The legacy of American industrial designer Russel Wright, whose
dinnerware and furniture introduced Modernism into many American households in the mid-20th century, is honored today at Manitoga, a 75-acre estate in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Modernist home Wright built there, surrounded by woodland gardens, is a National Historic Landmark. And for the last several months, it has been the setting of a pavilion designed by Penn master of architecture students who were selected as annual artists in residence.
Manitoga executive director Allison Cross says that Penn’s pavilion project echoes Wright’s passions. After buying the Hudson River Valley property in 1942, he never stopped working on it. “For him, it was a design problem and process,” Cross says. “The site served as his muse for over 34 years. Manitoga’s goal is to continue to use the site as a canvas for artists and designers working today.”
The PennDesign pavilion, a whimsical structure that suggests a troupe of tumbling acrobats, is on display through November 13. It “leaps up and it spreads out, and I think it embraces the landscape in a joyful way,” Cross says.
Visitors have been “intrigued” by the new addition, she adds. “Most people think of a pavilion as a small building, maybe a gazebo. What they come upon [here] is extremely sculptural and playful—and that’s a surprise. The people who have seen it thought that it was lyrical and experimental.”
“I think it’s unprecedented that an institution would put so much faith in a student project that they’d sponsor them as artists in residency,” said associate professor of architecture Andrew Saunders, who launched PennDesign’s annual pavilion project three years ago. “It’s really an incredible honor for us.”