Author: Willa Granger

Drawing, Proposal for Pershing Sq, 1986
A Magic Carpet
“Sustainability,” “green,” “eco-friendly”: these terms have become bywords associated with the contemporary city. With the inception of LEED certification in 1998, and the advent of sustainable technologies such as solar panels, today’s urban designers are increasingly immersed in the conversation around sustainable design. Architect and sculptor James Wines (b. 1932), however, has been grappling with these questions since...
wooden staircase model with two openings
An Enlightened Staircase
As an architecture buff, I am constantly drawn to those objects in Cooper-Hewitt’s collection that pertain to building design. Not surprisingly, I was intrigued by Cooper-Hewitt’s staircase model collection, and in particular this 19th century curved double staircase surmounted with individual busts of Voltaire and Rousseau. Architecture necessarily entails numerous design stages, from drawings to...
architectural sketch
The Modern Hut
Swiss architect Mario Botta (b. 1943) is perhaps best known in the United States for his design for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (completed 1995). Composed of striated brick bands along its exterior facade, and featuring a prominent, central skylight, the building is a hallmark of the San Francisco cityscape. Botta’s design for...
Ornate example of script in the form of a letter. Flourishes include swirls and a crowned eagle at lower left.
Van de Velde’s Famous Flourishes
From computers to cellphones, Twitter to Facebook, the typed word dominates our daily life. With the increasing proliferation of digital technologies, access to writing has become almost universal.  In the 17th century, however, writing was a skill reserved for an educated subset within the European population. Calligraphy, referred to as the “Tenth Muse,” was considered...
Perspective design for a skyscraper. Smaller masses flank a tall shaft with a dome-like terminus above.
Celebrating the Commercial Building
Ely Jacques Kahn (1884-1972), a commercial architect active throughout the 1920s and 30s, worked to define the New York aesthetic through his Art Deco skyscrapers. “The industrial structure,” he once commented, “sails merrily into experiment.” Kahn’s observation exemplified the architect’s dual pragmatism and creativity, his ability to meld a practical understanding of the architectural program...