Fever, Manayunk – 1821

While enjoying some research about the Schuylkill Navigation in Philadelphia – better known as the Manayunk Canal – I came across this wonderful map at the Library of Congress.  Manayunk is a wonderful 18-19th century mill town on the Schuylkill river.  To further illustrate this magical place, I give you a wonderful excerpt on the Millworker’s fever of 1821 in Manayunk, taken from a book titled Early History of the Falls of Schuylkill, Manayunk, Schuylkill and Lehigh Navigation Companies, Fairmount Waterworks, etc. by Charles Valerius Hagner, an early industrialist of the area, published in 1869(!)

1907 View of Manayunk, Philadelphia

1907 View of Philadelphia’s Manayunk Neighborhood; Credit LOC

“… He retreated, with his family, to Germantown, and I fled to the Leverington Hotel on the Ridge Road; not, however until the disease had taken fast hold of me; and I served a regular apprenticeship to it, off and on, for some three or four years.  At that time there was a race of men in existence, employed in the woollen manufactories, who have since become entirely extinct.  They came from England.  Their business was to shear cloth with an immense pair of shears from three to five feet long.  They were shortly after superseded by the invention of the cloth-shearing machines now in use.  They were biped animals certainly, but stupidly ignorant.  They had been accustomed from youth up to handle these cloth shears, which they did well; beyond that they did not appear to have a single idea, except drinking porter, which they did by wholesale.

Those kind of workmen were very much wanted at that time and hard to be got.  Captain Towers and the Prestons obtained five or six of them from Yorkshire, England.  They arrived here in the extreme warm weather, clothed in the thickest kind of woollen garments, woollen stockings, &c.  They were all remarkably large stout men of fine healthy color and appearance, but one month’s residence at Manayunk was quite sufficient to “use them up;” any person who had seen them at the beginning of the month and again at the end of it, would be almost ready to swear they were not the same party.  All their fine rosy color had vanished, and they became miserable, cadaverous, melancholy looking objects.

From sheer ignorance and stupidity two of them lost their lives.  One, when in the hot stage of the disease, to cool himself went into a damp cellar, stripped himself, and lay on his back on the damp ground.  There happened to be a jug of buttermilk within his reach, he drank it and was a corpse in a very short time.  Another got an idea that it required something powerfully strong to kill the disease; he procured a pint of horseradish and cider which he swallowed at one gulp.  It threw him into convulsions and he died.

With a few such exceptions as these the disease was rarely fatal; on the contrary, often the subject of mirth.  It was quite a common affair to see half a dozen at a time around Silas Levering’s stove in the bar-room of his hotel, all shaking at the same time, others looking on quizzing and laughing at them; and more than once have I seen the tables turned, and the merry ones obliged to take their turn at the stove and be laughed at.”


 

A note about the wonderful hand-painted map (see link HERE); the view is taken from southeast, the hilltop in Lower Merion (height exaggerated), part of the original Welsh Tract sold by William Penn to Quaker settlers in 1683.  Look here again for a future story on a particularly interesting site in Lower Merion called the Pencoyd Iron Works, the smokestacks seen along the river in the foreground of the painting.

The Delair Bridge

This is the story of the Delair railroad bridge across the Delaware river, for which an edited version appeared this week in Hidden City Philadelphia.  You can see the Hidden City article here.  I have been intrigued with this bridge for years, as it is not well seen from anywhere along the normal river viewpoints in the city.  After doing some research and photographing along the shoreline, I found the story of South Jersey’s railways and the quest for faster Atlantic City travel to be fascinating.  Enjoy a trip across the big steel trusses and through the NJ Pinelands with me.

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The Delair Railroad Bridge – A Hidden Bridge on the Delaware River

phila-history-pic-2

The Delair Bridge c1900; Credit: Philly History

On June 28 Mayor Kenney signed the city legislation needed to purchase the abandoned railroad swing bridge that crosses the Schuylkill just south of Grays Ferry Avenue.  Work will soon commence on raising the historic Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore RR Bridge No. 1 for it’s conversion to our new SRT bicycle and pedestrian crossing to Bartram’s Mile.  Abandoned since 1976, the bridge is rusting quietly in the open position waiting for a new lease on life.

The PWB Swing Bridge

PW&B’s Bridge No. 1 as seen today from the Grays Ferry bridge; Credit: Mick Ricereto 2016

Philadelphia – a former industrial powerhouse and erstwhile “workshop of the world” – is covered with train tracks both active and abandoned, with bridges crossing every small and large piece of water in the region.  Rail travel was an important technology in the 19th century, allowing factories and communities all across the continent to be efficiently linked, growing our Victorian society exponentially in a matter of decades.

