New story at AIGA Voice on the design of the dime
In the first televised presidential debate, John F. Kennedy looked fit and tan; Richard Nixon, with his five-o’clock shadow, looked nervous and pasty. Both showed a command of the issues, but appearances mattered.
So did the set and furniture.
The set was extremely spare. The candidates sat in Danish modern chairs conceived by Hans Wegner, the famous designer, and spoke from behind skeletal podiums that resembled music stands and offered no place to hide.
“The whole set was extremely modern, and that gave a sense of faith in the future,” recalled Carl Magnusson, the furniture designer.
The ambiance might have helped Mr. Kennedy as much as his tan: he was billing himself as the candidate of the future.
Campaigns have learned a lot since then. The set is so critical that types of debates are named after the furniture and setting: there are podium, table and town hall debates.
“Set design makes an important contribution” and often dictates the ensuing dynamic of the debate, said Alan Schroeder, the author of “Presidential Debates: Fifty Years of High-Risk TV.”
“When candidates stand behind lecterns, a physical barrier is created that makes it more acceptable for the debaters to clash,” said Mr. Schroeder, an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University. “By contrast, when the candidates sit at a table, the close proximity tends to discourage either participant from going on the attack.”
No wonder, then, that negotiations between rival campaigns can get testy over set design, furniture, format and props.
Consider some of the issues that arose leading up to the debate between President Ford and his challenger, Jimmy Carter, in 1976, as detailed by Professor Schroeder in his book.
One issue was the hue of blue that would be used on the backdrop. Mr. Ford’s advisers worried that a darker blue might emphasize the president’s thinning hair. Mr. Ford, who had been lampooned as clumsy on “Saturday Night Live,” also wanted a bracket on his podium to secure his water glass. In debates when Mr. Carter and the man who defeated him, Ronald Reagan, were incumbents, both argued — without success — to have the presidential seal affixed to their podiums.
Height is often a point of contention. Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice president candidate, stood on a riser behind her podium when she debated George H. W. Bush. So did the Senator John McCain in a debate during his first Senate campaign, in 1986, according to his biographer, Robert Timberg, in “John McCain: An American Odyssey.” Mr. McCain’s opponent, Richard Kimball, tried to provoke him, saying, "You come and you stand on a soapbox to make yourself look taller." But Mr. McCain didn’t take the bait.
Props also figure into the negotiations. Vice President Dan Quayle wanted to bring a copy of Al Gore’s book, “Earth in the Balance,” and read from it during their 1992 vice presidential debate. Mr. Gore said he would agree, provided he could bring a potato. (Mr. Quayle had famously misspelled the word during a visit to sixth-grade spelling bee earlier that year.)
In this year’s president race, John McCain and Barack Obama have already debated twice — once standing at lecterns, and, last Tuesday, in a town-hall format in which the candidates moved about the set as they fielded questions. In their final debate on Wednesday, the two men will sit together at a table with a moderator.
The ground rules called for the candidates to answer questions while standing. Mr. Kennedy’s advisers thought this would benefit him because Mr. Nixon was suffering from a knee injury. When Mr. Nixon shifted his weight behind the music-stand like lectern, he gave the impression that he was ill-at-ease.
The height issue first arose in the planning for this debate and resulted in what became known as the “belt-buckle compromise,” according to Professor Schroeder. President Ford was 3 1/2 inches taller than Mr. Carter, prompting the Carter camp to seek what Professor Schroeder called “compensatory measures.” As a result, the top of the lectern Mr. Ford used was 2 1/2 inches above his belt buckle; Mr. Carter’s was 1 1/2 inches below his buckle.
1980 Carter Reagan
Although President Carter was not allowed to affix the Presidential seal to his podium for their single debate, the podiums they used resembled the one use by Mr. Carter when he traveled. Mr. Reagan ended up being the beneficiary. The image of Mr. Reagan behind the lectern made him seem more presidential and less extreme, analysts said at the time. Viewers could imagine him as president.
1988 Bush Dukakis
Height again became an issue. Michael Dukakis was 4 inches shorter than George H.W. Bush. Contentious negotiations ensued. At one point, according to Professor Schroeder, James Baker, a top aide to Mr. Bush, asked, “What are you going to do when you have to negotiated with Gorbachev. Ask for a little platform?” In the end, the set designer, Hugh Grant Raisky, built a nearly invisible riser of laminated wood for Mr. Dukakis. It worked — until Mr. Dukakis stepped down at the end of the debate to shake hands with Mr. Bush.
This was the first of the so-called “town hall” debates in which the candidates sat perched on stools and fielded questions from an audience in Richmond, Va.
