Mary Gillis – Book Artist Carrying on a Tradition in Boston

Recipe Book Page – by Mary Gillis

This past July, we did a Blog post about Book Art. The subject fascinated us. Little did we know that book art was very much alive right here in Boston. In an unusual twist of fate, Rakks got the attention of a book artist looking for a shelving solution for her studio.


Artist Mary Gillis in her Boston South End studio

This story begins in Boston’s South End where artist Mary Gillis resides. Mary is a very talented lady who makes beautiful quilts and practices Book Art. Her studio, up a winding staircase in a lovingly restored brownstone, is filled with inspiration including fabrics, art, poetry and found objects. For her, the progression from creating a quilt to producing Book Art was a calling. Both art forms share her desire to tell a story through tactile materials and structural elements.


W S Merwin Poem – by Mary Gillis The box contains a scroll which can be viewed by turning the little knobs. The subject of the poem is ‘mistakes’—hence the coffee stains along with the text.

When we asked Mary how she became interested in book art, she explained, “It all started when I saw Book Art exhibited at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. a few years ago. The minute I saw the exhibit I realized Book Art was something I wanted to pursue. When I retired, I had more free time, so I took a class in Book Art at Boston University. During that class, we made 14 books in an intensive 6-week session including my ‘Moby Dick’ book that was juried into the “Call Me Melville 2012” exhibit in Pittsfield MA.”

Moby Dick - Coffin book cover by Mary Gillis

Moby Dick – Coffin book cover by Mary Gillis

Moby Dick - inside front cover by Mary Gillis

Moby Dick – inside front cover by Mary Gillis

Rakks and Mary’s paths crossed when she was looking for a shelving system for her studio. She was searching for products and came across a mention of Rakks in a design publication. When she visited the Rakks website, she said, “I was very happy to see that they were local. I still had questions, so I emailed them, and included a diagram of the configuration I designed. Within the hour, a Rakks salesperson emailed me back with very clear answers, even to my nitty-gritty questions. He made a list of what I would need and soon my project was off and running.

Finished Rakks system in Mary Gillis’s studio

I began by having Boulter Plywood in Somerville, MA (link) cut four 14” deep plywood shelves for the top of the system. Next I installed Rakks vertical standards and the top mitered pieces. Once that was done, it was back to Boulter for the desktop and lower shelves. My walls are a little uneven, and I needed more stability for the top shelves, so I screwed a cleat into the wall under the back of the desktop shelves and secured them for stability.


PC4 Pole with Mitered Tie Pole

Offset L-Bracket



Rakks Style Bracket with Universal Wire Bookend

During the process, I learned that the Door Store in Cambridge carries Rakks. It turned out that I had space for an additional shelf, so I went there and added brackets and couplers to my system. Mission accomplished!”

Thank you, Mary, for sharing your story with us. We’re looking forward to seeing your next project!



November 13th, 2015 | Comments Off

Rem Koolhaas Was A Little Restless



Seattle Public Library CCTV Tower, Beijing

When Architectural Digest published an article about Rem Koolhaas and his Rotterdam-based firm OMA/AMO in the September edition, they referred to Mr. Koolhaas as “arguably the most influential architect of the past 30 years.” We couldn’t agree more. He was the visionary behind the Seattle Public Library, with its structured origami-like folds, and Beijing’s boldly angled and cantilevered CCTV tower – both projects strokes of visionary genius and examples of extraordinary scale. His name has never been associated with adaptive reuse projects until now. The question is why?

According to AD “The answer is now coming into focus thanks to two dazzling debuts, both adaptive reuse projects that reflect Koolhaas’s efforts to accomplish more by building less. This past May the Dutch architect unveiled the Fondazione Prada’s new Milan art center, largely constructed from the remains of a century-old distillery. Then, a month later, he christened the new permanent home of Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, set in a repurposed Soviet-era restaurant in Gorky Park. In each case, by serving as renovator rather than the creator, Koolhaas says he was forced to put aside “pure ego” to “pursue relationships with the past.”


The Fondazione Prada – On the left is the theatre OMA/AMO added to the campus

The intriguing architectural debut of these two dynamic art complexes is a new interpretation of Koolhaas style. Both Milan and Moscow are steeped in history, art and architecture albeit from different cultural perspectives, however, the common understanding of the benefits of adaptive reuse bridges the cultural divide and simply demonstrates the genius of Koolhaas.