Down at the Schuylkill Crescent, the PW&B’s 1902 swingspan replaced the first permanent crossing, an 1838 multi-modal bridge called the Newkirk Viaduct.  When the city of Philadelphia built the adjacent Grays Ferry road bridge in 1901, the railroad was free to remove the obsolete wooden bridge and build a modern steel span.

The Schuylkill was all that stood between Philadelphia and the early railroads linking points south – a mere 800 foot river crossing but a challenge nonetheless.  For trains going north of Philadelphia, the southernmost crossing was at Trenton, where tidewater abruptly stops to meet the 8 foot Falls of the Delaware.  The first rail bridge across the Delaware river was here in 1802.  Interestingly this bridge evolved over the years to become today’s Trenton Makes steel truss which was completed in 1928.  

Bridge builders eyeing points south of Trenton were presented a far-mightier challenge due to the river’s extreme width, tidal action and soft river bottom.  It would be another 94 years before the first Philadelphia crossing was completed – Pennsylvania Railroad’s massive 4-span Petit truss Pennsylvania & New Jersey Railroad Bridge, known colloquially as the Delair Bridge.

Delair Bridge c.1960

The Delair Bridge from PA Side c1990; Credit: LOC.gov

Located just south of the Frankford creek in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia and spanning to the Pennsauken, NJ area known as Delair, this massive structure was needed as much for freight and rail commerce as it was for holiday-making down the shore.  To know the history of the Delair Bridge we must also examine Philly’s summertime quest with reaching the NJ coast and Atlantic City in particular.

Philadelphia’s Summer Getaway

America’s first premier holiday destination was Cape May, NJ.  Long before rail travel, vacationers could sail down the Delaware on special excursion vessels and disembark on the bay side of the peninsula, often taking extended stays away from the frenzy of 18th century city life.  Catering to the more well heeled looking for nature, fishing and fresh air, Cape May was also known to entertain many of our Presidents for a summertime stay at the beach.

A voyager could also travel to NJ by Ferry directly from Philadelphia due east to Camden, and make the trip by carriage.  A phalanx of ferry companies had traversed the waters between Philadelphia and Camden dating all the way back to 1688.  The ferries welcomed passenger traffic as well as a huge trade in produce and livestock transport needed to feed America’s biggest city.  In the 18th and early 19th century, a coach ride from Camden to the shore would be a dusty, bumpy affair and could take as many as 4 hours.

Market Street Philadelphia c1898

Market Street Ferry Terminal c.1896; Credit: Phila. Free Library)

In the early 1800s southern NJ was still completely wild, with the beach areas being a proverbial barren desert.  After a visit to the almost-vacant Absecon Island an enterprising medical doctor by the name of Jonathan Pitney envisioned opportunity in getting Philadelphians out to the shore in by creating a new resort town expressly for taking in the healthy sea air.  Pitney realized only a railroad could get people across the pine desert of southern NJ in a quick and efficient manner.  Pitney partnered with entrepreneur Samuel Richards to build a new railroad from the Camden waterfront directly to the shore, convincing factory owners along the route that rail travel would help their businesses grow.  Most of the investors thought the idea to build a health resort at the ocean end of the line was pure folly, but invested only for the important rail connection to the city and their core markets.  Pitney and Richards raised enough capital to buy property all the way through from Camden to the coast and also purchase the entire island from early settlers.  The partners began their plans for the new resort; Atlantic City was incorporated on May 1, 1854 with the first cross-state trip of the Camden & Atlantic City Railroad on July 1 of that year.  The first train was a rustic open car rattletrap, but the adventure still attracted 600 hand-picked passengers for the maiden voyage.

Growth of the new town was swift; Pitney and Richards were smart to subsequently build an enormous hotel on the beach, quickly realizing that working-class folk would benefit the most by taking short stays or even day trips from the city.  By 1874 500,000 Philadelphians made it to the shore during the summer season, prompting a second railroad to be added in 1877.  The Philadelphia-Atlantic City Railway Co. undercut the Camden & AC substantially, with a one-way “excursion” ticket for $1.  Inexpensive hotels and boarding housed popped up all along the newly-laid Atlantic City street grid.  A working-class man could now afford a week at the shore with his family; the Jersey Shore was born.

The competing West Jersey Railroad completed their line to Cape May in 1863 but by then it was clear; Atlantic City had become America’s playground.  The permanent boardwalk was added in 1896.  The year-round population of Atlantic City was only 2000 in 1875; by 1900 it had swelled to 30,000.  The more distant Cape May would be frozen as a charming but sleepy Victorian outpost.

