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Cooper Hewitt Museum Reopens Following 3-Year Renovation

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The Immersion Room at Cooper Hewitt

Founded in 1897, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is the only museum in the U.S. exclusively devoted to design, both historic and contemporary. It’s been part of the Smithsonian since 1967—and has been closed for renovations since 2011. This Friday, December 12, the museum officially reopens to the public at 11 a.m, revealing a massive overhaul by a team of at least 13 firms.

The $91 million renovation created 60 percent more space, meaning a full floor can be dedicated to the permanent collection's 210,000 objects, something they’re never been able to do before, noted Caroline Baumann, the museum’s director, at yesterday's press preview.

“We are a design museum and we recruited a dream team of designers,” Baumann said, highlighting many of the 13 firms involved: Gluckman Mayner Architects (interior design), Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners (engineering, historic preservation), Diller Scofidio + Renfro (cases, shop, entrance canopy, fence lighting), Hood Design (garden, terrace), Thinc (exhibitions), Goppion (display cases), Local Projects (interactive media), Pentagram (graphic identity).

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What's Happening with Design Software

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Starry Street, courtesy of 5+design

Nearly a century ago – 1919 – the Bauhaus was founded by architect Walter Gropius to offer education in art and crafts, technology, and design. That multidisciplinary approach that is as relevant as ever today, embraced by architects and designers at firms of all sizes.

Embraced, and required. We’re talking design technology – AutoCAD, Autodesk 3dsMax, BIMLink, Google SketchUp, Revit, Rhino, Trelligence Affinity, etc. - and all the plug-ins and personalization you need.

“Nothing can replace a good idea,” says Craig Kolstad, Dallas-based Design Director for Gensler, “but the software available today has become increasingly intuitive and has unleashed the potential of the designer to express and achieve those ideas, whether sitting in a large office or working at their kitchen table. [Software has] fundamentally changed the way that we design as a profession.”

The newest professionals, recently graduated, arrive with the know-how, or at least the competency to know-how, and to teach their elders as required (meanwhile, elders can teach newbies why and when to use their software skills).

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Reinventing the Library: Washington’s New Centers for Learning

Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library
The century-old Washington DC Public Library (DCPL) system is selecting an architect to lead the renovation of the 1972 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which has been the city's main branch. 60 firms showed for the initial request for qualifications, earlier this week. It's a project to watch, for sure. In the meantime, you can see the results of an already 7-year-old quest to bring world class architecture to DC, and reinvent the idea of a branch library.

“Reinventing the Library: Washington’s New Centers for Learning” is on view at The SIGAL Gallery at the District Architecture Center (421 7th Street NW, Washington, DC) through September 28.

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The Future of Design Education: Teaching Innovation

Wedge, by SAIC student Hsi Chen
Ask any student or faculty member about interior design education today and invariably you’ll hear about interdisciplinary collaboration – the merging of specialties - and professional interaction and experience.

“Students want the tools that will help them visualize their ideas in time and space,” says Cindy Coleman, Director, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). “Students also want real world experiences. And, more and more, students want to connect to a professional community.”

Like some of their peer institutions, SAIC has incorporated project-based studios into the course of study. “In these studios, students from different disciplines work collaboratively and the outcome is either a product, a built project or analysis and, or public exhibits,” says Coleman.

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Water Makes a Splash in Interiors and Architecture

Huvafen Fushi Maldives, Per AQUUM
Water is an enormous part of the earth, our bodies, and our lives. Its presence is vital. And its absence, well, we don’t want to think about that. Which is perhaps why people love to see, hear, smell, and feel water as much as consume it. So it’s no surprise that water elements are appearing indoors as much as out these days, from mini tabletop waterfalls (so zen) to water walls (so tall) to the awesome spa at Huvafen Fushi, in the Maldives (so underwater).

“Water is the equilibrium and elixir of life - restorative, calming, balancing and renewing vitality,” says a spokesperson for Per AQUUM, who developed the still unique spa and resort in 2004. “The spa’s underwater treatment rooms create a rejuvenating encounter with water in a way that no other spa in the world has done.”

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Workplace Strategy's Impact on Interior Design

AT&T Foundry_1_LR
AT&T Foundry, courtesy of Gensler
Aligning work habits with work environment to facilitate efficiency. Sounds like something business owners should have been considering all along, but perhaps fewer hours (remember 9 to 5?) and longer lunches (not to mention liquid) negated the need for ergonomic furniture and corners conducive to collaboration. Either way, Workplace Strategy has become as important as hiring strategies, to entice and keep the most talent staff, and cultivate results. And that means strategists – both independent and within large firms – are among the most sought after designers around.

“The role of the workplace strategist is to get to know the organization in a really deep way,” says Randy Howder, Gensler workplace strategist. “It’s more than just one vision session. It’s really living with the client, like how Frank Lloyd Wright used to go live with clients, to really respond to the environment.”

Living is more significant than ever when it comes to working. Ask anyone in design and they’ll tell you the lines between residence and office are blurring.

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Eat Your Frozen Vegetables

from Getty Images
If you've been paying attention to the news from southern California and Arizona you're rightly concerned about the coming months of fresh vegetables (please don't kid yourself into believing that your frozen part of the country was somehow producing most of the vegetables you see in your supermarket or at your favorite restaurant).
All the more reason to take frozen vegetables seriously. Can there be texture issues? For sure. But if you're cooking them into something else, frozen vegetables are a great way to get the vitamins and minerals your winter diet is likely lacking.

If you missed it in print, read "complete" story (I could write a short book on the subject at this point) at Freezer pleasers - Fresh, shmesh! Frozen veggies aren’t just for TV dinners, say city chefs who use them in secret

NYC Marathon Cancelled; Riot Averted


It's hard to find a NYer who supported the running of the NYC Marathon given the widespread and severe devastation left by Hurricane Sandy. Are we mindful of the 47000 people who trained and prepared? Of course. We support them too, but we know how to prioritize here.

Looking for something to do on Sunday? Volunteer opportunities are easy to find. Check out the NYC Service Website to find out what you can do to help the City now.