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Pistilli Roman

Nearly two years ago I designed a poster for a typeface named Pistilli Roman in my Design Systems class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.[1] Since then, I have received over 20 email inquires concerning the typeface. Most of these inquiries include comments and simple questions[2] about how one goes about obtaining Pistilli […]

Nearly two years ago I designed a poster for a typeface named Pistilli Roman in my Design Systems class at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.[1] Since then, I have received over 20 email inquires concerning the typeface. Most of these inquiries include comments and simple questions[2] about how one goes about obtaining Pistilli Roman (I usually respond by telling people that the typeface does not exist as a digital/functional typeface, but some similar typefaces do exist). Aside from these smaller inquiries, I have been fortunate enough to have made correspondence with some very interesting people who have revealed additional details to me about the history of the typeface and its designers, John Pistilli and Herb Lubalin.[3]

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Most recently, I have been contacted by a man who was quite familiar with the typeface. Here is what he had to say:

“ I first saw this face in the summer of 64-65, when Arnold Bank, a type designer who was teaching a course in the calligraphy studio at Reed College, put up a copy on the wall. Later on, Lloyd Reynolds, the Art History professor and calligrapher, commented how difficult it was (in those days of letterpress) to print such a face. If you used enough pressure to get an even impression on the wide areas, the thin lines cut into, and even through, the paper…”

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This man also had an original pamphlet about Pistilli Roman that was put out by Aaron Burns & Co. He was nice enough to transcribe the promise/guarantee that came with the typeface:

Pistilli Roman

We are pleased to present this first of a family of modern roman typefaces designed especially for our company by the American designer, John Pistilli. Designed in the classical French Didot style, this bold and delicately sensitive face will be followed shortly by Pistilli Roman Italic, Pistilli Roman Light and Pistilli Roman Light Italic. We hope that this booklet will serve as a helpful guide in your specification of this beautiful typeface.

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This pamphlet also included a biography of John Pistilli: John Pistilli is head of lettering design at Sudler & Hennessy, Inc., where he has been employed since 1949. Born December 4, 1925, he attended public schools in Astoria and Long Island City, N.Y. He graduated from the Jean Morgan School of Art in New York City, where he studied lettering under J. Albert Cavanaugh. He has also completed art courses at the City College of New York and during World War II served in the U. S. Navy.

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In addition to the above emails, I did happen to receive another very special message this past summer when I was contacted by John Pistilli Jr. (the son of John Pistilli). In his email to me, he briefly described his father’s history as an artist and as a type designer. He also thanked me for taking interest in his father’s work.

Notes:

[1]

I first discovered Pistilli Roman for myself after I saw a specimen of it in Herb Lubalin’s monograph, written by Gertrude Snyder and Alan Peckolick. At about the same time that I learned about the typeface, I had noticed that Work in Progress (a design studio based in New York and Paris) was using a very similar typeface (named Galeere) for their design in Self Service magazine. Shortly thereafter, I learned that Pistilli Roman does not actually exist as a digitized typeface. It was then that I decided to recreate/vectorize the typeface from a high-resolution scan for use within this poster project.

[2]

A selection of unedited excerpts from e-mails concerning Pistilli Roman:

“ …I can’t for the life of me get hold of Pistilli font! Seeing it on your site could you help me out on this. I’m doing a stone carved identity and really want to use it. Your help would be appreciated.”

“ …I’m a designer and I saw the work around the Pistilli Roman Font, Do you have any idea where I can find it digitilised ?”

“ …good to see im not the only one obsessed with that typeface.”

“ …saw your website the other day…loving the lubalin respect! can i ask where you got pistilli roman from? didnt think it had been digitalised?”

“ …I was wondering if you had the Pistilli Roman typeface. I’ve been looking around for it lately, and can’t seem to find it for the life of me”

“ …Do you have Pistili? Is there any chance you can send me the ampersand from Pistilli?”

