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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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Cooper Hewitt Announces Winners of 2018 National Design Awards

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced the winners of the 2018 National Design Awards, which recognize design excellence and innovation across 10 categories. The White House Millennium Council launched the awards program—including its special events, panel discussions, and workshops—in 2000 as a way to promote design as a vital tool in shaping the world. Award recipients will be honored at a gala dinner and ceremony on Thursday, October 18, in the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden at Cooper Hewitt.

“All 10 of this year’s winners present a powerful design perspective and body of work that is at once inclusive and deeply personal, accompanied by great achievement, humanity, and social impact,” says Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt. An interdisciplinary jury of design leaders and educators selected the winners after reviewing award submissions from nominations submitted by design experts and enthusiasts. This year’s jury consisted of Diane Jones Allen (Design Jones); Jeffrey Bernett (CDS); Valerie Casey (Applied Theory); Rand Elliott (Elliott + Associates Architects); Adi Gil (threeASFOUR); Jenny Lam (Oracle); Doug Powell (IBM); and Ann Willoughby (Willoughby Design).

See the winners in each category below.

Lifetime Achievement: Gail Anderson

Gail Anderson’s various publications. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Gail Anderson is a New York–based designer, writer, and educator, who serves as creative director at Visual Arts Press, the School of Visual Arts’s in-house design studio. She is also a partner at Anderson Newton Design and previously served as creative director of design at SpotCo, an advertising agency that creates artwork for theater, and as a designer and senior art director of Rolling Stone. Anderson has co-authored 14 books on design and popular culture.

Design Mind: Anne Whiston Spirn

Daring to Look by Anne Whiston Spirn. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Anne Whiston Spirn is an award-winning author, landscape architect, photographer, and the Cecil and Ida Green Distinguished Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT. For 30 years, Spirn has directed the West Philadelphia Landscape Project, which was recognized at a 1999 White House conference on Imagining America.

Corporate & Institutional Achievement: Design for America

Leadership studio led by Design for America. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Design for America (DFA) is a national network of innovators working together to improve local communities through design, which began as the brainchild of Northwestern University faculty member Liz Gerber and three of her students in 2009. The network has tackled hundreds of challenges—ranging from accessible healthcare to drinkable water—and has inspired more than 4,000 students, educators, and design professionals across the country.

Architecture Design: WEISS/MANFREDI

The Tata Innovation Center by Weiss/Manfredi. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Founded by Marion Weiss and Michael A. Manfredi, Weiss/Manfredi expands the territory of architecture by connecting it with landscape, art, and infrastructure. Projects include the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Visitor Center, Penn’s Nanotechnology Center, Cornell Tech’s Tata Innovation Center, and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, which all seamlessly fuse architecture and nature.

Communication Design: Civilization

Hotel Sorrento branding by Civilization. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Civilization was founded by Michael Ellsworth, Corey Gutch, and Gabriel Stromberg in Seattle in 2007, and builds identity systems, digital experiences, printed materials, environmental graphics and exhibitions. Working with those committed to creating positive change, the studio’s clients include the National Head Start Association, The Nature Conservancy, Shout Your Abortion, The Museum of History & Industry and The Biennale of Sydney.

Fashion Design: Christina Kim

Tikdi shawls by Christina Kim’s company, dosa. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Christina Kim is the co-founder and designer of dosa, a Los Angeles-based clothing, accessories, and housewares company established in 1984 with a focus on rethinking conventional fashion-industry production and sustaining artisan cultures. In-house production enables an evolving system for efficient use of natural resources, recycling and creative reuse. Kim draws on traditional handwork techniques, particularly in India, Mexico and Colombia, engaging local artisans and communities in long-term collaborations.

Interaction Design: Neri Oxman

Vespers by Neri Oxman. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Neri Oxman is an architect, designer, inventor, and professor at MIT, where she is the founding director of The Mediated Matter Group. The group combines commissioned work with scientific research exploring ways in which digital design and production techniques can enhance the relationship between built and natural environments, operating at the intersection of computational design, robotic fabrication, materials engineering and synthetic biology. Oxman coined the term “Material Ecology” to describe the study, design, and digital fabrication of buildings, products, and systems that integrate environmentally aware, computational, form-generating processes and digital production.

Interior Design: Oppenheim Architecture + Design

La Muna chalet by Oppenheim Architect. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Founded in 1999 by Chad Oppenheim, Oppenheim Architecture + Design is an architecture, planning, and interior design firm specializing in hospitality, commercial mixed-use, retail, and residential buildings worldwide. Based in Miami with offices in New York and Basel, Switzerland, the firm creates spaces that evoke the senses. Projects include the GLF Headquarters in Florida, the Enea Headquarters in Switzerland, and the Ayla Golf Academy and Clubhouse in Jordan.

Landscape Architecture: Mikyoung Kim Design

The Crown Sky Garden by Mikyoung Kim Design at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Mikyoung Kim, FASLA, is the founding principal of Mikyoung Kim Design, an international landscape architecture and urban design firm based in Boston. Over the past two decades, the firm has crafted an exceptional body of award-winning work that redefines the discipline of landscape architecture and inhabits the intersection of art and science. Its projects—from large to small—solve challenging urban resiliency issues while always considering the unique character of place making.

Product Design: Blu Dot

Dang by Blu Dot. Photography courtesy of Cooper Hewitt.

Blu Dot was founded in 1997 by college friends John Christakos, Maurice Blanks, and Charlie Lazor. Based in Minneapolis, Blu Dot’s mission is to design and manufacture furniture that is useful, affordable, and brings good design to as many people as possible. Recognized for its inventive use of materials, fabrication technology and assembly methods, Blu Dot produces furniture that is determined by an economy of means while maintaining a playful sensibility.

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