Personal Journeys


March 16, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

A London refresher course in design


By Bennard Perlman

From my earliest visit to London, the River Thames has always served as a magnet that draws me to it. As a professional artist, I have painted it many times: the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben appearing in its ripple-altered reflection, the rows of benches occupied by tired strollers or individuals who, like myself, are simply mesmerized by the view, the bevy of bridges, each with its own design.

Of course, there are other attractions along the river's banks, such as the Royal Festival Hall (the design of which inspired the architecture of Baltimore's Mechanic Theatre), the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern.

Yet the ultimate destination for me is always London's Design Museum, on the south bank near Tower Bridge. An unofficial poll of my friends, some of whom are fellow artists, revealed that not one of them had ever visited the place, much less heard of it. Little wonder that I recently read that the museum is one of London's best-kept secrets.

A college art professor for 32 years, I often taught a course called "Fundamen-tals of Design," instructing future artists on the importance of abstract design. The museum always serves as a refresher course for me.

The building, one of the smallest, least-assuming structures in the city, is itself an education. Once a factory, it has been transformed into an all-white facade, upon which the words "Design Museum" are arranged vertically.

This combination is meant to evoke nostalgia for the renowned Bauhaus, Germany's school of design during the 1920s, where the curriculum included painting, sculpture, architecture, advertising, typography and furniture design. One need only look at the creations by its faculty -- Josef Albers, Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer, among others -- to comprehend the Bauhaus emphasis on design.

The London museum seeks to promote design-consciousness in its visitors, and it surely succeeds. When I visited there recently, the featured exhibition chronicled the use of aluminum in a multitude of everyday items, from a clock and cocktail shaker to a teakettle and table. One wall contained 25 chairs composed totally or in part of aluminum.

The exhibit will have a lasting effect on me, and the museum store provided a bevy of beautiful buys, one more strikingly designed than the next. I bought an interlocking candlestick holder designed to accommodate six tapers. I gaze upon it almost daily as a reminder of how many beautifully created objects there are in the world.

Bennard Perlman lives in Baltimore.

My Best Shot

Breathtaking Ireland

Paul Gorman, Towson

During a vacation in which I drove 1,200 miles around most of Ireland's perimeter, I had to stop every few miles to photograph the breathtaking scenery. The Irish landscape is not blemished by anything -- not even billboards.

Readers Recommend

Yellowstone National Park

Katie Barry, Forest Hill

During a two-week coast-to-coast bus trip last summer, our group spent two days exploring Yellowstone National Park. The Grand Prismatic Spring, located at the Midway Geyser Basin, is the most brilliantly colored natural sight I have ever seen. Anyone who is planning a trip to Yellowstone should put this on his or her must-see list.

Sukhothai, Thailand

Suwanee Wharton,


During a trip with my husband to my homeland of Thailand, we visited the ruins of Sukhothai, an early capital of Thai civilization. The ruins are well-preserved and can be visited in the northern part of central Thailand, about a two-hour drive from Bangkok. The huge Buddha there is made from stucco -- its size and beauty inspire awe.

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* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

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* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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