A Quicker Way to the Shore

The mighty Pennsylvania Railroad wanted a piece of the Atlantic City action.  The largest railroad in the world – in fact the largest corporation in the world at the end of the 19th century – went on a buying spree.  Pitney and Richard’s original railroad and many smaller railroads throughout western NJ were purchased and absorbed into the PRR subsidiary West Jersey & Seashore RR (WJ&S) in 1896.  Competition was very strong with 4 railroad companies crisscrossing the Delaware, ferry boats heaving the shallow tidewater into Camden’s piers many times daily.  The Penn wanted desperately to create an advantage and decided to build a bridge across the Delaware.  The tracks would need to skirt around the city’s Northeast industrial web but a direct route from center city’s Broad Street Terminal (the world’s largest train station) and across the river would still be more convenient than making the ferry trip to Camden.

A "Barrel View" of the Delair Bridge

Inside truss detail looking west towards the Richmond Electric Station, c1990; Credit: LOC.gov

Crossing the Delaware required a movable span to allow for marine traffic, as building a bridge high enough for ocean-going vessels would be too costly.  PRR head engineer William H. Brown called for a 323’ swingspan at the shipping channel, connected with 3 sections of massive 533’ Petit truss spans – 1 on the NJ side and two on the Pennsylvania.  The Delair trusses would be very large and heavy, but still fall short of the longest truss spans by a mere 9 feet.  The swing span was operated by steam and held the record for the longest center bearing pivot bridge in the world.  Including the trestle approaches on both sides, total length of the structure is 4396 feet.  Compare this with the later Ben Franklin bridge at 9573’, much longer due to the gradual climb needed to make 135’ shipping clearance.

The Delair Bridge in 2016

The Delair Bridge today from Pennsauken, NJ with Richmond Electric Station and a distant center city in view; Credit: Mick Ricereto 2016

Work began with pier excavation on January 15, 1895.  The steel work was started on November 1 of that year, and was finished in only 4 months.  The massive trusses were fabricated with manganese steel milled by the Pencoyd Iron Works, the first large bridge to use the new high-tensile material.  Pencoyd was located in Lower Merion Township directly across the Schuylkill from Manayunk.  Interestingly, the hidden Pencoyd site is currently being redeveloped and the small rail bridge connecting to the site to the city – known as the Pencoyd Bridge – was recently restored as a car and pedestrian crossing.

Delair Bridge Plaque

The original builder’s plaque located on pier 6; Credit: LOC.gov

Throughout the first 30 years of use the Delair was busy with passenger traffic as Atlantic City entered it’s busy “Boardwalk Empire” period, with more and more weary city dwellers making the <90 minute trip from Broad Street for a week’s or even an afternoon’s promise of surf, sun and sin.  Even after prohibition in 1920 – or perhaps even more so – Atlantic City was a place of escape due to it’s relaxed rules on booze and other illicit activities.  As Nelson Johnson writes in his book Boardwalk Empire; The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City “… it was a place where visitors came knowing the rules at home didn’t apply.  The city flourished because it gave its guests what they wanted – a naughty good time at an affordable price”.  The railroads too were booming, right up until the day the new Delaware Bridge (today named Ben Franklin) opened on July 1, 1926.  With Philadelphia’s blue collar workers now wealthy enough to own personal cars and the advantage of cheap bus fares via the bridge, the railroads began to immediately suffer.  By 1928, the WJ&S was down $2 million in revenue compared to just two years prior.

Mid Century Modification

In the 1950’s post-war boom years, America had an immense appetite for steel as buildings and projects such as the Interstate Highway System created a huge demand for materials.  Responding to eastern demand, United States Steel started construction on the Fairless Hills steel plant on the upper tidal Delaware in the late 1940s.  To serve this upcoming business, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to upgrade the river’s shipping capacity by straightening and dredging a deeper channel, while also requiring 500’ wide bridge clearance for more modern ships.  Suddenly the Delair’s old pivot bridge was obsolete, with clearance not even half the new requirement.

The railroad’s engineers responded by permanently closing the old swing span and converting one of the original Petit trusses to a 542’ riveted Warren truss vertical lift span which would raise up for boat traffic to a height of 135’, equal to the Ben Franklin bridge.  This engineering feat would require removing the original truss, building new piers and lift towers and installing the new pre-fabricated moving section quickly so as not to upset rail traffic for an unreasonable period.

Delair Bridge Modifications in 1960

The new vertical lift span is floated into place in 1960; Credit: Creative Commons (photographer unknown)

Work began on March 1, 1960.  The engineering concern Hardesty & Hanover, known for their work with railroad lift spans, was hired to complete the job.  While sections of the bridge were being dismantled, the new span and towers were being constructed upriver and brought to the site on barges.  The old span was removed by floating a barge underneath at low tide and lifting it away 6 hours later, while the new span was put in place similarly by lowering it at high tide and letting the barge float away as the river level went down.

The new lift towers needed huge piers to hold both the weight of trains, the bridge span itself and it’s equal weight in cable-actuated counterweights.  The westernmost span needed to be shortened by 100’ to make room for the towers.  The result is the unique, asymmetrical look of 4 different trusses.