[3]

Pistilli Roman is a typeface collaboratively designed by Herb Lubalin and John Pistilli. Pistilli was a partner with Lubalin in New York City at the firm Sudler & Hennessey from 1949 to 1964. The typeface was accompanied by 3 alternate weights: Bold, Open No. 1 and Open No. 2, each of which varied exclusively in the thickness of the hairline strokes. Given the technology of the time when Pistilli Roman was produced, the typeface was only designed and made functional for use on a typositor.After the demise of phototype and typositor machines, the typeface was never revisited and as a result, the typeface has never officially been digitized. Because Pistilli Roman was a very exclusive typeface that gained acclaims as a result of its highly elegant and unique ampersand, many look-alike typefaces began to surface. In 1969, Phil Martin, of Alphabet Innovations, produced a Pistilli Roman replica with many of the same swashes and alternate characters named Didoni. The difference being that Didoni had hairline strokes that were typically thicker by a small percentage and also lacked the fancy ampersand that was a trademark of Pistilli Roman.The first unofficial digitalization of Pistilli Roman had supposedly been attempted by a type foundry named Castcraft in the early 1990’s. The typeface was classified under the “ OPTI” font range as “ OPTI Pirogi Roman.” Not long after that, another look-alike version of Pistilli Roman was made available by a media company named GreenStreet. As a part of a large software CD titled “ GST 500 Elegant Fonts,” the copycat typeface was hidden under the name “ Galeere.” Galeere, like the other typefaces contained many imperfections and did not offer the trademark ampersand. Besides Pistilli Roman’s rare appearance inside of the type specimen book titled “ Phil’s Photo Book” (published in 1985), it is a largely unknown and mysterious typeface.The only acknowledged versions of the original hard copy phototypes for Pistilli Roman are located in Brooklyn, NY with a company named Incipit. Incipit is a design firm that also houses a rare photocomposition library with approximately 3,500 available typefaces, including four different weights of Pistilli Roman.

[*]

fig. 1 – fig. 3 are scanned images from Self Service magazine that showcase the use of the typeface Galeere.

“Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspects of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic.”

Pantone’s color of the year!

Design Practice Research, Part I

On December 7th, the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, The Netherlands, hosted “ Research on Research III”, the latest in a symposium series aimed to stimulate debate on the role of research in art and design practice. Last Friday, five guests (Ǟbke, Sara de Bondt, Luna Maurer, Ksenija Berk, and Christoph Keller) were invited […]

On December 7th, the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, The Netherlands, hosted “ Research on Research III”, the latest in a symposium series aimed to stimulate debate on the role of research in art and design practice. Last Friday, five guests (Ǟbke, Sara de Bondt, Luna Maurer, Ksenija Berk, and Christoph Keller) were invited to respond, to poke and prod, and otherwise make provocative statements about the relationship between a design practice and research. To quote from the program guide:

Can research be defined independently or does it simply arise from and belong to practice? Is research a way to think about and redefine the position of the designer?

As a current design researcher at the Jan van Eyck, I’m working on answering these questions for myself. I’m crafting another post that will collect some of my notes and remembrances from the day’s events. In the meantime, Daniel van der Velden, one of the event organizers and also the moderator, has kindly agreed to allow us to post the excellent introductory remarks he made at the beginning of the symposium.

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Images © Sea Shepherd, www.seashepherd.org

Design Practice Research

Daniel van der Velden

The unpleasant picture shown here is important for a number of reasons. Ecological, environmental and ethical ones–yet just one of those reasons concerns us today.

What are we looking at? In fact, the picture’s taken from aboard one of the ships of an organization called Sea Shepherd. Sea Shepherd is a radical conservation society, founded by Paul Watson, a co-founder of Greenpeace.

Sea Shepherd, contrary to Greenpeace, when it encounters a ship hunting for whales, it will warn once, and upon ignorance of that warning, will attempt to disable it. And that’s what is about to happen here. This picture was taken while Sea Shepherd was pursuing a Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. The targeted ship was the Nisshin Maru. It was the last remaining one of the so-called factory ships. These ships are used to process whales into canned meat while at sea.

