How the Architect Finds Inspiration From Handblown Glass
Jeffrey Beers at UrbanGlass. Photographed by Michael George.
Jeffrey Beers is an architect, a designer, and an artist whose distinctive work brings emotion to modernism. He studied architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design while learning glassblowing from the renowned artist Dale Chihuly. Following graduation, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and traveled to Brazil to study with the legendary Oscar Niemeyer. When he returned to New York he went to work for I.M. Pei. These three masters have defined his vision: the dynamic use of space, subtle materiality, and tailored elegance. In 1986 he established Jeffrey Beers International, bringing his signature sensibility to some of New York’s most vibrant restaurants. He quickly expanded into hotels, resorts, residences, as well as casinos, cruises, and entertainment venues.
As his studio’s Communications Director of seven-years, Victoria Hood has had the privilege of promoting JBI's awarding winning projects including One57 turnkey apartment, Roc Nation’s New York headquarters, and The Newbury Boston boutique hotel. Yet, it is Jeffrey's passion for the esoteric art form of glassblowing and his commitment to the non-profit organization UrbanGlass that intrigue her the most. Victoria therefore sat down with her boss Jeffrey to discuss how the unlikely pairing of architecture and handblown glass inspires him and his studio daily.
View from Roc Nation's Rooftop. Photographed by Eric Laignel.
Where did your passion for design come from?
From growing up in New York, I always had a natural appreciation for the city’s planning and architecture. While life guarding in high school, I met a Pratt Institute architecture student who introduced me to the world of design. From that moment on I knew I wanted to pursue architecture as my studies and as my career.
One Hundred Barclay. Photographed by Eric Laignel.
How and where do you seek inspiration?
I am an avid reader and collector of design and art books. I tend to study and focus on details to the point that I am learning rather than being inspired.
I also love to take pictures wherever I go. Whether I am walking into a new restaurant in my neighborhood, or walking to a business meeting in Shanghai, you will see me with me photographing left and right with my iPhone.
Finally, I also have a huge appreciation for art and artists. You can learn so much about colors, shapes, and textures through studying artwork.
Jeffrey Beers with KEEP Founders Susan Spiranovich & Adam Holtzinger.
Photographed by Kaitlyn Flannagan.
How did you get your start in glass blowing? What about it excites you?
I discovered glassblowing during my sophomore year at RISD when my architecture classes were moved near the glassblowing studio due to campus renovations. The creativity, the use of colors, the shapes and forms, as well as the comradery were all an exhilarating change to the demanding studies of perpendicular lines and perfect proportions.
Jeffrey Beers at UrbanGlass. Photographed by Michael George.
Can you detail glass blowing's tradition and methodology?
I am not an expert in the history of glassblowing. I would advise you, however, to take a journey to Murano, Italy and visit the glassblowing factories to attend a demonstration to see with your own eyes how glass has been made for centuries, and how it's still made today.
If you travel further east, you can discover the unique properties of Czech glassblowing in Prague. We collaborate with Lasvit and Preciosa, two wonderful Czech producers of exceptional glass lighting, often for our hospitality and residential projects.
A Light Installation by Artist Hitoshi Kuriyama for Sequoia Restaurant.
Photographed by Eric Laignel.
What's glass blowing's role in hospitality spaces?
If I could have it my way, every light fixture, from sconces to chandeliers, would be handblown. The medium is the ribbon that holds the design, creativity, and feel of the space together. I can’t explain it in factual terms. The look and craftmanship of handblown glass produce great emotion and energy for me.
Gotham Market at The Ashland. Photographed by Eric Laignel.
How have you seen the art of glass blowing change throughout the years?
When I was tutored under Dale Chihuly at RISD in the 70s, the emphasis was on color, form, and boldness. If I look back at the past 5 to 10 years, the trend has been to be more minimal and restrained. For example, we designed with Brooklyn designers and glassblowers KEEP, a very perpendicular chandelier with multiple round pendants for the food hall, Gotham Market at The Ashland.
Omni PGA Frisco Resort
What are you currently working on? Anything on the horizon?
It has been a very busy year for us so far with the completion of Fairmont Banff Springs’ Gold Guestrooms and Suites, Estiatorio Milos Dubai and La Mer Dubai (both located in the new Atlantis The Royal), US Bank Tower, and Omni PGA Frisco Resort that is very impressive new golf resort outside of Dallas, TX. Currently we are working on a number of interesting hotels and restaurants in North America, The Caribbean, and Europe, as well as residential developments in Boston, Miami, and New York.
KEEP at UrbanGlass. Photographed by Kaitlyn Flannagan.
What's the best piece of advice you've received? And, what's a piece of advice you have for aspiring designers? Do not let your fear get the best of you. My grandfather taught me that. I always try to encourage aspiring designers to stay true to themselves and to keep at the hard work. Don’t give up. It will pay off in time.
Roc Nation. Photographed by Eric Laignel.
About Jeffrey Beers International Based in New York, but with global reach, Jeffrey Beers International is a full service studio that specializes in architecture, design, and planning from hotel hospitality to resorts, from restaurants to residential. We pair the precision of architecture with the sensuality of form. We bring emotion to modernism. You can see our signature style in resorts such as One & Only Palmilla, The Newbury Hotel in Boston, Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, and One57, a luxury residence. Custom fixtures, sensitivity to the texture and color of materials, and elegant proportions define our work. Our team is astute, skillful, and collaborative. We are passionate about what we do. Grounded in thirty-five years of experience, our designs balance discipline with spontaneity and blend Modernism with the warmth of artisanal techniques. This creative dialogue defines the ethos of JBI where we bring architecture and artistry together.
About UrbanGlass UrbanGlass is an open-access facility where over 380 professional artists and designers create using glass. Our facility fosters community and serves as an incubator for creation and innovation. UrbanGlass’ 17,000 square foot state-of-the-art studios are filled with natural light and the best equipment available. The facility includes a hot shop, cold shop, kiln room, flameworking shop, mold room, and flat working area. The hot shop has six glory holes ranging in size from nine to 36 inches, two 1,000 pound furnaces, and a wide range of annealers. The cold shop features heavy equipment such as belt sanders and can be easily cleaned by hosing down the equipment into large grated floor sinks. The studios also feature a dedicated kiln room with 14 kilns and a mold shop. The lampworking studio houses workstations for 15 artists and a variety of torches at each station. Studio artists are able to rent a variety of different types of storage spaces for their equipment, materials, and projects, and may utilize a lounge and showers.