Wide View of the Delair Bridge in 1960

The Delair Bridge during construction of the piers in 1960.  The lift towers not yet built, note the shortened original western span; Credit: Creative Commons (photographer unknown)

When completed, the upgraded structure captured the record for longest double track vertical lift span in the US, falling short of the longest single track lift by only two feet (the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, built in 1933).

The Delair Bridge Today

The Delair Bridge in 2016

The Delair remains a busy rail bridge today; Credit: Mick Ricereto 2016

Today the bridge is used for CSX and Norfolk Southern rail transportation as well as NJ Transit’s Atlantic City line.  The bridge was modernized heavily in 2012 with an $18.5 million TIGER grant, bringing the structure safely into the 21st century.

Curiously the Delair is mostly hidden from our daily lives.  Seen briefly from I-95 – near appropriately, the Bridge Street exit – the lift span towers look dark and menacing in the shadows of the Betsy Ross.  From the south the Richmond Electric Station and Tioga Marine Terminal blocks the shoreline for miles.  The best viewing is from the Jersey side as the bridge is located at the end of the road with a small parking lot for a boat launch ramp and tiny fishing pier.

Detail View of the Delair Bridge 2016

Detail view of the Delair swing span; Credit – Mick Ricereto 2016

Taking NJT’s Atlantic City line out of 30th Street Station is a fabulous way to experience the bridge.  The right-of-way takes an alternate route through the industrial northeast of the city, into Frankford Junction and over the Delaware.  For a transit-filled afternoon, take the NJT from 30th Street, stop and view the bridge from water’s edge at Pennsauken station and then walk back up the hill for the River Line back to Camden.  From here walk over the Ben Franklin or take PATCO back over and connect to anywhere in the city.

SieMatic Haus Fair 2013

Just back from SieMatic’s “Haus Fair”, the annual presentation of new product and display ideas at the factory in Loehne, Germany.  This year the company focused on “Great New Insights”, a major update to the interiors of the cabinets.  An elegant new drawer system was presented, with new internal accessories in wood and aluminum.  Some highlights:

SieMatic display cubes

Here, in a quiet moment during the show, are the SieMatic drawer system display cubes.  There are several options for the new drawer system, and the cubes show each level upgrade.  The core drawer will now be a very slim aluminum-color steel drawer box, for which custom sizes will now be available (!).  The upgrade will be actual aluminum, which showed a more refined level of finish.

SieMatic Island Detail

In this new “lifestyle display”, so called due to the integrated living space, the new drawer bodies are shown in the two main heights.  In addition to the drawer body finish, aluminum-front shelves and a square-profile grey door dust seal are now available.  Some details of drawer inserts – aluminum and light oak:

SieMatic drawer system 2013

The biggest innovation was a microfiber material SieMatic calls Flocking.  This new drawer mat is integrated into the insert system.  A felt-like material, flocking added a high-tech feel to the system.

Aluminum and Chestnut drawer system by SieMatic

The new chestnut finish coordinates better with some finishes where light oak would clash.  Note the integrated USB charging center.  As seen above and below, the inserts are sitting loose on the flocking mat and can easily be reconfigured.  The base of the accessory has a rubber grip, which holds against the flocking for a no-slip condition.

SieMatic Drawer Accessory System

Some views to the new “lifestyle” display.  Note the absence of handles; the drawers are released with a electronic “touch latch”, which is immensely popular in Europe at present.

SieMatic Display

This display combined existing finishes of Flannel Grey matte, Graphite gloss and natural walnut.  We were quite enamored of this combination and are starting to plan some new displays for North America like this already.  The walnut finish is shown as 5 wall panels in the middle of the room.  Also opening as touch latch, this helps make the room seem so much less like a “kitchen” and makes a Total Home integrated interior.  Note also how certain areas have doors or drawers which go all the way to the floor.  If not a primary work surface, this makes sense, otherwise, you would want a recessed toe space to get closer to the countertop without smacking your feet.

SieMatic Display

The best part about Haus Fair is catching up with your friends.  Here, Jonas and Wendy Carnemark pick finishes for some new displays.

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Relaxing with Marcia Speer, director of market development in N.A. and SieMatic Montreal manager Jean-Martin Lapointe.SieMatic, Loehne Germany

We stayed in the small town of Bad Salzuflen again.  I posted about this spa town last year – it is quite lovely.  Some of these timber buildings have dates as old as “Anno 1530”.

Bad Salzuflen Germany

Loehne is in northwestern Germany, making it convenient for me to fly through Amsterdam.  I always try and take a little time to revisit the city, this time seeing the Rijksmuseum for the first time since its 10-year renovation.  What would be a trip to Amsterdam without a walk down my favorite little street, Langestraat?  Search for past posts on this lovely little lane for more pictures.

