07/17/12

What’s a Gibson Girl to do in Bethel, Maine?

The Gibson Girls get a day at the beach!

If you believe Wikipedia, we have illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, who created the slender-waisted, chignon-crowned Gibson Girl, to blame for the American woman’s obsession with beauty. The online encyclopedia claims he personified the feminine ideal with his “satirical” pen and ink drawings. If you believe Richard D. (Dick) Rasor, a former advertising executive for J. Walter Thompson and the current owner of The Bethel Inn Resort in Bethel, Maine, Gibson was the first American feminist.

The Gibson Room at The Bethel Inn Resort.

Rasor has dedicated an entire room at the Inn to the long-necked beauties and their eponymous creator. He took me on a tour of the Gibson Room earlier today, pointing out how the graphic designer riffed on men, the weaker sex, in many of his renderings: “With absolute clarity, he shows how screwed up men are!”

Leave it to Rasor to have a different take on Gibson’s standing in American history, as he has a razor sharp way of cutting through ambiguities (pun intended)! The hotelier bought a very different resort in 1979 than the one I am sitting within as I write this today. The 60-guestroom hotel surrounded by 100 acres and a 9-hole golf course saw 3,000 visitors a year in the late seventies. Today the property hosts 35,000 guests to its gracious spot off the commons in the Maine mountain village; has 200 acres surrounding its charming Victorian façade, an 18-hole golf course, 40 condominiums abutting the green, 40 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, and a popular spa.

During lunch in the Inn’s Millbrook Tavern & Grille, Rasor explained that from the start he was intent on founding a marketing-based business when he left the “Mad Men” world of New York City advertising. He paid $400,000 for the property in ’79, which he pointed out was about the same amount of money a home in Scarsdale, New York, would have cost during that time. In an article printed in Snow Country in 1989, Rasor advised everyone in the high-pressured world he had left to sell their $800,000 homes, buy a $150,000 home in Bethel, and use the rest of the money to open a small business: “There’s no way, really, to be on a power trip in Bethel, Me,” he quipped.

The talented businessman practiced what he preached, trading in his room at the top for a room at the Inn, and he’s been thrilled about his decision ever since. I, for one, am happy to have been in his spirited presence as he shared his passion about building a unique property with an abundance of character in the heart of one of the prettiest mountain destinations in our country. I am also happy he didn’t take his father’s advice. “Don’t get into the hotel business,” was the elder Rasor’s first caveat. Then he told his son, “If you do, don’t be dumb enough to buy a resort!” Had Rasor listened, not only would he have missed out on the opportunity to create a unique vacation experience for thousands of tourists each year, he might not have met his beautiful wife Gretchen, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last evening.

"A Little Story. By A Sleeve." by Charles Dana Gibson.

And back to the Gibson Room: Rasor owns several original Gibson Girl drawings, which explains his fascination with the comely women with pert chins and perfectly pursed lips. He motioned me over to a framed drawing—one of about a dozen in the room—titled “A Little Story. By a Sleeve.” As we leaned down and peered at the illustration, he asked me why I thought the piece of art was given such a title. I said, “I have no idea!” With a very pleased expression on his face, he said, “Look at her sleeves: one is flat! Guess where the guy would have been sitting before the waiter came in! And a Gibson Girl would never have a lock of hair out of place!”

Detail of one of Charles Dana Gibson's drawings in the Gibson Room at the Bethel Inn Resort. It's all in the details!

Though this may seem completely unrelated to a story about an inn, I beg to differ. A successful hospitality venue is built upon a precept that Rasor’s keen observation skills attest to: it’s all in the details. One of the results of this at the Bethel Inn Resort is an ample dose of charm.

You can like the Bethel Inn Resort Facebook page here, and follow them on Twitter here.

07/10/12

The Room by the Sea

The view from my terrace at The Cliff House in Ogunquit, Maine.

