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Japan Is Getting “Invisible” Trains That Blend into the Landscape

Smithsonian Magazine

The Japanese countryside is beautiful in winterspring, summer, and fall, and one of the best ways to appreciate the changing scenery is by riding the rails. Now, a Japanese rail company is developing a new train that won’t interfere with admiring the landscape or disrupt the view—because it’s practically invisible.

To celebrate the Seibu Railway group’s 100th anniversary, the company commissioned Pritzker Prize-winning designer Kazuyo Sejima to create a “limited express” train, according to Architectural Digest.

“The limited express travels in a variety of different sceneries, from the mountains of Chichibu, to the middle of Tokyo, and I thought it would be good if the train could gently coexist with this variety of scenery,” said Sejima. To create a train that blends into the surroundings, Sejima designed a sleek, beautiful vessel with a mirrored exterior that reflects whatever landscape it rolls through, letting it integrate seamlessly into both urban setting and country scenes.  

The Seibu Group hopes that the innovative “invisible” trains are more than just a way of marking their anniversary, noting they represent something other than just a fashionable way of getting from one point to another. “This will be an express train for everyone, like an intimate living room where people can spend their free time in their own way,” the group said in a statement. “We aim to provide a new public space, almost parklike, where people will come together. It’s more than just a means of movement, it’s a destination in its own right. The train will serve commuters, people seeking relaxation, and tourists drawn by its unique appearance.”

The invisible trains should be ready to roll by 2018, meaning there’s still plenty of time to book a ticket to Japan. In the meantime, check out this video for inspiration.

Other articles from Travel + Leisure:

Vase, panel design

Smithsonian Gardens
Milk glass with overpainted panel design. The shape of vase has Islamic-style influences with its elevated foot and flared rim. The exterior of white vase has been enameled with pale yellow leaving four geometric panels exposed around the body of the vase. These panels have decorative borders in gold, grey, and black around a central motif featuring scrolls, flowers, geometric interlacing designs, and tassels. This design recalls the French porcelain produced in the eighteenth century yet features other historic influences as well. The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. Rococo Revival style was the most popular style of the Victorian era in the United States. It emerged as early as the 1830s and continued to be seen into the 1900s. This style was modeled after eighteenth-century French designs, yet the revival of the style pushed elements further. Rococo Revival objects tended to be highly ornamental, with more substantial, less delicate forms, and visually dense decoration. This style is defined by its sense of movement and its delicacy, as well as curvaceousness, asymmetry, and curvilinear forms. Rococo Revival motifs included floral imagery, abundant swags of fruit and foliage, shell-like waves, ‘S’ & ‘C’ scrolls, rocaille decoration, serpentine curves, frozen water forms, volutes, acanthus leaves, and cabriole legs.

New Stained Glass Is Coming to Germany’s Oldest Monastery

Smithsonian Magazine

Inspired by the popular windows Marc Chagall created for France’s Metz Cathedral, German organist Bernhard Leonardy set out in search of the “Chagall of our day” to create a trio of stained glass windows for the country’s oldest monastery, the Benedictine Tholey Abbey in Saarland.

Gerhard Richter, a painter, photographer and multimedia artist whose abstract works first came to the fore during the 1960s, was a natural choice for the commission. And, after some urging, Richter—arguably the country’s preeminent modern artist—agreed to design the stained glass for the 5th-century church’s choir.

Now, Kate Brown reports for artnet News, the abbey is scheduled to debut Richter’s designs on September 4. Since the historic house of worship is currently closed for renovations, the proposed window patterns will be displayed on giant banners adorning the church’s exterior.

Per Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Richter's vision will unite art and music, using the stained glass as an opportunity to create a visual manifestation of musical compositions by longtime friend and collaborator Arvo Pärt, an Estonian composer.

Richter designed an abstract stained glass window for Cologne Cathedral in 2007 (Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0)

The abbey windows are Richter’s second stained glass commission for a historic church. In 2007, the artist designed a monumental window for the south transept of Cologne Cathedral. Measuring roughly 30 by 75 feet, the work consists of 11,500 panes of glass. Some are arranged randomly, according to the artist’s website, while others were deliberately placed based on the church’s architecture. Altogether, the squares represent 72 different colors.

The windows will be Tholey Abbey’s only non-figurative stained glass. (Munich-based artist Mahbuba Maqsoodi, who won the commission by prevailing in an international competition, is set to design the church’s remaining windows.)

Father Wendelinus Naumann, a Benedictine monk and the abbey’s spokesperson, tells Christian and Thomas Funck of German newspaper St. Wendeler Land Nachrichten that he once thought there was no chance of securing Richter for the commission. Although the artist, now 87, was initially hesitant based on the scale of the project and his personal health, Leonardy’s intervention and exchanges with abbey representatives convinced Richter to say “yes.”

Although production is expected to begin immediately, with installation following over the coming months, Brown of artnet writes that the windows will likely remain under wraps until restoration work is finished around summer 2020.

The Best Caribbean Island You’ve Never Heard Of

Smithsonian Magazine

Maybe you’ve never heard of Saba before. But you've likely seen it: This tiny Caribbean island's silhouette was used in the original King Kong movie in 1933. At the beginning of the film, it serves as the backdrop for the colossal gorilla's "Skull Island" home.

Aside from that brush with fame, renown has mostly eluded this obscure, five-square-mile island dubbed “rock” in Arawak Indian. Christopher Columbus supposedly sighted it in 1493—and in fact, the craggy shores that made Saba perfect for King Kong are what deterred the explorer from alighting.

After its discovery, the island changed hands between multiple colonial forces. Eventually it was claimed by the Dutch, who have held it for the last 345 years.

The Netherlands’ smallest special municipality (officially called a “public body”) is just a 12-minute flight south of the more widely known Sint Maarten (also owned by the Dutch) and northwest of the increasingly popular Saint Kitts and Nevis. But thanks to a small airport, lack of a real harbor and sheer cliffs all around, it’s in no danger of being overcommercialized any time soon.

That doesn’t mean it’s not enticing for explorers looking to enjoy the Caribbean without all the traffic: Saba is basically a tropical forest island that soars 5,000 feet from the sea floor. A potentially active volcano overlooks the red-roofed cottages of its four major settlement towns, including the capital dubbed un-ironically “The Bottom.” White-washed or stone exteriors, red zinc roofs, decorative Caribbean gingerbread trim and green shutters define Saba’s architecture—along with a law that dictates the island’s aesthetics. As Mark Johnson of Saba Island Premier Properties tells, “the architecture of Saba is such a large part of the island’s vernacular. Unlike other spots in the Caribbean, it is easy for visitors to actually sample the lifestyle by staying in a charming and traditional cottage.”

For people like Glen Holm, the head of the Saba Tourist Board, who prefer to spend their lives outdoors with dramatic ocean, mountain views from virtually every angle and tapping into a simple life Saba is idyllic. “We are a step back in time," he tells “It took us a long time to move into the 20th century.”

Outside of the main towns and mountain villages most of the island’s 1,800 inhabitants call home, a forest paradise awaits, filled with rare, tropical foliage. Wild orchids and donkeys occupy the island’s old stone paths and steps. Created by the island's residents before the vehicular roads were built, these stone paths have steps made of local volcanic rocks.

Hikers on the island can ascend to Mount Scenery, the island’s highest point, or take a more extreme North Coast hike that passes by old town ruins and culminates in ocean vistas. ‘Crocodile’ James Johnson, a multi-generational Saban, is the de facto ranger for all of Saba’s hiking trails. “As I guide hikers to the top of Mt. Scenery, I like to share our lore and folk history with visitors,” he tells “It is my way of keeping it alive, preserving it, along with all of the island's natural beauty.”

But the real attraction here is the scuba diving and snorkeling. An island with no beaches means fewer visitors—thus, the waters are clear and diving spots untainted. Divers find remarkable formations and structural diversity in the water, the legacy of the sea’s volcanic origins. From shallow patch reefs to deep-water seamounts, there is plenty of underwater action everywhere, and Hawksbill turtles, dolphins, lobsters, stingrays and bright tropical fish casually roll by.

(original image)

The island protects this infinite marine world with a self-sustaining marine park established in 1987. Lynn Costenaro of Sea Saba Dive Center tells that the island’s volcanic origins left behind spectacular formations and structural diversity beneath the water. “We fiercely protect this natural beauty,” she adds. The Saba Marine Park, one of just a handful of its kind worldwide, bears witness to that commitment.

Conservation and preservation is part and parcel of the little island. The Saba Conservation Foundation, a non-profit non-government organization, was established in 1987 to protect the island’s natural and cultural heritage

One of the island’s most famous cultural traditions was once also one of its most important industries. Intricate lace work was imported from Spain by way of a nun from Venezuela in the 1880s, and the island’s craftspeople are experts. When regular mail service first connected the island to the outside world, the women of the island adapted their craft into a mail-order industry, shipping everything from dresses to tablecloths to the United States. Although the industry was once one of subsistence, today it is more of a dying art. Artisans hope to encourage the younger generation to learn their craft and ensure it lives on into the future.  

A more lucrative business on the island is the Saba University School of Medicine, started by a local doctor and initially funded by American expatriates and the Dutch government. When classes are in session, 400 enrolled students become island inhabitants. Besides adding healthcare to the island’s people, the school also adds a few million dollars to the Saban economy through fees.

Think of Saba as the low-key, more sustainable version of the Caribbean—a place where polluting superyachts and mass resorts that harm the environment will hopefully never moor. Just don’t tell anyone.  

How to get there:

BY AIR: Delta, American and JetBlue have a total of 29 weekly flights into St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Windward Islands Airways “WinAir” makes four or more flights each day to Saba from St. Maarten’s SXM Airport.

BY SEA: Daily ferry departures connect Saba to St. Maarten.

The New Shanghai Natural History Museum is Ancient, Modern and Uniquely Chinese

Smithsonian Magazine

The new Shanghai Natural History Museum is not your grandparents’ museum. Gone are the blocky, musty, function-over-form buildings of yore; in are nautilus-shaped, bioclimatic buildings that serve as their own exhibits.

Located in the middle of China’s largest city and within Jing'an Sculpture Park, the natural history museum holds 10,000 artifacts from all seven continents, but its most noteworthy object may be the building itself. Replacing the old Shanghai Natural History Museum (which opened in the 1950s), the new museum takes its shape from the nautilus shell—“one of the purest geometric forms found in nature,” notes Chicago-based architecture firm Perkins+Will.

“[This museum] is really a microcosm of the symbolism of the harmony between man and nature,” says Ralph Johnson, the designer of the new museum and global design director for Perkins+Will.  It took nine years of development, design and construction, but the facility was finally brought to life when it opened to the public on April 19.

The museum is also uniquely Chinese: The landscaping and design take direct inspiration from the ancient Chinese tradition of mountain water gardens, which seeks to recreate the natural landscape of China in miniature. Johnson also notes the need to design for the heavy traffic a Chinese museum will receive. Comparing it to another design of his, the O’Hare International Terminal in Chicago, Johnson sees the difference: “In China, there has to be large circular places because of the density of people.  It is a different kind of path [as opposed to American buildings]. It isn’t just about seeing exhibits, but also about movement through space, the need for transition.”

One of the new museum's most striking features is the 109-foot cell wall on the north side of the building, designed to mimic the cellular structure of plants and animals. While aesthetically pleasing from the outside, the wall also has a practical purpose—it is the main light source for the building’s interior and casts cell-shaped shadows upon visitors. “It’s a three-layer wall. The shape is very complex because it is circular and conical. And then when you apply that pattern onto a circle, it was a big challenge to design ... but it is thing that unites the exterior with the interior,” says Johnson.

Many other features of the building, including its roof and all four external walls, connect to the museum's inherent purpose as a learning center. On the north side, running alongside the cell wall, is an architectural design made of stone that shows shifting tectonic plates and canyon walls eroded by time and water. On the east side is the growing green wall, embedded with real grass and vegetation. The south side of the building is the cell wall, glazed to “maximize daylight and minimize solar gain.” The roof features a garden accessible to visitors and a courtyard pond that also acts a rainwater collection system.

While the new building is certainly a site to see, it isn’t the only thing that brought in over 10,000 visitors on opening day. The museum also boasts a 140-million-year-old, complete skeleton of the dinosaur Mamenchisaurus, roaring interactive dinosaurs, a 4D theater, specimens of animals that can’t be found outside of China (such as the Yangtze Alligator, pandas and giant salamanders), and hands-on ocean life exhibit tanks (a few issues have surfaced with those, however). Johnson says, “I think it is a fantastic natural history museum. One can learn about natural history in a global sense, but it is specifically oriented to China, which can’t be gotten anywhere else. It really is geared to tying Chinese natural history to global ideas of sustainability and the natural environment.”

Imagining an Alarming Future at Brazil's Museum of Tomorrow

Smithsonian Magazine

A new sentry stands guard on Rio de Janeiro's harbor: a white, beamed canopy that rises from the ground and points toward the sky—and the future. The Museum of Tomorrow's intricate architecture moves with the sun, morphing and changing all day long. And inside this innovative building lies something even more dynamic—a futuristic science museum that looks decades ahead and was specifically designed to elicit an emotional response.

This museum for a new generation doesn’t contain any historical artifacts or meditations on how people in the past lived and survived, aside from quick multimedia overviews of how humans came to exist on Earth. What it holds is far more important to the future world: exhibits showing the effects of humans on the planet and what Earth might look like 50 or more years down the road. Each installation incorporates scientist-outlined visions of where the planet is headed in regard to climate change, population size, lifespan, technology, biodiversity and cultural integration—and points to the possibility of a more sustainable future. The museum leads visitors on a journey through five distinct sections. Each attempts to answer a fundamental question: “Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we now? Where are we headed to? And how do we want to get there?”

It’s a complex—and interactive—journey. In Cosmos, visitors lay back to face a movie screen for a short video about Earth’s geology and evolution. In the Earth portion, they investigate three large cubes to learn about where human beings came from. The first contains an installation showing two tangled scarves dancing on wind, meant to represent matter in flux. The next cube revolves around DNA, and the last investigates culture and relationships through 1,200 images.

Then it's time to head into Anthropocene, the centerpiece of the museum. The section focuses on the new Age of Man, modern times in which humans have flourished on—and irreparably impacted—Earth. Visitors stand in the middle of a cluster of 32-foot-high video screens that assault them from every direction with images of destruction. Statistics on how humankind has modified (and often destroyed) Earth flash by along with everything from charts that show how much energy, water and meat are consumed by humans to growing population graphs to images of buildings that spew putrid black smoke into blue skies. From there, suitably horrified guests walk on to the Tomorrows exhibit, where they can play interactive games to learn about different possibilities for the future and how their life choices could affect humanity’s survival.

The development project is not without controversy: It sparked the ire of some Rio residents, who claim that the building has pushed out poor citizens and was an unnecessary expenditure ahead of the 2016 Olympics. However, the museum's architecture has drawn applause for its green design. The cutting-edge structure, which was designed by famed Spanish artist Santiago Calatrava, is reminiscent of whalebones or the shell of a ship on the waterside. Fin-like panels along the building's top move in concert with the sun—an innovation used by Calatrava in one of his earlier creations, the Milwaukee Art Museum. The museum's inner workings are as resource-conscious as its exterior is memorable, paying homage to the materials inside. Its fins are actually solar panels, water is drawn from deep in the bay to use in the air-conditioning system, open air pathways keep fresh air circulating and natural light shines down on the exhibition spaces. The result is a museum that uses 40 percent less energy than traditional structures.

Though the building itself is an optimistic example of how mankind can take advantage of renewable resources, the exhibits within were designed to elicit an emotional, and often troubled, response from visitors.

“We hope people will come out feeling disturbed or inspired but not indifferent,” curator Alberto Oliveira told The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts. “If they feel pessimistic, it’s not because of us; it’s because of reality…This is all based on the best available science.” But the main takeaway lies in the last room, Us. Here, visitors walk through a structure full of lights and sounds that interact with their movements, showing that with every action, the world around them is affected.

Aquarium or terrarium, columns

Smithsonian Gardens
Glass and iron tank aquarium or terrarium. The case has Doric columns at each corner with knob finials and plate glass windows. The knobs are screwed into the tops of the tank. The undulating base ornament paired with the Neoclassical columns is characteristic of the Revival Styles of the nineteenth century, which disregarded acuracy in favor of ornamentation. Originally a simple glass container, these cases evolved to suit the Victorian taste for decoration. They were made in all shapes, sizes, and styles, such as Gothic Revival, Neo-Grec, Rococo Revival, and Rustic. Cases were often finished with gilding or enamel, as suited to the design and budget of home, and could be made to look like miniature buildings such as churches and famous houses. Often placed on their own decorative stand, these cases became status symbols of the fashionable drawing room. The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. Romanticism and interest in the past led to revivals of the styles, ornamentation, and motifs of the past, and throughout the Victorian era there was a rapid succession of confused style revivals competing at the same time. Interest in the unique and novel, rather than accuracy and perfection, led to mixtures from Classical, Baroque, Rococo, Renaissance, and Gothic in eclectic combinations. Rather than copy specific objects, motifs and forms were adapted to suggest the impressions and associations of an idealized version of the past. The Revival styles are not reflective of their times and are inconsistently applied, often resulting in styles attributed by the majority or primary elements.

The major characteristics of the art, architecture, and decorative arts produced in nineteenth century are historicism, eclecticism, and mixing multiple styles together. Romanticism and interest in the past led to revivals of the styles, ornamentation, and motifs of the past, and throughout the Victorian era there was a rapid succession of confused style revivals competing at the same time. Interest in the unique and novel, rather than accuracy and perfection, led to mixtures from Classical, Baroque, Rococo, Renaissance, and Gothic in eclectic combinations. Rather than copy specific objects, motifs and forms were adapted to suggest the impressions and associations of an idealized version of the past. The Revival styles are not reflective of their times and are inconsistently applied, often resulting in styles attributed by the majority or primary elements.

Netherlands Will Welcome Its First Community of 3D-Printed Homes

Smithsonian Magazine

The Netherlands' first functional 3D-printed home will be ready to welcome occupants as early as next year.

According to The Guardian’s Daniel Boffey, the one-story, two-bedroom house is the first and smallest of five 3D-printed concrete homes set for construction in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. The five-year initiative, known as Project Milestone, aims to combat the country’s shortage of skilled bricklayers and revitalize the architectural industry.

Project Milestone emerged as a collaboration between the Eindhoven University of Technology, a global leader in 3D printing, and Dutch construction company Van Wijnen. Real estate manager Vesteda, materials company Saint Gobain-Weber Beamix and engineering firm Witteveen+Bos also contributed to the project.

As ArchDaily’s Niall Patrick Walsh reports, construction will follow a phased approach in order to allow innovations gleaned from building the initial houses to influence the development of later models. The first house will be relatively small, measuring just 1,000 square feet, while the other four will be multi-story buildings. Although the interior and exterior walls of the first home will be printed at the Eindhoven University campus, architects hope to move printing onto the construction site by the end of the project.

The five houses, described in a press release as “erratic blocks in a green landscape,” derive their irregular shape from the advanced capabilities of 3D printing. In addition to producing almost any shape, 3D printing can incorporate various kinds, qualities and colors of concrete in a single element. The precision allowed by the process enables builders to finetune homes in accordance with architects’ or inhabitants’ wishes.

“We like the look of the houses at the moment as this is an innovation and it is a very futuristic design,” Van Wijnen manager Rudy Van Gurp tells Boffey. “But we are already looking to a take a step further and people will be able to design their own homes and then print them out. People will be able to make their homes suit them, personalize them, and make them more aesthetically pleasing.”

Boffey writes that the printing process features what is “essentially a huge robotic arm” squirting out layers of cement. In addition to allowing firms to cut costs and reduce the amount of concrete needed, the technology offers the possibility of creating “smart” homes with wireless sensors placed directly into the buildings’ walls.

This futuristic feature is just one of the ways in which the community’s real estate manager, Vesteda, will fulfill stated goals of meeting the “demands of current-day occupants concerning comfort, lay-out, quality and pricing.” According to Van Gurp, the houses have already generated strong interest amongst potential tenants.

“For the first house we already have 20 candidates,” he tells Boffey, “and that is after only a week of having the images on our website.”

The first 3D-printed home is set for completion by mid-2019. The remaining homes will be developed consecutively over the next five years.

The Preservation Battle of Grand Central

Smithsonian Magazine

"If we don’t care about our past we can’t have very much hope for our future,” Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis intoned at a press conference held at Grand Central Terminal’s famous Oyster Bar in 1975. "We’ve all heard that it's too late, or that it has to happen, that it's inevitable. But I don’t think that's true,” said the New York resident and native. “Because I think if there is a great effort, even if it’s the eleventh hour, then you can succeed and I know that’s what we'll do.”

The former First Lady was there to illuminate the plight of the Beaux Arts railway station that once dazzled New Yorkers and was, upon its opening in 1913, considered one of the city’s greatest wonders. Intended by developers to dwarf the nearby Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal cost nearly $160,000,000 (more than $4,000,000 in today’s dollars) to construct and was a front-page story in the local papers for weeks leading up to opening day. As dependence on rail travel diminished in the mid-20th century, Grand Central’s relevance too was questioned, and in 1963, the top of the station became the base for the tower known as the Pan-Am building, named after the airline headquartered there.

Exterior view of Grand Central Terminal. (New York Transit Museum) Information booth at Grand Central Terminal. (New York Transit Museum) Grand Central Terminal's Scaffolding on Ceiling, 1944. (New York Transit Museum)

In 1975 a plot was hatched to replace the Pan-Am building with an even larger structure designed by famed Modern architect Marcel Breuer, but there was a problem: the sting of Penn Station’s demolition in 1964 was still fresh in the minds of many New Yorkers. In the aftermath of that legendary building’s destruction, Grand Central had been designated a New York City Landmark under a new law that gave the city the power to protect buildings it deemed worthy. When plans for the Breuer addition were presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the response from officials was that the tower was essentially an “aesthetic joke.”

While few doubted the significance of Grand Central, the terminal’s owners took issue with the law itself—how, they wondered, could it constitute anything other than an unreasonable violation of their rights as property owners? Preservationists like Onassis, working with groups like the Municipal Art Society, continued to insist that saving Grand Central and buildings like it wasn’t a mere real estate matter, but an issue of public good. On June 26, 1978, the United States Supreme Court agreed with them in Penn Central Transportation Co. vs. New York City, not just in regards to Grand Central but in the spirit of the Landmarks law itself, with Justice William Brennan writing that to rule in favor of the building’s owners would “invalidate not just New You City’s law, but all comparable landmark legislation elsewhere in the nation.”

Grand Central Air Rights Building, proposal drawing without facade - version 1, 1969 (unidentified photographer. Marcel Breuer papers, 1920-1986. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

Forty years after the decision, Grand Central is still a jewel of Manhattan architecture and a vibrant destination in its own right. Nearly 750,000 travelers pass through the building each day, and a series of more recent renovations have strived to keep the space usable while maintaining the grandeur and light so key to the original design that so enchanted the public.

For preservationists, the story of Grand Central is one of triumph, and the challenges of holding onto historic structures in ever-changing cities ultimately haven’t changed much. “Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud moments, until there is nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children,” wondered Onassis in a 1975 letter to then-Mayor Abraham Beame, an attempt to galvanize the mayor into challenging the new Grand Central plan? “If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?”

Bouquet holder, mesh with mother of pearl handle

Smithsonian Gardens
Gilded brass bouquet holder with mother of pearl handle. The four-sided vase is stamped with a pierced screen of small flowers connected by linear elements. Bars across the top of the screen form the lip and meet at are architectural ornaments at the corners. The bottom corners are covered by curved fleur-dis-lis stamped with floral motifs and a large sphere is center between each below the screen. Near the top of the vase are two holes opposite one another for the floral pin. The looped end of the pin attaches to length of round link chain connected to the bottom of the vase. The pin would be inserted through the vase to pierce the stems of a bouquet in order to secure the flowers inside the holder. The neck, which connects the vase to the handle, is formed from multiple parts with an ornate openwork ring over-hanging a baluster on top of a band stamped with floral decoration on a background of vertical lines. The spindle handle is made from turned mother of pearl. Mother of pearl handles retained a cool feeling longer than some other materials; because of this, they were said to be appropriate for warmer months. Near the bottom, a band encircles the handle and connects a flat figure-8 ladder chain ending in finger ring with a stamped exterior. The ring would allow the bouquet holder to be worn from the finger or on a chatelaine at the waist to free the lady's hands while dancing.

Architect Annabelle Selldorf Will Design New Interpretation Center for China’s Forbidden City

Smithsonian Magazine

Come 2020, visitors to Beijing’s Forbidden City will be able to access the lavish two-acre Qianlong Garden complex for the first time in the site’s nearly 250-year history.

Tourists won’t have free range of the garden’s four courtyards and 27 pavilions, but as Gabe Cohn reports for The New York Times, a planned interpretation center set to be built by New York City-based architect Annabelle Selldorf and her firm, Selldorf Architects, will offer a portal into the palatial 18th-century compound, providing insights while simultaneously protecting the historical structures.

“It was … always [going to] be very limited access, just because of the sizes of the space and the fragility of the buildings and their contents,” Lisa Ackerman, interim chief executive officer of the World Monuments Fund (WMF)—which is co-sponsoring conservation alongside China’s Palace Museum—tells Cohn. “The idea of the visitor center was to find a way to give a lot of information to people who might only get to be in that first courtyard.”

According to a WMF press release, Selldorf is one of the only Americans ever chosen to spearhead an architectural project in China’s Forbidden City. Currently, her plan is to center the interpretation building within three halls surrounding an open pavilion. The west hall will feature exhibitions documenting the history of the garden, while the east hall will detail contemporary conservation efforts. The main hall, opening up into a panoramic view of courtyard rock gardens, will serve as a contemplative space.

Overall, Ackerman explains to Cohn, the center will be decidedly low-tech in an effort to mirror the tranquility of the site itself.

This interior theatre, pictured prior to conservation, was restored in 2016. (World Monuments Fund)

The Qianlong Garden was built between 1771 and 1776 as a retirement home for the Qing Dynasty’s fourth ruler, Emperor Qianlong. Designed to serve as a “mini-Forbidden City within the Forbidden City,” according to a WMF overview of the restoration, the complex is renowned for its harmonized rock gardens and intricate interiors, which are dotted with such details as bamboo marquetry and white jade cartouches. Trompe l’oeil silk murals found in these interior spaces reflect the influence of Western visitors, drawing on European artistic techniques including aerial perspective and chiaroscuro, or the emphasis of contrasts between light and dark.

Unusually, the garden remained largely untouched during the centuries following its creation—a fact that can be attributed partly to an imperial edict Qianlong issued in hopes of preserving the site for future generations.

When China’s last emperor, Puyi, left the Forbidden City in 1924, the garden was officially abandoned, ensuring its appearance was left unchanged but, at the same time, subjecting the site to what WMF describes as “a form of benign neglect.”

The new interpretation center represents the last phase of WMF and the Palace Museum’s conservation initiatives: As the press release notes, the two groups first began collaborating on the project in 2004. Four years later, Juanqinzhai, or the Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service, was restored to its former glory, complete with an array of trompe l’oeil paintings, jade inlays and sophisticated textile decorations. Then, in 2016, three structures in the garden’s fourth courtyard—Fuwangge (Belvedere of Viewing Achievements), Zhuxiangguan (Lodge of Bamboo Fragrance) and Yucuixuan (Bower of Purest Jade)—were also successfully conserved.

Restoration of interior and exterior buildings in the first, second and third courtyards, as well as construction of Selldorf's visitor center, will be completed by 2020, the 600th anniversary of the Forbidden City’s founding.

The Future of 3D-Printed Pills

Smithsonian Magazine

These days, 3D printing seems poised to take over the world. You can 3D print prosthetic limbs, guns, cars, even houses. This month, another 3D printed product has hit the market, this one with potentially much wider reach: 3D printed pills. 

The first 3D printed pill, an anti-epilepsy drug called Spritam, was recently approved by the FDA. Created by Ohio-based Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, Spritam is made with Aprecia's proprietary 3D printing technology, ZipDose. ZipDose creates pills that instantly dissolve on the tongue with a sip of liquid, a potential boon to those who have trouble swallowing traditional medications. 

“We intend to use this technology to change the way people are experiencing medicine,” says Don Wetherhold, the CEO of Aprecia.

The technology behind ZipDose was first developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where researchers began working on 3D printing in the late 1980s. They first printed pills in 1997. Though those pills were early and experimental, they set the stage for years of more research. Aprecia bought out the pill-printing technology in the early 2000s.

The ZipDose printer is about 6 feet by 12 feet. Using a small nozzle, it lays down a thin disc-shaped layer of powder. The printer then deposits tiny droplets of liquid on the powder, to bind it together at a microscopic level. These two steps are repeated until the pill reaches its proper height. The final product looks more or less like any regular pill, just slightly taller and with a rougher exterior. While most medications use inert filler material to create the body of the tablet, ZipDose technology allows the active ingredients to be squeezed into a smaller space. So one small pill can have a relatively high dose of medication, meaning patients have to take far fewer tablets.


Dissolving instantly is particularly important for a drug like Spritam, which curtails seizures. A patient in the throes of a seizure episode can’t sit down with a pill and a full glass of water. ZipDose-created pills could also be useful for children, who traditionally have difficulty swallowing tablets, as well as the elderly and those with neurological issues or dementia. 

Aprecia plans to develop more 3D-printed medications—“an additional product per year, at least,” Wetherhold says. They may partner with other drug companies and manufacture those companies' drugs on the ZipDose platform. Aprecia will also be looking into using the technology for purposes other than prescription pharmaceuticals, Wetherhold says, such as over-the-counter medicines or nutritional supplements.

Medication-printing technologies could revolutionize the pharmaceuticals industry, making drug research, development and production considerably cheaper. This could make it more cost-effective for pharmaceutical companies to study drugs for rare diseases and ultimately make the product itself more affordable, though these savings are likely years away. No price has been set for Spritam yet, but officials at Aprecia say it will be in line with other anti-seizure meds on the market. 

In the future, it may even be possible to print pills at home. For some, this idea is thrilling. AIDS patients in Sub-Saharan Africa could print their own antiretroviral drugs for low prices. People in the developing world could stop worrying about fake or low-quality drugs flooding the market. Getting here would, of course, take many steps and likely many years. A personal-sized printer would need to be invented and made affordable. Inventors would need to figure out how to supply the printers with their raw ingredients. Some researchers envision patients going to a doctor or pharmacist and being handed an algorithm rather than a prescription. They'd plug the algorithm into their printer and—boom—personalized medicine. 

Lee Cronin, a Glasgow University chemist, has been an evangelist for the idea of democratizing medication with personal “chemputers” capable of producing any number of drugs.

"Imagine your printer like a refrigerator that is full of all the ingredients you might require to make any dish in Jamie Oliver's new book," Cronin told The Guardian in 2012. "If you apply that idea to making drugs, you have all your ingredients and you follow a recipe that a drug company gives you.”

Others wonder whether 3D printing technology will be a boon for drug dealers and drug addicts. If you can print a seizure drug, why not ecstasy or methamphetamines? This is all speculative at the moment, but it could easily become a reality once personal-sized printers hit the market.

But long before we see either home "chemputers" or 3D-printed illicit drugs, we’re likely to see a whole lot more lab-made, easy-to-swallow medicines. 

Sydney's Spectacular Technicolor Art Festival in Nine Mesmerizing GIFs

Smithsonian Magazine

On May 23, Australia's most populous city flipped the switch on Vivid Sydney, an interactive light show that will illuminate buildings and landmarks throughout Sydney through June 9. The annual festival, now in its sixth year, combines lighted installations with musical performances and symposiums on innovation and is expected to draw around one million visitors.

Perhaps the most recognizable of Sydney's landmarks, the Sydney Opera House has been transformed by Vivid Sydney and 59 Productions, the company that helped conceptualize and produce the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony. For the Opera House's iconic sails, 59 Productions created a projection that takes the iconic building "on a dramatic journey through time – from the birth of architecture and civilization through to the pinnacle of human and technological achievement."

Over at Sydney's Darling Harbour, the French company Aquatique Show International has combined technological spectacle with artistic elegance to create Vivid Aquatique, a laser and water show. Inspired by Louis XIV’s elaborate 'Water Garden' at Versailles, Vivid Aquatique utilizes four giant screens created by water droplets, large-format video projections, colored lasers and, in some cases, fireworks.

The 2014 festival marks the first time that Martin Place, a pedestrian area in the middle of city's central business district, features prominently in Vivid Sydney. With a visit to Martin Place, spectators can see the MLC Center, one of architect Harry Seidler's most iconic works, transformed into a tree.

Also in Martin Place, visitors can experience e|MERGEnce, which serves as another blend of innovation and art. Visitors can have their face mapped by a webcam, then see their likeness projected in real-time onto a 5-foot tall sculpture of a head. The work's creators say the piece "plays on themes of scale, personality and realism" and invites visitors to become part of the art.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art, light installations transform the exterior of the building into an abstract work worthy of a spot in the museum's halls. Inspired by artist Jess Johnson, expect to see things such as light-projected snakes slither their way across the building's art deco facade. The 3-D projection appears to be continuously reassembling the building's structure.

Near the Museum of Contemporary Art is one of Vivid Sydney's most beautiful treasures: The Pool, created by American sculptor Jen Lewin. The piece fuses technology, art and human interaction, becoming a different piece of art based on an individual's movements—each person that steps on a pad causes that pad to light up and radiate out in ripples, commingling with ripples generated by other people, to create a fluid, dynamic piece of art. The piece has traveled far and wide, spending time in Scottsdale, Arizona, before coming to Sydney.

To really become a part of the art, visitors can check out "Play Me" at Customs House, a historic Sydney landmark built in 1844 that served as the headquarters of the Customs Service until 1990. During Vivid Sydney, the building is transformed into a lit-up 3-D "musical sculpture" that visitors "play" by moving around a platform, while abstract representations of their "instruments" dance on the building's facade.

Vivid Sydney is free and open to the public. Tickets to musical performances and idea forums can be purchased online.

Editor's Note, May 28, 2014: This story erroneously referred to Sydney as Australia's capital city; it is Canberra. The story has been edited accordingly.

Fall Weekend in the Hudson Valley

Smithsonian Magazine

The height of fall color is one of the best times to visit the Hudson Valley. But if you can’t make it when the foliage is at its peak, the region still has more than enough natural and cultural treasures to offer to fill a three-day weekend.

The trip begins and ends in New York City and follows mainly smaller, scenic roads north about 130 miles on the east side of the Hudson River. (See sidebar for driving directions and for Web sites listing accommodations, restaurants and other information.)

Day 1

Dutchess County, Beacon, NY. Dia:Beacon.

The Dia:Beacon museum, inaugurated in 2003, features the Dia Foundation’s renowned art collection from the 1960s and ’70s. The spectacular 300,000-square-foot glass, steel and concrete building, on 31 acres on the Hudson, was donated by International Paper —and is a great example of early 20th-century industrial architecture. Among the 24 artists whose works are on permanent display here are Joseph Beuys, Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol and Robert Irwin. Allow at least two hours to see this exquisite space.


The Hudson Valley abounds in historic estates. Springwood in Hyde Park, the birthplace and home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, is one. Tour the large yet modest Colonial Revival-style home. Afterward, take in the Hudson on a stroll through the grounds, a 300-acre arborist’s dream.

Village of Rhinebeck

The charming town of Rhinebeck boasts the oldest hotel in America, the Beekman Arms, operating since 1766, as well as some of the best antiquing around—note the Rhinebeck Antiques Fair on Columbus Day Weekend. The village was founded in the late 17th century and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Day 2

Poets’ Walk Park, in Red Hook

The 120-acre park, designed by landscape architect Jacob Ehlers in 1849, is an ideal place for a picnic brunch. With its magnificent views of the Hudson, and its open fields and forests, the park is a favorite of landscape artists. The place takes its name from the 19th-century writers, Washington Irving among them, who strolled its paths.

Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson

The Center for the Performing Arts, designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, is a must-see attraction as one of the few Gehry buildings in the Northeast. Circle the dynamic structure, whose undulating, brushed stainless-steel cladding shimmers as it reflects the landscape.


On a high bluff overlooking the Hudson in Columbia County is Olana, the Persian-style estate of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900). Church constructed the grounds of his 250 acre estate as if he were composing one of his landscape paintings, often incorporating the lush background of the Hudson and the distant Catskill Mountains into his picturesque views. Though the house is closed during 2006, the grounds are definitely worth a visit. The half-hour guided landscape tour shows off the exterior of the house and highlights the views of and from the estate as Church planned.


A wealthy whaling community in the 18th century, later an industrial town, Hudson fell on hard times in the late 1800s. But in the past 25 years, the town has seen a tremendous economic and cultural revival. Today Hudson is a major antiques center, boasting more than 70 shops. For the best antiquing, visit Warren Street, part of the city’s historic district. The street is also home to a growing number of galleries, bars and restaurants, and the Hudson Opera House, now a cultural and community center.

Day 3

Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham

Just 35 minutes northeast of Hudson is the Shaker Museum. Here one can learn about Shaker life and culture and view a fine collection of Shaker furniture, oval boxes, textiles, craft machinery, art, tools and agricultural machinery.

Old Chatham Sheepherding Company

A little farther beyond the Shaker Museum is the largest sheep dairy farm in the United States, with more than 1,000 ewes and rams and an original Shaker barn. The farm makes some of the country’s finest sheep’s-milk yogurt and cheeses, all produced in small, handcrafted batches.

This idyllic site is the last stop on your trip, which is just an introduction to the region. Make sure to take some of the local farm goods home so the tastes of the Hudson Valley can linger for a while.

Page 15, Design for Facade and Pool, Semiramis Hotel, Athens, Greece from Sketchbook with Designs for Semiramis Hotel and Other Objects

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Sketchbook page bifurcated with a drawing of the exterior of the Semiramis Hotel in Athens, Greece as viewed from above left on upper portion of page and the pool area with details of the facade, roof, and architectural ornament on lower half of the page.

Mardi Gras, Po-Boys and Streetcar Strikes

Smithsonian Magazine

My first trip to New Orleans was in July 1984, the summer it hosted the World's Fair. I was 13 and had gone to visit my best friend, Jenny, a New Orleans native who had moved back there from California a few months earlier. I remember pulling up to her family's home, half of a double-barrel shotgun house with a front porch, so different from the ranch- and Spanish-style architecture in Los Angeles. The air outside was like someone had taken the lid off a boiling pot of crawfish. Frogs, most of them squashed, littered the gravelly road. Although we were in the middle of the city, the only noise I recall was shrill cicadas.

Everything about the city was exciting and foreign to me, most of all the food. I had eaten shrimp before, but never the way Jenny's mom served it: heaped in a steaming bowl, beady-eyed, insect-like heads and all. My friend also introduced me to the city's less intimidating specialties: beignets at Café du Monde, chocolate snowballs topped with sweetened condensed milk, red beans and rice, gumbo, muffulettas. Other American cities consider themselves culinary capitals, but I doubt even New York City can boast as extensive or as accomplished a repertoire of distinctive dishes as New Orleans.

In a city that knows how to eat well any day of the year, you would think there would be more foods specifically associated with its biggest annual celebration, Mardi Gras—which means Fat Tuesday in French, after all. But the only Mardi Gras–specific must-eat is king cake, a sweet yeast bread frosted with colored sugar and containing a plastic baby surprise. We wrote about that last year, so this year I thought I'd talk about another of the Crescent City's culinary contributions, the po-boy sandwich, which has a history with some parallels to current events.

A po-boy is, in the most basic sense, the New Orleans version of a sub. It has a few distinguishing features, though. First of all, a proper po-boy comes on freshly baked Italian French bread with a crusty exterior and soft interior. As with most things in New Orleans, almost anything goes when it comes to fillings. They go way beyond cold cuts, and none of them are on Jared's, or anyone else's, weight-loss plan: roast beef with gravy, ham and cheese, fried shrimp, fried oysters, fried crawfish, fried catfish. I discovered what is probably the most unusual option during a later visit, after I had become a vegetarian—unfortunately, I learned, even a french-fry po-boy is smothered in meaty gravy.

According to the website for The Po-Boy Preservation Festival, which takes place each fall, the sandwich originated during the Great Depression. A pair of former streetcar conductors and members of the transit workers' union, Bennie and Clovis Martin, opened Martin Brothers Coffee Stand and Restaurant in the French Market in 1922. Their former union brethren went on strike in 1929 after contract negotiations broke down. The brothers expressed their support in a letter, writing, "Our meal is free to any members of Division 194... We are with you till h--l freezes, and when it does, we will furnish blankets to keep you warm."

They kept their promise, handing out hundreds of sandwiches to hungry strikers. Whenever they saw another union worker approaching the stand, someone would say, "Here comes another poor boy." The sandwich became so associated with those "po' boys" (as it's pronounced with a New Orleans accent—and an oyster poor boy is an "erster po-boy") that it took the name itself.

The strike turned ugly—the company brought in strike breakers from New York to run the cars, prompting a violent uprising. One group set a streetcar on fire. The strikers had broad public support, and few people dared ride the streetcars until the dispute was settled, months later. By then, the po-boy's place in culinary history was cemented.

I tried to ask Jenny (we're still good friends, more than 25 years later) for a local's thoughts on the po-boy, but it turns out the day before Mardi Gras is not an easy time to reach a New Orleanian. Happy Mardi Gras, y'all!

A Toothpaste Tube That Gets Every Last Bit Out

Smithsonian Magazine

We've all been there: The dreaded end of the toothpaste tube. Whether you've tried squeezing and flattening the container into a pulp—or spent far too long devising other methods to get every penny's worth—it doesn't take long to realize that what consumers are stuck with is a slightly less-than-perfect mechanism for delivering that last stubborn bit of toothpaste.

It's one of those universal predicaments people have just come to live with, mostly because the aluminum-based bottles work (for the most part) well enough. That's also likely why toothpaste containers haven't changed since early innovators Johnson & Johnson debuted their breakthrough collapsible tube design way back in 1898.

But Nicole Pannuzzo, a student at Arizona State University, started thinking a bit harder about this tiny flaw, and figured she could do the old toothpaste tube one better.

"Toothpaste is one product that is so classic, everybody uses, and that everyone has a small annoyance with," she says. "I thought it would be an interesting project to take on."

The third-year interior architecture major isn't the first to take a stab at a solution. A quick search on Google yields a compendium of wacky do-it-yourself workarounds, ranging from simply pressing the tube against the edge of the counter to cutting it up and scaping out the remains.

But her "Colgate Redesign" project, which began as a class assignment, goes after the design of the tube itself.

Pannuzzo says she felt the most practical approach to solving the problem was applying the principles of origami, the ancient art of Japanese art paper folding. Though long synonymous with paper cranes and other toy craftwork, the foldaway method has also been used by designers and engineers to improve the way existing technologies like airbags and space telescopes operate. The idea is that by strategically mapping out the way a foldable object collapses, developers can make objects more compact and reduce waste. 

Pannuzzo tested out multiple designs before settling on this prototype. (Nicole Pannuzzo)

Pannuzzo experimented with about 100 prototypes of varying shapes and sizes before settling on a freestanding hexagonal-shaped cylinder that folds down easily like an accordion as toothpaste is squeezed out. Modeled after the BUILT origami wine tote, the tube's flat bottom allows the product to stay balanced as it gradually collapses down to a compact sheet. She also revamped the Colgate logo to give the exterior branding a distinct new look.

With Pannuzzo's design, a consumer would continue to press down on the tube until it collapsed completely—helping squeeze every last bit of toothpaste out. (Nicole Pannuzzo)

Pannuzzo, who previously had no experience with origami, says she has yet to put her invention through rigorous field testing (which also begs the question,  how do you get toothpaste into the tube, anyway?). But she is already thinking of ways it can be improved.

"I saw this project as an act of experimentation because you never know unless you try," she addsed. "In no way do I see this as the best possible design solution, however it did open new possibilities to product design."

What's encouraging, though, is that word of Pannuzzo's has since made its way to Colgate and some of the company's higher-ups for consideration. It's not clear whether the brand will actually act on the product, but regardless, Pannuzzo says she's grateful for the all the attention her idea has received.

In the meantime, life hackers everywhere have little choice other than to continue weighing the costs versus the benefits in deciding when to hold on to those pesky convential tubes—and when to fold them away for good. 

Meissen bowl

National Museum of American History
TITLE: Meissen rinsing bowl

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: D. 6⅜" 16.8cm

OBJECT NAME: Rinsing bowl

PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany



Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 1979.0120.04



(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “N=507/W” engraved (Johanneum mark); “B.r.” in overglaze purple (painter’s mark).

PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.

This rinsing bowl is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of Meissen Porcelain. Dr. Syz (1894-1991) began his collection in the early years of World War II, when he purchased eighteenth-century Meissen table wares from the Art Exchange run by the New York dealer Adolf Beckhardt (1889-1962). Dr. Syz, a Swiss immigrant to the United States, collected Meissen porcelain while engaged in a professional career in psychiatry and the research of human behavior. He believed that cultural artifacts have an important role to play in enhancing our awareness and understanding of human creativity and its communication among peoples. His collection grew to represent this conviction.

The invention of Meissen porcelain, declared over three hundred years ago early in 1709, was a collective achievement that represents an early modern precursor to industrial chemistry and materials science. The porcelains we see in our museum collections, made in the small town of Meissen in the German States, were the result of an intense period of empirical research. Generally associated with artistic achievement of a high order, Meissen porcelain was also a technological achievement in the development of inorganic, non-metallic materials.

The rinsing bowl has rocks and chrysanthemums painted on the exterior in onglaze enamel in the Japanese Kakiemon style. Painted inside the center of the bowl is a bird in flight with fine double red lines encircling the interior of the rim. Although highly stylized the rocks and flowers refer to garden traditions in Japan of the Edo period (1615-1868), when rocks of curious shape were valued as part of the garden landscape for both spiritual and aesthetic reasons.

Kakiemon is the name given to very white (nigoshida meaning milky-white) finely potted Japanese porcelain made in the Nangawara Valley near the town of Arita in the North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on Deshima (or Dejima) in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants through the island of Deshima, and the Chinese resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen). Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.

Rinsing bowls also known as slop or waste bowls, functioned as receptacles for tea or coffee dregs, and for rinsing water used to cleanse a tea bowl or coffee cup before refilling. In the eighteenth century tea, coffee, and chocolate was served in the private apartments of aristocratic women, usually in the company of other women, but also with male admirers and intimates present. In affluent middle-class households tea and coffee drinking was often the occasion for an informal family gathering. Coffee houses were exclusively male establishments and operated as gathering places for a variety of purposes in the interests of commerce, politics, culture, and social pleasure.

On the significance of rocks in Chinese gardens see Keswick, M., 1978, The Chinese Garden: History, Art, and Architecture, pp. 169-178; Kuitert, W., 2002, Themes in the History of Japanese Garden Art, p. xiv.

On the Japanese Kakiemon style see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750; see also Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection.

On the rocks and chrysanthemums pattern see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 208-220.

Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 174-175.

The African American History and Culture Museum Wins Gold for Going Green

Smithsonian Magazine

Ever since its grand opening in September of 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has stood as a gleaming bulwark of a vital part of America’s national story. No mere receptacle for artifacts, the building itself teems with historical resonances. Its bronze-hued corona echoes traditional Nigerian designs, the transparent walls of its entry level set it in conversation with the nearby Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, and the wending ramp of its lower floors reflects the unsteady path of progress throughout history.

With all these allusions to pick apart, it can be easy to miss another striking element of the museum: its emphasis on eco-friendliness. Subtly and in many cases quite cleverly, the design of the museum avoids resource waste without diminishing the visitor experience or imperiling its artifacts. Making an environmentally conscious building required commitment from the outset, and now that commitment has paid off: on April 16, the African American History Museum was officially awarded a Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. In the architecture business, this type of recognition is tantamount to an eco-Oscar.

There are four rankings LEED awards green buildings via a rigorous scoring system: basic certification, Silver, Gold and Platinum. For smaller buildings, reaching higher levels of self-sufficiency isn’t terribly hard, but for a hulking museum like NMAAHC, attaining Gold status constitutes a real achievement.

Phil Freelon, the museum’s lead architect, knew a thing or two about green design going in: prior to the project, he had been responsible for a pair of Gold-certified libraries in the D.C. neighborhoods of Anacostia and Tenleytown. But NMAAHC presented fresh hurdles. “In a museum,” he says, “you have environmental standards that have to be met for humidity standards and temperature because of artifacts and organic material that could degrade if you’re not controlling humidity and temperature precisely.” Even after hours, preserving the artifacts is of paramount importance—and preserving artifacts takes energy.

In the early stages of the design process, Smithsonian funding for eco-friendly features in NMAAHC was uncertain. A broad Smithsonian directive expressing a desire for green development had been issued toward the end of 2006, but those working on the NMAAHC concept in the months immediately following could not be sure of exactly how much financial leeway they would receive. So they got crafty.

One of the leading advocates of this directive was Brenda Sanchez, an accomplished architect who had signed on with the Institution in 2004. Like Freelon, she was committed from the start to incorporating sustainable building practices into the Smithsonian’s mission. She blueprinted her first sustainable house in 1991, before LEED was even founded, and she had learned quite a bit over the years about designing responsibly on a tight budget.

At the heart of Sanchez’s (and Freelon’s) approach to the museum was the principle of “passive design,” i.e. the art of minimizing a building’s environmental footprint without going out of one’s way to install any high-tech (and costly) add-ons.

Passive design began with NMAAHC’s compact, boxy shape. “If it’s a compact building form,” says Sanchez, “there is less use of energy for both heating and cooling.” The fact that most of the museum is subterranean also plays a vital role. “We have a limitation in this city that you can only go so high, but we used that to our advantage,” she says. “We have 60 percent of the building below ground, so we have the whole grounds acting as an insulator for the history galleries that are below.”

Once the museum designers got the go-ahead to implement active eco-friendly design features, rooftop solar cells were an obvious choice. (Martin Stupich)

To keep exhibits above ground safe from damaging sun, Sanchez and Freelon implemented a nested layout. “The building was designed as a matryoshka doll,” Sanchez says, “a box within a box within a box.” Sensitive exhibits were kept to the heart of the museum, dually shielded by the majestic exterior corona and a layer of glass beneath.

Freelon explains that the corona’s opacity is deliberately inconsistent, allowing sunlight to enter where it’s welcome and blocking it where it’s not. “Some of the panels are letting in more light, others less,” he says. “Those were intentionally placed to shade certain areas or let more light in in others.”

One of the shrewdest techniques Sanchez and Freelon employed to regulate the museum’s exposure to sunlight centered on the deciduous trees along its western flank. “In the summer, those trees shelter the building from the sun’s rays,” says Sanchez. “But in winter, because they’re deciduous, they have no leaves, so then they allow the sun to come in and warm the spaces.”

Once the museum designers had done as much as they possibly could for sustainability within their original budgetary constraints, the Smithsonian awarded them additional funds to go all-out and incorporate active features to supplement the passive design work they had already done.

One active feature Freelon is quick to call attention to is the battery of solar cells up on the roof of the museum. “That’s a flat roof,” he says, “and upon that roof you have an array of photovoltaic panels, which gather sunlight and convert it directly into electricity.”

Incoming sunlight is manipulated in other ways too. Freelon points out the presence of north-facing light monitors, which capture the pleasant, diffuse sunlight coming from that direction and redirect the natural light to portions of the museum that need it. “In the administrative offices,” Freelon says, “you don’t have to be right next to a window to have natural light come in.”

The museum is equally remarkable for its water management as for its handling of light. Owing to its site, the museum has ample groundwater to work with, and it receives appreciable rainfall as well. Sanchez and Freelon have exploited this water to the fullest with an underground dual-cistern system.

“In one cistern, we filter the water,” Sanchez says, “and then that water gets reused elsewhere in the building.” Annually, she estimates the museum is saving 8 million gallons of water thanks to this recycling. Some of that goes toward mundane operations like flushing toilets (“Eighteen gallons a day just for that!”), while much of it helps with irrigation on museum grounds, keeping the museum’s lawns, trees and shrubberies in fine form.

Brenda Sanchez notes that the "porch" of the museum, in addition to serving a symbolic purpose, creates a cool and inviting microclimate for visitors. (Alan Karchmer)

The other cistern absorbs water from the earth once it’s saturated in a storm, then gradually releases that water back into the soil afterwards to ensure plants in the area aren’t missing out on any. Often, this vault will accumulate significant excess water, which the museum routes into municipal pipelines. Sanchez says NMAAHC’s system is saving Washington, D.C. roughly a million gallons of water a year. (It’s not for nothing that LEED awarded the museum a perfect score in its water category.)

There are many other technological marvels built into NMAAHC that one could single out—not the least of them is a state-of-the-art, ultra-high-efficiency HVAC system. But what Sanchez and Freelon seem to agree is the signature sustainable feature of the museum is actually one of its simplest, a holdover from the earliest days of passive design creativity. Both designers have a special fondness for the overhung entrance of the museum, affectionately termed “the porch.”

In addition to shielding the transparent entry level of the museum from the sun’s rays, the porch interacts with the museum’s slender oblong fountain to create a welcoming oasis for visitors just outside the front doors. “When the south breezes come through the water,” Sanchez says, “it cools the water, goes underneath the porch, and creates a microclimate. It can be up to ten degrees cooler there than anywhere else on the site.”

What the designers find so compelling about the porch is that it explicitly unites the environmentalism of the museum with the subject matter of African-American history. “We have a porch because, philosophically, the museum wanted to have a porch to serve as a beginning, an entrance, a welcoming to the people,” says Sanchez. In the South, you have a porch so that you can have the shelter and receive people and be welcoming.”

For Freelon, the porch brings out the larger connection of the mission of sustainability to the African-American experience. “In the African-American culture, we’re used to making something out of nothing and doing more with less,” he says, “whether it’s the food we eat or the materials we use in construction. So this building is expressive of that.”

Freelon, Sanchez and all others involved in the design of NMAAHC view their LEED Gold certification as a hard-won badge of honor. Freelon believes sustainability is the new norm in architecture, and that many more innovative buildings like the African American History and Culture Museum are near on the horizon.

“Virtually everyone in my profession is attuned to this issue,” he says, “and we’re doing all that we can as an industry to safeguard the environment and design buildings that are responsive and do not degrade.”

These Stunning, Less-Visited Castles in Europe Are Straight Out of a Fairy Tale

Smithsonian Magazine

The castles dotting the European landscape are each worthy of their very own fairytale. These magnificent structures have survived wars, fires, dozens of generations and stood the test of time.

From the Greek Islands to the rocky cliffs of Scotland, each castle brings with it hundreds of years of human history, and perhaps a ghost story or two. And while most are built with brick and stone, their individual stories are all unique and intriguing for visitors from the world over to enjoy.

Step back in time by visiting any one of these romantic homes to feel like a royal, even just for a day. Here are 10 lesser-known castles scattered throughout Europe that belong on every traveler’s itinerary.

The Palace of Pena, Sintra, Portugal

Image by Romain Moisescot via Flickr. Palace of Pena (original image)

Image by Mark Fischer via Flickr. The Palace of Pena near Sintra, Portugal (original image)

Image by Weekend Wayfarers. The architecture is mixture of eclectic styles that includes Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic and Neo-Renaissance. (original image)

Image by Romain Moisescot via Flickr. Palace of Pena (original image)

Image by Romain Moisescot via Flickr. Palace of Pena (original image)

Image by Guillén Pérez via Flickr. View of the inside courtyard of Pena Palace, in Sintra, with the clock tower standing out with its intense red. (original image)

The colorful castle sits high in the hills above the town of Sintra, Portugal. Built in 1854, the castle is still often used by the President of the Portuguese Republic and other government officials. The castle is also surrounded by a vast forest with plants from around the world, just the way King Ferdinand II wanted it.

The Alcazar, Segovia, Spain

Image by vichie81 / iStock. Alcazar Castle (original image)

Image by sedmak / iStock. Alcazar Castle (original image)

Image by Andres Garcia Martin / iStock. One of the outer fountains in the Alcazar of Seville, a royal palace developed by Moorish Muslim Kings (original image)

Image by Photitos2016 / iStock. Alcazar Castle (original image)

Image by Alphotographic / iStock. Crest on the exterior wall of Alcazar Castle (original image)

The Alcázar of Segovia, located 53 miles northwest of Madrid, was originally built as a fortress on a hillside between two rivers, but also served as a royal palace, a state prison, and a military academy. Though the true age of the castle is unknown, the earliest documentation of the Alcázar dates back to the early 12th century. Visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the “Tower of Juan,” where they can take in breathtaking views of the community below.

Castle of Astypalaia, ChoraGreece

Image by Henrik Berger Jørgensen via Flickr. Astypalea (original image)

Image by Poike / iStock. Astypalaia (original image)

Image by Freeartist / iStock. Astypalea (original image)

The Venetian Castle of Querini in Chora, Greece sits atop the entire community, with its black stone exterior starkly contrasting to the traditionally whitewashed Greek town. The castle, originally constructed by John Querini in 1204 as a shelter against pirates, now invites travellers the world over to come and spend a little time. All you need to do is hike to the top of the mini-mountain it calls home first.

Hohenwerfen Castle, Werfen, Austria

Image by Rolphus / iStock. Castle Hohenwerfen (original image)

Image by fotofritz16 / iStock. Hohenwerfen Castle (original image)

Image by DaveLongMedia / iStock. Castle Hohenwerfen (original image)

Image by DaveLongMedia / iStock. Hohenwerfen Castle standing high above the Austrian town of Werfen in the Salzach valley, and surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennengebirge mountain range. The castle dates back to the year 1075 and each year attracts thousands of visitors from all around the world. (original image)

Image by anderm / iStock. Hohenwerfen Castle (original image)

Hohenwerfen Castle in Austria is a stunning structure dating back more than 900 years. The castle will leave many visitors breathless, literally, as it sits more than 2,000 feet above sea level. The fortress is now a museum and offers daily guided tours of its extensive weapons collection, as well as the historical Salzburg Falconry, which has daily flight demonstrations using various birds of prey.

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland

Image by Dougall_Photography / iStock. Dunnottar Castle, a ruined medival fortification located near Stonehaven, Scotland (original image)

Image by Salvatore Conte / iStock. Dunnottar Castle In Aberdeen, Scotland (original image)

Image by GoranQ / iStock. Dunnottar Castle (original image)

Image by Jule_Berlin / iStock. Dunnottar Castle (original image)

Image by Salvatore Conte / iStock. Dunnottar Castle (original image)

The clifftop fortress known as Dunnottar Castle is believed to have been first built in Scotland in the Early Middle Ages. Steeped in history, the castle’s remains still include its 14th-century tower house as well as its 16th-century palace and was once home to the Earls Marischal, one of the most powerful families in Scottish history. The castle offers daily tours, though it does operate on a seasonal schedule and closes for inclement weather.

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht, Netherlands

Image by Lingbeek / iStock. Kasteel de Haar (original image)

Image by Lya_Cattel / iStock. Kasteel de Haar (original image)

Image by VLIET / iStock. Main entrance of Kasteel de Haar (original image)

Image by TasfotoNL / iStock. Kasteel de Haar (original image)

Image by VLIET / iStock. Kasteel de Haar (original image)

Though Kasteel de Haar’s foundation dates back to 1391, the site was fully rebuilt in 1892 and now displays all the grandeur of the early 20th century. The interior of the castle is filled with ornate wood carvings, plush furniture, and old porcelain from Japan and China. The castle’s owners, the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family, continue to reside in the home for one month each year, as they have done for over a century.

Castel del Monte, L'Aquila, Italy

Image by bluejayphoto / iStock. Castel del Monte (original image)

Image by bluejayphoto / iStock. Castel del Monte (original image)

Image by bluejayphoto / iStock. Castel del Monte (original image)

Image by venemama / iStock. Castel Del Monte (original image)

Image by milla1974 / iStock. Castel del Monte of Andria (original image)

Image by bluejayphoto / iStock. Castel del Monte (original image)

Castel del Monte in Puglia, Italy may look familiar and with good reason: The castle is featured on the backside of the Italian 1 Euro Cent piece. The castle’s construction was completed in 1240 by Fredrick II of Hohenstaufen, whose love of science is clearly evident in the building’s unique octagonal shape. Visitors can explore the castle and its grounds year-round except for Christmas and New Year's day.

Chillon Castle, Veytaux, Switzerland

Image by anouchka / iStock. Chateau de Chillon, Veytaux-Montreux, Switzerland (original image)

Image by InnaFelker / iStock. Chateau de Chillon (original image)

Image by anouchka / iStock. Chateau de Chillon (original image)

Image by lim_jessica / iStock. Footpath to Chillon Castle (original image)

Image by OGphoto / iStock. Chateau de Chillon (original image)

Chillon Castle is located on the rocky shores of Lake Geneva, near the border of Switzerland and France. The building as it currently stands is the result of hundreds of years of renovations, though the site has been occupied since the Bronze Age. Tourists are welcome to roam the castle and its grounds, but from June to October visitors can also experience something extra special by renting out the small stretch of discreetly hidden beach along Chillon’s shores.

Gripsholm Castle, Mariefred, Sweden

Image by Fotonen / iStock. Gripsholm Castle (original image)

Image by Rolf_52 / iStock. Gripsholm Castle in Mariefred (original image)

Image by AYImages / iStock. Gripsholm Castle (original image)

Image by Rolf_52 / iStock. Gripsholm Castle (original image)

Image by Rolf_52 / iStock. Gripsholm Castle (original image)

Gripsholm Castle, which sits on the banks of Lake Mälaren, was built in 1537 and maintains all of its old world charm and royal luxury. Visitors of the castle are invited to take a leisurely stroll through the castle grounds, visit the castle’s theater within one of the round towers built in 1780 by King Gustav III, or meet the royal deer at the Hjorthagen nature reserve.

Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania

Image by tytyeu / iStock. Peles Castle (original image)

Image by coldsnowstorm / iStock. Courtyard of Peles Castle (original image)

Image by Kisa_Markiza / iStock. Peles Castle (original image)

Image by MariusGatea / iStock. Peles Castle (original image)

Image by berpin / iStock. Peles Castle (original image)

Peles Castle is tucked at the base of the Bucegi Mountains in the small town of Sinaia, Romania. Commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 and completed in 1883, the castle’s vibrant and colorful exterior make it the perfect storybook travel destination. Each of its 160 rooms are decorated with European art, German stained-glass windows, and leather walls. Though not as famous as Bran Castle, aka the home of Dracula located 30 miles away, Peles Castle should still be on everyone’s Romanian itinerary.

See more hidden castles on Travel + Leisure.

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Explore Armenia's Medieval Monasteries in Interactive 360-Degree Panoramas

Smithsonian Magazine

I'm sitting in my living room, peering down through a virtual reality headset into a dirt pit in Khor Virap where legend says St. Gregory the Illuminator was held for 15 years before curing his captor, King Trdat, of an ailment and convincing him to convert to Christianity. Fable or not, by the early 300s AD Trdat had declared Christianity the official state religion, making Armenia one of the first, if not the first, countries to institute a national Christian church.

Armenia’s claim to be the first Christian nation is contested by some—particularly the nation of Ethiopia, which also purports to be the first. The early history of Christianity is murky, but overall, many scholars today agree that Armenia holds this designation.

“Though there were Christians in Ethiopia—a few at least, very early—the same was true everywhere,” Dr. Dickran Kouymjian, Berberian Chair of Armenian Studies, Emeritus, at Fresno State, told “The Armenian Church claims an official conversion of the nation to Christianity in [the year] 301, though many scholars speak of 313 to 314.” Kouymjian says the actual date differs among Armenian historical sources, but researchers prefer to use a date of 314, because it comes after the Edict of Milan, which allowed the open practice of any religion throughout the Roman Empire. Even so, he said, this is still “some decades before Ethiopia, where we learned that a majority of the inhabitants converted after 340.”

Historians believe Trdat's decision may have been motivated both by a desire to consolidate power over the growing community of Christians within Armenia and as a political move to demonstrate to Rome, who at the time offered protectorate support, a parting of ways with Rome's region rival, the pagan Sasanian regime.

Regardless of the reasoning, with Trdat's support, St. Gregory became the first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church and went about the region spreading the faith and constructing churches on top of pagan temples. 

Today, the Armenian landscape is dotted with spectacular churches, the most notable of which date back to the medieval period when the development of communal monasteries transformed these remote locations into centers of art and learning. Today, many of these historic monasteries are still off the beaten path, perched overlooking vast gorges or hidden away in forested valleys. 

This is part of what the 360GreatArmenia VR app and website is trying to solve for by making virtual tours available from anywhere. In addition to the Khor Virap Monastery​, the project has captured more that 300 virtual reality tours of ancient sites within modern Armenia.

The project's founder, Vahagn Mosinyan, said seeing a 360-degree image of another town online back in 2012 " interest to make the same 360-degree platform for Armenia, because it is a great tool to preserve and to archive cultural heritage." The resulting stitched images, taken both by drones and photographers on the ground, allow viewers to switch from aerial to street views, navigate through interiors and view relics and historical art. Users are invited to annotate the destinations with information and stories. Backed by Ucom, an Armenian internet service provider, the project was also recently featured in a special exhibit at the National Gallery of Armenia in Yerevan that focused on the more than 50 cultural monuments the project has captured in historical Western Armenia, in modern day Turkey.

The monasteries below can be explored through interactive 360-degree panoramas or navigated virtually using the project's smartphone app (iOS, Android) and a VR headset.

Geghard Monastery, Goght

This rock-hewn collection of churches and tombs are cut right into the surrounding rock, earning its past name Ayrivank, or Monastery in the Cave (not to be confused with another location of the same name in Kiev, Ukraine today). Over the centuries since its construction, it became famous for the various relics housed in the complex. The most famous of these gave the monastery its current name: Geghard is said to have housed the spear that wounded Jesus’ side during his crucifixion for about 500 years, and Geghardavank means “Monastery of the Spear.”

Haghartsin Monastery, Dilijan

Hidden among lush green trees, Haghartsin is a beautiful example of Armenia's medieval architecture. The complex features four churches, a dining hall, a gavit and a refectory and is the starting point for several hiking trails. It was built between the 10th and 13th centuries by the order of two princes from the Bagratuni kingdom. Their family seal can be seen on the back of one of the three churches, and intricately carved stone carvings, including one of the Madonna and child stand near the door of another.

Haghpat Monastery, Haghpat

The 10th-century monastery was built halfway up a hillside overlooking the Debed River. The complex includes eight buildings encircled by a fortified wall. The oldest building, St. Nishan church, was completed in 976 during the reign of King Ashot III. The church appears from the outside to be rectangular but forms a cruciform shape in the interior. On the exterior wall, a full-scale relief statue depicts two 10th-century kings holding a small model of the St. Nishan. Inside, part of a 13th-century fresco can still be seen.

From the 10th to 13th centuries, Haghpat was considered an important learning center, and today, visitors can still see the library, a domed building with a vaulted ceiling and skylights.

Kecharis Monastery, Tsaghkadzor

In its heyday, Kecharis was plated in silver and gold, a stunning display of wealth worthy of one of the great learning centers of the 11th to 13th centuries. The best Armenian academics are known to have traveled to teach at the school here. The first church on record at this site was built in 11th century, but ruins of a 5th-century basilica can be found here, as well—though scholars are not sure about its history, nor that of the earlier structures that also occupy the grounds.

Noravank Monastery, Areni

Noravank was built in the 13th century as a home for bishops as well as a prince’s tomb. Today, three churches sit inside a narrow gorge in the Amaghou valley, surrounded by red and gray rock cliffs. Momik, the architect of one of the churches and a sculptor who carved an intricate khachkar—an Armenian cross-stone—at the site, is also buried there. Noravank is most well known for a two-story church with a rock-hewn staircase on the outside wall of the building.

Saghmosavank Monastery, Saghmosavan

According to legend, a priest at Saghmosavank offered to cure a violent ruler and invader of his deadly illness, provided that he release as many captured Armenians as would fit inside the church. Seventy thousand prisoners packed into the monastery—and at this point, lore says, the priest turned them into doves and released them through a church window to fly back to their homes where they would return to human form. Beyond the legend, Saghmosavank is famous for its manuscripts and was considered an important center for calligraphy.

Sanahin Monastery, Alaverdi

Like Haghpat, Sanahin (which is less than 30 minutes from Haghpat) was an important learning center in Armenia. This monastary was renowned for its calligraphy and illumination school and is a notable example of Armenian religious architecture that combined Byzantine styles with traditional designs from the Caucasian region. Sanahin is a bit older than Haghpat, and that may have played a role when it was named “sanahin,” meaning “it’s older than the other one.”

Sevanavank Monastery, Sevan

Think of Sevanavank as a holy reform school; monks from Ejmiatsin were sent here after committing a sin. As a result, Sevanavank had the strictest lifestyle and conduct guidelines of any monastery in Medieval Armenia. At the time when the monastery was built, the peninsula on which it is located was an island. Later, when Armenia was under soviet rule, water was drained from the nearby lake Sevan, dropping the water level roughly 20 meters and creating a land bridge.

Tatev Monastery, Tatev

Construction of the current complex began in the 9th century on a large basalt plateau overlooking the Voratan gorge, the largest gorge in Armenia. Starting in the 14th century, it became known as a university, making it one of the oldest in the world, where students could study science, religion, philosopy and the arts. Modern day Tatev holds a Guinness Book record for having the longest non-stop, reversible, aerial tramway in the world, called the “Wings of Tatev,” that transports visitors from the monastery to Halidzor village.

Akhtala Monastery, Akhtala

This is one of the few Orthodox monasteries in the country. Researchers have dated the main church to between the 11th and 13th centuries, with murals inside dating to 1205. At one time, the monastery held the cross that some believe John the Baptist used to baptize Jesus. Frescoes and murals cover the walls and domed ceiling inside, depicting scenes from the old and new testament, including the Last Supper.

Harichavank, Harich village

Harichavank is a seventh-century monastery, but excavations at the site have found evidence of use as far back as the second century BCE. It was famous in its heyday for its school and scriptorium, housing an impressive selection of Armenian manuscripts and art—including one copied page of the Bible from 1209, reportedly done by Margare, a famous painter of the time.

At one time, after 1850, the Catholicos of Echmiadzin used Harichavank as a summer residence. Many of the monastery's ancillary buildings were added upon his arrival.

Museum Visitors Can Play This Wall Art Like an Instrument

Smithsonian Magazine

With patient, deliberate movements, linn meyers spends hours transmuting her individually drawn lines into one of her pulsating drawings or installations. While she plans out expansive roadmaps for her pieces ahead of time, she also leaves herself open to the bumps that will inevitably come up during her process, letting these new movements guide her abstract explorations to new places.

As the name of meyers’ recent large-scale wall drawing, “Let’s Get Lost,” attests, the installation, which debuted this fall at Bowdoin College Museum of Art, is the very intentional embrace of following yet another unexpected fork in the road.

This time around, her distinctive lines don’t just respond to the architecture of the space, but were also tasked with something new: to establish the physical parameters that pull out the invisible sounds embedded in “Listening Glass.” A complementary installation that debuted in tandem with “Let’s Get Lost,” “Listening Glass” was created by Rebecca Bray, an artist and experience designer (whose past credits include chief of experience design at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History); Jimmy Bigbee Garver, a sound designer and composer; and Josh Knowles, an app developer, in partnership with meyers.

If those were a lot of words to digest, the result, a synesthesia-like participatory art experience, is—by design—easy to grasp. Essentially, “Listening Glass” lets you play “Let’s Get Lost” like an instrument. Visitors armed with cell phones download an application created by Knowles to uncover the audible music notes in meyers’ piece. By holding their phones up in the installation, the app can uncover sounds as they explore meyers’ large-scale drawing, which play in concert with sounds already thrumming from speakers set up in the gallery.

“Let’s Get Lost” and “Listening Glass” (any Alice in Wonderland connotations were unintended) came out of an unplanned communication between the artists’ previous works. In May 2016, meyers unveiled her largest work to date, “Our View From Here,” an ambitious 400-foot-long drawing that snaked its way around the donut-shaped second floor hallway of Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture. While the piece was on view, Bray and Garver independently ideated “Framing Device,” an interactive audio work, which takes cues from an earlier sound and performative art collaboration by the artists called “Silosphere.” In “Silosphere,” participants placed their heads inside globe-like devices fitted with a screen and speakers, to create a contained experience with the only connection to the outside world coming from video feed piped in from an exterior video camera. Building on that in “Framing Device,” a piece that reframes the art gallery audio guide, participants were given masks and wireless headphones, which tuned into two different channel options—an (actor-portrayed) audio tour of the museum and an interior monologue of a self-conscious visitor—to prompt participants to re-see the landscape of an art gallery.

“It can feel quite limiting, the way that we are expected to—or we expect ourselves—to experience art in a typical institutional or curated setting,” says Bray. In their collaborations, she and Garver are interested in creating participatory art that “asks something of the viewer and invites [them] in, in a way that changes the relationship.”

“Framing Device” came together for “Sound Scene,” an annual festival in celebration of listening, which just so happened to be hosted by Hirshhorn for the first time in 2016, when “Our View From Here” was on display. Because of that, meyers’ work became part of “Framing Device”’s audio tour, something meyers herself was unaware of until she happened to come to the event and listen to the piece herself.

“She came up to us afterward and said, wow, this is so interesting. I’ve never really seen my own work in this way,” Bray recalls.

The artists started having coffee together to talk about the ideas they were exploring and how they might work together. meyers works without templates or tape to draw the thousands of flowing lines that come together to create her final pieces. Her unmistakable process compels you to look at the art and think about why it takes the shapes it does. But she was interested in how Bray and Garver might be able to make someone slow down and engage even more deeply with her lines. “Let’s Get Lost” and “Listening Glass” was what resulted from that challenge.

“What the project became was an evolution that paralleled our conversations,” meyers explains. In some of their earliest talks, the artists toyed with trying virtual reality and augmented reality, but they moved away from that idea out of concern that the technology might overwhelm the art. They wanted to create an interactive art experience where the technology was serving the art, not the other way around. They brought in Knowles, who Bray has known for many years in the interactive technology and art space, to help translate their working idea, intertwining meyers’ art with Garver’s sounds.

It wasn’t immediately apparent how to go about doing that. “Am I going to make music that sounds like your drawings or draw something that sounds like your music?” says Garver. “We both changed a lot.”

Each of the four of them had little overlap among their skillsets, which forced them to have to really be deliberate with each step of the ideation process. “Because each of our pieces of this thing were deeply connected with everyone else's pieces, there was not somebody going off into a room and doing their piece and presenting it back to everyone,” says Bray. Instead, they had to continuously talk through their different mediums and tease out the compromises and opportunities of each creative decision.

“It’s really hard stuff to talk about, and we had to almost come up with our own language, which was interesting in and of itself,” says meyers. What helped, she says, was that they all knew they were coming at the work with a shared set of values and a shared vision. At one point, Bray even wrote them down. The idea they were working toward, meyers says, was to “create a piece that engaged with the audience in a way that the audience would complete the work.”

There was a lot to negotiate: there was the architecture of the space, meyers’ art, Garver’s sounds (both made in phone, and sounds they decided they wanted continuously playing in room), the technology, how to bring it out through movement, and of course, the audience. “We made a bunch of documents, diagrams and spreadsheets to help each other understand,” Garver says.

The audience experience was what they circled back to the most in their conversations. One of the biggest negotiations in interactive art space, says Bray, is creating something that has few barriers of entry—“generous” is a term she uses a lot—but is also able to transform the way something is viewed.

“How do we bring people closer to the art? Not just physically, but to slow down and consider the lines themselves; the pieces of the art as well as the whole?” she says of the challenge they were facing.

They wanted to make the space a conversation between artist and viewer. In a retreat over the summer, meyers drew four preparatory drawings on the walls of Bray and Garver’s living room. They then invited people to play with the app and interact with the wall drawings.

That led to more tinkering. For instance, the software had problems distinguishing the fleshy color that meyers was using to fill her “shadows of a void” with the room’s wood floor and the window trim. To ensure the sound remained particular to the element it was being pointed at, meyers added a blue line to each quadrant so the device could better distinguish the art from the surroundings.

The sounds themselves, which can be brought about through movement and location, include a piano-like sound, a plucked sound, a voice and a bell. “They’re very kind of vanilla,” says Garver. “The beauty is the interesting thing that happens when people pick it up and use it.”

Garver continued to strip down the compositions with each iteration of the project. What he came to realize was that the more complex and composed the sound, the harder it was to understand whose actions were generating it. “I was just trying to facilitate the moving of the instrument and not make music. That was new for him. "I've never done anything like that before,” he says. “Even to this day,” he says, he wonders about the work, “Does this sound like these lines?”

The journey through the gallery can feel like swimming through ocean. “It’s kind of an overwhelming experience, because there’s a huge wash of lower pitched sounds that you’re in front of and all around, but as you move through the space you’re making small sounds,” says Garver. That’s how Bray and Garver’s 7-year-old son describes the immersive experience: “like a fish, floating through the waves.”

Knowles’ app, which is available for download on iTunes (and can be played outside the gallery, too), isn’t wedded to the sounds its currently programmed to play. The software can be adapted, and the artists have already spoken with Bowdoin about the possibility of having students compose new sounds for the installation and choreograph a performance in the gallery. The idea is that performers with phones strategically placed on their bodies could play a musical composition in the room with their movements.

When the installations first debuted in September, Bray watched as people used their phones not for texting, but rather as a wand guiding them through the story of the gallery. “We really saw people taking their time, and following a line or following the kind of curve that linn was drawing,” she says.

This isn’t meyers' first collaborative venture. “I love working on my own,” she says, in reference to her studio work. “I love the solitary activity of it, and I wouldn’t ever want to give this part up.” But throughout her career, she’s been drawn to building ideas with other artists. “It takes you into territory that’s less comfortable and less familiar,” she says. “You can do that on your own, but it’s harder.”

Her next collaborative venture is working with fellow Washington, D.C-based artists Tim Doud and Caitlin Teal Price to open an affordable studio space called STABLE. Slated to open in February of 2019, the 10,000 square feet of studio space located in the eastern edge of Eckington aims to better connect artists and foster a community among them in the district. The idea, says meyers, is to make D.C. “more friendly to artists and a place where artists want to stay.”

Fittingly, while “Listening Glass” can be played solo, there’s something richer that happens when those in the gallery come together to create compositions. If all the visitors at a given time make the same gesture at the same time with their phones, they can unlock a special sonic effect.

"Let's Get Lost" and "Listening Glass" are jointly on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art through September 29, 2019.

Minnesota - History and Heritage

Smithsonian Magazine

Historic Fort Snelling (St. Paul)
The restored fort welcomes you to the 1820s. Soldiers, fur traders, servants, cooks, tradesmen, officers and laundresses are eager to share their stories with you.

Take part in the fort's everyday life. Shoulder a musket, mend clothes, scrape a hide or sing along with soldiers' songs. Take tea with Mrs. Snelling or sample the soldiers' bread ration. Shop for supplies at the sutler's store, where only the prices are modern. At historic Fort Snelling, visitors are always welcome and the modern world is checked at the gate. A multimedia exhibit in the officers' quarters shows how historians have traced life at the fort. Back in the visitor center, take in exhibits and films and browse through the gift store. The visitor center has exhibits, film and a gift shop and is open daily from May to October and on weekdays from November to April.

Charles A. Lindbergh Boyhood Home & Interpretive Center (Little Falls)
Now you can hear the whisper of pines from the porch where he slept, enjoy the home's cozy kitchen or walk the trails along the river.

In the basement of the home, young Charles Lindbergh enjoyed tinkering with all things mechanical. His adolescent dreams of flight brought him a job flying the mail. Later, in 1927, he was the first to fly alone over the Atlantic Ocean, for 33-and-a-half hours in a single-engine plane. When he landed safely in Paris, Lindbergh's place in history was assured. The house, which contains original furnishings and family possessions, was built in 1906. A visitor center features a gift shop and exhibits about Lindbergh's family, inventions and aviation accomplishments. Learn about Lindbergh's interest in conservation and the natural beauty of the state as you walk along the Mississippi River on the site's nature trail.

Split Rock Lighthouse Historic Site (Two Harbors)
Split Rock Lighthouse served for nearly six decades as a guide for maritime traffic through the busy shipping lanes of Lake Superior. Today, you can tour the light keeper's dwelling, fog-signal building and the lighthouse, all as they were in the 1920s.

As you explore the visitor center's exhibits, film, store and light station grounds, you'll learn about the building of the light station and about life as a keeper in this remote setting. Tour guides and costumed characters depict the lives of the early lightkeepers and their families, and describe the famous storms that caused many a shipwreck along the rocky North Shore.

Plan a little extra time to enjoy the spectacular views! Shipwrecks from a mighty 1905 November gale prompted this rugged landmark's construction. Completed by the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1910, Split Rock Light Station was soon one of Minnesota's best known landmarks. Restored to its 1920s appearance, the lighthouse offers a glimpse of lighthouse life in this remote and spectacular setting. Tour the lighthouse, fog-signal building and the restored keeper's dwelling. A visitor center features an award-winning film, exhibits and a museum store.

Historic Murphy's Landing (Shakopee)
Historic Murphy's Landing is a unique living history museum that preserves and interprets 19th century life in the Minnesota River Valley. The idyllic wooded setting that stretches along one and a half miles of scenic river valley brings alive the charm and challenges of life in the 1800s.

Families, history buffs and adventurers of all ages can step in this historic village, which features the rich diversity of early American life.

Visitors can stroll through the site or ride on horse drawn trolleys. Their journey will cover the early days of the fur trade era when people traveled by footpath and canoes, to the bustling village with its shops, homes, church, town hall and railroad depot. Throughout the historic site, costumed interpreters are prepared to spin a tale, demonstrate their craft and explain the daily life of men, women and children. Music and entertainment often fill the daily village routine. Guests may enjoy a beverage, lunch or a keepsake at the gift shop.

Fall Season Special Events
Old West Days: October 6 and 7
Old Fashion Halloween: October 27

Winter Season Special Events
Folkways of the Holiday: November 23 to December 23. Experience what life was like for settlers of all ages living along the Minnesota River Valley during the 1800s. Visit with costumed interpreters in our frontier-era farms and recreated village of Eagle Creek; ride a horse-drawn trolley; enjoy music and demonstrations. Check our Web site for special event dates and times.

Minnesota State Capitol Historic Site (St. Paul)
The Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court chambers have been restored to their original appearances. The public is welcome to dine in the newly restored Rathskeller cafe. The Legislature meets the first months of each year. During sessions, all galleries and legislative hearings are open to the public. The Supreme Court hears cases in its historic chambers the first week of the month. Free guided tours that explore the architecture, history and stories of significant Minnesota citizens begin every hour until one hour before closing. Special events, specialized tours and educational programs are available for modest fees throughout the year. A handicapped entrance is available on ground floor front. This is a Minnesota Historical Society site.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum (Walnut Grove)
In 1874, 7-year-old Laura Ingalls and her family traveled by covered wagon from Wisconsin's big woods to the prairie of Walnut Grove. The Ingalls's first home was a one-room sod dugout in the banks of Plum Creek.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum's collections are housed in a series of interesting buildings. An 1898 depot exhibit relates the history of Laura through artifacts from the Ingalls era including Laura's handmade quilt.

Additional exhibits include an 1880s style "little red school house," an ecumenical chapel with artifacts from local churches and an onion-domed 1890 home with early 1900s period furnishings. Other exhibits include memorabilia from the "Little House on the Prairie" TV series, the Kelton doll collection containing 250 dolls dating from the 1870s and artifacts from early Walnut Grove businesses and agriculture.