Langestraat in Amsterdam

Again, another great release of new products from SieMatic.  It is a wonderful privilege to work with this respected brand, and I look forward to specifying these new interiors immediately upon returning to my office.

 

1930’s England – Agatha Christie’s Poirot

I’ve discovered a fantastic period British TV show on Netflix; Agatha Christie’s Poirot.  I know nothing of Agatha Christie, other than her name being synonymous with “murder mystery”.  I love period movies and shows, and the look of Poirot is outstanding.  I’m completely caught up in the characters now too, with the quirky Belgian detective Poirot becoming irresistible.  His sidekick Captain Hastings is a car buff, and they work these wonderful old cars, trains and other great machines into the show as well.  Here is a sampling of screen shots I took today while watching some episodes in my office; first up is Poirot’s modern apartment building:

Poirot's Apartment Building

Poirot is a displaced Belgian detective, who moved to England during WWI.  He is funny, quirky, and quite a dandy.  The clothes are fabulous, with both Hastings and Poirot dressing immaculately.  Here is Poirot entering a seaside hotel:

Poirot at the Seashore Hotel

I’m sure the wonderfully preserved modern buildings are all famous landmarks in England, but being Yank I don’t know any of them so far.  Here is Chief Inspector Jaap from Scotland Yard with a bobbie, walking from a lovely house owned by a missing banker:

Davenheim's House on Poirot, Driveway

Here is a closeup of that curving stair wall from a shot in the opening credits:

Davenheim's House on Poirot

Very 1930s modern.  I’ll have to look these buildings up.  Knowing how film production works, the interiors are often different buildings from the exterior shots.  Some scenes, such as this one inside the banker’s library, must have also been from period buildings because the details of the doors and trim are just too nice to be a stage set.

Inside Davenheim

Poirot has a thing for lovely ladies (who doesn’t?) and the females in the show are very elegant and beautifully dressed.

In another episode Poirot and Hastings go to another seaside town for a respite.  Look at this fabulous “hotel”:

Midland Modern Hotel from Poirot

I say “hotel” because the signage looked tacked on, and even the characters mention the name is more befitting a place in Leeds.

This next building had a very interesting stair that the cast descended, with a crane shot taken from outside through those curious tilted lunette windows.  They pull back at the end of the scene and show the whole alley with this great bit of lighting.

Night Scene from Poirot

Very early on this show got me hooked when Captain Hastings pulls up in a fabulous Lagonda automobile.  Poirot does not like taking an open car and prefers the train or taxis, but Hastings delights in driving and they really make a great story of the car and his very English sporting habits.  Here the duo go to an old tailor in a seedy part of town, where some kids start playing on the car in the street.

Lagonda from Poirot

In the banker episode a suspect happens to race a Bugatti and they visit the incredible old Brooklands track to pay the man a visit.  Incredible seeing an Alfa Romeo and Bugatti go at it, in color, at the old Brooklands!

Brooklands 1930's Racing Poirot

The show was filmed in the early 1990s, and I think the track was un-restored at that point.  It might still be in this shape, in fact.  Here, the Bugatti pulls into the pits.  This car today would be priceless, of course.

Bugatti on Poirot

During a scuffle, a pocket-picker runs from Inspector Jaap and almost gets clobbered by the Alfa Romeo coming into the pits.  They really drove the cars too, and the driver had to give something special to avoid the actor.

Brooklands Pit Scene from Poirot

In another episode the team travels the suburbs of London looking for a suspect, and they stop for fuel and a phone at this vintage Vauxhall dealer.  The detail of this shop was incredible, with the cars gleaming immaculately.  Here is the establishment shot, and again the nighttime lighting was stunning.

Vauxhall Dealer Scene from Poirot

The most amazing thing to me about this show is how the production design consistently uses modern buildings, showing a very progressive and exciting 1930s London.  I would love to discover more about these buildings and get back to England to visit some of these landmarks.  I would post more Poirot but it looks like Netflix is taking the series down in a few days.  I’ll have to cram in a few episodes before the month is out.

Spring in New York: ICFF 2013

The month of May in New York; that means time for design week and the ICFF Show – the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.  I have been many times over the past years but skipped a few recent ones, so it was time to go back.  My focus this year was to work with a New York client in midtown, then spend the rest of the weekend looking at lighting and furniture for various projects.

The first day in NY it was sunny and beautiful.  I was indoors most of the day in meetings but walking around a corner on the way to my hotel – yes, an old, familiar sight:

View of Empire StateThe sun was catching the Empire State Building in such a way to make it sparkle, something I never noticed before.  It always seemed so heavy, so concrete.  Nice to see something familiar in a different way.

Incidentally, I was not the only “tourist” taking this picture at this point.  So that made me feel good about stopping, pulling out my little Canon S100 and setting up the shot.

The ICFF show is based at the Javits Center, west of midtown.  It is seemingly out of the way but a short walk from the A C and E (blue) subway and Penn Station actually makes it really convenient.  I was setup at a nice little hotel with a client of mine and all set to explore the show and all the “outside events”, showroom openings, parties and happenings.

Once at the show it was hard to miss any lighting innovations – great stuff was seen in every aisle.  What is nice about the show is how local and small international makers/brands attend the show, so you discover unusual and one-off pieces as well as major brands.  Here are some highlights of lighting:

Iacoli and McAllister Lighting Pelle Lighting Mooii Lighting Lighting ICFF2013

From top left, Rough and Smooth pendants by Tom Dixon, Iacoli & McAllister pendants to the top right, and some very nice clear globe chandeliers by Pelle to the right.  Different arrays of glass and paper shades in carefully-draped arrangements were a strong trend throughout the show.

Below to the right is Mooii, which always looks good.  There were larger brands present, with companies such as Tango showing some very nice new concepts including some outdoor.

A company called Graypants had some paper/cardboard/something pendants which were nicely crafted.

Graypants LightingThere were also some concepts with shades made from rapid prototyping, such as lacy SLS shades in “natural” white.  Open-ness and interesting screen materials were dominant.

There was a “maker faire” feel to the show as well, with an area set up for rapid prototyping and other sorts of fabrication including a seminar area to learn about maker technology.  There were at least two 3D printer companies on display and there was also a company called US Trumpf who rolled out enormous laser-cutting machines and some fabrication jigs, making Tom Dixon “death star” lighting pendants right there on the show floor.  It was pretty cool to see the process, as it was ultra-clean and quiet without the heavy presses, greasy flooring and general mess of a typical factory floor.  Here is a pic of the “death star”:

Tom Dixon Death Star PendantI really like this fixture.  Dodecahedron?  I didn’t count sides.  Anyway, it is make by laser-cutting aluminum sheet, including all the holes.  I don’t know how much waste you get from making the holes, as the material is burning off during the cutting process.  Anyway, other than some muted humming coming from the giant stand-alone laser cutting machine, the only noise on the makeshift factory floor was the sound of simulated mirror-folding/film advance of peoples iPhones as they took pictures of the manufacturing process.

Tom Dixon Fabrication Area

And a closeup of the assembly table shows the men riveting the Death Star together.

Trumpf and Tom Dixon Assembly Area

There was a small stand set up with some fine hanging fixtures called Shakuff.  The owner was not around but I looked closely at the artisan glass shades – very nice work.

Shakuff Lighting

I’m not sure how the red box shades were made.  This next piece was comprised of hanging sheets of wavy glass, in a box shape (in plan) which made them seem like towers of wavy glass.  A very cool effect.

Pendants by Shakuff

Next up I passed Roll and Hill.  I love what this company is putting out, and this particular hanging pendant kept catching my eye all weekend (I saw it around town and on various show reports over the weekend) – it is called Bluff City by designer Jonah Takagi.  Splendid.

Bluff by Jonah Takagi

Next is a company called R B W which I figured out later stands for Rich Brilliant Winning.  I’m thinking with that name they are anglophiles.  Anyway, I just took some detail pics of their products, as they were particularly well-crafted.  Here is a shot of their Branch Triple Chandelier from their website:

R B W Chandelier

Here are some details of their floor lamps and such:

IMG_1518 IMG_1519

A continuing trend is to use wire to make open-looking shades.  Some fixtures in this vein by makers Phese and Blu Dot, respectably.

Phese LightingIMG_1517

A company called Gabriel and Scott had some nice folded-metal fixtures.  I didn’t get much detail about them or this piece but it was decidedly on-trend:

Gabriel and Scott Lighting

Also shown was this hanging chain chandelier called Kelly.

Gabriel and Scott Lighting

Something unrelated to lighting; this is Amuneal’s exhibit, which won the Best of Show award.  It was truly stunning.  The exterior was made with rather thick gauge metal and formed an undulated surface.  The interior had a “cabinet of curiosity” theme, with vitrines and display cases all (seemingly) designed for this show.

Amuneal ICFF2013

Amuneal ICFF2013

There was a very high level of craftsmanship and composition on view at Amuneal.

Amuneal Exhibit ICFF2013

The shelves and vitrines were tagged with prices for each configuration.  I found them to be quite reasonable for what is custom-made artisan furniture made of real brass and wood in their Philadelphia shop.

Interior of Amuneal Exhibit, ICFF2013

I would very much like a shelf like this in my house.  Something to think about…

There was one other display which knocked me over with delight, and that was the similarly-styled (black and brass) exhibit of Apparatus Studio.  On offer was a wonderful collection of lighting which just floored me with its beauty and obvious quality.  My pictures do not do this product justice.

