Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Part 2: Inspiration at the Shedd

Sculptural pendant displays a snapshot of sea life
PART 2: The interior wasn’t designed with just a few sea life accents here and there. Instead, the world of the ocean was infused in the design of every surface for every purpose within the building.  It is a blending of Art Deco materials of bronze, marble, steel and glass with the curvilinear, undulating life forms of the sea. Entering the grand portal doors, there is a colossal 12 arm bronze chandelier with a sea creature etched into each glass panel. It illuminates the entry below and the coffered, oceanic themed ceiling above. Another light fixture is in a giant glass buoy held in the arms of a bronze octopus suspended from the ceiling. Art glass nautilus shells form soaring torchiere floor lamps. The bas relief of sea-foam green marble upper walls, the dados, even the bronze elevator doors express aquatic treasures in both geometric deco forms and figurative realism.  You can almost hear mermaids murmuring in the halls, the Travertine marble echoing their voices…

The Shedd Aquarium was financed by John Shedd, the second president of Marshall Field & Co. in 1924. By his lavish donation, his purpose was to construct the world’s largest indoor aquarium with “the greatest variety of sea life under one roof.” Researching leading aquariums around the globe, only the best and newest technology was planned for the Shedd.   It was to add to the building movement that Chicago city planners dubbed “Paris on the Prairie.” Architect Ernest Graham, the project leader, was masterful in designing buildings, from general elevation concepts right down to the lighting fixtures within. The budget was so generous, he proposed a grand Beaux-Arts style rotunda embraced by classical Greek architecture to match the scale and style of the neighboring museums.  

After taking in the spectacular design of the oceanarium itself, we did finally visit the sharks, jellies, piranhas and got splashed during the baby beluga show.

Sweet Romance Mermaid Box
What an inspirational day for jewelry design!  I couldn’t wait to convey some of the architectural wonderment of the Shedd Aquarium in jewelry pieces. A favorite treasure in this collection is my  "Mermaid Box." Completely hand sculptured, assembled and ornamented, each box is created one at a time. The Mermaid: In the deep waters of the tropical Pacific there’s an abundance of old sunken trading ships. Most of their precious cargo is unreachable or buried under the ocean silt. But local mermaids delight in the obscure treasure and most have at least one chest of jewelry, a silver chalice and some gold coins. Our mermaid relaxes among her treasures and contemplates a favorite pearl.

Soft glowing lacquer colors, pearls and crystal stand out against the darkened bronze metal finish; the jewelry version of peering into aquatic habitats at the Shedd.

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