I’m in Maine, enjoying the hospitality of The Cliff House in Ogunquit, perched above the sea on a wildly gorgeous stretch of rocky coast. Being able to drink in the surroundings has been one blessing from my opportunity to stay; having access to the same stretch of shoreline that wooed May Sarton when she lived a few miles from here is another. Having her words has brought my experiences greater depth and has intensified this writer’s pleasure beyond words.

As I’ve watched flotillas of waterfowl bobbing in the tiny coves created by the jagged outcropping below my terrace, I imagined Sarton at Wild Knoll. She wrote about living there in a journal she kept during 1974. It was published in 1976 as The House by the Sea. She described her first taste of the landscape in the book: “…once I had stood on the wide flagstone terrace and looked out over that immensely gentle field to a shining, still, blue expanse, the decision [to move there] was taken out of my hands.” She describes this part of Maine as a place “creating the atmosphere of a fairy tale, something open yet mysterious that every single person who comes here is led to explore.”

The waning light paints a resplendent portrait of the end of this day.

The blue expanse Sarton wrote about has a powerful presence that infuses every part of the day with altering moods. While having a glass of wine as the sun slid away to the west, I studied the view from the terrace from an al fresco table holding a bright red umbrella like summer’s promise of glee. The scene revealed a swath of water turned the color of liquid mercury, crimped in spots where the wind touched its surface. The sky, palest blue and powdery pink except at its meeting point with the water, seemed to want to emulate the blue notes from the strip of darkest hues where the ocean met the horizon. A boat cut a wake, marring the serenity and leaving an indelible blue line drawn in the liquid sheen. The mark became ruffled as the rising tide nudged it to shore. Caught in the movement, it splashed above boulders and slabs of striated moss-laden rock until it was picked up by the breeze and dashed heavenward. Puddles of water formed erratically shaped mirrors reflecting the waning daylight, mercurial in contrast to the wet darkness of the seaweed-draped stones.

Sarton wrote, “I have slipped into these wide spaces, this atmosphere of salt and amplitude, this amazing piece of natural Heaven and haven, like a ship slipping into her berth.” Like Sarton, I came here seeking a place to write, and I have found it. The staff here has been attentive but respectful of my desire for solitude as I scribbled in notebooks and slashed pieces of writing long needing my attention while “real life” made it impossible for me to give them the concentration they deserved. I had a wonderful massage yesterday and as Julie gently rocked me from side to side, causing tears to spring to my eyes from the gratitude of having someone create such a lovely experience just for me, I thought about how the theme of this stay is about being touched. Not just by her knowing hands, which helped to relieve the tensions brought on by the world; but by Christian’s carefully selected wines; by a staff eager to please; and most gloriously by a powerful landscape.

Christian Bahre shared with me a delightful Moscato D'Asti from Italy.

Thirty-eight years ago to this day, Sarton intended to take an afternoon nap; she found herself caught up in the surrounding natural activity instead: “…unable to fall asleep, I amused myself listening to all the summer sounds—the leaves stirring like the rustling of taffeta; beyond it the gentle steady roar of the sea, tide rising; but what surprised me was how many birds were singing at that hour, two in the afternoon…I lay there for a half hour, listening, and got up refreshed.” I am being given the same opportunity for refreshment as I let the magic of this place wash over me. Thanks to Patrick, Matt, Brenda, Cheryl, Courtney, Christian, Birget and Julie for making my stay so peaceful. You have helped me to achieve what Sarton sought when she wrote, “I mean every encounter here to be more than superficial…”

[This post was written on July 10, 2012, in Ogunquit, Maine. I have been given comped stay and services by this property but the generosity has in no way swayed my opinions expressed here.]

06/12/12

Catch an Expeditious App and Put It In Your Pocket!

Geolocation is integrated into Fodor's City Guide apps.