Now since commercial whaling is forbidden, the Japanese had tried to do something to prevent their mothership, the Nisshin Maru, from being targeted by the international treaties. They had painted a text on the ship’s side. The text read:

Research.

Now I would wholeheartedly agree if you would claim that this is far from the ideal way to start today’s symposium about graphic design. However, what I want to isolate from the case just outlined is the particular usage that the term Research’ is getting here.

It is of course used as a sign or logo that lets the ship, its crew, and its fleet, be exempt from rules and laws that define commercial whaling as a punishable crime.

It is a way to dissociate the ship and its crew from their true intentions.

This is, I think, comparable and analogous to one what is at risk of happening in art and design practices today. That risk is that we start naming them research’ practices while what’s going on below the surface is business as usual’.

Not every practice is a research.

On the other hand: not every research is a practice.

If we want to describe how design practice at present tends towards research, or defines conditions for it, one way to start is by looking at what it is designers are doing, and how they bring their interests and their obsessions into the work they do, and how their working methods are changing, and how, in fact, all-embracing definitions of design practice are increasingly hard to draw.

It is still quite normal to assume that actually, designers are pragmatists and all they want to do is solve problems.

But under the influence of the information revolution, graphic design is set adrift and has begun finding new mandates and possibilities: simply because the computer has brought typesetting into the designer’s studio, and that computer has email in it and is connected to the internet, many different faculties of and in designers are potentially being activated and developed.

For example, many graphic designers nowadays are writers and work extensively with forms of discourse and written exchange as part of shaping practice. The works they produce visually, as designers in the classical sense, cannot be seen independently from these writings. In that, they are not unlike some of their avant-garde predecessors from the modernist movements.

Some designers have changed what used to be the common design practice of stealing from each other’s work: they have started referencing their visual sources instead, which is indeed a meaningful departure from the implicit notion of competition and appropriation that underpin design as a fashion and trade.

The agency of designers in other fields than their own craft, results in many designers being invited into their context with a clean sheet, no agenda, a carte blanche. Here, in a way, they can design their own role from scratch. Rather than being asked to serve a pre-defined objective, designers often become wildcards, chameleons, adaptively changing color by the minute. Solving a traditional design problem is just one out of many roles that the designer is performing simultaneously.

One of the other consequences of our changing tools is that we can set up a studio now anywhere we want. There is no need to be contained within the four walls of an expensive metropolitan office space stuffed with Vitra chairs.

Many examples of cutting edge design are now being produced by collectives and entities who are not studios in the classical sense, and who operate from the unlikeliest of places, often mobile, sometimes unglamorous, and even at times from remote natural resorts where life is still good and affordable.

Other designers have started expanding their skills to formulate models and speculative scenarios. As such, they are bringing design thinking into areas off-limits to the strictly productive reach of what it is designers do, into a more strategic understanding of what design might become. They actively seek for an involvement in issues which are none of their business’, in which they are introducing an outside perspective.

We can say that a lot of conditions to speak of graphic design as research are in place. Writing, agency, authorship, mobility, post-studio field work, new collaborations, strategic and theoretical activities, are all transforming design into a knowledge-intensive multi-disciplinary discipline’.

But just like the commercial whaling Research’ shown here entails a risk, so does what I just briefly spoke about. The manifold positions which designers find themselves capable of occupying, eventually bring the risk that there’s no time left to actually make work. We may become so incredibly smart that we will be left in between all our knowledge-intensive networking activities with nothing to show.

Let this never happen. Do research. Make work. And let’s talk about it.

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SVA D-Crit Identity

Designed by us. The new website is now up and running.

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Designed by us.

The new website is now up and running.

Nothing Moments: Interview with Jon Sueda

Organized by Steven Hull and Tami Demaree with Annie Buckley and Jon Sueda, Nothing Moments brings together nearly 100 writers, artists, and designers—the result of which being a touring exhibition, a series of readings, and 24 wildly different books. Jon Sueda of Stripe L.A. was asked to coordinate—and more importantly curate—the design phase of the […]

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Organized by Steven Hull and Tami Demaree with Annie Buckley and Jon Sueda, Nothing Moments brings together nearly 100 writers, artists, and designers—the result of which being a touring exhibition, a series of readings, and 24 wildly different books. Jon Sueda of Stripe L.A. was asked to coordinate—and more importantly curate—the design phase of the project.

