forms. The centermost rib stands vertically erect, while those radiating out to either side increasingly angle outward along the length of each bench, culminating in as much as a 30 degree lean at each end. Mark Richey Woodworking fabricated the ribs on a 5-axis CNC mill. The sharp angles of the intersecting slats, which have parallel reveals, were achieved with mitered connections fixed with epoxy and mortise and tenon joints. Once fastened together as a "bread slice," they were laid over a metal substructure and screwed from beneath. Removable metal caps on both ends conceal drivers for LED base lighting, power and data hookups, and deliver a smooth, clean edge. Reflecting on the process of parametric design and fabrication, both Stoss Landscape Urbanism and Mark Richey Woodworking were in agreement about the success of the process and the outcome of the project. "It's a great way to communicate, but it requires a very collaborative approach," Porfido said. "The stakeholders have to have trust in the process; otherwise it doesn't work."
Starting Memorial Day, Chicago's Millennium Park will host the U.S. debut of a bright array of public design projects, many of which appeared at the 2012 Venice Biennale. Spontaneous Interventions: Design Actions for the Common Good will feature 84 works, including more than a dozen for Chicago and several that also appeared in Venice. One Venice Biennale carryover will be the slew of pull-down banners created by Brooklyn design studio Freecell and Berkeley-based communication design firm M-A-D. An “outdoor living room” for Millennium Park, designed by Wicker Park firm MAS Studio, is among the new installations. The space will serve as an outpost for the exhibition, according to MAS director Iker Gill, shading visitors with a canopy of more than 700 moving acrylic panels with a lively color palette. Local woodworker John Preus of Dilettante Studios will salvage lumber for the wood support structure and seating. The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events brought the design contest to Chicago for its first U.S. showing. Programs will take place at the Cultural Center, in the pop-up pavilion in Millennium Park, and at various offsite locations through September 1. Here’s a video of Freecell and M-A-D’s banner project from the biennale: