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Six Industry Innovators Share Their Inspirations from the Lunar Landing

When the Apollo 11 came to rest in the lunar Sea of Tranquility on July 20th, 1969 and began transmitting back to Earth grainy black-and-white images of a spider-legged ship, pale figures within shiny helmets, and, a bit later, magisterial photographs of Earth itself against the black void of space, the human race’s conception of itself changed forever. The voyage inspired political realignments and countless scientific breakthroughs; it also inspired the look and feel of a number of cultural masterpieces, from Brian Eno’s 1983 ambient classic Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks to Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1971 stark sci-fi epic Solaris.

Architecture and design took that giant leap for mankind along with Neil Armstrong. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing, we spoke to innovators in the industry about their own lunar inspirations.

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Perilune by Suzanne Tick for Luum Textiles. Photography courtesy of Luum Textiles.

Suzanne Tick, creative director, Luum Textiles

As a child, the textile designer Suzanne Tick watched the landing from her home in Bloomington, Illinois. “What was riveting to me was the sound of someone on the moon and his buoyancy,” Tick says. “I had this realization that a person can be on the moon while I’m sitting at home and he could also be floating!” Since then, the moon has been an important force in her life. “I’ve lived by the MoMA Moon Charts and they have played a large part in my consciousness. A poignant time in my life was 2009, 2010, and 2011 which coincided with the last three years of my father’s life, my marriage, and my son living with me. For this reason, I wove a triptych of each of these years and sewed them together as a reminder of that shift in my life.” This design became Perilune, a printed polyurethane which was introduced through Luum.

Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York by Gary R. Hilderbrand. Photography by James Ewing.

Gary R. Hilderbrand, FASLA FAAR; principal, Reed Hilderbrand; Peter Louis Hornbeck Professor in Practice, Harvard Graduate School of Design

“Because my Aunt and grandmother had a large color TV, anything momentous like this we watched in their living room,” says Gary Hilderbrand. “All gathered ‘round for the moon landing. It’s singed on my brain.” The landscape architect would go on to transform a brownfield in Beacon, New York, into a waterfront parkland with site-specific work by artist George Trakas and two buildings by ARO. “Apollo amplified my instincts about knowing our place in the world and a sense that we somehow had technological knowledge to improve it,” he says. “Seeing these missions orbiting around the other side of the moon, and then exploring its surface, gave me hope that we could right our own environmental mess and craft a smarter, saner landscape. That way of seeing the Earth descended directly from the Apollo 8 ‘earthrise’ photograph. Who would not be affected by that image?!”

SiriusXM’s New York Headquarters and Broadcast Center by Michael Kostow. Photography by Adrian Wilson.

Michael Kostow, founding principal, Kostow Greenwood Architects

Satellite radio wouldn’t exist without the technological breakthroughs of the Apollo mission, so it made perfect sense to have a space fan design the headquarters for one of its largest players, SiriusXM. “I watched the moon landing as a youngster and even had early aspirations of becoming an astronaut,” says Michael Kostow. “I later wanted to design space vehicles for NASA, would build and fly multi-stage model rockets, and even as an architecture graduate student had an early morning ‘party’ to drink Tang and watch the first launch of the space station with my classmates.” The compact efficiency of the capsules influenced his plan for the satellite broadcasting company: “We wanted to invoke simplicity and timelessness,” he says, “and allow the empty space to be an active player in setting the mood.” Mission accomplished.

Aerial and Half-Moon by Kelly Harris Smith for Skyline Design. Photography courtesy of Skyline Design.

Kelly Harris Smith, designer and creative director, Kelly Harris Smith

“I’ve never been on a rocket ship,” says designer Kelly Harris Smith, “but I have flown on an airplane and to this day I always request a window seat so I can peek out over the landscape.” The designer was born after the moon landing but carries the legacy of an aerial point of view into a collection for Chicago’s Skyline Design of glass panels with systems of micro-patterns within shapes and gradations of color over larger repeats. “It’s rooted in looking at the familiar in a new way,” she says, “which I have to imagine is what all astronauts experience looking back at Earth.”

Draper, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photography by Mark Flannery.

Elizabeth Lowrey, principal, Elkus Manfredi Architects

“Watching the moon landing, even at such a young age, I was awed by the realization that anything is possible,” says Elizabeth Lowrey—even growing up to design a new home for Draper, a not-for-profit engineering firm that created software for Apollo 11. “I remember, as we stepped into Draper’s lobby, the first thing we saw was a space shuttle model.  Even more thrilling was the opportunity to meet Margaret Hamilton, the pioneering software engineer who had made the moon landing possible!” A glass and steel structure forms the roof of the Draper atrium, which is rung with seven floors of offices and laboratories connected by blue glass vertical and horizontal stairways, green walls, and “the Cloud,” a polished steel polyhedron that is truly out of this world.

On the Water/Palisade Bay, New York City. Photography courtesy of ARO.

Adam Yarinsky, FAIA LEED AP, principal, Architecture Research Office

“I was seven, I remember watching the feed of the moonwalk,” says ARO co-founder Adam Yarinksy. “And if you were a kid that was into building models, you had the plastic model kit that was black and white with USA in red on the side. I built a model of the Saturn V and the lunar and command and service modules. The purposefulness of the vehicle had a kind of directness when you compare it to technology today. The control panels were just rows and rows of switches that all looked the same. There was a kind of Dieter Rams quality to it.” But it was politics, not aesthetics, that really inspired Yarinsky’s work with ARO, including this vision of the upper harbor of New York and New Jersey which proposes archipelago and wetlands to mitigate rising sea levels and storm surges. “The finite nature of the planet we’re on reinforces the notion that architecture is part of this web of relationships,” he says. “The best architecture tries to modify and transform, but it’s not an autonomous thing. It’s linked. That sense of connection is the legacy.”

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Roberto Burle Marx Exhibition at NY Botanical Garden Celebrates Brazilian Modernism

An aerial view of  Modernist Garden at the New York Botanical Garden’s “Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx.” Photography courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.


The exuberance of Brazilian Modernism is now on full display in the Bronx as “Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx” opens Saturday, June 8, at the New York Botanical Garden. The largest botanical exhibition ever mounted by the NYBG, it combines a horticultural tribute to Burle Marx—one of the most significant Brazilian artists and landscape designers of the 20th century—with insights into his vibrant artwork and textiles and his advocacy for plant conservation.

To do so, the NYBG converted a lawn outside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory into a lushly landscaped Modernist Garden, replicating the bold designs of Burle Marx via striking black-and-white patterned pathways, curvilinear planting beds, and a large water feature that recreates the look of one the designer installed in the Banco Safra headquarters in Sao Paulo. Visitors wander amid palm trees, elephant’s ears, bromeliads, coleus and other plants Burle Marx used in his garden designs.

The Modernist Garden replicates the bold patterns and curvilinear planting beds Roberto Burle Marx favored during his prolific career as a landscape designer. Photography courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.


The indoor Explorer’s Garden furthers the journey into the world of South America’s tropical rainforest, while the Water Garden highlights Burle Marx’s use of plants from a variety of regions and includes a mix of the NYBG’s own water lilies as well as tropical water lilies favored by the landscape designer. Raymond Jungles, a Miami-based landscape architect who was a protege of Burle Marx in the 1980s and early 1990s, designed the three gardens for the NYBG.

“This is the biggest living exhibition we have ever done, “ said Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections at the NYBG, “but it matched Roberto Burle Marx’s larger-than-life spirit.”

Read more: How Brazilian Furniture Designers Carved Out Their Distinctly Modern Aesthetic 

The Modernist Garden is an homage to Roberto Burle Marx and includes a water feature recreating the look of one the Brazilian designer installed in the Banco Safra in Sao Paulo. Photography courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.


In the Art Gallery of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, a collection of Burle Marx’s landscape designs, paintings, drawings, and textiles are displayed, and in the Rotunda the look of his home—where he loved to entertain guests with elaborate dinner parties—is recreated, allowing visitors to draw parallel between his artistic vision and horticultural passion. Burle Marx’s artwork is vibrant and abstract and his gardens and public spaces striking in their use of bold and sensuous curves. 

Artwork by Robert Burle Marx is displayed in the Art Gallery of the Lu Esther T. Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden. Photography courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.

“Roberto Burle Marx was a total work of art,” said Edward J. Sullivan, Ph.D, the Helen Gould Shepard Professor of the History of Art and Deputy Director of the Institute of Fine Art at New York University, who curated the gallery exhibition.

Roberto Burle Marx in his studio in the Sitio, outside Rio de Janeiro, which has been recreated in the Rotunda of the New York Botanical Garden’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library. Photography courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden.

Burle Marx, who was born in 1909 and died in 1994 , was a principal figure in Latin America’s modernist art and garden movement in the latter half of the 20th century. He created more than 3,000 landscape projects in his long career, notably the undulating pedra portuguesapromenade along Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro and the patterned pavement along Key Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, which wasn’t installed until a decade after his death.  

“Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx,” which also features Brazilian music and dance performances, runs through September 29, 2019.

Read more: Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler Architekten Brings Latin American Modernism to Swiss Villa

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