View of Apparatus Studios ICFF2013

Here is a detail of the Cloud chandelier.

Cloud by Apparatus

Some more products from their website.

Apparatus Studios Lighting Fixtures

Apparatus Cloud Picture

Also from their site, a really good illustration of Cloud.  It should also be noted that they have a gorgeous website too – check them out at http://www.apparatusstudio.com

I should also mention that I bought another Tyvek Mighty Wallet by the maker of Dynomighty himself, who always sets up a table in the Design Boom section of the show.  When I go to pay for things, every shop owner always compliments me on my wallet so I had to get another, again.

Dynomighty Tyvek Wallet

Later that night I wandered around Soho and checked out the parties and openings.  I looked at the new kitchen showrooms and looked around for some lighting as well.  I missed the opening reception but I made it a point to try and check out the E.R. Butler shop in Nolita, which was featuring some amazing lighting by designer Bec Brittain.  Here are some pics of the window displays.

Lighting by Bec Brittain

Made of brass, wood, LED strip lamps, marble… these were exquisite.

Lighting by Bec Brittain

I didn’t know E.R. Butler commissioned this type of work.  If not familiar with this company, seek them out online, they produce an incredible collection of architectural hardware, such as reproduction and original door knobs and other assorted pulls and knobs.  I really wanted to see this small storefront as this shop is invitation only.  Well, maybe next year.  From Bec Brittain’s website, one more incredible design.

Vise by Bec Brittain

The last thing I did before leaving the city was take a walk through the amazing Grand Central Terminal, which is 100 years old this year.  I thought there would be special exhibits and maybe a gallery of construction photos or some other display… but alas there was nothing.  Well the building itself is of course wonderful, so I close with this interior shot.  I wish this great building well as it enters its second century.

Interior of Grand Central Terminal

I’ll be up in NYC more this summer as my interiors project begins construction.  More on that later, as we enter the demolition phase soon.

Spring Walk – Washington DC/Dupont Circle

It has been a lovely spring; not too hot and some wonderful sunny days.  Looking for some blossoms and classic architecture, last Sunday I took a quick jaunt down to Washington DC to walk Embassy Row and Dupont Circle.  DC always delivers for eclectic architecture walks; the city is a treasure trove of fabulous facades and exceptional urban scale.  A Sunday is best as the traffic is very light.  Some highlights; let’s start with a whopper of a building.  This is the Beaux Arts masterpiece Cosmos Club by architects Carrère & Hastings:

Cosmos Club by Carrere and HastingsThis incredible building is the former estate of Mary Scott Townsend, completed in 1901.  The architects are famous for the New York Public Library and many other important American buildings.  Carrère & Hastings were a very successful firm, focusing on commercial buildings in the Beaux Arts style.  This property was acquired by the Cosmos club – dedicated to “The advancement of its members in science, literature and art” – in 1952.  The address is 2121 Massachusetts Avenue NW.

A pair of typical DC row houses.  This facade is fairly consistent throughout the city, very often in brick and sometimes stone.  The house to the left would have been painted at one time, which is fairly common and gives the street scape an eclectic feel.  The most noteworthy (and completely typical) feature is the square breakfront; DC row houses employ a sculptured facade almost by rule.

Typical NW Washington DC Row HousesA little up the road, just this lone impatiens.

Impatiens FlowerAn embassy building.  I didn’t get my notes correct, but I do remember this being a South American government/cultural building.  Anybody recognize the flag?

Embassy Building in Washington DCAcross the street, this great old apartment building, also in buff brick.  Turrets are common in the District.

Apartment Building, Embassy RowThe Dutch embassy.  The hyacinths were in full bloom and smelled wonderful!  I expected some orange flowers; none to be seen!

Dutch Embassy Washington DCWalking back to Dupont, here is a typical row of residential/commercial buildings from the early 20th century.  Note the eclectic range of styles – this is a fairly typical block of commercial development and the pastiche of style is a never-ending delight.

A row of eclectic architecture in Dupont CircleAcross the street is the Washington Club, originally the Patterson House, designed by icon Stanford White in 1901.  This Italianate mansion was the scene of some bizarre politics during WWII, as Cissy Patterson, heir to her father’s Chicago Tribune fortune, waged an editorial attack on FDR throughout the war years.  The only mansion left on the circle, it looks a little lonely and the siting seems a bit odd today.  Even so, a nice sunny morning and any Stanford White building will get my undivided attention.

Washington Club, Architect Stanford WhiteAnd finally, on my way back to the railroad (when rain began to fall), a detail of Daniel Burnham’s fabulous Union Station.  This is the “knuckle” arcade between the main waiting room and the former – now shops – concourse room.  The detail of this building is astounding.