2004 Cheney Edwards
Vice President Richard Cheney and Senator John Edwards sat in swivel chairs at a horse-shoe shaped desk as they field questions from the moderator. Mr. Cheney’s aides had pushed for the format, according to Professor Schroeder, because of the vice president’s familiarity with “Meet the Press”-style shows and because of his heart problems. With a table debate, said Professor Schroeder, “It doesn’t work to go after each other in a nasty personal way."
A note arrived with the news: Bloomingdale’s is the exclusive vendor for a new men’s fragrance from Cartier called Roadster.
The name does not refer directly to a car, but to Cartier’s Roadster watch, whose rounded winding stem inspired the top of the bottle. The bottle lies on its side, suggesting a kind of automobile taillight. The name is written in the same sort of script found on a Maserati or the front of the Motor City Casino in Detroit.
Recently, I stopped by my local Bloomie’s to sample it. The lady at the cosmetics counter offered a spritz on a strip of blotting paper printed in the shape of the bottle. She asked me what my fragrance was – as if every man had one, the way every perp on “Law & Order” seems to have an attorney.
Roadster is the work of the perfume designer Mathilde Laurent. The maker of the perfume describes its scent as “Luminous bergamot and fresh mint atop a sleek chassis of patchouli, labdanum and vanilla. The essence of Roadster style, for the free-spirited and confident man . . .
One perfume review blog — and there are such things — is quite positive about Roadster. A review on Now Smell This declares that “Roadster opens with a strong vetiver-citrus blast followed quickly by the aromas of fresh, crushed mint leaves and herbal-labdanum notes.”
Roadster struck my uneducated nose as more sophisticated and less strident than most men’s colognes. I asked people of various ages to react to the perfume, and most liked it. But I had a hard time distinguishing the notes of flavor described in the advertising (isn’t bergamot in Earl Grey tea?). It was all a solid if pleasant wall of scents.
Fragrance is important in cars. Think of that ineffable “new car smell” or the fir tree deodorizers and other fragrance devices, in citrus or vanilla as well as evergreen.
Cadillac has its own new car scent and last spring during the New York auto show, GM designers Bryan Nesbitt and Dave Lyon were both singing the praises of Tom Ford’s “Tuscan Leather.” They associate it with Ferraris.
Hummer entered the fragrance world some years ago with a licensed scent. Its maker, a firm called Riviera, said that Hummer is made up of multiple olfactory “accords.” The term has nothing to do with a Honda model but is in this case he equivalent in fragrance of the power strummings of heavy metal guitar, perhaps. There is the “ Fresh Accord, comprised of Green Foliage, Cardamom, Thyme and Peppercorns” juxtaposed with The Warm Accord, a rugged and masculine adrenaline rush, composed of Leather, Patchouli, Amber and Sandalwood.”
Tempelhof Airport in Berlin is closing at the end of October. One of the oldest continuously operating airports in the world, Tempelhof’s design set the pattern for many other airports; Sir Norman Foster calls Tempelhof “the mother of all airports.” Its high central hall, adapted from railroad stations, is joined by wings of halls and hangars. Airports like National in Washington borrowed this layout for their terminals. On one side, offices tied Tempelhof to the streets and subway of the city. On the other, a great overhang of a roof sheltered passengers leaving their planes. Before the antiseptic insulation of the sealed “jetway,” Tempelhof’s passengers descended portable stairs under this canopy from aircraft to tarmac. Flight was an adventure, as exciting as airship travel.
Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit pushed for the closure of Tempelhof, although there are complaints about the other airports for Berlin, Tegel, Schoenefeld and the planned but delayed Brandenburg. Among Berliners, sentiment for saving the old airport was so widespread that the city held a referendum last spring on saving it, but it failed of passage by a few votes. Local architects fought to keep it open. Ronald Lauder offered up a proposal to save the airport by converting it to a beauty spa, but that too was rejected.
Flying through Tempelhof always felt like touching an earlier time. It was also slightly sinister; one felt the Cold War chill, and the deeper shudder of the Third Reich. The airport was opened in 1923 but the terminal was built between 1934 and 1938 in fascist neoclassic style. The site had been a parade ground for centuries; the name comes from the Knights of Templars, who once trooped there. The Imperial German army used it later; Orville Wright showed off one his flying machines on the grounds in 1909.
Lufthansa was set up at Tempelhof in 1919 and the first terminal, along with a U-bahn or subway station was soon added. But not until Albert Speer began to envision Tempelhof as one of the gateways to the Berlin he planned as capital of Hitler’s empire was the grand terminal begun.
It was the work of Ernst Sagebiel, in the style called state neo classical, always described as “stern,” with rhythms of windows suggesting the ranked power of bureaucracy.
When it was finished in 1938 it was the largest building in the world, the stern simplified ranks of windows and limestone walls recalled the Pentagon, the building that would displace it as the worlds largest two years later.
