Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe’s architecture critic, takes a look at Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes and declares that Cambridge lived the modern life first.
Actually, it was Cambridge half a century ago when a Brattle Street emporium sparked an American revolution in domestic taste.
A new book, just off the presses, recalls that era: Design Research: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes. The principal author is Jane Thompson, widow of Ben Thompson, the architect who created Design Research, or D/R for short.
Here’s where I feel compelled to point out that this book, while instigated by Jane, was a collaboration. It seems awfully rude not to mention Jane Thompson’s co-author, otherwise known as me.
The simplest way to sum up Thompson’s contribution to modernism is to say that he added sensuality. Much of modernism drew its inspiration from industrial technology, which was perceived as the new zeitgeist of the 20th century. That kind of modernism could be elegant, but it was often dry and intellectual. “Less is more,’’ famously said the great modernist Mies van der Rohe.
Ben and Jane Thompson liked modern clarity and simplicity, but nobody would accuse them of believing that less is more. D/R was a feast for the senses. There were always flowers, fabrics, music, colors, textures, patterns, and natural materials like wood, not to mention Bloody Marys and beautiful young Finns in Marimekko.