closed its doors 31 years ago. Baby boomers remember the store like it was yesterday. D/R was where they bought their Marimekko
dresses, the minute they realized a girdle was no longer required. D/R was where they touched the Kaj Franck china
, buying one place-setting at a time for first apartments in Cambridge or San Francisco or New York. They copied its grand paper globes, bought rugs in Turkey to slip under their glass coffee tables, dangled wooden toys in front of their tots, and learned to make a mean tagine, using the same clay pot as Julia
D/R’s founder, architect Benjamin Thompson
, wanted to turn shopping into less of a chore, more of a creative enterprise. Thompson wrote in the Boston Globe
in 1971, 18 months after his glass-walled, concrete-framed new D/R headquarters opened in Cambridge:
Just as Harvard Yard is an agora and Washington Street a fair, D/R lives in the tradition of the marketplace. Because good markets and fairs thrive on movement and action, they don’t happen in architectural “masterpieces” but in lively spaces that mix people and functions.
So the task of building anew on Brattle Street, with its beautiful residential scale and bustling intensity around Harvard Square, was a complex prospect. Could we share the new D/R with the outer world, yet keep the sense of intimacy within? Could we achieve crystalline openness without the icy purity of most glass facades? Could we blend today’s structure with Longfellow’s neighborhood, mix children and elders, old and new, store and street into a comfortable continuity of color and optimism that life is naturally all about?
Thompson’s thinking about “lively spaces that mix people and functions” led him to a second career, during and after D/R, as the joint inventor, designer and planner of the “festival marketplace” with wife Jane Thompson
. As in the D/R stores, their idea at Faneuil Hall (and later Harbor Place and South Street Seaport) was to enliven old buildings
with new shopping, eating and mingling experiences, curating (to appropriate a trendy word) the stores as he had curated the D/R merchandize for a mix of price points and audiences, and adding lots of free performances, classes, and good smells. However sad the festival marketplaces now seem, overrun with chain stores and tourist restaurants, the Thompsons' ideas about retail — hand-selecting the goods, maximizing the sidewalk display, re-using past architecture — are still at work today.