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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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How to design a stylish and multifunctional garage

What if your home had a spare room you’d never noticed before? Your garage, even if it has one or more cars in it, can pull double-duty as a gym, a crafting room and even a place to socialize.

Designers and architects tell us that gaining more living space without putting an addition on your house can make the effort worthwhile, even if it means investing in things like upgraded lighting, flooring and heating.

We shouldn’t be “treating the garage as a big box,” says Bethesda, Maryland-based architect Jim Rill. “Make it another room. It’s a lost opportunity if you don’t.”

Marina Case, founder of the Warwick, New York-based design firm The Red Shutters, agrees: “A garage,” she says, “can be anything you need it to be.”

We’ve asked Rill, Case and interior designer Anna Maria Mannarino of New Jersey-based Mannarino Designs for advice on creating a well-organized garage that can also function as a flexible spare room.

FLOORS AND WALLS

Upgrading the look and feel of your garage can start at the bottom: Paint the floor, says Case.

Painting a cement floor a dark taupe or gray can have a big impact, she says, or choose an even bolder color. “You’ll feel like you’re in this fresh, fun space,” she says.

But do test the color by painting a piece of foam core that’s at least a few square feet, she says, and leaving it on the garage floor for a few days to make sure you like it.

Another option: Showroom flooring is available for as little as $5 per foot, says Rill. And if you won’t be parking cars in the garage and are instead using it as a “man cave or a she-shed,” Mannarino says, consider upgrading the flooring with something you’d normally use inside the house.

Walls come next: “Why is the garage always just a drywall box?” Rill asks.

If your garage walls aren’t sheet-rocked, Mannarino says you can add that and give it a coat of paint. Or put up paneling, Rill says, making it easier to hang items like rakes or hoses. You can add a flat hanging system that includes space for hanging baskets and brackets for shelves. Many closet-design brands offer flat systems that will hold heavy outdoor items.

If you prefer freestanding storage along the walls, add several tall, sturdy shelving units. You can line them with large, clear bins neatly labeled, or fancier storage bins, Case says.

Or go an extra step and have built-in cabinetry installed.

And if your garage ceiling is high and has ample space away from where the garage door opens, consider adding storage on the ceiling, Mannarino says.

“It gives you that much more real estate,” she says. But don’t cut corners: Have ceiling shelving or storage racks mounted properly by a professional.

If your garage gets cold in the winter, you can add a separate heating system that’s inexpensive to run. These “mini-split” heating systems can be turned on only when you’re spending time in the garage. Adding insulation also helps control the climate, making the garage feel more like an indoor room.

And don’t settle for a bare bulb in the ceiling. Replacing it with a larger, more attractive fixture can dramatically change the way a garage feels.

ENTERTAINING OPTIONS

Although it’s common to have a workshop in a garage, and many people use the space for messy crafting projects or as a home gym, a garage can also become an entertainment space.

If you’re a car enthusiast who works on a vintage car or hotrod, Rill says, why not use part of your garage as a place to hang out with friends talking about cars?

Case suggests adding a bar area with comfortable seating, even if it’s small, to make the garage an inviting place to hang out with guests. You can also hang up a flat-screen TV and add a refrigerator.

Rill has a vintage cooler, reclaimed from a supermarket, in his garage for soft drinks, water and beer. It’s used all summer when the family is outdoors.

Along with year-round entertaining inside a garage, these designers point out that an open garage can be a great place to set up a buffet table during an outdoor summer party.

Case suggests adding ceiling-mounted tracks for curtains in an indoor/outdoor material like Sunbrella, so you can draw them behind a serving table in your open garage.

Barn doors or other types of upgraded garage door can make the space more attractive and accessible during parties.

And upgrading your garage door does more than just add beauty to the exterior of your home, Mannarino says. It also gives you the option of adding more windows, bringing natural light into your garage.

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IS THERE AN ATTIC?

Many detached garages have a tiny second-floor attic or loft space, Rill says. Even if its ceiling is low, that space can become a furnished clubhouse for younger kids, a place to practice musical instruments or even a cozy guest suite.

On one garage project, Rill replaced the solid wooden ceiling in a large detached garage with a perforated metal floor. That gave added natural light to the attic space above, which was then transformed into a kids’ clubhouse.

The Seattle Times does not append comment threads to stories from wire services such as the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post or Bloomberg News. Rather, we focus on discussions related to local stories by our own staff. You can read more about our community policies here.
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