The Mariposa Restaurant

Neiman Marcus - Boca Raton, FL


(click on any of the images for a larger version)

This commission came as a result of a referral from Linda Boone at Habatat Gallery in Boca Raton. Charles Sparks & Co. out of Chicago was in charge of the interior layout of this Neiman Marcus store and of the attached restaurant, the Mariposa (Spanish for Butterfly), as well. The prospectus called for a 35' x 3' wall frieze that reflected the gentle tropical breezes of Florida but with an urban feeling. I felt my design fit the bill perfectly. Neiman Marcus head curator of art Julie Kronick agreed and after some months of design negotiation, I had the job.

The raw space was a wall that was 37 feet long and 12 feet high with a recess in the adjacent ceiling where lights were installed. There was to be a bench seat along that wall beneath the art work. Once the main idea was agreed upon, most of the discussion centered around the rails the glass would mount on, with Charles Sparks coming up with the final design of steel bars with holes to hold the glass. It was Julie who requested that the mounting pegs remain visible, something that would have never occured to me.

This is the computer-generated design I submitted. It clearly shows the waving line of the reed tips that traverse the length of the project. The idea was to invoke a feeling of a gentle tropical breeze as well as gentle ocean waves. The transparent green glass also enhanced the tropical spirit of the design. I named it "Zephyr".

It was clear from the start that lighting would be a difficult issue. The recessed lights in the ceiling were too close to the wall to avoid shadowing from the 3" side rails, and too high to effectively illuminate the piece. During the day, however, these four large picture windows provided excellent ambient light. It was mainly during nighttime that I was concerned about adequate lighting for the project.


The piece consists of five identical sections, each seven feet long. Each section has 24 transparent green glass "reeds", 12 on top and 12 on the bottom, in matching pairs whose tips come very close to each other but do not touch. There are 120 reeds in all. I had my friends at Tempest Cycles make the rails. This was a very different project from the Harley-Davidson Motorcycles they customize as their regular business, but they gamely accepted the challenge and did a really fine job. Once I had two pairs of the rails I laid them out in my studio and proceeded to make the reeds, inserting them into the rails and tweaking them until they fit properly. This was extremely tedious and took over two weeks to complete.


Installation was on 11/15/05. Hurricane Wilma threw the schedule for completion of the store into chaos, but the 11/18 deadline was firm. I arrived with the project components and my limited tools at 7PM and began the installation at 9PM. It took until 4AM to complete... seven hours! Thanks to the generous help of Julie Kronick and Dave, the Neiman Marcus art installer, we got the job done much more quickly than I had thought.


The glass "reeds" are held in place with epoxy glue. The copper-electroformed steel rails are mounted on cleats that are machine-screwed to the wall studs, allowing removal if ever necessary. The entire project weighs more than 600 pounds, but has an airy, ethereal feeling of lightness and buoyancy. I want to thank Neiman Marcus, Julie Kronick, Dave the art installer, and the guys at Tempest Cycles, Eric and Tom, for their invaluable contributions to this project.

Final Photos by Dan Abbott

Robert A. Mickelsen 11/18/05