Six cities have updated wanderlusting apps from Fodor’s Travel, who has announced the re-launch of their City Guide apps for iPhone and iPad (Nook and Android versions are in the works). The free apps now integrate partner functionality from Expedia, OpenTable and Ticketmaster, and are available for New York City, Paris, London, Rome, Barcelona and San Francisco. They offer geolocation features and interactive offline maps, which are powered by developer Red Foundry’s new Fusion Platform, the world’s first network uniting app developers and publishers with service providers.

Travelers can book hotels through the Expedia Affiliate Network, make dinner plans with OpenTable, and buy show and concert tickets through TicketsNow, Ticketmaster’s resale marketplace. The geolocation features allow sojourners to see what is nearby by interest—categories include what to see, what to eat, shopping, nightlife/arts, and where to stay.

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is a trendsetter's alternative to Little Italy in Manhattan. Photo by Paul Clemence.

I decided to take the New York City app for a test drive on my iPad, and it nailed my location quickly. I agreed with many of the “what to see” listings it put up, several of which I would recommend for tourists visiting NYC who want more than the usual suspects of places to see. One of which was Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, which my pal and architectural photographer Paul Clemence has photographed so eloquently, as the above photo proves.

Fodor's City Guide Apps Offer OpenTable Reservations.

The “what to eat” suggestions were a bit all over the place but I did ask for the best recommendations in New York City without determining a culinary style, and the fact that they could narrow it down as tightly as they did impressed me! Shopping brought up everything from Betsey Johnson in SoHo to Beads of Paradise in the Flatiron District and the Bedford Cheese Shop in Brooklyn, which I have frequented (and give the app a high five for referencing).

The oh-so-edgy tiki bar Painkiller wasn’t listed under “Nightlife & the Arts” (though I’ll admit, it would probably cause anyone who is less than an intrepid traveler to freak out when standing on the street in front of the bar’s address and see no discernable sign of a party until someone entering or exiting opened the graffiti panel serving as the venue’s door)-steamy! Pegu Club is there—excellent sourcing by featuring this mixology-driven venue, Fodor’s.

The Lower East Side has its own version of a hip, Parisian cafe for writers and filmmakers to hang.

Kudos to the travel experts for listing the Pink Pony on the Lower East Side. Any café with a mural of Arthur Rimbaud on the wall and a tagline like “Café Littéraire & Ciné Club” is high on my “kicky and quirky venues” list, which we locals pride ourselves in compiling for those times we want something out-of-the-ordinary. The Field Notes section is great—the perfect place for accumulating the lists you’d like to share with friends who will be visitng the same city or for resourcing your highlights the next time Hērmēs, the god of travel, wings you to the same town.

Sax in the City has only one request of the developers: I would like to have seen an easier search function for places by name. Those of us who travel frequently, especially travel journalists who are writing about cities, often go armed with recommendations for venues to experience. This app only allows search by previously determined categories unless it’s not obvious and if it’s not obvious to me someone using this level of technology for the first time wouldn’t likely find it. That said, these apps are definitely well worth the time it takes to download them. Off I go to Paris (if only)!

02/8/11
The Tomb of Heloise & Abelard

Make It Personal!

The Tomb of Heloise & Abelard

I’ve been blazing around Paris soaking in a schizophrenic mix of historically significant writerly inspiration and modern-day Parisian glitz: it’s quite a paradoxical melange! Even the eye candy cuts its own broad swath, from beautifully dressed men and women to a luscious piece of iconic architecture at every turn (I will admit to being a sucker for the Neoclassical French style–the ubiquitous mansard roofs alone are enough to make me swoon)! I generally shy away from overtly touristy experiences when I travel but I’ve put them in the mix during this pilgrimage to the City of Light. They’ve been important points of inspiration sprinkled amongst the hours spent journaling in the cafes that once drew some of the most dedicated writers of all time. What I’ve done with each exploit is to dig deeper; to make each overtly obvious tourist escapade my own in some way.

Oscar Wilde’s Tomb

At the Pere Lachaise cemetery, seeing the tomb of Heloise & Abelard was as exciting as I thought it would be. I’ve been inspired by their story for ages. But seeing Oscar Wilde’s tomb was a surprise, as it taught me something important as an avid reader. Words in a book, regardless how well crafted they are, do not always do the thing they are describing justice if there is significant emotionality attached. I’d read in a number of books, including one of my favorites that I recommend to anyone before they travel to Paris, Metrostop Paris, that Wilde’s grave was one of the most popular in the massive cemetery, and that it had to be cleaned regularly because fans of his literature could not help but write on or kiss the slabs surrounding the writer’s remains. It was a sight to behold and one of the most moving outpourings of emotion I’ve ever seen–in as many different languages as you can imagine.

Kisses Gone Wilde

This limitation of description was brought home to me again as I stood in the study of La Maison de Balzac, the museum dedicated to the famous French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac. His petite writing table and roomy upholstered chair were placed in the center of the intimately-scaled room where the writer spent hours creating his novels and plays, nearly 100 of which make up La Comedie Humaine. He retreated to the tiny home that was an outbuilding of a larger residence, or a folly, to escape creditors during a low point in his life. He lived in the one-story dwelling nestled into a lush garden between 1840 to 1847. “Working means getting up at midnight every evening, writing until eight o’clock, having lunch in a quarter of an hour, working till five o’clock, having dinner, going to bed, and starting all over again the next day,” Balzac wrote. The writing table, which remains exactly where he had placed it, is where he proofread the entire La Comedie. He said that the desk was “the witness of my worries, my miseries, my distress, my joys, everything. My arm has almost worn it out with rubbing as I write.”

As I stood trying to imagine the mammoth creative energy that must have been unleashed in that room (before I had read this quote, mind you), the thing that struck me was how the table top had been worn down to the point that it had a significant indention in it where the writer had repeatedly run his arms over the wood as he drew wildly flailing lines to the margins of the pages he edited then scribbled in the updated text he wanted to include in the pages he had written. He had done so time and time again as the exhaustive display of edited pages proved. I stood in awe of this tiny table with sturdy turned legs, which had acted as the foundation of such great literary works. It is a memory I will treasure forever.

The door to Honore de Balzac’s study in Passy

Forgive me if I seem overly sentimental in this post: I really do dig this type of exploration so much! It’s like manna from heaven for this writer, who has been making a living as a journalist and author for the past 15 years, to let some of the chaos go and drop down into a deeper place. I hope that if you are roaming somewhere soon, you’ll be sure to find a way to make your experiences heartfelt. There’s nothing like it no matter where you are in the world! And, it just so happens to be #TravelTuesday so we should all be roaming where we want to!

12/21/10
Inn by the Sea

#LetsBlogOff, the Cha-Ching Edition

Inn by the Sea

This week’s #LetsBlogOff topic is “if money were no object…” This past weekend, I spent two delicious nights at a beautiful resort on the coast in Down East Maine, soaking in the scenic beauty of the surroundings and being pampered in so many ways that make me grateful to be a journalist who happens to write about amazing travel experiences that take place in spots just like Inn by the Sea, nestled into Crescent Beach in Cape Elizabeth. So you might think this post is going to go the way of bragging rights that I snag such experiences, right? Wrong, darlings: this is about something that took place at the Inn that I believe is at the true spirit of “if money were no object.”

Not only is Inn by the Sea one of the “greenest,” meaning environmentally-conscious, places I’ve stayed in a very long time, the property has its heart in the right place with its holiday philanthropy program called “The Giving Tree.” The afternoon I arrived, Rauni Kew, the publicist for Inn by the Sea, was hosting area school children who had visited to see the ornaments they’d made, each of which had been hung with care on a brightly lit tree in a corner of the lounge by a blazing fireplace. These local students had joined members of Thatcher Brook Center to make the ornaments, which are intended to entice the hotel staff, inn guests and community members to make generous donations of warm mittens, scarves, hats and/or Chap Stick, which will be given to the less fortunate people in the area.

