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Going Public: Ennead Architects’ Ovation-Worthy Renovation of the Public Theatre

Architectural historian Spiro Kostof described architecture as “the material theater of human activity,” which makes renovating an actual performance space a daunting prospect (and possibly a meta-performance). Enter Ennead Architects, starring in the multi-year production of renovating New York’s Public Theatre. We asked writer Marc Kristal to survey the project’s latest stage.


The New York City landmark’s new stoop and canopy at dusk. (All photos © Jeff Goldberg/Esto)

“This space has always been about community,” says Patrick Willingham, executive director of The Public Theatre at Astor Place, the magisterial 19th-century Renaissance Revival building that, since the late 1960s, has served as a multi-stage venue for founding director Joseph Papp’s vision of a new and groundbreaking American theatre. Architecturally, at least, that has never been more the case: the capstone of nearly two decades of renovation/restoration work, to the tune of $42 million, by Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership), the recently completed revivification of the structure’s entry and lobby have dramatically expanded the Public’s public component–making the place that brought you (among countless theatrical high-water marks) Hair, A Chorus Line, and The Normal Heart a crowd-pleaser in every sense.

Though Papp’s intervention, in 1966, saved it from demolition, the building, at 425 Lafayette Street in Manhattan’s East Village, was hardly insignificant. Completed in three phases (by three architects) between 1853 and 1881, it was commissioned by John Jacob Astor and served as the city’s first free public library. In 1921, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society purchased the property and converted it into a shelter and all-purpose gathering place for newly arrived European Jews; the letters HIAS, in faded paint, are still visible on the northern elevation. Under Papp’s supervision, architect Giorgio Cavaglieri carved out five theatres of varying sizes and configurations, home to some of the great productions of the last half-century. But the communal spaces remained less than stellar: during the HIAS years, the original grand entry podium was lost, replaced by an interior stair that consumed 30 percent of the lobby. And subsequent to Papp’s original renovation, the structure received almost no upgrading until Ennead began substantive work in the mid-nineties.

Without, project architect Stephen Chu, along with design counsel James Polshek and management partner Duncan Hazard, restored the original auspicious sense of arrival with a three-sided grand stair, measuring seventeen by seventy feet and constructed from solid blocks of black granite, protected by a new glass canopy. In addition to extracting the steps from the lobby and enabling theatre patrons to enter at the original level of the three arched front doors, the new stoop serves as a welcome outdoor destination on a street previously lacking one, a magnetized urban gathering place akin to the monumental stairs in front of the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue (though less imposing and more boho).
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Pantone Debuts Paint Collection with Valspar

The Pantone licensing machine is chugging along nicely, even if Emerald and Tangerine Tango make for rather tough sells when it comes to cosmetics (Sephora remains undaunted). The latest focus for the company’s rainbow tour is the home. JCPenney is rolling out a Pantone Universe line of bed and bath items, from Peach Parfait sheet sets and Purple Magic pillows to Blue Aster shower curtains and Macaw Green toothbrush holders, that arrives in stores next month. That gives you a few weeks to colormatch your walls with Pantone paint. The new collection, a partnership with Valspar, offers color lovers a selection of 100 “on-trend hues” that runs the gamut from classic neutrals to eye-searing brights. The colors are available exclusively at Lowe’s for approximately $30 per gallon.

Stall of Fame: CBGB Bathroom Recreated Inside Metropolitan Museum of Art

Toilets and urinals aren’t typical fodder for red-carpet conversation, but stall talk dominated on Monday evening as galagoers ascended the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in ensembles that ranged from clownish to sublime. Guests were buzzing about the recreated CBGB bathroom (pictured) that is among the first things visitors encounter in the museum’s “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow. The cave-like space, scrawled with circa-1975 graffiti, is adjacent to monitors playing a looped selection of films and footage–of Blondie, the Ramones, Patti Smith, and Television–selected by Nick Knight and edited by Ruth Hogben.

