Sarah Whiting on the Many Lives of a Simple Family Salad Bowl

The newly appointed dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design tells Metropolis about a beloved red dish.


Courtesy Maggie Janik

Moving makes you conscious of many things. Not least among them is confronting the astounding number of things that you own and realizing that only a few are just right.

This simple enamel bowl is the perfect size, the perfect shape, and the perfect red. It has no markings. For most of its life and mine, it lived on a shelf in my parents’ dining room, appearing on the table only for special dinners.

Today, it lives on a shelf in our kitchen. I use it every day, always for the same thing—salad. At first, I feared the bowl would lose its perfection through continuous use. However, it turns out that every time I use it, I find myself pausing, briefly overwhelmed by two powerful sentiments: admiration for its perfection and the remembrance of my parents. The just right factor of good design has that power. While I spend much of my time teaching that as an idea, nothing beats being reminded of it in daily life.

Needless to say, the bowl came with me to Cambridge.

Sarah Whiting is the dean of the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, a role she assumed in July. She was previously the dean of the Rice University School of Architecture in Houston. She is also a founding partner of WW ArchitectureCourtesy Sarah Whiting

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