Wednesday, August 11, 2010
1975 Alteration by Design Research (3rd post of 4)
Design Research, founded in Cambridge, MA in 1953, billed itself as America's first "lifestyle store." It promoted a fresh, innovative, often Scandinavian aesthetic in everything from furniture to clothing. We first heard of Marimekko thanks to D/R. The firm reached a high water mark in 1974 when founder/architect Ben Thompson rented the old Van Rensselaer mansion on Rittenhouse Square for the then substantial sum of $64,000/year. Old houses like 1801 Walnut St. weren't considered to have much architectural merit in the 1970s. Thompson accordingly tore out every wall, fireplace, railing and molding in the place, and substituted a sort of post-apocalyptic drama for the original Edwardian elegance. The stained and leaded glass dome over the staircase remains, but the staircase beneath it is substantially altered. Note how the marble fireplace in the HABS view of the original main hall is now truncated by the modern staircase. Ghosts of moldings scraped off in the course of alteration are visible in original condition in one of the HABS images in the post above. Design Research went bust at the end of the 1970s - possibly the victim of a curse hurled by some god of architecture. The building now houses the Philadelphia branch of Anthropologie.