How did you get involved with the Nothing Moments project?

Steven is a Los Angeles based artist. His work is primarily painting, drawing and some sculpture. He’s also known as the mastermind of several large scale projects where he sets up collaborative relationships between artists, writers, and designers. In the past, one graphic designer has realized the final form of these projects. Michael Worthington was the designer of the Ab Ovo and Blind Date books. For Nothing Moments, I think Michael might have foreseen how crazy this project would become and suggested me instead. When Steven asked me to collaborate, he had already been hard at work commissioning the writing of all the stories and passing them on to the artists to create illustrations for each of the 24 books. My job was to be in charge of the design phase.

What originally excited you about the project?

It was the scale. A 24 book collection initially excited me . . . also that I would have the opportunity to curate a group of designers to create the collection of books. I read through all the manuscripts and thought long and hard about who to assign each story and artwork to. I wanted to give the designers content that they all would be excited about and would also fit their sensibilities.

How did you select the designers?

Steven and I initially talked about 5 designers that we thought should be part of the project, mainly people related to CalArts, since we both went to school there. But as I created a wish list for who I wanted to design the other 20 books, I kept thinking about trying to avoid assembling just another list of the usual suspects . . . more established designers who always get approached to do these kinds of projects. Instead I decided to make a list of my contemporaries, younger designers who do really great work, but who aren’t household names yet. I’m really happy with the people I selected and the range of work that came out of it.

What were the challenges in executing a project with so many participants?

Project management was a huge issue… something I’ve never really had to do at this scale! I worked on the project for about a year and a half, scanned all the images on the weekends, read all the stories, created a working schedule for all 24 designers, distributed all the work, did the corrections and production, and somehow all the books got printed before the opening!

Do you think that this was a true collaboration between writers, artists, and designers?

I’m not sure “collaboration” is the way to describe this project in the end. Exquisite corpse was another term that doesn’t quite fit either, but has some relationship. . . the idea that each collaborator adds to the piece in sequence relates to that process I suppose. The thing that kept it from being truly “ collaborative” was the number of participants… only a few threesomes actually knew each other or were in the same city, so very few groups talked or had discussions. In some ways I think the disconnection was a positive thing and made the project manageable. I think if each designer had to try to satisfy the desires of both an artist and a writer, we’d still be working on the project right now!

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How did the gallery experience relate to the book experience?

The exhibition (which is now traveling around the US) was coordinated and designed by Steven and Tami. All the artwork was displayed in the gallery and the books were laid out on tables throughout the space. The event also included a reading where 10 of the authors got behind a mic and read from their books. I think the reading was a very important aspect of the exhibition because it allowed you to experience the writer’s interpretation of their story. In a way, the event deconstructed the project. You could experience the author’s interpretation of their story during the reading (step 1 of the project), you could view the artwork, the artist’s translation of the story (step 2), and finally hold the designed book in your hand (step 3).

In the end, the project made me feel both empowered as a designer and also a bit depressed. Empowered in that overseeing this massive undertaking made me realize that graphic designers had a lot of power to mold and shape content of this project. Some approached it in very overt ways, others were more subtle. We all know that this is what graphic design does, but following the development of so many projects all at once made it very obvious to me that we have a lot to contribute. On the other hand, we are often the last step in the chain. Not many writers had comments about an artist’s visual response to their stories, nor did many artists critique their manuscripts. However both groups didn’t hesitate to offer their opinions about the design. Although the designers were meant to be “ equal” participants and given the same freedom, it was hard to transcend the traditional relationships we have with writers and artists. Though I must admit that sometimes these comments ended up making the end result much stronger. For my own sanity I’ve always thought of the project on a macro level. Of course there are books that I like better than others, but as a collection of 24, I’m extremely happy with the sum of the parts. More than anything it was a very satisfying feeling to work as a big team and accomplish a pretty ambitious project. The process definitely fed my optimism for more independent publishing ventures, something i’m really interested in.