“We’ve had great [design] moments in punk, but I’ve very excited about the urinal–a urinal at the Met!” said André Leon Talley at Monday’s gala. “According to Patti Smith, punk began in a urinal downtown somewhere that I never went to, so I’m excited to see that.” The Vogue veteran was dressed in an elaborately embroidered cape–think Joseph’s technicolor dreamcoat meets MacKenzie-Childs–designed for him by Tom Ford. “I love this coat and I don’t consider it punk. I just consider it appropriate for this occasion,” said Talley with a chuckle. “I said to Anna [Wintour], I didn’t do punk. I skipped punk and went straight to couture.”

Herman Miller to Buy Maharam for $156 Million


(Photo: Maharam)

After four generations of family ownership, Maharam is changing hands. The beloved New York City-based textiles firm, founded in 1902 by Louis Maharam, is being acquired by Herman Miller for $156 million, the company announced this week. “Much as we’ve struggled with this decision, our philosophical kinship with Herman Miller helped make this difficult step a far easier one,” said CEO Michael Maharam, who along with his brother, Stephen (who serves as COO), will remain active in the day-to-day management of the company for the next couple of years. “Herman Miller’s potential to provide the wherewithal to pursue important new initiatives, as well as an established reach into both retail and international markets and the greatest possible strength of association, offers a powerful lever in achieving our design-centered strategic vision.” Maharam is perhaps best known for its re-editions of iconic 20th century designs, including the work of Anni Albers, Charles and Ray Eames, and Alexander Girard. In recent years the company has developed textiles with collaborators such as Hella Jongerius, Paul Smith, Marian Bantjes, and Sarah Morris.

Get Happy! Judy Garland Arrives at Lever House

Casa Lever is a feast for the senses. Tucked inside Gordon Bunshaft‘s eternally modern Lever House in midtown Manhattan, the restaurant features a beehive-gone-nautical interior dreamed up by Marc Newson, a fit-for-Fellini brand identity by Matteo Bologna and the gang at Mucca Design (don’t miss the wine list, studded with lovely and informative maps!), and, for dessert, a mind-blowing gianduia that suggests Nutella as reimagined by a band of pastry-loving cherubs. And then there are the Warhols.

Thanks to a lending arrangement with Lever House owner Aby Rosen and his Lever House Art Collection, Casa Lever patrons dine with a wall of Warhol portraits: a pair of Hitchcock profiles here, twin Jerry Halls there, the sassy Aretha that covered Ms. Franklin’s eponymous 1986 album–and proved to be Warhol’s last work–eyeing the exit. It’s always fun to play a round of “Which would you like to own?” while waiting for your ravioli di brasoto (or your third gianduia, as the case may be) to arrive, in which case one’s eyes are inevitably pulled to the rear of the restaurant, where the elevated private dining room–aglow with the best Warhols of the bunch–floats behind a Newsonian trapezoid of glass. Until recently, that’s where they kept the pair of pastel Dennis Hoppers from 1971, which stared down a couple of Giorgio Armani portraits in which the blue-eyed designer resembles a debonair Siberian husky.

As of today, there’s a new girl in town: Judy Garland. The recently acquired Judys (above), made by Warhol in 1978 and circa 1979, debuted today in the private dining room. They are best admired in the company of a newly created “Judy Garland” cocktail. Casa Lever “mixologist” Cristina Bini‘s commemorative blend of bourbon whisky, barolo chinato, mint essence, and absinthe is sure to take you somewhere over the rainbow in no time. “Edie [Sedgwick] and Judy had something in common–a way of getting everyone totally involved in their problems. When you were around them, you forgot you had problems of your own, you got so involved in theirs,” Warhol once said. “They had dramas going right around the clock, and everybody loved to help them through it all. Their problems made them even more attractive.”

Cubes: Take a Musical Tour of Morris+King Public Relations

Imagine swimming through your day in an ocean of blue expertly matched to a series of David Hockney pool paintings.

