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August 06, 2009

Wine, Corian and getting high.

After visiting the Guggenheim, I needed something to stop the spinning, so I checked out Clo Wine Bar’s bar. I went there for the Corian (and that’s not the name of a new wine). Like a built-in sobriety test, this interactive experience has users pointing and dragging in the air to “flip” through an encyclopedia of wine, which is projected on the white Corian surface of the bar. When you land on something you might like, you order a four-ounce taste, and if you like the taste of the taste you can order a bottle.

With images of wine bottles streaming by you like sushi boats from which you can pluck what suits you, your attention will not be on the plain-looking Corian bar. And that’s exactly why this seamless, germ-resistant material was a smart choice for this installation.

“Corian plays well with others,” said Michael Morris, designer of the recently opened Corian Design Studio in New York. Just like Emeco and its use of aluminum, Corian is one of the stalwarts of American post-war design. In the U.S., we tend to think of Corian as a countertop material but, as Morris explained, in Europe this material is used for radiator covers, interior walls, retail displays and more. In Bordeaux, Le Seeko’o Hotel claims to be the world’s first ever hotel to have its façade entirely covered with Corian.

Hospital interiors are an ideal market for Corian since it can be constructed with no seams (that’s where the germs hide) and it is bacteria resistant (even if they could hide, they couldn’t grow). It can also be embedded with LEDs, thermoformed into custom shapes, sandblasted, routed, etched, backlit and easily repaired. One final note about the Clo Wine Bar: Don’t be confused by the fact that there is a seam in that Corain surface. This is not the result of you having one too many (the installer is another story) but rather a mistake that they’ll fix shortly.

From a new bar experience to a new walking experience, the first section of New York’s High Line opened in June. If you’re not familiar with it, the High Line was an elevated rail on Manhattan’s west side that was abandoned in 1980. (Cocktail party trivia: The last train carried three carloads of frozen turkeys.) It then became the overgrown creepy place where bodies were found in NYC cop shows and the subject of a 22-year debate. In 2002, the Friends of the High Line finally received the City Council support they needed, and their reuse plan began.

I was there on the first weekend the High Line opened and was struck by how quickly New Yorkers “got” the space. They were there en masse. Lattes in hand and talking on phones while relaxing on one of the oversized benches that play to every urban dweller’s desire to have an outdoor deck. As I walked, I was intrigued by the geometry of the space, awash in angles, points, lines and grids. The palette consists of railroad tracks, concrete, plants and grasses, with one material leading to the next, giving the space balance and flow. I wasn’t crazy about the uneven concrete that I stumbled over a few times (alcohol, by the way, is not permitted), but visually, I liked the unexpected terrain.

Also unexpected was that I found myself being a voyeuristic tourist, peering into the apartments and offices that overlook the High Line. I watched a bit of a yoga class, saw someone in their kitchen talking on the phone (ordering mini-blinds no doubt) and noticed a handful of other folks watching me watching them watching me.

Over 80 years, these apartments have had quite a ride. Before 1930, many had unobstructed views of the Hudson River. Then the elevated rail was built and freight trains rumbled by at all hours. In 1980 the trains stopped but the drug dealers and vandals moved in. And in 2009, the non-stop parade of people began. The windows of these spaces are 30 feet off the ground, and yet they suddenly have the exposure of a street-level space in Times Square. It’s a lucky break for the folks at Phillips Auction House whose gallery is now clearly visible to every High Line visitor.

If you live near the High Line (bonus if you have Corian countertops), I’d be interested to hear how this space has impacted you. Please share your comments below.

Gwendolyn Horton

Comments

I found the uneven concrete an odd choice as well, especially for such a narrow space. It was in my way several times during my visit. Otherwise I really enjoyed my experience there.

Actually the uneven pavement will eventually be a wonderful water feature for hot New Yorkers to dip their feet in. The uneven parts help to keep the water contained and flow in only one area.

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