Two Design Geeks Crazed for Coffee-Cup Lids

The architects Louise Harpman and Scott Specht started accumulating takeout-coffee lids once they had been in faculty, within the nineteen-eighties, and continued the follow as graduate college students at Yale. Separately, and unbeknownst to one another, that they had amassed, of their dorm rooms, a trove of on a regular basis objects that they discovered aesthetically pleasing. Specht had glass radio tubes, medication bottles, and airline-safety playing cards; Harpman had Ferrara Pan sweet packing containers, flypaper packaging from the 40’s, and hot-water bottles. They each had espresso lids. Once they realized of their shared curiosity, they started evaluating notes, like trading-card fanatics.

“There was the Wawa convenience-store lid, the 7-Eleven, the Dunkin’ Donuts,” Harpman recalled. “It was, like, ‘Oh, I found this one, do you have that one?’ ” After they merged their collections and married, they ran an structure agency, Specht Harpman, for twenty years, till they separated and break up their follow. All the whereas, the coffee-lid assortment grew; at some 5 hundred and fifty lids, it’s seemingly the world’s largest. (In 2012, the Smithsonian acquired a variety. “We only gave them ones we had duplicates of,” Harpman mentioned.) Harpman now teaches at N.Y.U. and lives close by, and Specht divides his time between New York and Austin. The espresso lids have stayed collectively, in acid-free packing containers, beneath Harpman’s mattress.

On a current Tuesday, Specht and Harpman, bright-eyed and caffeinated, met at Lafayette, a French café in NoHo, for subject analysis. They had introduced with them their new e book, “Coffee Lids: Peel, Pinch, Pucker, Puncture,” which incorporates shade images and unique patent drawings for greater than 2 hundred distinctive lids. (The subtitle refers to methodology of entry.) Harpman wore a white shirt beneath a navy cape coat; she had pushed her glasses up into her bob. “The biggest distinction in the taxonomy is whether you peel away part of the lid, so you can actually get your lip on the cup, or, like this one”—she held up her latte—“you drink through the piece of plastic. There’s one I like best, by a designer named Morris Philip, that sits down in the cup.”

Specht nodded. He was sporting a fitted jacket over a darkish shirt, and steel-rimmed glasses. “I love the megalomania of that cup,” he mentioned.

In the time earlier than lids (B.L.), when individuals carrying espresso moved at a slower tempo, there was solely a rimmed plastic snap-on disk, patented, in 1950, by James D. Reifsnyder, of the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation. It contained no ingesting holes. After the 1983 Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager hit the highway, with built-in cup holders, lids just like the Solo Traveler, designed by Jack Clements (and now in MoMA’s assortment) launched a small drain, for overflow, along with a sipping gap. The field-guide part of “Coffee Lids” contains pages on “Ergonomic Drink Apertures” (“the sippy cup”), “Foam Accommodation Techniques” (“the FoamAroma”), and “Slosh Drainage Systems” (Nyman Manufacturing Company Model 11096: “a mess waiting to happen”).

Harpman talked about a current prize. “Last summer, in London, somebody’s walking across the street with this crazy lid.” She fished a Ziploc bag from her purse.

“The bug-eye lid,” Specht mentioned. It was coated in plastic buttons to point the kind of drink: choc, cap, particular, latte, white, mocha.

“It’s from McDonald’s! ” Harpman mentioned, brandishing the lid. “I’d thought the pinch category was dormant.”

Around the nook, at La Colombe, Specht grabbed two lids from behind the counter whereas a clerk’s again was turned. “They have the Viora lid,” Harpman mentioned. “This is the one Wired thinks is the best.” It has a skinny rim and a recessed house for the nostril.

Specht introduced up a failed expedition to Gasoline Alley, an upscale, minimalist espresso store close by. “Yesterday was unbelievable,” he mentioned. “We walk into the place, and they’re, like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ We told them a bit about our research, and the manager came out and said, ‘We need to call the owner.’ People are so paranoid.”

On the road, Harpman identified a number of orange-and-white striped avenue barricades (“They’re just everywhere”), and counterweighted fireplace escapes (“Incredibly beautiful”). Specht extolled the menus from eating places like IHOP, which present images of meals (“I have a huge basket of those”).

In Think Coffee, a person in a blazer, holding two scorching drinks, waited whereas the pair examined the dimples on the compostable lids. “Decaf, cream, and black—that’s all,” Specht mentioned.

They determined to attempt Gasoline Alley once more, reducing their voices as they entered. Specht took a lid from a shelf. “You’ve got a basic, a generic,” he mused. “This must be gaining leadership.”

“We saw that one at Darkstar,” Harpman famous.

The barista, a bearded man in an apron, had been watching. “I’m not trying to stare,” he mentioned. “Anything I can help you with?”

Harpman gave a pleasant wave. “We’re thinking!” she mentioned. They exited rapidly. ♦


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