Oct 10

Cabinet of Wonders: Diorama

My diorama was for an exhibit about Achille Castiglioni.

Castiglioni was an Italian designer who brought everyday objects into his elegant pieces - whether a tractor seat or a street lamp. My exhibit about Castiglioni would celebrate the source behind some of his most brilliant shapes and designs. 

Thus I would have the tractor seat chair along side a real tractor, 


The streetlamp alongside the famous Arco lamp whose proportions and balance were derived from the street lamp.


The iconic Snoopy alongside the lamp inspired by Snoopy…

A cat (or a fake cat) near the lamp that Castiglioni designed with a cat in mind (it could curl up below the light and enjoy the warmth - (also, a vacuum cleaner could go underneath) - a lamp that would not waste its light on the ground because it is suspended slightly above.


Broadly, the exhibit would address the question of Where Do Good Ideas Come From? And specifically, the designer Achille Castiglioni’s own sources of inspiration and process.

Oct 09

Sensitive Buildings: Romantic Lighting Sensor

Here is the setup:

The LED turns on when the light sensor recognizes your presence nearby but if you actually cover the light sensor the LED will turn all the way off.

Cabinet of Wonders: Frick and Guggenheim


Perhaps the byline for the Frick should be: “even the restrooms are posh”

The museum is in a beautiful old mansion and has preserved much of the original details. It is a warm and welcoming entrance with clear direction and easily navigable spaces in that the whole place is so small that it’s easy to do a lap through and then go back to any rooms that I didn’t explore. 

Some notes from the Frick:




Lots of middle aged people


No kids

Everyone was listening to tours on phones

Dim lighting

Without phone-tours, hard to know anything because very few captions

Beautiful paint on walls - made me think of Heather’s comment about how the Museum of the City of New York’s paint jobs were so messy. 

Friendly guards

No interactive pieces

Easily navigable website for hours, etc. I’d go back to the website to research more about one of the subjects that I had found. 


More people, more kids, festive entrance, strength of architecture both as path and as comfort and structure for experience

Though at first the crowds and guards and coatroom feel overwhelming and annoying, the swirl of movement up feels comforting - a wrap around that is enveloping and warm.

Awkward placement of texts, seats in the circular areas

But some great unexpected vistas, nooks

Made me think a lot about the de Menil concepts of intimacy, unexpected placement of art so that we can see it from below, above, get close to it…

Almost no interactives, multimedia

Kandinsky’s amazing colors as contrasted with picasso’s black and white

Easily navigable website and annoyed guards because people kept taking pictures - they would pounce on people from behind as they were snapping a picture.

Sensitive Buildings: Tenant Meeting

We met with three residents of the Columbus Circle building last week.

A couple and a single woman.

All three were passionate about their time in the building - couldn’t say enough good things about it - didn’t have any complaints - 

Some takeaways:

The couple is from the suburbs and moved to the city two years ago. They use the park religiously. 

All three use the terrace a lot - for sun, for relaxation, though they find it windy. The couple enjoys the view of Columbus Circle, the woman looks towards the Upper East Side. 

She has traveled her entire life and loves where she is now. She loves the smell of the fireplace, the neighbors, feels it is a little village in her back elevator area. She is outside taking the sun as much as possible - whether on her balcony or on the terrace. She loves hearing the horse hooves from the carriages outside her window - a jump back in time. 

All three listen to music in their headphones rather than bring speakers that might disturb the others.

In terms of the common area, they wish it were better, cozier, whether for a library or for some Sunday Night football.

When I asked whether any of them had a special hobby, interest, author, artist, pursuit beyond work, the man began speaking about how interested he is in the history of the Circle. This led to each of them discussing the connections they had to the building through old photographs of the area - photographs they had come across in various ways in the past - something that felt serendipitous to all of them. The woman also brought up that the author of The Little Prince lived in the building.

They are all attached to the staff, space and location of the building and connect a lot to it as a homey, cozy, friendly place, though it is quite large.

Oct 03

Ideas Taking Shape: Midterm Plan

Thinking about pattern and shape: 

I am going to model my design off of the Maple tree. Its patterns appeal to me and its structure works well in the light experience that I want to make - in fact, the shade / light that I have observed is usually provided by maple trees. 

These descriptions help show why the maple tree is a strong choice for my ideas:

"In the maple we perceive the extending outward of the long slim stalk and the symmetrical spreading into the finely formed, pointed lobes of the leaf blade. The clarity of form in the sugar maple is also expressed in the regular, opposite arrangement of the leaves and in the V-shaped branching pattern of the limbs: each year the terminal bud dies, so that two branches (originating from the pair of buds just prior to the terminal bud) form a V-shape, then grow further, branch again in a V-shape and so on."

"We noticed that the leaves of the maple spread out more or less in a plane and that they are fairly evenly spaced from one another.  In other words, the totality of the leaves on the whole branch form a kind of ‘superleaf.’"