The thing that caught my attention, a part of the program which is new to The Giving Tree this year, is that bookmarks decorated by Skillin School students were being sold for $10 each, the money from which will be used to purchase books for at-risk boys who have not had the opportunity to learn to read well. They gather to learn to read as part of a book club to which these books are donated. As a writer and someone who makes her living putting words on a page, I can think of no better way to spend money during this or any time of the year. Yep: I ponied up what I could afford and if anyone out there is looking for a good cause for their holiday giving, I’d say this is one.

My Spa Suite at Inn by the Sea

If money were no object, I’d make sure that every child the world over would have the best education possible so that the playing field was leveled and talent could really shine. When my ship comes in (and believe me, it will), I will be doing what I can to make sure this will happen! So in 2011, as I was roaming to my heart’s content along this beautiful slip of coastline in Maine, I gave the gift of a few books: it’s a start. I’m grateful for the program and the awareness it brought as I move through my own holiday celebrations with dear friends because it has reminded me to never take for granted that I have the good fortune of spending my time each and every day fumbling around with the written word. I would like to give this same gift to everyone who desires it from as young an age as possible.

Kudos to you, Inn by the Sea; I hope this call to action will inspire others to give as well and that your program will be a smashing success. If you want to donate funds to The Giving Tree, send them to Inn by the Sea, 40 Bowery Beach Rd, Cape Elizabeth, Maine 04107, c/o Rauni Kew (and tell her Roaming by Design sent you)! And, as I am want to do on Let’s Blog Off days, I leave you with a poem (today a Haiku): LUMINOSITY Dark harbinger sings. I halt his coaxing; turning to ravage the light. Saxon Henry Happy roaming on this #TravelTuesday, everyone! A full list of Lets Blog Off posts, and trust me, they are worth reading, can be found here.

12/15/10
Cecconi's Restaurant at Soho Beach House

Grit and Glamour in South Beach


Cecconi's Restaurant at Soho Beach House

When Soho Beach House owner Nick Jones asked Martin Brudnizki to create an oasis nestled into Miami Beach’s sand-strewn shores for the inimitable members of Soho House, the designer knew without hesitation what he wanted to achieve. “I set out to create a place that would exude both grit and glamour,” said the Brit during an interview in the club’s courtyard restaurant Cecconi’s, casually chic in a tee shirt and cotton shorts. “Nick’s vision for the Soho Beach House was relaxing and informal, and I wanted there to be a timeless appeal to the design so I looked to the colonial roots of the club for the underpinning of my plan.”

Jones has a knack for creating retreats that bring everything to a member’s fingertips, which means once on the premises, there’s no reason to leave them unless an escape is desired. “Because this is one of those special places in the world where someone might want to check in and not leave until their stay in Miami is over, I paid special attention to materials and to comfort,” Brudnizki said. In order to achieve a calming backdrop, he considered every detail, down to the pavers in the courtyard, which are new but look like stone salvaged from a hip resort in Tuscany–think Gio Ponti in turquoise and beige. The region of Italy was foremost on Brudnizki’s mind when he designed the deliciously serene spot that segues to sparkling sand and glittering waters, as he wanted the delectable Italian fare of Cecconi’s to feel at home in its setting.

As I feasted on wild mushroom risotto, I couldn’t help but notice how well he’d succeeded! Where are you heading on this #TravelTuesday? Hope it’s as fun as this Soho House outpost on the beach. It’s a celeb hotspot: A-Rod sauntered by while we were dining. Wonder what he ordered for lunch?

12/7/10
The stony coastline of Brighton, England

No Woman Is An Island

The stony coastline of Brighton, England

Today’s Let’s Blog Off topic is “You’ve just been given an island” and the charge for those of us who get into this madcap game of throwing up posts “on topic” every couple of weeks (see my creative compatriots here) is “The only thing to consider is once you move there, you can’t leave. Who and what would you bring? What are the rules?”

