Baby, It's 'Cool Outside' - Page 2

New Marin exhibit shows modern design sprouting in gardens of the mid-century
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Above and below: more exhibit displays from 'Cool Outside.'

Miller is more specific in an article he penned to accompany the exhibit that is posted at the MAGC website, in which he explains that "the cool, with its fundamental embrace of experimentalism, becomes linked to other ideas prevalent in design thinking at the time, including architectural modernism, innovation in materials, and cross-disciplinary collaboration. The cool was an emerging concept ideally suited to the changing, experimental, and rapidly expanding built environment in postwar California."

No designer grasped this concept better than Miller's former mentor, esteemed Bay Area landscape architect Robert Royston, whose mid-century work constitutes a large degree of the exhibit. In addition to photographs, drawings, and models of some Royston landscape architecture, the show features assorted mid-century furniture, pottery, and art for the garden. Individual displays in the show feature names like 'The Cool at Work,' 'The Cool and the Cold War,' and 'Cradle to Grave Cool.'

Miller borrowed some exhibit items from private collectors, but found most of them in Berkeley's College of Environmental Design Archives in Richmond, a search he compared to the warehouse scene in the movie 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'

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"I wanted it to be accessible and interesting," he said of developing the exhibit, noting, "When the cool went outside, it was not a high brow thing."

"A lot of modern landscapes [both yesterday and today] are completely invisible. The simplicity of the design hurts them," Miller observed critically.

"I love my academic friends dearly, but I wasn't planning on them being the primary audience for this," he said of 'Cool Outside.' "It's about getting attention for it…making people aware that it's a thing."

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Reflecting on the cool influence on mid-century modern landscape design, he adds simply, "I try to take people on a little bit of a journey."

For more information about 'Cool Outside,' which is open to the public Thursdays through Sundays (check for times) until August 22, and the Marin Art and Garden Center, click here.

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