The Wilder Pageant is held every July on the banks of Plum Creek west of Walnut Grove. The amphitheater setting has been developed to allow for extensive lighting, sound, special effects, and imaginative sets. The Wilder Pageant is a family-oriented outdoor theater production. It is a live performance each night, with all characters from the Walnut Grove area. Laura Ingalls Wilder narrates the story, reflecting on her life in Walnut Grove in the 1870s. It is our hope that visitors will take with them a sense of history and a deeper appreciation of the joys and hardships that challenged our ancestors when settling the prairie.

Mayowood Mansion (Rochester)
The Historic Mayowood Mansion is the former home of Doctor Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The site has original furnishings and a one-hour guided walking tour. Call for reservations and tour availability.

SPAM Museum (Austin)
Our 16,500 square-foot museum honors SPAM family of products, one of America's oldest and best-loved icons. The SPAM Museum pays homage to the almost 70 year history, quirky joys and unprecedented excitement SPAM has inspired for generations of people worldwide. The self-guided tour is enhanced with our friendly and knowledgeable SPAMbassadors.

American Swedish Institute (Minneapolis)
Founded in 1929 by Swedish immigrant and newspaper publisher Swan J. Turnblad, the American Swedish Institute is housed in his family's 1904 mansion, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its French Chateau architecture, detail, craftsmanship and elegance make for one of the finest historic buildings open to the public in Minneapolis. The Indiana limestone exterior includes three turrets and gargoyles of lion and griffin figures. The interior features elaborate hand-carved oak, walnut, and mahogany, which took 18 craftsmen two years to complete. The centerpiece of the grand entrance hall is a two-story carved fireplace mantel. Eleven rooms are furnished with Swedish porcelain tile stoves called kakelugnar. A stained glass picture window, colorful sculpted ceilings and a ballroom with proscenium stage are other highlights.

Museum exhibits showcase collections of immigrant artifacts, Swedish glass, fine art, woodcarvings, decorative arts, textiles and more. The ongoing exhibit "Swedish Life in the Twin Cities" tells the story of Swedish immigrants who settled in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The American Swedish Institute is also the place to find Scandinavian gifts, jewelry, books, prints and other imports at the Bokhandel (bookstore) and Museum Shop.

The American Swedish Institute offers a variety of programs designed to celebrate Swedish culture in America. It is conveniently located just south of downtown Minneapolis at 2600 Park Avenue. Museum hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 12 to 4 p.m., Wednesday 12 to 8 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. (Closed Mondays and holidays.) Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for ages 62 and above, $3 ages six to 18 and $4 for groups of 15 or more. Group tours can be arranged with advanced notice.

Mill City Museum (Minneapolis)
An attraction for all ages, the museum chronicles the flour milling industry that dominated world flour production for roughly a half-century and fueled the growth of Minneapolis, recognized across the nation and around the world as "Mill City." The museum is built within the ruins of the Washburn A Mill. The story of flour milling—and its impact on Minneapolis, the nation and the world—comes to life through the eight-story Flour Tower and other hands-on exhibits.

Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame (Walker)
Legends Hall contains video and memorabilia for 26 of Minnesota's fishing legends. Activity center includes games and activities for children. Free kids fishing pond with bait and tackle supplied.

Ironworld Discovery Center (Chisholm)
Ironworld Discovery Center, located on the edge of the Glen mine, is a museum that collects, preserves and interprets the history of Minnesota's Iron Ranges. The explosive growth of iron mining attracted thousands to northeastern Minnesota. Their courage and tenacity transformed a sparsely populated wilderness into a culturally diverse industrial landscape.

Experience the story of Iron Range mining and immigration: the life, the work, the place and the people. Explore history and heritage exhibits, ride a vintage trolley to a former mining location, marvel at spectacular mine views or acquaint yourself with the local history and genealogy collections of the Iron Range Research Center's renowned library and archives. The Iron Range Research Center contains one of the largest genealogical and local history collections in the upper Midwest. Researchers can access books, census and naturalization records, microfilmed newspapers, passenger arrival records, oral histories, photographs and more.

As the Minnesota iron mining industry exploded at the turn of the 20th century, people seeking economic prosperity and freedom immigrated to northern Minnesota from nations around the globe. These immigrants brought few material goods on their journey, but carried with them the rich traditions and customs of their homelands. Ironworld Discovery Center preserves this important period of American history.

Mille Lacs Indian Museum & Trading Post (Onamia)
The Mille Lacs Indian Museum, which opened May 18, 1996, offers exhibits dedicated to telling the story of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Trace their journey to Northern Minnesota, learn about their fate during a period of treaties made and broken and follow their story up to the present. The museum exhibit reveals information about the Band's life today, from how dance traditions are carried on to members' interests in music to sovereignty issues.

The museum features videos, listening stations and objects from traditional and contemporary Ojibwe culture, showcasing traditions of language, music, dance and art. A large collection of Ojibwe objects illuminates the lives of Band members, past and present. The Four Seasons Room, a stunning life-size diorama, depicts traditional Ojibwe activities in each season: hunting and spear fishing in winter, maple sugaring in spring, gardening and berry picking in summer and wild rice harvesting in fall.

The museum's crafts room serves as a demonstration area for traditional cooking, birch-bark basketry and beadwork. In a restored 1930s trading post next to the museum-a landmark along Mille Lacs Lake you can shop for books, crafts, clothing and souvenirs. All year, the museum offers demonstrations and classes on a variety of crafts.

April and May: Thursday to Saturday, 12 to 5 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day: Wednesday to Saturday and Mondays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 12 to 5 p.m.
September and October: Thursday to Saturday 12 - 5 p.m. October to April: By appointment for group and educational tours only. See calendar for weekend workshops and special events. Outreach programs and ITV programming also available. Educational group tours and special events are always available by appointment. Attraction Accessible to Disabled and can accommodate groups of 45 or more. Directions to Attraction from Nearest Town/Intersection Located on U.S. Hwy 169 on the southwest shore of Mille Lacs Lake, 8 miles south of Garrison, 12 miles north of Onamia.

Revisiting the Arts and Industries Building

Smithsonian Institution Archives

"Rocket Row" along the west side of the Arts and Industries Building before the National Air and Space Museum was built, 1959. Accession 11-009, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 73-7185.

"Rocket Row" along the west side of the Arts and Industries Building before the National Air and Space Museum was built, 1959. Accession 11-009, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 73-7185.

Rendering of the new United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, designed by Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1079.

Rendering of the new United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, designed by Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1079.

Rendering of the new United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, designed by Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1079.

Etching of the new United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, designed by Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1080.

Etching of the new United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, designed by Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1080.

Etching of the new United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, designed by Adolph Cluss and Rudolph Schulze. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1080.

United States National Museum (Arts and Industries Building) floor plan, Information Files, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

United States National Museum (Arts and Industries Building) floor plan, Information Files, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

United States National Museum (Arts and Industries Building) floor plan, Information Files, Smithsonian Institution Archives.

North façade of the exterior of the Arts and Industries Building. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-1820.

North façade of the exterior of the Arts and Industries Building. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-1820.

North façade of the exterior of the Arts and Industries Building. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-1820.

Curators look on as three totem poles are installed in the Northwest Range near the Rotunda of the United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, by several laborers. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. MNH-5792.

Curators look on as three totem poles are installed in the Northwest Range near the Rotunda of the United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, by several laborers. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. MNH-5792.

Curators look on as three totem poles are installed in the Northwest Range near the Rotunda of the United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building, by several laborers. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. MNH-5792.

Arts and Industries Building, 1954. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2774.

Arts and Industries Building, 1954. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2774.

Arts and Industries Building, 1954. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2774.

The Water Transportation Hall, also known as

The Water Transportation Hall, also known as "Boat Hall," located in the Northeast Range of the United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. AI-18997.

The Water Transportation Hall, also known as "Boat Hall," located in the Northeast Range of the United States National Museum, now the Arts and Industries Building. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. AI-18997.

Statue of Freedom, United States National Museum. Accession 12-492, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2764.

Statue of Freedom, United States National Museum. Accession 12-492, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2764.

Statue of Freedom, United States National Museum. Accession 12-492, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2764.

Histroric and Personal Relics Exhibit, United States National Museum. Accession 12-492, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2767.

Histroric and Personal Relics Exhibit, United States National Museum. Accession 12-492, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2767.

Histroric and Personal Relics Exhibit, United States National Museum. Accession 12-492, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2012-2767.

Installation of Dakota Tepee, Arts and Industries Building, 1996. Accession 01-081, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-2389.

Installation of Dakota Tepee, Arts and Industries Building, 1996. Accession 01-081, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-2389.

Installation of Dakota Tepee, Arts and Industries Building, 1996. Accession 01-081, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-2389.

Crowds flock to the Arts and Industries Building in the early 1950s after the Exhibits Modernization Program gave the history displays a new look. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. MAH-48169.

Crowds flock to the Arts and Industries Building in the early 1950s after the Exhibits Modernization Program gave the history displays a new look. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. MAH-48169.

Crowds flock to the Arts and Industries Building in the early 1950s after the Exhibits Modernization Program gave the history displays a new look. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. MAH-48169.

Photocrome postcard of the north facade of the Arts and Industries Building, circa 1955. Accession T90126, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2013-01060.

Photocrome postcard of the north facade of the Arts and Industries Building, circa 1955. Accession T90126, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2013-01060.

Photocrome postcard of the north facade of the Arts and Industries Building, circa 1955. Accession T90126, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2013-01060.

Smithsonian Institution Archives located on the second floor, northeast section, of the Arts and Industries Building. The stack range, storage, and cubicle work station area are shown here, 1979. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1487.

Smithsonian Institution Archives located on the second floor, northeast section, of the Arts and Industries Building. The stack range, storage, and cubicle work station area are shown here, 1979. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1487.

Smithsonian Institution Archives located on the second floor, northeast section, of the Arts and Industries Building. The stack range, storage, and cubicle work station area are shown here, 1979. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. SIA2011-1487.

Workers prepare a hot air balloon to hang in the Rotunda of the Arts and Industries Building. The centerpiece of the Charles Eames exhibit

Workers prepare a hot air balloon to hang in the Rotunda of the Arts and Industries Building. The centerpiece of the Charles Eames exhibit "Photography and the City: The Evolution of an Art and a Science," which opened June 6, 1968, the balloon was used to illustrate the method used to take the first aerial photo in the United States. Accession 11-008, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. OPA-1353-15.

Workers prepare a hot air balloon to hang in the Rotunda of the Arts and Industries Building. The centerpiece of the Charles Eames exhibit "Photography and the City: The Evolution of an Art and a Science," which opened June 6, 1968, the balloon was used to illustrate the method used to take the first aerial photo in the United States. Accession 11-008, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. OPA-1353-15.


The "1876: A Centennial Exhibition," a recreation of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876, in the Arts and Industries Building and opened May 10, 1976. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 77-3205.

The "1876: A Centennial Exhibition," a recreation of the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876, in the Arts and Industries Building and opened May 10, 1976. Record Unit 95, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Neg. no. 77-3205.

Arts and Industries Building, 2014, by Mitch Toda.

Arts and Industries Building, 2014, by Mitch Toda.

Arts and Industries Building, 2014, by Mitch Toda.


On this day in 1879 ground was broken for the construction of the United States National Museum building, now known as the Arts and Industries Building.  Its concrete foundations were begun on April 29th and the brick-work of the walls on May 21st.  The main walls would be completed by November 1st.

Closed to the public since 2004, the Arts and Industries Building began undergoing a repair and restoration project to fix and upgrade the exterior of the building in 2009.  Unfortunately due to financial reasons, the building will not reopen at the end of 2014 as originally planned.  It was to have held an interim program called Smithsonian Innovation Space, but after a year of program planning and financial review, the Smithsonian concluded that the cost of rehabilitating the building for public use and operating it exceeded its available funding sources at this time.

The exterior of the building has been structurally stabilized and the Smithsonian will continue to explore options to reopen the building, but it will remain closed to the public until further notice. For more information about the history and renovation of the Arts and Industries Building please see the video below.

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