Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bring Me To Brindisi’s

Brindisi's Restaurant Logo

Brindisi's Restaurant Logo

I have always like the Brindisi’s Restaurant logo. Years ago, I thought “that must be a high end restaurant”. Ambrosino Design may be the designer who created it. I certainly wish they would hire him to update their website and print materials which have no relation to the original design. Over time the whole brand seems to have lost its way with no consistency. With so much competition in the restaurant business on Broadway, I would hate to see their brand become second rate.

Brindisi's Store Front

Brindisi's Store Front

And while they are at it, they might want to give the front of the store a freshen up.

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The Saratoga Culture Compass is Back From A Break

Sorry about the delay since the last blog. I have not gotten out to take may images lately. I have also been spending to much time writing about the creative firms in town and not enough on the work they do. But it seems to me that being familiar with the firms that do the work and employ the city’s creative people in is a basis for talking about the work you see.

The Chosen Olsen

George and Claudia Olsen have designed many Sonny Bonaccio buildings. If anything defines their firm it will forever be Railroad Avenue in Saratoga Springs. I’m not sure exactly when they were brought into the mix, if it was after the first located directly opposite of the Wise Building at 28 Division (which was originally a Bob Isreal project) or Sonny’s subsequent condominiums along the western side of the street. The fact is, the development of Railroad Avenue is the most noticeable group of construction projects in the entire city, and the Olsen’s have played a large part in what it is today. Twelve years ago it was nothing but dirt fields – not pretty and it certainly wasn’t a loss of greenspace in town. The question is, were Olsen Architects the company to design such prominent structures in the first place?

Now that may be a harsh question, that I didn’t subject any other firm to such a negativity. But no other architect built an entire city street in such a prominent location.

 What I know about them is from speaking to people in the industry and in town gossip. Their website has been under construction and I can’t get any information about the firm as they see themselves. They are long time Saratoga business people. As long as I can remember they have been part of the Long Alley group of professionals. Since I can’t steal project images from their website, I will have to show images of the buildings I know for a fact that they have designed.

85 – 87 Railroad Avenue. 

Since people have so much emotion related to the buildings on Railraod Avenue, I want to be objective and judge them strictly on their design and relationship to the existing Saratoga Springs architecture. 

85-87 Railroad Avenue looking from Congress Street.

85-87 Railroad Avenue looking from Congress Street.

In comparison to the balconies of 28 Division St.

In comparison to the balconies of 28 Division St.

85-87 Railroad Ave. was the third of the Condominiums on that street to be constructed. Many Architectural Elements were picked up from the original building on the corner of Railroad and Franklin (28 Division) the corner entrance with brick and concrete highlighted facade, the black posts rising up through the curved balconies, are all similarities from 28 Division. 

I have always like the original design, especially the curved balconies that protrude out onto Division Street. Although this building is a little more “off the rack” in style I still like it. The squareness is the first thing that strikes you, because the top floor apartments are no longer set back from the edge of the building as was done at 28 Division. 

The fact that I like both of these buildings seems to put me in the minority of those I talk to. The line I most often hear i The buildings don’t relate to the overall feeling of Saratoga Springs, or they are to big. What does that mean? Why don’t people complain about the Wise Building then? That building is a giant box, are boxes Victorian? Is the Algonquin building a tiny building?

These two buildings work well in Saratoga Springs for many reasons. First they are deeply urban in style, when you walk along the sidewalk, you get the feeling of being in a large city. This is consistent with the city in the country idea. The use of cylinder steel posts that rise from the entrance to the top of the building relate to the old porches of Broadway hotels. Now that might seem like a stretch, but there is some justification. 

The balconies and curved entrace roofline give this building an Urban and Victorian feel.

The balconies and curved entrace roofline give this building an Urban and Victorian feel.

The building sandwiched in between the two end structures is also quite unique although not quite as noticable, The below ground offices between the stooped stairways make it a nice walk in summer or winter. Not every building can be a gem, some are built for no other purpose that to make another building look good. And for this building it works. As a whole, all three buildings work well together. The retail and office spaces are quaint and give a small cobbler feel rather than the very big window stores on Broadway. These are nice buildings.

That sums up the west side of Railroad Avenue with a pretty high ranking. Unfortunately it is accross the street from this!

The entire East side of Railroad Avenue.

The entire East side of Railroad Avenue.

I don’t know what happened but something must have gone wrong here. I have trouble just gathering a good view of what this building actually looks like. Part fortress, part townhome, part tutor style . . .

Notice Tutor styling on right side.

Notice Tutor styling on right side.

This is where it gets its name from and there aren't a lot of these in Downtown Saratoga Springs

This is where it gets its name from, and there aren't a lot of these in Downtown Saratoga Springs.

. . . part giant balconies in front, part small balconey on sides, there are trees growing on the fortress walls, there are windows that aren’t really windows. whew?

This building speaks of maximum profit. There is no consistent design or organization, because there had to be something everywhere. A balcony had to stick out of a side wall so they could sell a condo that had a balcony. Everyplace had to have a view, so they made an angle to put a window facing something – anything. 

