Alexandra Lange | Essays

D/R Rising

D/R is back. Cambridge blogs have been twittering about it all month, and there’s an official press opening later in October, but anyone with eyes can see that the Design Research Headquarters Building, corner of Brattle and Story Streets in Harvard Square, has been restocked with the Marimekko textiles and clothes, Joe Colombo plastic chairs and white wool sofas, Scandinavian glassware and Rosenthal china that made D/R the place to shop, window-shop, or just hang out from 1953 to 1979. The 1969 building, designed by D/R founder and architect Benjamin Thompson (who went on to plan Faneuil Hall, South Street Seaport and a number of other “festival marketplaces”) has been empty since Crate & Barrel, itself an offspring of D/R, moved out of the space last year.

Jane Thompson, Ben Thompson’s widow and former partner, has organized the installation with a number of former D/R employees, and it is a glimpse of both a future museum exhibit on the store and our forthcoming book, D/R: The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes (Chronicle, 2010). (I already blogged about its section on Cambridge great Julia Child here.)

About the installation, Jane says:

This is officially a Museum of the Street, designed so dresses, fabrics and furnishings can be seen through the glass facade of the building on all three sides [as Ben intended]. We have explanatory captions and background statements legible in the windows. One goal was to bring life and color back to Brattle Street after the building was vacant. Another was to demonstrate its potential for a new tenant.

The unexpected result is the response of shoppers knocking on the door and wanting to buy the classic Marimekko styles of the 1960s, most no longer in the inventory of the company. (But they could be again.)

I am too young to remember my trips to D/R, but the house of everyone I grew up with in Cambridge featured one of those big paper globe lights, my best friend’s family ate off orange Heller plates, and my bunk bed quilts were Marimekko’s cornflower blue Puketti. If any of these words mean something to you, the installation is not to be missed.

Posted in: History

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