If I had an island, I’d turn it into an amazing writer’s retreat and only creatively-driven people would be invited to visit. We’d all write poetry and plays, essays and novels, and be as curmudgeonly as our deepest writerly selves desired. There wouldn’t be very many rules beyond living authentically creative lives. I’d be writing poems rather than writing articles, though I am having a good day by journalism standards, as I’m writing a piece about the exuberant Chef Gordon Ramsay, who I interviewed in Tuscany this past fall, and I’m interviewing John Lennon’s son, Julian, this morning, wishing tomorrow wasn’t a sadly significant day for that family as it’s the anniversary of John’s death. So, it’s back to work. Oh, and you’re all invited to come and be creative if that deed for an island shows up in my mailbox or my inbox!

05/18/10
IMG_6331.JPG.scaled500

In Vino Veritas

It’s #TravelTuesday and Roaming By Design is taking you to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the steaks sizzle and the wines are fine!

Daniel Karlin

Daniel Karlin and partners founded Anuva Wines in 2007 in Buenos Aires with the goal of providing the best valued Argentine wines at all price points to the world. The company does this in 3 ways: by holding wine tastings in Buenos Aires for visitors to the city (in English or Spanish); by importing and wholesaling in the U.S.; and through the company’s wine club with direct shipping of wine to 34 states in the U.S. The company’s wine tastings for visitors to Buenos Aires consist of 5 premium and ultra-premium wines, which are hand-selected for guests; 5 specific food pairings; and a casual presentation about Argentine terroir, the wines, winemaking, and subjects such as which restaurants to visit, other wine-related activities and hyped-up things to avoid in the city. I thought RBD readers would like to know how an American who ended up in Buenos Aires without the intention of staying met the love of his life, put down roots and created a worldwide wine distributorship. RBD: How did you become interested in wines? DK: I arrived in Argentina in 2004 and was told by several Argentines and Brazilians that Malbec was the wine to drink. I had never liked wine before but I drank it and was very impressed. I thought, What great wine! What a great price! I bet this could sell in the U.S. and to tourists. My next thought was, If there were just a white wine to go with it! Then I found Torrontes, the flagship white of Argentina, on my first trip to Mendoza and was sold. RBD: Why did you choose Buenos Aires?

 

DK: I think Buenos Aires chose me more than I chose it. When I arrived in 2004, I had intended to backpack around the world for twp years. Within 36 hours of landing, I met the girl who is now my wife and one of the co-founders of Anuva. The two of us, along with my business partner Yuji, started Anuva because we saw great opportunity: unknown wines, very high quality wines at very good prices, an appealing culture and my desire to create an Argentine-American business.

RBD: Argentine wines have enjoyed quite a high popularity in the past decade. To what do you attributed this renown?

DK: The best price-to-quality-relationship wines in the world. Argentina enjoys lower production costs than any other country and this translates to the prices of their wines. Also, the terroir of Argentina is truly unique: it is the only major wine making country that has continental weather systems as opposed to coastal. The Andes Mountains create a physical barrier between the winemaking region and the ocean. This does several key things: it creates a very dry region that has fresh runoff water from the Andes; Argentina has the highest altitude vineyards in the world (altitude creates a higher diurnal temperature differential); and Argentina has porous, rocky, alluvial soil, which creates the ability to induce “water stress” in the vines. These characteristics are key for making great Malbec, Torrontes and Bonarda—the three varietals that hail from Argentina. Dryness eliminates the need to spray and also allows the fragile Malbec and Torrontes grapes to achieve full maturation on the vine, which creates fruity, drinkable wines. The altitude creates a temperature differential, which fosters higher acidity. In the case of Torrontes especially, this is key. Take Spain, Torrontes’ original home as a comparison: the altitude was not high enough so the wine came out “flabby” or lacking acidity. Permeable, alluvial soils are great for grape growing in general as this allows for water stress which creates more dense, concentrated grapes which are necessary for making great wine.

