Tag Archives: Michael Graves

Gossip’s Guide: What to see in 20 minutes?

Antonio Salemme's Paul Robeson
Antonio Salemme;s Paul Robeson


Conversing with a reference librarian at the Princeton Public Library, I learned that visitors sometimes ask: “What can I do in an hour before I leave for the airport?”

With my Gossip’s Guide hat on – I suggest: 

In 20 minutes, more or less

The Quick Paul Robeson Tour: Check out the Robeson bust by Antonio Salemme in the Princeton Room on the second floor of the library. Walk past the Arts Council of Princeton’s Robeson bust (this site formerly belonged to the Colored YMCA) to the Paul Robeson house and Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, where his father preached. (Both visible only from the outside).

the Norman Rockwell “Yankee Doodle” painting at the Nassau Inn Tap Room (reminding the patron that it is NOT a colonial era building!). Check out the alumni headshots. If you have time, a free place to sit is the upstairs lounge, by the fireplace.

Princeton Cemetery. Available at the entrance is a new brochure. 

Tiger Walk:  Stroll from the tiger in Palmer Square and the tigers at the entrance to Nassau Hall. Keep going and you will find more.

The Comparative Architecture Tour: Enjoy the interior of the Princeton Public Library, a Taj Mahal of libraries, designed by the Hillier firm. Diagonally across, the work of postmodern architect Michael Graves. Contemplate the differences. Then check out the interior of the Arts Council and the current exhibit.

Dohm Alley: a startling array of thoughts and objects in a small narrow space. Plus, there’s a water feature good for contemplating, and it’s right down the street from the town’s college bookstore (never miss a chance to enjoy a college bookstore.)

In 30-40 minutes

A quick Einstein tour — the Einstein museum in the back of Landau’s plus the Einstein bust at the corner of 206 and Nassau Street, great photo op. (The house is too far to walk in a hurry, but I tell people to drive and park on Edgehill.) 

Morven, now made relevant by truthful and inclusive exhibits that tell the stories of female occupants and slaves.

Prospect Gardens, always attractive in any season.

Cotsen Children’s Library inside Firestone Library

Princeton University Chapel, always open and it has a brochure about the windows

Tiffany Window Tour at Princeton United Methodist Church on Fridays and Sundays noon-2.

Quick sculpture tour 1: Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei and Picassso’s Head of a Woman, down by the former Dinky Station.

Quick sculpture tour 2: The Plaza in front of the chapel: statue of John Witherspoon, Song of the Vowels by Lipschitz, and (just inside the University Library, and open to the public) Noguchi’s White Sun. Throw in Oval with Points if you are walking that way.

This tour works if a Princeton native can direct the visitor. Later I may have time to add the links. What would YOU recommend?


Towers, teapots — and boathouses

Michael Graves in his studio DSC_0043 ret, 13 inches wide, credit Jon Naar, 2011 (1)

You probably read the New York Times  “designer of towers and teapots” obituary on Michael Graves, who died yesterday (3-12-15) at 80.

You probably did not see this excellent video of Grounds for Sculpture’s Tom Moran reminiscing about Graves, taken yesterday by Times of Trenton’s Michael Mancuso. Grounds for Sculpture has a 50-year Graves retrospective running through April 5.  Everybody is talking about their Michael Graves memory.

Early in my tenure at U.S. 1, Rich Rein assigned me to write a cover story on Graves. In the early days, U.S. 1 was a monthly, then biweekly, and cover stories ran at least 5,000 words.

The only way Graves could fit me into his schedule was for me to accompany him on a 6 a.m. Amtrak train to Washington, D.C., so Rein agreed to buy my business class ticket.

Bleary eyed, notebook equipped, I met the courtly Graves on the Princeton Junction platform. Two of the things he said stay with me today. He was telling about his upbringing. “I guess your mom was proud of your drawings and put them on the refrigerator?” I asked. His answer was . . . pause, “No.”

I thought that was a poignant comment and made a mental note to visibly appreciate my own children’s talents more.  At that point in his career, though the Humana building was up, and the Disney hotels were in the works,  no significant buildings carried the Graves signature in Princeton. Just a couple of house designs. It took a long time before a major Graves postmodern design, for the Arts Council of Princeton, would make it to the streets of his home town.

In any case, it was a heady moment for me. Until I joined the staff of U.S. 1 in 1987,  I had been a dance writer. I had interviewed famous dancers, but never an architect, let alone a famous architect.

Then, as  the train pulled into Philadelphia, Graves called my attention to the boathouses along the Schuylkill River. “Each is a different style, each a gem,” said Graves, of the 19th-century designs, noting that he assigned boathouse design to his Princeton classes.

Baltimore is my home town. I  got off in Baltimore and taxied to see my mother.  I made that train trip monthly for more than  a decade. Remembering that morning, I always craned my neck to catch a fleeting glimpse of the Schuylkill boathouses.

Photo by Jon Naar, U.S. 1, January 26, 2011.
That story “Called the Architect for the ’90s, but his work is invisible here,” was published on November 29, 1989, soon after U.S. 1 Newspaper had gone from a monthly to a biweekly. The paper has published many stories on Graves since that time, searchable in the archives.