Participating designers: Emily C.M. Anderson, Bob Aufuldish, Caryn Aono, Kyle Blue, Alex DeArmond, Roy Brooks, Emmet Byrne, Linda Byrne, Sean Donahue, Joe Ewart, Katie Hanburger, Geoff Kaplan, Yasmin Khan, Zak Kyes, Willem Henri Lucas, James W. Moore, Penny Pehl, Scott Ponik, Brian Roettinger, Brian Scott, Stuart Smith, Jon Sueda, Michael Thompson, Gail Swanlund, Martin Venezky, Michael Worthington, Scott Zukowski

Participating artists: Edgar Arceneaux, Kelly Barrie, Jesse Benson, Joseph Biel, Ion Birch, Derek Boshier, Andrea Bowers, Kristin Calabrese, Matthew Chambers, Tami Demaree, Harry Dodge, Sean Dower, Tim Ebner, Charles Gaines, Tanya Haden, Isabell Heimerdinger, Steven Hull, Phung Huynh, Glenn Ligon, Jonathan Monk, John Monn, Beatriz Monteavaro, Kaz Oshiro, Hiroki Otsuki, Renee Petropoulos, Jerry Phillips, Gail Pickering, Yuval Pudik, James Pyman, Colin Roberts, Marcos Rosales, Matt Saunders, Thaddeus Strode, Gail Swanlund, Henry Taylor, Dani Tull, Marnie Weber

Participating writers: Aimee Bender, Varina Bleil, Annie Buckley, Sean Dungan, Ben Ehrenreich, Amy Gerstler, Riley Harvill, Marsha Hopkins, Vincent Johnson, Stanya Kahn, Mark Kamine, Jim Krusoe, Rachel Kushner, Thomas Lawson, Simon Leung, Wayne Lindberg, Stewart Lindh, Douglas A. Martin, Marisol Limon Martinez, Tom McCarthy, Jacob Melchi, Claudia Milian, Lee Montgomery, Rheana Rafferty, Nelly Reifler, Pamela August Russell, Jamie Schwartz, Matthew Sharpe, Kevin P. Smith, Christopher Sorrentino, Georgina Starr, Lynne Tillman, James Wagner, Benjamin Weissman, Tony White, Millie Wilson, Mary Woronov, Mary Younakof

Friday Find: Avalanche Magazine

As an attempt to discover new books and ideas, I (along with my fellow design fellow, Vance) have been making a habit of visiting the Walker Art Center’s expansive library every Friday afternoon. Never before having such a rich resource available to us, we inevitably stumble upon many, blog-worthy, printed materials. Pending their level of […]

As an attempt to discover new books and ideas, I (along with my fellow design fellow, Vance) have been making a habit of visiting the Walker Art Center’s expansive library every Friday afternoon. Never before having such a rich resource available to us, we inevitably stumble upon many, blog-worthy, printed materials. Pending their level of worthiness as well as their state of ‘oh-snap-ness’, we will simply document our findings under the categorization of “Friday Finds.” Ideally, our “finds” will be posted shortly after the find has been made to preserve their freshness. (Please excuse this commencing “Friday Finds” post as it is already 4 days old.)

During my most recent visit, I found a stack of Avalanche, a magazine that existed from 1970-1976.

Thanks to Emmet for borrowing me Conception. Conceptual Documents 1968 to 1972 (designed by Stuart Bailey), I was able to learn a little more about Avalanche magazine. Here are some quotes from the book describing the magazine:

“…Avalanche, first published in Fall 1970 in New York by Willoughby Sharp and edited by Eliza Béar, developed a characteristic style of a straightforward purportedly unmediated platform for conceptual art and documentation.” (pp. 157)

“The aim of publishing, as represented in…Avalanche and similar publications, was to present primary…information, as far as possible, to let people think about art for themselves.” (pp. 165)

Certainly Avalanche proved to be an important conceptual art publication in the 1970s. And from a design perspective, the cover of the magazine had the right moves with its bold logotype set in Helvetica in combination with the no-nonsense portraits.