I feel bad about this building because it is obviously something that was difficult to design, and the contractor was probably pushing to get money out of every inch. They had parking to consider, code standards to abide by, neighbors to be accountable to, and it shows. 

I don’t know the demands of the builder on the architect. I certainly can’t say I have looked at the property close enough truly understand the footprint of the building. My final complaint, and it may be a small, but when you walk in front of these buildings at night, they shine blinding rays in your eyes from sidewalk mounted flood lights that illuminate the building. 

This brings me to my earlier question. Is Olsen Architecture the company who should have been chosen to build such an important venue. Well I am going to squirm out of answering that because I don’t know if Saratoga Associates, Tom Frost, John Muse, or SD Atelier or Balzer Hodge Tuck could have done any better under the circumstances, but that doesn’t matter. This building now exists. For Olsen Architects, they will have to carry this building with them through time. Maybe they can deflect it onto Sonny Bonaccio, but they are the listed architect. It is a prominent building in the city, and deserves to be discussed when basing future projects on it. 

Shame on the The Design Review committee for letting this building move forward, and shame on Sonny for building it that way, and shame on the qualified architect for caving in and losing some of their integrity.

 

Note: In case you were wondering how this blog works, I have about thirty unfinished articles in the edit box at all times, and this one was no exception. But you may haved looked at the comment section for Balzer Tuck Hodge Associates, and seen the the comment claiming that they designed the 18 Division St. structure. I want you to know that if you comment on an article you will not get an article about yourself, this has been sitting in the bin for well over a month waiting to be completed. The fact is they were next on my list.

Visiting Burghard is hard to find

According to the Chamber of Commerce, Matthew Burghard is listed as a graphic designer in Saratoga Springs. He works in his home office, on the far west side of town. Matts list of services include video, animation, print design and websites. 

I went to his website at http://www.mattburghard.com and saw a lot of video work, nothing else. Not a word about him, his services or his company. Then I clicked on one of his animations and it crashed my computer. Other than he is a member of the chamber I have not heard of Matt at all. Talking with people in the community I haven’t heard of a job he has done in the city of Saratoga Springs. Therefore I am stuck with what is on his site. 

I will assuming a few things from my experiences at his site. He must be a freelance worker, who has a steady group of clients who need his services on a regular basis. His website clearly says – I’m talented at what I do – but he finds no need to tell you what that may be, or how he can help you with any of your needs. There is no visible graphic design work, only animation and video. My assumption is, he is probably known within the video profession as a animation guy, and they know what he does, so there is no reason to explain it to the average person looking for design work. 

None of his work is related to Saratoga Springs, it is all national work that a person working from their home would not have as their own client. A larger company is feeding that work to him. As far as I can tell, his design or animation has no visible effect on Saratoga Springs.

Here is his Website Homepage, that is all I will show.

 

Matt Burghard Home Page

Matt Burghard Home Page

Shannon Rose to Where

If you judge a company by how long they have been in business, Shannon-Rose Design should be the largest company in the design industry. They claim to have been in business for over fifteen years, building a company that services small businesses and multinational companies. You hear this a lot.

Shannon-Rose Design Logo

Shannon-Rose Design Logo

Initially their offices were on Broadway, but now are located several block up near the corner of Church and Clinton. Looking at the office, it would be nice if they moved the garbage cans away from the front door. Odd that I should have to mention this.

Through the years, they have morphed from a typesetting house, pre-press house, design studio, and now apparently a web development studio. The website – http://www.shannonrose.com/flash.html – which is quite nice by the way, states that they currently have only 4 employees. I believe they have more than that.

Shannon-Rose Design Homepage

Shannon-Rose Design Homepage

So where does this company stand in the graphic design seen in Saratoga Springs. They seem to be a regional design firm, staying within the Lake Placid to Albany NY area. Shannon-Rose holds a unique place in the city, since they are not huge like Palio or just a one or two person shop, they are an odd size. I will focus on some of their local work.

Menges and Curtis seems to use Shannon-Rose for their work. They did the logo and packaging for some product they probably just stick their name on. The design is nice and is very consistent in style to what you would expect a store like Menges & Curtis should sell. They did a nice job of forming an identity for the pharmacy.

The Menges & Curtis Logo Design

The Menges & Curtis Logo Design

Of course you don’t see the logo much at the store itself. Just on the packaging of their cream.

Packaging For Menges & Curtis Products

Packaging For Menges & Curtis Products

I have seen this identity carried out on the Website and the local weekly Saratoga Today. I don’t know if Shannon-Rose Design did the ads, but they do continue the design even though it is only a black and white ad.  In conclusion, most local business have quite bad packaging, but Shannon-Rose did a pretty nice job for Menges & Curtis.

Another local client is Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I had to stumble on this one by finding their name at the bottom of the site. The site is well designed and but there is a lot of stuff. It is well organized, but they seem to want to do to many things at once.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Home Page

Saratoga Performing Arts Center Home Page

I don’t know if Shannon-Rose Did the logo, but I hope not. One of the interesting things, but also one of the more confusing, is the rolling calendar halfway down the page. This is pretty complicated stuff to build, and I wonder if they actually did it themselves. 