The Fondazione Prada is a high point in the partnership between Prada and OMA/AMO. According to the Architzer Blog “The partnership has gone on for more than a decade. Their combined efforts, led by the two firms’ charismatic leaders, Miuccia Prada and Rem Koolhaas, have induced a renewed interest in fashion among architects and a new appreciation for space and form among designers.”


Moscow’s Garage Museum Of Contemporary Art

Moscow’s Garage Museum Of Contemporary Art is the upstart collaboration of Koolhaas and the ambitious museum’s founder, philanthropist Dasha Zhukova. The Wall Street Journal described it this way. “Art collector and philanthropist Dasha Zhukova is launching an ambitious campaign to connect Moscow to the international art world, and she’s tapped architect Rem Koolhaas to execute her vision.”

And execute it he did. Koolhaas purposefully designed the structure to be edgy and less polished. The one time garage built in 1968 was in ruins when Koolhaas first heard of it. In the AD article Koolhaas recounts, “… We discovered that preserving the building from 1968 meant preserving the mentality and raw, youthful energy of 1968.” To achieve the goal, Koolhaas covered the two story, 58,000 square foot building in a translucent polycarbonate shell that creates a surreal divide between the interior and exterior spaces. Shimmering plastic panels are designed to slide up and reveal the buildings entrance hall. The founder’s vision is to introduce Russians to international contemporary art.

Adaptive reuse Koolhaas style is respectful of the “ambitions and intentions” of the original designers vision. We think they would approve!


October 19th, 2015 | Comments Off

American Architect, Canadian Landmark: The Canadian Human Rights Museum

Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world dedicated to the evolution, celebration, and future of human rights. It stands at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The beautiful glass landmark was built by Antoine Predock—an American architect, landscape architect, and interior designer based in New Mexico.

Predock was picked from a competition pool of architects from sixty-four different countries. His design was chosen by the Museum’s Architectural Review Committee because it “could fulfill the objectives for an inspirational building that achieves a complexity relating to the diversity of human experience.” He began the project in the spring of 2009 with goal of melding the idea of human rights with an exceptional architectural form. The 260,000-ft2 building opened in the fall of 2014 and stands as a symbol for the road to understanding human rights. The structure builds on itself upward and culminates at the Tower of Hope—a 23-story glass spire 100 meters in the sky.

Filled with multi-sensory exhibits and alabaster crisscross galleries, the design provides dynamic and accessible exposure to human rights content. There are ten exhibit zones, including galleries such as “What are Human Rights?” and “Turning Points for Humanity”, that provide a vibrant space for education and conversation. Exceeding the Smithsonian standards, the museum prides itself on being the most accessibly designed in the world. In the midst of this colossal building, the international array of patrons have the chance to dine at the ERA Bistro and shop at the museum’s boutique.

Number TEN Architectural Group, a firm dedicated to sustainable practices, designed the interiors of the bistro and boutique. Heather Anderson was the project lead and chose to incorporate Rakks shelving systems into both interiors. Rakks shelving systems are strategically placed along the walls and in the display windows of the boutique. They hold an eclectic collection of handmade gifts with messages dedicated to human rights.

The ERA Bistro is a serene oasis for dining and cocktails. Walls are neutral dove gray. Metallic sculptures are suspended from the ceiling and gossamer window coverings separate the space from the museum’s busy public areas.

Heather Anderson explained how Rakks shelving systems were seamlessly integrated into both spaces. “Rakks was a great solution for our bistro and boutique, as we did not want to use a custom millwork approach to the shelving,” she said. “The aluminum finish of the Rakks shelving aligned with the refined, minimalist aesthetic of the boutique and bistro. We wanted adjustable shelving that allows the owner to easily change the shelving display to accommodate various product offerings and configurations.”

If you happen to be travelling in Canada, we highly recommend visiting this stunning architectural landmark.



August 18th, 2015 | Comments Off

14 Year Old Becomes An Architect’s Client



Don’t miss this New York Times article about a teenager’s determination to find a way to build his family’s custom residence in Princeton, New Jersey. It’s an interesting story.