Detail of Union Station in Washington DCI used to live 3 blocks from Union Station, and would walk in and around it most days.  Completed in 1908, it is a massive complex – not exactly pretty – but impressive nonetheless.  Daniel Burnham was the “art director” of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, the famous world’s fair in Chicago that introduced the “White City” and celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the western continents.  The fair, and this building, were a riot of Beaux Arts white marble monumental architecture.  I used to sketch in and out of this building, and it has inspired some details of my own, and a collection of architectural hardware that I designed for Amerock in 2003.

So, just a quick Sunday’s walk and some highlights of DC in the springtime.  I return to the capitol several times during the year (it is the next city south of my home), so look for more Washington DC architecture in the months to come.

ISH 2013 Wrapup – Faucets

Part 3 of my report on ISH 2013 from Frankfurt, Germany.

Although this year seemed a little down on exhibitors and overall showing a conservative approach to new design, there were still many standouts.  Some companies, notably Dornbracht, eschewed new shapes and finishes for a focus on useability and electronic aids.  I concentrated on trends within the design envelope.

Laufen Faucet with Top SurfaceFirst up is this faucet by Laufen and Kartell, which I mentioned briefly in my report on fixtures last week.  Similar to a faucet by Starck, there is a flat surface on top for storage of bathroom items.  Above it is naked… and here:

Laufen faucet with Kartell tray surface…seen from the side with the polycarbonate Kartell “caddy” on top.  I really don’t like this piece too much; if you consider the caddy moveable, what if you or somebody else puts a bar of soap on top of the naked faucet – and then you want to put your caddy on top?  The soap will leave residue on the bottom of your caddy, if you put it there next.  Also, I don’t like the “business end” of the faucet being hidden.  I like to see where the water will be coming from.  I would rather see Kartell make little caddies that fit into spaces on the lavs perhaps, or on the mirror, accessories or something along the side.

Chrome Mixer Faucet at ISH 2013Above is a nice design, with the square base and round lever language perhaps being in slight conflict.  Below are two faucets I noted the shape of, only because they look like things I have been developing for my client.  I didn’t note the makers.

Gold Faucet Chrome Mixer Faucet

These were not the only pieces similar to some ideas I had.  It isn’t easy coming up with something completely new of course.  Next, a nice shower set in white.  Colors (instead of plated surfaces) were down a little this year, but there were still some very nice examples.

White Shower SetI think the sharp vertical edges of this design lend itself to powder coating, as opposed to plated finishes.  The edges will be very hard to get right if plated, as the polishing of the brass/zamac is critical and usually done by hand.  The thickness of the powder probably hides any flaws.  It was quite crisp, however.

Now that I have mentioned colors, a company called Treemme is next.  These faucets were by far the coolest new designs I have seen this year.  There were wall mounts, lav mixers and a clever two-handle lav top faucet.  Designed by Emanuel Gargano, Marco Fagioli and Giampiero Castagnoli.  Just stunning.

5mm Faucet Info Board 5mm Faucet in Black by TreemmeI love the matte black finish.  I will need these for my bathrooms at home.  Above is the two-handle version – the mixer is very similar.  The other offerings from Treemme were also fantastic:

White Faucets by TreemmeI had been sketching things like this last year for my faucet project, but I thought… no, too radical.  Ha!

Another great faucet by TreemmeA different take on 5mm, and a lovely one.  I will need one of these too, for my powder room on the first floor.  Also shown were these high arc faucets, similar to some designs I saw from Ritmonio a few years ago.  The thin spout is just great.

Great Faucets from TreemmeHere are some other powder coated faucets, these by Steinberg.  I like the adventurous palette of color.  If you are going to go paint, why not get very creative?

Series 240 Powder Coated faucets by SteinbergLastly, here was an “industrial chic” style faucet from Waterworks/THG.  This was the only sign of the industrial/factory trend I saw at the show.  This trend is completely saturated in North America and I’m glad to see it is not very prevalent in Europe.  That said, this was probably focused on America, being Waterworks.  Interesting piece but not my cup of tea.

THG Retro-style faucet for WaterworksI finished up my trip to Germany by heading northwest on Deutsche Bahn, to visit my friends at SieMatic.  It is easy to then fly back home from Amsterdam, which gives me some time to take in some strolls along the canals in Jordaan and Centraal.  Of course, I walked my favorite street again, Langestraat.  This alley-type street is just amazing.  I love how there is no sidewalk, the houses are pretty much at grade level, and the height and width proportion is just right.

Langestraat, AmsterdamThis walk was early in the morning on my way to the airport.  I singled out a house, one of many, that I love.  Can I move in?  Maybe just for the summer?

Langestraat House, AmsterdamI wonder if my current neighbors will mind if I paint my red brick rowhouse in black?