SPAC Rolling Calendar

SPAC Rolling Calendar

Still the main calendar is where things really come together. it includes a full calendar, music, video, and all the information on each performer than you could ask for. Things move, and shuffle, but not in a bad way, you can still find you way around. The website is a very interesting attempt to do a lot of things in a very usable way. Overall it is a good website but for an arts venue, the SPAC website is almost phenomenal. I actually went and looked at other musical venues to see.

So where does that put Shannon-Rose in the Saratoga Springs design world? There isn’t a lot of local work on their site, so it is hard to tell the extent of it. But, I have heard their name related to a lot of design work locally.

The Legacy of Frost Architecture

There have been many books written on the architecture of Saratoga Springs. Not that here isn’t a lot of nice architecture in the city, but it is a small city. Is the architecture that much better than other historic towns and villages that compels people to start writing books about our buildings? Part of the reason is that the history of these building have been well documented. You can find plenty articles and images to help tell your story.  Architects such as Newton Brezee, and John A. Wood, have created trademark buildings that will forever define the landscape of the city. 

Frost Architecture is a firm authors will write about in future Saratoga Springs Architecture Books. No other local Architect has been involved with so many major projects that have effected the major intersections of the city.

Locations Frost Architecture Buildings in the Downtown Saratoga Area

Locations Frost Architecture Buildings in the Downtown Saratoga Area

Tom Frost is the Principal of Saratoga’s most prestigious Architectural Firm. He has degrees from Princeton and Harvard. His office is located on Long Alley with many other professional firms.

Office Building of Frost Architecture in Saratoga Springs

Office Building of Frost Architecture in Saratoga Springs

 

Entrance way to the building

Entrance way to the building

One of the strangest things about Frost Architecture is the fact that almost all of his work is located in the city. There is no other firm who is even close to working in this manner. I can only attribute this to the fact that he is able to maintain a small staff and keep overhead low. This enables him to work within such a small environment. His staff never really grows larger than three to six members. It is actually boggling to see so much work done by such few people.

In the last fifteen years he has designed more buildings on broadway than any other single architect in history. The Pfeil Building, The Roohan Building, Borders Books, The APlus Gas station and a portion of the hotel (with many names) attached to the City Center.

 

Pfeil Building Elevation Sketch
Pfeil Building Elevation Sketch
The Pfeil Building As It Looks Today

The Pfeil Building As It Looks Today

 

Roohan Building Sketch

Roohan Building Sketch

 

The Roohan Building

The Roohan Building

Although the CVS Building is not exactly on Broadway it is located in a very high traffic Area. This isn’t the best of Mr. Frosts work, but considering what CVS usually does, it is a work of art. Actually I believe it could have been an incredible building with just a few different materials to help make some of the nice details stand out a little bit more. Everything is made from the same color bricks. A few transitions would be nice.

 

The CVS Building

The CVS Building

 

The Update of the N.Fox Building

The Update of the N.Fox Building

 The Boders Bookstore building is one of the prime spots on all of broadway. It replaced the old Red Barn that was painted a yellow beige and housed Popes Pizza.

The Borders Bookstore Building

The Borders Bookstore Building

If you have ever read the Fountainhead, Mr. Frost would actually be the architect that Howard Roark worked for at his first job after school. He has a great Website also a http://www.frostarchitecture.com. If you look at the site is actually about himself.

Rolling a Stogie on Broadway

Since I’m supposed to be writing about the culture of Saratoga Springs, not just people who create it, I thought I would add another post about a local cigar shop design. This will help make it less of a gossip style update.

When I was a kid no matter what sporting event I attended, the smell of cigars wafted throughout the entire area. This included high school football and the Saratoga Race Track, and I have rather fond memories of that smell. Today there is only one place you get an aroma like that, and it is located at the corner of Broadway and Phila Streets. 

One of the best designed retail stores on Broadway is the cigar shop at that corner. This location has been many things over the years, including a magazine store, gift shop and clothing store, but it was born to be a cigar shop. The door alone says come on in and have a smoke. Recently the name changed but that was all. I don’t know if it is a new owner or a partnership change.

The original Park Lane Tobacco window

The original Park Lane Tobacco window

The original name was Park Lane Tobacconist and the logo was two shifty characters smoking in an oval. It wasn’t great, but it fit well into the overall design. Who ever designed it knows a few rules about how to create logo. Check out the old style lighting fixtures, they are perfect with the overall store design. Even if they came with the building, the interior designer chose to keep them and they deserve credit for that decision. 

Park Lane Logo

Park Lane Logo

The new company is James and Sons Tobacconists. President Grant must be a client because I’m pretty sure thats him sitting in the chair. 

 

James & Sons Tobacconists logo

James & Sons Tobacconists logo

 

The perfect cigar shop

The perfect cigar shop

james-son-window-sign

James & Sons Tobacconists window

The sign in the window is neon lighting similar to the previous one that was there. I think this store is my favorite building on the entire commercial area of Broadway in Saratoga Springs. Congratulations to the owners who created it.