After a lengthy, fruitless search for a modernist home in Princeton, NJ, Glenn Schroeder and Janet Wong were ready to give up, but their 14-year-old son Andrew didn’t want them to settle for less.




He suggested that his family commission an architect to build the house of their dreams. His parents, though skeptical, told him they would look into it if he set up the meetings. They assumed he would lose interest. They were wrong. And finally, he proposed Leven Betts, after admiring a house the New York architecture firm had published in Dwell magazine.




The final project features an internal courtyard, multiple windows with stunning natural views, white metal cladding, polished concrete floors, fluorescent lights and Rakks floor to ceiling shelving that allow the hallways to double as a library.




Read the entire story here.

August 7th, 2015 | Comments Off

What Exactly is Book Art?


The number of personal and public libraries found scrolling through our blog will tell you: Rakks is a huge supporter of books. We are art supporters, too and we are proud to be in many of the countries most prestigious museums, in both public spaces and playing a supporting role in their offices and workspaces.

This latest project is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts retail shop. When designer Katy Dale (Associate AIA) contacted us about this project, we knew it was right up our alley.

A Challenger of the Modern Artistic Landscape


Book Art is a genre that capitalizes on the artistry found in centuries of bookmaking and creates an interdisciplinary form of modern art. Book Art is what the title says it is—art composed of books. Though, defining it any further proves just as complicated as finding a definition for art itself. The book is a contained narrative that serves as a multi-faceted method of communication. Turning a book into Book Art involves utilizing the form of the book.

While its roots reflect the avant-garde movements of Constructionism, Futurism, and Surrealism, the form began to reach recognition as a distinct genre in the 1970s. The Center for Book Arts in New York opened around this time, becoming the first institution to study and teach Book Art. The genre’s lack of concrete definition has rendered it limitless. Book artists are incredibly skilled and, in the art world, their work is unfortunately underrepresented.

What is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts?


The founders of the MCBA aimed to elevate Book Art in the art world so it could receive the recognition it deserved. They dreamed of providing an accessible space for existing book artists to practice their craft while educating the next generation about process and history. So, in 1985, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts opened. Minnesota Center for Book Arts joined with The Loft Literary Center and Milkweed Editions to become a founding tenant of Open Book, the first comprehensive literary and book arts facility in the nation. The renovated and reinvigorated century-old building was the first cultural landmark of the Minneapolis downtown riverfront, which is now also home to the Guthrie Theatre, Mill City Museum, MacPhail Center for Music and Gold Medal Park. Open Book creates a lively destination for a diverse public interested in books, book arts and literary endeavors of all kinds.







The center’s vision is to create the world where “book art is created, cultivated, celebrated, and understood as a vital and lasting expression of culture.” Equipped with everything from studios to a reference library, the MCBA serves upwards of 70,000 patrons a year. The center leaves no demographic untapped; all walks of life and skill levels are welcome. The classes found at the MCBA are truly one-of-a-kind, allowing for everyone from K-12 students to “life long learners”.

How is Rakks Involved?


In the spirit of keeping Book Art accessible, artists’ books are available for purchase at the Shop at MCBA. The shop offers utterly unique gifts for the book-lover or writer in your life. Designer, Katy Dale (Associate AIA) from Christian Dean Architecture, specified the Rakks Shelving System for the shop.

“We needed a strategy to use space efficiently for books and product display while also allowing the character and volume of the industrial space to remain. I started looking for products to help us achieve these goals and came across the Rakks system,” said Katy. “Rakks had several application examples in museum shops and libraries, which aligned well with our program. One of the major selling points for me was Rakks ability to span support poles from floor to ceiling. This capability accentuated and utilized the height of the ceiling and providing a flexible double-sided display in front of the large storefront windows.” Katy further explained, “ Custom casework was designed to fit within the Rakks system, so we were able to coordinate with other freestanding casework throughout the entire project. One of the benefits to the client is that Rakks provides flexibility to add, subtract, or rearrange the display components as needed. We continued the use of Rakks in the library and even in their upstairs office space. In the end, we were thrilled with both the aesthetic and functional results.”


July 24th, 2015 | Comments Off

Veil and the Vault: The Broad Museum in Los Angeles

Throughout history, architecture has always been a source of inspiration. From the initial design process through the completion of a project, architecture “groupies” watch with anticipation, as an architect’s vision becomes a reality.

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