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Cast your designs in a Southern direction

The 2008 Emerging Green Builders Natural Talent Design Competition is focusing on the Southern Theater, the century-old landmark for performing arts in the Seven Corners area of Minneapolis. Contestants will focus on an iconic redesign and expansion of the theater, envisioning Minnesota’s first sustainable performing arts center. Multi-disciplinary teams of up to five designers can […]

The 2008 Emerging Green Builders Natural Talent Design Competition is focusing on the Southern Theater, the century-old landmark for performing arts in the Seven Corners area of Minneapolis. Contestants will focus on an iconic redesign and expansion of the theater, envisioning Minnesota’s first sustainable performing arts center.

Multi-disciplinary teams of up to five designers can compete. Local winners will receive a $1,000 and an expenses-paid trip to Boston for the 2008 United States Greenbuild Conference. Submissions are accepted until May 11, 2008, and a complete criteria package is available at the Web site for the Minnesota chapter of Emerging Green Builders. Theater and contest representatives will give a tour and answer questions at open house from10 am to noon February 2, 2008, at the Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S.

Live! From Arnhem!

En route to (and from) a press check in Brugge, Belgium I took time off in Arnhem, the Netherlands (to visit friends — and previous Walker designers — who are currently at the Werkplaats Typografie). In downtown Arnhem there is a newly opened store — Coming Soon: Arnhem — that sells Dutch-made design goods (books, […]

En route to (and from) a press check in Brugge, Belgium I took time off in Arnhem, the Netherlands (to visit friends — and previous Walker designers — who are currently at the Werkplaats Typografie). In downtown Arnhem there is a newly opened store — Coming Soon: Arnhem — that sells Dutch-made design goods (books, magazines, fashion, products, art, etc). The identity was designed by the Amsterdam-based design studio Experimental Jetset. Below are a few examples of the system in use:IMG_4878.JPGIMG_4931.JPG

Forms of Inquiry

A poster show curated by Zak Kyes for the Architecture Association in London “emerges from a desire to draw attention to a number of recent developments in the field of graphic design that highlight its increasingly fertile relationship with architecture. Broadly, this involves a loose network of fellow-travellers whose work mobilises graphic design as a […]

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A poster show curated by Zak Kyes for the Architecture Association in London “emerges from a desire to draw attention to a number of recent developments in the field of graphic design that highlight its increasingly fertile relationship with architecture. Broadly, this involves a loose network of fellow-travellers whose work mobilises graphic design as a specifically critical activity.”

The results are “sometimes utterly bewildering,” says Brett Steele. There’s also a nice publication which you can see here.

48 Hours in St. Louis

Having grown up in St. Louis and now living in Minneapolis I rarely get the opportunity to spend much time in my old stomping grounds. When I do here are four places I always like to visit for both their architectural intrigue as well as the memories they hold. St. Louis Planetarium Architect: Gyo Obata […]

Having grown up in St. Louis and now living in Minneapolis I rarely get the opportunity to spend much time in my old stomping grounds. When I do here are four places I always like to visit for both their architectural intrigue as well as the memories they hold.

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St. Louis Planetarium

Architect: Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum

Completed: 1963

Obata studied under Eero Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. Oh and the bow is temporarily on the building for the holiday season.

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The Gateway Arch

Architect: Eero Saarinen

Completed: 1968

Many people don’t know about this architectural gem . . . It’s kind of hidden. The exhibition Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future will be opening at the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in September of 2008.

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Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts

Architect: Tadao Ando

Completed: 2001

Commissions for the building include Ellsworth Kelly’s wall sculpture Blue Black, and Richard Serra’s torqued spiral sculpture Joe.

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Climatron

Architect: Murphy and Mackey, Architects

Completed: 1960

A Geodesic dome structure which incorporates the principles of R. Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic system. The Climatron is located on the grounds of the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

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