- "Phenomenon Illuminates Phenomenon: White Oak and Sugar Maple" by Craig Holdredge, Nature Institute

Ideas Taking Shape: Light Jars Photos

Ideas Taking Shape: Midterm Planning

Playing with leaf shadows, chandelier structure, LED light.

Shadows as precise as these:

Patterns from leaves and light:

Considering the way that light comes through leaves to make its own frame:

And give its own shadows:

Light is diffused through (what) material?

Rice paper?

Other paper…

Embedding LEDs in wood!

Embedding LEDs in raster etched patterns on plexiglass?

Using fiber optic cables instead…

Could use fiber optic strands to diffuse the light throughout a matrix of plexiglass leaf patterns (each laid parallel to the floor, 3 deep, 3 wide at the max of the “chandelier”). Strands could go through holes in center of each piece of plexi. Strands carry light through each piece of design. 

Ugly product but shows the power of fiber optics. 

Would it be possible to use approximately 5 thoughtfully placed large bulbs throughout the chandelier in order to get the light desired? 

Could even be the glass jar version themselves with the leaf pattern etched and then these jars set in wire structure that holds them (like an apple picked). 

If doing something like this… then, doing 3d Printed Optics using the Makerbot would be perfect… 

I’m most excited about this 3d printing option because I could make something that replicates the internal structure of the leaf through the light pipes that you can 3D print. 

Cabinet of Wonders: The Way We Live Now

Cellphones, smartphones, telephones, fax machines, computers, scanners, internet apps, hands-free, GPS, voice-activated, headphones, credit cards, cash, coins, cash registers, ATMs, bikes, watches, heart rate monitors, treadmills,

Daily papers, magazines, books

Washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, laundromat, refrigerator, freezer, oven, stove, grill

YouTube, sneakers, t-shirts, fashion trends

As I think of a museum about the way we live now, I focus particularly on the many Things in our lives that were not present at the Tenement Museum. Our lives right now seem particularly distinguished by the devices and technologies to which we have access. Across classes, smartphones persist, for example. 

My museum of the way we live now:


A five story building off of a paved sidewalk. Street signs outside: a “No Parking Anytime”, with bicycles locked to the bottom of it. A tree planted in dirt on the concrete of the sidewalk. The building has an awning with the title “The Way We Lived: 2012”, a street address and a phone number. The awning and frame are painted bright red. 

The doors are open and lead into a small cafe where coffee and muffins are sold. The coffee machines are exposed and the servers make the coffee or tea etc. - we are already in the experience - supposing that in 100 years, the coffee machines (if they exist at all) will be remarkably different than they are now. 

Next, you would exchange your money system or payment system for ours - somehow - and you would buy your coffee with cash or a card. The servers would be ready to answer any questions about how they prepared the drink and how and why people consumed it in the past. If, for example, you were interested in how currency, cash, credit and banking systems worked in our days, you could go slightly to the right of the purchasing counter and watch an animated video explaining the way our economic systems work. 

While there would be a typical menu, there would also be a general explanation next to the menu, with descriptions of why people consumed coffee and muffins in our days. 

You could then have the option to continue into the museum - purchase a tour with our money - and if you did, you would go behind the counter and through a backdoor out of the cafe, up a flight of stairs and into an apartment. Here you would find all the typical fixings of an apartment - the machines we use, the mobile devices, the music systems and video systems. Everything would be as “on” as we usually leave it - so maybe the TV is on, music is on, the smartphone is picking up new text messages and emails - but the shower may not be on. You could walk around and turn everything on or off - even toasting bread if you wanted - or turning on a movie. There would be “tour guides” hanging out in each area of the apartment, explaining the device or the way it was used as needed. 

For example, the closet would be full of the current fashion of clothes for a woman and a man. The tour guide might ask why the tourers think we had so many pieces of clothing. The response might lead to a discussion about the way that we displayed our identities through our choice of clothes, what we carry, what we drive, etc… how these might display our socioeconomic status. And / or how many find that purchasing new items gives them pleasure, which could lead to a discussion about the role of pleasure in our lives - how it balances with the work we did, or not, what a few typical forms of pleasure-getting were - for example, from drinking and doing drugs to spending time with family and friends. 

Each broader concept, as referenced above, would become a story so that the visitors from the future might better understand our habits and such. If we were discussing the concept of pleasure, the tour guide might tell a story about how “Emily”, who lived in the apartment, used her first pay check in her first job after college to buy a beautiful pair of boots. She kept good care of the boots and saved them for years. They were a piece of her memory as she transitioned from job to job and apartment to apartment - here it might be interesting to discuss how careers have shifted, but also the history of Emily’s own career (lawyer). It could lead to the tour guide explaining the way that women used to be treated before Emily’s own time, how their role in society changed. 