In the latest episode of Cubes, we show you the New York offices of Morris + King public relations. Lead partner and co-principal Judith R. King takes the mediabistroTV crew on a musical journey featuring chairs from the Stella Solaris cruise ship and 1970s French jumbo jets, specially chosen chandeliers and offices painted any color you like as long as its blue.

You can view our other MediabistroTV productions on our YouTube Channel.

Jurgen Bey Gets Down to Business in ‘Fantasy’ Office

Rotterdam-based Studio Makkink & Bey, led by architect Rianne Makkink and designer Jurgen Bey, has long envisioned a progressive office in which the multitasking extends to the furnishings: a seat that doubles as a self-contained desk and cupboard, a flexible “WorkSofa,” a cozy chair that can be coupled up to create instant meeting space (the “EarChair,” pictured above). The studio is showcasing these designs and more as part of “Fantasy Room for Working,” an exhibition on view through Sunday within the Creative Lounge MOV, a huge shared office space in Tokyo. Earlier this week, among the KadE Chair, Vacuum Cleaner Chair, stools, and aprons, was Bey himself–he put his designs to the test by working from the flexible fantasy office for eight days. Studio Makkink & Bey’s Prooff (Progressive Office) “working and living landscape” interior was also recently acquired by Utrecht’s Centraal Museum, where parts of it are on view through May 25. Take note, Marissa Meyer.

Quote of Note | Marc Newson


The Azzedine Alaia boutique in Paris.

“It’s one of my little marble fantasies. I started used marble a lot in 2005, 2006–in fact, Azzedine’s shop was one of the first things I did. At the time, no one was really using marble in a contemporary way. Marble was considered a really old-fashioned material. I’d picked up a little bit of experience over the years from going to Ferrara in Italy where they carve a lot of marble. People are always looking for new materials and new technology, like brand new high-tech things, but they don’t really exist. All of the materials that we think of as new materials have actually been around for at least ten or fifteen years. Doing something new is really about re-appropriating something, using a new material in a different context. As a designer you can only really do that if you work in different disciplines. That’s why I like doing all these different things and learning about different things. I designed a range of luggage for Samsonite ages ago, and the technology I used was something I had learned from designing trainers for Nike.”

-Marc Newson, interviewed by Jonathan Ive in i-D magazine

Joey Shimoda Named Contract Designer of the Year, Michael Graves Honored as Legend

Contract magazine has named Joey Shimoda (pictured) its 2013 Designer of the Year, praising the Los Angeles-based architect and designer for the “quality and breadth of his design work, his ability to transform the mundane, his consistently strong client relationships, and the respect he garners in the profession.” With the motto “extra superfino,” 13-year-old Shimoda Design Group has completed projects ranging from interior architecture to “building rejuvenation” for clients such as Steelcase, Rolex, and MTV Networks.

Also honored this morning at Contract‘s 34th annual interiors awards, held at New York’s Cipriani 42nd Street, was Michael Graves, who received the 2013 Legend award for lifetime achievement. (Graves is a past Contract Designer of the Year, having clinched that title back in 1981.) Among the projects that bested the competition in 13 categories are INNOCAD’s Vienna office for Microsoft, complete with gleaming silver slide; the Bentel & Bentel-led transformation of the public areas in the Grand Hyatt New York; Rockwell Group’s Untitled restaurant at the Whitney; and Wuhan Pixel Box Cinema, a pixel-themed, 95,000-square-foot movie theater in Wuhan, China, designed by One Plus Partnership.

Quote of Note | Andrée Putman

“Having to do a hotel where I was given an almost incomprehensible [very tight] budget, so ridiculous, led me to black and white. I had to use the lowest priced tile in the United States. At first they brought me little pink tiles for the bathrooms. My voice trembling with despair, I asked if they came in white…They said yes! Suddenly I realized, that’s going to be horribly dull!…And in black? Yes…A-ha! We’ll do the bathrooms in black and white. A sort of potluck, with a nice metal washbasin and a few good lights…Suddenly, we had a really nice bathroom. The black and white label comes from there.”

-Interior designer Andrée Putman, who died Saturday in Paris at the age of 87

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