Robb Design Portfolio: Primary Colors

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“A syncopation of space, form, and color,” says architect Alexander Gorlin, the proud papa of a piano that looks like a cross between a Mondrian painting and a Gerrit Rietveld chair.

Gorlin won the first International Piano Design Competition, sponsored by Maximiliaan Rutten for the 10th anniversary of his company, Maximiliaan’s House of Grand Pianos. The winning design, an audacious composition in red, yellow, and blue, was dubbed “Architecture Is Frozen Music,” in homage to Goethe. Rutten even commissioned an original work of five short pieces for the occasion by composer Anna Bogolyubova, one appropriately titled “Broadway Boogie.”

Made by Pianova in Germany of molded birch and spruce with a lacquered finish, the $185,000 piano was intended to enhance the performance and tonal quality of modern compositions. Gorlin, whose mother was a piano teacher, kept the classic body and mechanism (“why mess with something that has been perfected over a hundred years?”) but exploded the form and covered the case in primary colors. The deconstructed shape is a deliberate play on the influence that piano curves have had on modern architects, especially Le Corbusier.

“This piano should be de rigueur for any respectable modern house,” Gorlin says. “I see it in a residence or at the Mondrian hotel in Los Angeles. And all digital sound systems should be complemented by the latest in pianos.”

Maximiliaan’s House of Grand Pianos, 212.689.2177,

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