Neighborliness in design

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has in its rotunda an enormous statue of Benjamin Franklin, the city’s patron.

Notice the aesthetics in this photo: scale, proportion, and modesty. What struck me as I walked past this (for the first time in a long time) a few years ago was just how beautifully the classical aspects of the building complemented its contemporary aspects.

What do I mean? “The doors of wisdom are never shut,” isn’t simply a nicely lit sentiment. That entire panel is a display. The display area doesn’t try to outdo its surroundings. It doesn’t seek to shout over them or demand attention, but it’s there. It’s a part of the room.

The physical and digital should complement one another, not compete for attention. New media meets old forms, and each enriches the other.