From the air you could see the way its wings spread like an eagle’s and it was always dramatic to catch a glimpse of the terminal from the landing airplane. The roof of the wings was planned as a huge series of bleachers for watching marches and air shows. Along those extended wings, fifteen stair towers stand like drill sergeants in front of ranked troops. They recall similar structures at the giant Volkswagen factory in what is now called Wolfsburg, opened the same year, 1938.
Sagebiel had taken over as head of the office of the modernist Mendelssohn after the Jewish Mendelssohn left Germany. Opportunistic and tough, in the offices at Tempelhof, Sagebiel deployed a rhythmic, perhaps authoritarian pattern of repeated windows, updating the sensibility of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the great German classical architect. He used a similar approach in the Air ministry built for Goering’s Luftwaffe, rehabilitated in the 1990s for the finance ministry of the reunited federal government. (Frank Gehry’s DG Bank building in Pariser Plats, beside the Brandenburg gate, pays homage to Schinkel with a related window pattern.)
The terminal lobby is backed by a huge office complex and traffic ring. It was seen as membrane between air and city—or capital and empire. The Nazis planned Tempelhof as the terminus of one the prime axes of Hitler and Speer’s plan for a grandiose future Berlin, “Germania” the capital of the victorious Third Reich.
In 1948 Tempelhof was on the front line of the Cold War: it was the battlefield of the Berlin Airlift, recounted in Andre Cherney’s excellent new book The Candy Bombers. By then the runways were already bound in by the city around them. Apartment buildings towered dangerously close to heavy laden C-54s landing in the fog. Pilots made handkerchiefs into parachutes and used them to drop chocolate bars to the children waiting at the edge of the runway.
During the Cold War, landing at Tempelhof seemed to me a corollary experience to crossing the wall into the East: there was the same sense of constriction and change in temperature, political and spiritual. (Security checks were not so universal then.) Between 1975 and 1985 the airport was used only by US military flights Reunification restored its role as a main city airport. But landing at Tempelhof was always like stepping into the past--one past or other. It was also ceremonial like cross the wall itself, and seeing the ruins of World War II intentionally preserved to humiliate the Germans in the east and remind them of their guilt. It was the perfect setting for spy novels or films, the anonymous spaces reflecting the anonymity of a large organizations, east or west, socialist or capitalist, that lay behind them. . Tempelhof’s golden years were years when the moral force of such organizations was far from clear—it was the era of the spy still out in the cold. Passing through Tempelhof during the Sixties or Seventies was an experience laden with the same emotions as passing through the wall to the east. One saw the huge carved eagles of the façade and walking its lobby it was hard not to think of spies passing through the hall, hats pulled low over the faces like the terminal roof.
The opening on Thursday of the show “Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture 1925-1940” at the Museum of the City of New York coincided with the opening of the Paris auto show and this season’s round of fashion shows in Paris. Curated by Donald Albrecht, the show is all about the ways French and American culture interacted between the wars: think Josephine Baker and Coco Chanel.
Over the entrance is stretched a replica of a 1939 Peugeot advertisement. It shows a bridge across the Atlantic, with the Eiffel Tower on the right and the Trylon and Perisphere, the signature buildings of the New York World’s fair on the left.
It reminded me that while the influence of French fashion persists, the fascination French auto design once exerted does not. We tend to snort disdainfully at French design. This is provincial and frankly hickish. There is a lot to be learned from and a lot sheer fun to be found in concepts such as Peugeot’s diesel hybrid in Paris.
American and German makers tipped off their important reveals before the Paris show, but the French still rolled out interesting concepts.
French auto design has a reputation of futuristic eccentricity, like Barbarella. But the concepts at the Paris show and the models on the road are not unimaginable on our streets. Certainly French technology, in Formula One, is respected around the world. Innovation? Citroen created modern front wheel drive thirty years before Detroit played with it. Citroen’s 1930’s Traction Avant was advanced tech in a sleek body by the Italian Flaminio Bertoni. (Examples of this car show off their wonderful stance and power in the Resistance drama, the classic Jean Pierre Melville film, Army of Shadows.
Citroen of course also created one of the most beloved cars in history, the 2cv, the French people’s car. Planned in the 1930’s as the TPV or “ the Tres Petite Voiture” the “very small car,” it only was produced after World War II. In the Fifties the DS or “Goddess” exerted worldwide fascination. Citroen has a new design chief—37 year old Jean-Pierre Ploue-- and showed a bold new concept the GT Concept in Paris. It is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 2CV with a special Hermes edition. (Independently of the company, designer David Portela has offered a proposal for a “New 2CV” to match New Beetle, new Mini, and new Fiat 500. )
Between the wars, French cars were respected in America. Several examples, whose extreme hand made streamlines made them as much fashion as auto design were included in the French pavilion at the 1939 world’s fair. But the world war left them stranded in America as the bridge between the continents was closed.