A Panorama of Design

This article is part of our November Design special section, which focuses on style, function and form in the workplace.

Collecting History

Objects That Pack a Punch

Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr., has amassed more than 200,000 socially potent collectibles, including a Braille copy of “Mein Kampf” and a 1938 railroad car designed by Fiat for the fascist government of Italy.

An author and philanthropist, who is particularly interested in how art and design are used for propaganda, Mr. Wolfson founded and filled two museums with his discoveries: The Wolfsonian (now a division of Florida International University), in his hometown, Miami Beach, Fla., and the Wolfsoniana in Genoa, Italy.

“Collecting is my autobiography,” he recently said, on the cusp of a museum exhibition celebrating his 80th birthday, which took place on Sept. 30. “A Universe of Things: Micky Wolfson Collects” opened Nov. 15 at the Wolfsonian-FIU with more than 100 of his handpicked treasures. These include the 1930 Geneva Window in which the stained glass artist Harry Clarke represented 15 contemporary Irish writers; a Hotzi Notzi novelty Adolf Hitler pincushion; and an assortment of the racy comic books known as Tijuana bibles that were popular in the Great Depression.

“It’s everything that has to do with living,” Mr. Wolfson said of the assemblage. “Blasphemy, sex — they’re all part of our lives.”

Thirty-seven of the show’s items are also featured in “Wolfsonian-FIU: Founder’s Choice,” a companion book from Scala Arts Publishers (80 pp., $14.95). Information: wolfsonian.orgArlene Hirst

A Gingerbread Castle

No Longer Grimm

A crumbling gingerbread castle, built in Hamburg, N.J., in the 1920s as an amusement park, may have finally landed its Prince Charming.

The Gingerbread Castle was originally commissioned from the architect and set designer Joseph Urban by the baked-goods magnate Frederick H. Bennett. The castle adjoined Bennett’s factory, Wheatsworth Mills, famed for producing Milk-Bone dog biscuits. Urban decorated the turrets and domed interiors with simulated frosting, gumdrops, peppermint sticks, animal crackers, gingerbread men and other sweets. Among the sculptures and murals on-site were Miss Muffet’s spider with glittering eyes, the Man in the Moon and Jack dangling from a beanstalk.

The attraction, which drew hundreds of thousands of people annually in its mid-20th-century heyday, was shuttered about 20 years ago. By 2012 it had made it onto Preservation New Jersey’s list of most endangered historic sites.

Since 2017 Don Oriolo, a home builder in New Jersey, has been restoring the vandalized property. “It’s been sitting stagnant for so many years,” he said. He plans to hold public events there in a year or so.

A documentary about the castle, “Once Upon a Time in New Jersey,” has been completed by the filmmakers Paul Bruker and Jeff Shelly. The project was in progress for 17 years. “I captured the castle every two or three years,” Mr. Bruker said. The long gestation was fortunate, he added, since he had long told people, “I don’t want this documentary to have a sad ending. — Eve M. Kahn

Furniture Story

Misery Loves Upholstery

“She’s doubting. She realizes love can be heavy,” said Pierre Yovanovitch.

The French designer was at R & Company gallery in TriBeCa, talking about Miss Oops, the fictional heroine of the romance story he dreamed up for his new exhibition there. For his lovelorn character, Mr. Yovanovitch constructed an apartment inside the gallery (parlor, dining room, boudoir and bedroom) and decorated the interiors as a way to debut his new furniture collection.

The 20 or so pieces include embroidered pillows; a large solid oak dining table with dark blue patinated steel legs; mirrors and a fireplace made of nubby ceramic; and a pair of oak side chairs with gorgeous custom upholstery by Lesage, the legendary French embroidery house (prices range from $2,500 to $4,500 for pillows to $60,000 for the dining table).

Mr. Yovanovitch’s designs, for his imaginary friends, his clients and himself, are marked by impeccable simplicity, with flourishes of whimsy (his “Papa Bear” and “Mama Bear” armchairs have fabric ears) and biomorphic shapes that can appear Flinstonian.

“I like when it’s not perfect,” he said. Through Jan. 4, 2020, 64 White Street. Information: r-and-company.comSteven Kurutz

Office Park

Working Inside and Out

Walter Hood, the founder and creative director of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, Calif., is known for projects that blend landscape, urbanism and public art in equal measure. And this fall, he received two prestigious awards: a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. Mr. Hood, whose work is community-focused, said he was happy that they were “not architecture-centric; they’re more focused on social issues.”

He is applying a similar focus to the corporate landscape, with a three-acre park now under construction at the headquarters of the tech company Nvidia, in the Silicon Valley city of Santa Clara. Connecting two large buildings designed by the architecture firm Gensler, the park is intended, Mr. Hood said, “to bring the inside to the outside, and vice versa.”

Under a steel shade structure with photovoltaic panels (a collaboration with Gensler), a lush landscape contains places for employees to work or meet at sculpted wood “rocks” rather than conventional outdoor furniture, as well as an amphitheater and two circular “treehouse” structures.

The concept of working al fresco was promoted by Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia’s chief executive, and the result, Mr. Hood said, “is not the usual office-park greensward.”

Indeed, it gives a new meaning to the notion of blue-sky thinking. — Pilar Viladas

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