When the founders of 1871—an innovative new nonprofit that provides a place for tech entrepreneurs to meet, work, and grow—went looking for an architecture firm to design its offices on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, they picked Gensler. The man tapped to lead the project: Gensler principal Carlos Martinez, 53. The choice couldn’t have been more spot-on. After all, Martinez describes good design as “informed, purposeful, and compelling”—adjectives that could just as easily describe a successful startup.
Martinez’s discerning eye is evident not just in his work but in the things he chooses to wear and to live with in the prewar Gold Coast apartment he shares with his partner, Michael Tirrell, a communications strategist. See below for twenty things that get his stamp of approval.
20 Things Carlos Martinez Loves
HIGH-TOP SNEAKERS BY LANVIN ($995 for similar style, Barneys New York, 15 E. Oak St.)
“No one does high-tops better.”
VINTAGE SWISS ARMY BLANKETS ($298 each, sundancecatalog.com)
“Each has unique markings: letters and numbers with a hand-drawn quality.”
SARPANEVA CAST-IRON CASSEROLE BY IITTALA ($295, I.D. Chicago, 3337 N. Halsted St.)
“This a great example of that perfect balance between user-centered design and beauty.”
SINTESI LAMP BY ERNESTO GISMONDI FOR ARTEMIDE
“In 1979 I saw my first Sintesi lamp in Milan. I don’t know what possessed me to buy it—I had limited cash—but I love that I did.”
JIL SANDER TIES ($110 each, Jil Sander, 48 E. Oak St.)
“I try to get at least one tie from each of the collections Raf Simon designs for Jil Sander. With his recent departure to Christian Dior, I want to buy a last special tie.”
Photography: (casserole) courtesy of vendor; (all others) Anna Knott
AMBER ABSOLUTE EAU DE PARFUM BY TOM FORD ($195, Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, 717 N. Michigan Ave.)
“I am drawn to the smells of rich wood and incense. This fragrance has both.”
VINTAGE LE CORBUSIER CHAIR IN MAHARAM FABRIC ($275 a yard, Maharam, Merchandise Mart)
“I considered thousands of fabrics over ten years to reupholster this chair. When Maharam introduced Hella Jongerius’s Layers in 2008, it was clear this was it.”
ZEROLLER LUGGAGE BY ZERO HALLIBURTON ($750 for the 21-inch model, zerohalliburton.com)
“These heat-treated aluminum travel cases were designed in 1938 and have a lifetime warranty.”
“I love this playful midcentury desk accessory for its simplicity and wit.”
A PORTRAIT OF HIS FATHER
“My family left Cuba with nothing, but someone close to us was able to smuggle out this oil painting of my father. It’s one of the first things I see when I wake up. I always say good morning to him.”
Photography: Anna Knott
HIS “FATHER’S WATCH”
My father passed away when I was two. My mother, knowing it would be many years before I could wear my father’s watch, gave it to my father’s brother. My uncle was so touched by this gesture he promised my mother that he would buy me my first good watch. At 15, he gave me this beautiful, symbolic gift—a midcentury Omega Constellation Automatic Chronometer that I have worn ever since. I still call it my father’s watch, even though it technically wasn’t his.
THE MIES VAN DER ROHE ARCHIVE($561, amazon.com)
Several years after starting to work as an architect in Chicago, I became a big fan of Mies Van Der Rohe. It wasn’t love at first sight, which could be why I believe the way his architecture reaches your heart is through your mind.
BARCELONA CHAIR ANNIVERSARY WELD
When Knoll commemorated the [80th anniversary of Mies Van Der Rohe’s] Barcelona chair in 2009, they made a little, limited-edition sculpture of its famous weld and had each engraved with the name of the recipient. I have number 76 out of 100. [It] sits proudly in my living room, surrounded by a few Mies furniture designs and architectural books.
A CHUNK OF TRAVERTINE
One of my favorite interiors in Chicago was the old Arts Club [on 109 East Ontario Street], a space that housed the original game-changing stairs designed by Mies Van Der Rohe. The preservation fight was lost and the interior space was destroyed [in 1995]. An architectural historian friend gave me this little gift—a small rectangle of travertine salvaged from the demolition.
ED PASCHKE’S HUBERT AND TUDOR
It was around 1992 when I acquired my first Paschke pieces—two 1970s lithographs, one titled Hubert, the other Tudor. I love how they’re black and white—it’s not what most people expect when they think of Paschke—and that they were his answer to criticism he received for his previous “female entertainers” series.
Photography: Anna Knott
RENE PORTOCARRERO’S UNTITLED (FLORA)
This signed and dated 1963 gouache and ink drawing on handmade paper by the famous Cuban artist Rene Portocarrero is a prized possession. It was a touching gift from dear friends who knew how much I love Cuban art. Many people ask if this is [by Ed] Paschke, which may be why I like Paschke so much.
Globes are even cooler [than maps] because they are tactile. I found this particular one in a shop in St. Bart’s. It is made out of wood and gesso, which defines the ocean and the shape of the continents. It is highly inaccurate—in size, shape, and location of landmasses—and that’s what makes it even more enchanting.
DAVID WEEKS STUDIO TORROJA CROSS CHANDELIER (price on request, davidweeksstudio.com)
Inspired by the concrete forms of Eduardo Torroja’s 1935 Zarzuela Hippodrome in Madrid, this chandelier has a nickel-plated frame and shades that rotate to cast light up or down.
ALEXANDER GIRARD BY TODD OLDHAM AND KIERA COFFEE ($126, amazon.com)
This massive monograph on the seminal designer Alexander Girard covers virtually every aspect of his distinctive career—it is the definitive, must-have book on Girard’s oeuvre. It was exhaustively researched and lovingly assembled by [the author] Todd Oldham, and many of the designs featured here have never before been published.
SOL LeWITT’S WALL DRAWINGS
With his wall drawings, LeWit removed his hand from the production of his artwork. Instead, he created instructions so draftsmen could execute his drawings on any wall. I have seen them applied to minimal, modern walls, but I would love to take his work and execute it in a historical context—like on a paneled classical wall.
Photography: (Sol DeWitt's Wall Drawings) SF Moma; (chandelier, Alexander Girard) courtesy of vendors; (all others) Anna Knott