No Wine Before Its Time…

RBD: What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to visitors to Baires when it comes to choosing where to sample wines and for visitors wanting to tour Argentina’s wineries?

DK: Well, in Buenos Aires we are the only gig in town. There is literally nowhere else to go to do a real sampling of five wines from all over Argentina. But if they are visiting Mendoza, I try to give advice based on their preferences: are they young and just getting into wine, which might mean they’d like the Bikes and Wines tour? Are they the type to hire a private car? Do they want to be more social and go with a group of 12? Are they collectors with a 10,000-bottle cellar? Based on answers to questions like this, I then recommend wineries from the smallest boutiques to the largest commercial wineries.

RBD: What’s the best time of year for visitors to come to Argentina to visit wineries?

DK: March through April and October through November are best.

RBD: Do you have an all-time favorite wine, and why?

Smooth Sampling!

DK: I always say that this is a bad question to ask me because a) I have so much access to wine that I make selections based on my mood and what food I’m eating, and b) because I love wine so much it is easy for me to be too snobby about it. But in the top 5 are San Gimignano Malbec Roble, Mairena Blend Reserve, Carinae Prestige and Torrontes, Serrera Gran Guarda, Hom Sparkling.

RBD: If you could think of one insider tip to give Americans about Argentine wines, what would it be?

DK: The argentine wine you find on most big supermarket shelves is not the best stuff that Argentina produces. We are still only seeing 30 to 40% of all wine produced in Argentina being exported to the U.S., and 90% of this volume is from the big boys: Catena (Alamos), Trapiche, Dona Paula, Zuccardi, etc. Look at what the companies (there are about three of us now) who are importing exclusively Argentine wine are promoting and sample these. This is where you will find the great values.

03/30/10
The Berlin City Notebook

The Profound Echoes of Modernism

The Berlin City Notebook

On this #TravelTuesday, Roaming By Design is celebrating the birthplace of modern architecture, Berlin, with a giveaway—one of Moleskine’s Berlin City Notebooks. See below how you can participate. If you have any doubts as to how useful these great City Notebooks can be, take a look at my copy of the Paris version, which I used like crazy during a recent trip to the City of Lights. There is also a terrific video of someone’s Berlin book here. How is it that the birth of modernism is attributed to Berlin? You’ll see by reading this excerpt of the preface of my newly released book, Four Florida Moderns, which was published by W.W. Norton & Company. It’s in bookstores and online now.

Profound Echoes

The gestation of ideas that took place in Peter Behrens’ Berlin studio between 1907 and 1911 was vital to the birth of modern architecture. Walter Gropius, who would found the Staatliches Bauhaus in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, apprenticed there, as did Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Though they created a stir in Europe during the early twentieth century, these men weren’t formally introduced to the architectural community in the United States until 1932 when the curators at the Museum of Modern Art in New York staged The International Style: Architecture Since 1922, making them and other European moderns the focus of the exhibition.

By 1937, both Gropius and Mies had migrated to the United States where they would become practicing architects and educators—Gropius at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Mies at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (then known as the School of Architecture at the Armour Institute). Through their built work and their academic positions, Gropius and Mies would prove to have great influence over succeeding generations of architects.

Likewise, through his work and his writings, Le Corbusier inspired American moderns. His groundbreaking book Vers une architecture, which was first published in 1923, was translated into English in 1927. In it Le Corbusier states, “Passion can create drama out of inert stone.” More than three quarters of a century later, his words continue to serve as a voice for the early movement, which he so fervently hoped would ignite passion in future generations. Are you passionate about modern architecture? Do you absolutely love it? Hate it? Did any of these giants of architecture inspire you in any way? Tell us by commenting and you’ll have a chance to win the Moleskine Berlin City Notebook. We’ll announce the winner here on Friday morning, April 2nd.