There would be magazines and a newspaper on the kitchen table, as well as a tablet and a smartphone with pre-programmed apps such as NPR, TED, hopstop, words with friends. The stories in the paper would be accurate to our time and might lead to stories about the presidential race this October, 2012, how the country was seen by some to be polarized between a liberal left and conservative right, how we were still struggling with our role in politics in the Middle East… a wallet on the table, with keys, Metro Card, a train ticket to upstate New York - discussion might ensue about transportation in the city and out of the city - why people might choose to take a train an hour away, what activities they might do out of the city, or an in-depth description of the subway system - where it came from, how it developed in other cities, how NYC’s subway system in 2112 compares…

At the end of the tour, the tourers could just trickle out whenever they pleased, stopping by a gift shop where they could buy any of our old technologies and some of our styles of clothing. There would be an explainer as they exited who would describe the way that various people moved through the city - on bicycles, subway, car, and how the various business owners on the fictitious street might have worked with one another (or not). 

The experience of this Museum of the Way We Live Now would be that each object might have  a full story, a full lesson behind it - whether an economic or a cultural lesson - and each could provoke interesting discussions on the way our technology systems but ideally, the way our value systems may have changed. I would be most curious as to the difference between the way we find value in our lives now and the way we will find value in our lives. While the Tenement Museum and the Teddy Roosevelt museum had 1 tour guide for many, the Museum of the Way We Live Now would have several educators, much like the NYSCI experience. Rather than be led through room to room, object to object, you would be let free to choose which objects, rooms or devices you wanted to check out and then ask questions or listen to explanations as you saw fit.

To this point, the experience would have the option to have an augmented reality tour - when you purchase your ticket for the full experience, you could take out an iPhone that had an app installed on it where when you hovered the camera over a bicycle, for example, it could tell you (by text or audio, your choice) about how that bicycle had been used, why there are stickers on it, what the stickers mean, and possibly a video with the band of one of those stickers playing at a rock concert. This AR option is available throughout the tour though it would be less publicized because the hope is that you engage with an educator directly.

Ideally, each conversation would include a historical element - history before 2012, a 2012 description, and then a question about how things are in 2112 and whether this is better or worse? Why would they want to come back to 2012 or why wouldn’t they? What about 2112 reminds them of 2012?

Oct 02

Cabinet of Wonders: from the Tenements to TR’s mansion

"Something happens in a story— something is wrong in the world— and its resolution serves to help us sort out our values and beliefs." 

The Tenement Museum

Welcome Area:

Organized, clear signage, modern feel to a museum that is about the old, peeling buildings of the tenements. The people are friendly, approachable and relatable.

Next, the tour itself:

Very strong that the entire tour is inside the building we are considering. The tour guide started off by pointing out the layers of flaking wallpaper and describing how it made her think of each tenant in the past and how they changed the building to make it their own home. 

The people on the tour:

Middle aged, couples, all tourists. Luckily for the guide, there was one man who was eager to participate, throw ideas out, very chatty. If it hadn’t been for him, she would have needed help warming up the crowd. This is an interesting dynamic: so much of the experience depends on the tour guide. What questions they ask, the mood and tone that they set for the entire group. 

I went to the Tenement Museum last semester, but they must have recently put into place the music and images and lyrics part of the tour. I certainly enjoyed it and, looking around, it seemed like my tour group did as well. They were completely engaged throughout the experience, interested in the tour guide’s questions, discussing possible answers. The music played an important part in that it provoked more of their senses— and they weren’t only listening to the lyrics, they were also listening to the music itself— noting how some songs were jolly though they sang about something sad.

The narrator / tour guide was effective in that she described many of the details but left a lot up to us to determine or answer or question or challenge— much more interesting. 

Also, she was able to get us to imagine what it might have been like to have bad milk all of the time etc. without constantly directly asking us to imagine xyz. It was the type of questions she asked maybe. 


Too bad that the photo feature is under the History tab. Takes a bit of searching and it’s such a neat part - especially since we can’t take photos while on the tour. 

The Teddy Roosevelt House

Then I went to visit another historical house… the Teddy Roosevelt house! Though it is from the same time period as the Tenement Museum, it’s from exactly the opposite side of things: opulent, beautiful, all the rest. 

I actually felt less warm, less comfortable and interested while going on the TR tour. I wondered why the other people were on the tour. The tour guide seemed like an obsessive historian rather than a guy I’d like to chat with about interesting pieces of our history. While he was, of course, perfectly nice, knowledgeable, friendly and all of the rest, still, I felt as if I was a captive of the tour guide. It was much less of a give and take, participatory tour. 

The website was easy to navigate and the guards were welcoming. It’s interesting that the tenements were a better overall experience than the mansion… but the mansion itself was beautiful and restored with care. 

Oct 01

Ideas Taking Shape: Light Jars

I considered the difficulty of lighting a roof at night. I wanted to pay homage to Castiglioni’s found objects aesthetic and teachings. He used everyday objects in unusual ways in his designs and paid attention to the design-able qualities of these objects. 

I soldered a 9v battery to 3 white LEDs, and added this lighting system into a small tea packet to diffuse the light and cover the ugly wiring. I put the LED package inside a small jam jar that could then be carried around easily and that safely contained the precious electronics.

Putting four of these jam jars together made a diamond shape— where the dark, battery side of the jar faced inward and the bright light outward.