The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund


26 Apr 2016

Linda Celentano Receives 2016 Rowena Reed Kostellow Award

Linda Celentano, stalwart of Pratt’s ID program will be awarded the Rowena Reed Kostellow Award on April 26, 2016 in the Knoll showroom. The Award established in 1990, recognizes people who are advancing the principles of design that Rowena developed and rewards those who have excelled at the application of those ideas. “Linda's unassuming attitude elicits a nuanced pathway for discovery found in Rowena's principles. This unadulterated sense of quixotic beauty is seen as sheer movement captured in each piece,” says Johanna Burke, former Rowena Master's Class student.

More than 20 years ago Linda joined the Pratt faculty taking over Dr. William Fogler’s 3D class and conducting summer 3D workshops in the University of Kalmar, School of Design in Sweden in 2006-7. She was Rowena’s student and studied under Bill Fogler, Gerry Gulotta, Ralph Appelbaum and abroad in Denmark, earning her Bachelor's degree in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute in 1980. Her official title is: Adjunct Associate Professor of Industrial Design. One of her students says she told her: “"Think of your compositions as a group of dancers, and notice how the elements relate to each other".

“The work that comes out of Linda’s class is always beautiful. The visual relationships are exquisite. Not everyone can deliver the message, be demanding, and loved at the same time. Linda is one of the rare talents that makes Pratt 3D a special experience. An expansion of conscious that one carries with them, inside, for a very long time…as Lenny (Bacich) and Bill (Fogler) did for me. ‘It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.’”

— Jeff Kapek

She was one of the first employees of Smart Design prior to becoming an independent designer creating medical hardware and collections for Nambe, Rosenthal, Alessi, Salton, Corning, Dansk, Copco, Estee Lauder, Knoll, Oxo, Perscriptives, Donna Karan, Black and Decker, Stryker Corporation and Ace Orthopedics. Her work won awards from IDEA, ID magazine’s Annual Design Review, and Athenaeum Good Design awards. She has been recognized in Bloomingdale’s 100 Years of Design Excellence, shows at Gallery 91, Fellisimo, Moss, and the Cooper Hewitt National Museum’s 2006 exhibition Feeding Desire.

Another student, Cici said Linda told them “Remember, every time you put out exquisite designs you are teaching others of their own potential by how you teach and inspired them with your beautiful work. Just like Picasso inspires us!” For years Linda directed the Rowena Award design, “with students to produce an astounding array of awards, recognizing the student, the recipient and Rowena,” said Louis Nelson.

View Linda’s work:

Linda is the 20th champion of the Abstract Principles of Visual Relationships to have received the award: Gina Caspi, Ivan Rigby, Eva Zeisel, Gerald Gulotta, William Fogler, Eugene Grossman, Ralph Appelbaum, James Fulton, Louis Nelson, Judy Collins, Bruce Hannah, Ted Muehling, Lucia N. DeRespinis, Tom Patti, Leonard Bacich, Bill Katavolos, Charles Pollock, Ruth Shuman and RitaSue Siegel. These teachers, entrepreneurs and designers embody the mission of the fund inspired by Rowena’s teaching: to encourage and guide a systematic educational approach to all forms of visual expression.

Linda’s Acceptance Speech

“As a student, teacher and designer, This Award is a tribute to Rowena.

“My grandmother and two great aunts actually lived on Willoughby Avenue in Brooklyn in their youth and took painting classes at Pratt. Their influence had me looking forward to their hand painted Christmas cards each year. Little did they know that I would be up here, now, speaking about them. Little did I know, their influence would lead me to Rowena.

“Rowena would say, ‘Don’t ask if it’s right; ask if it’s beautiful.’

“One by one, we were discovered by Rowena and one by one we became writers, professors, designers, poets, architects, artists and consumers for what really does matter in the world. Rowena’s legacy taught us that words like, I like it, I don’t like it or I like it a lot, were not definitive and that we need to learn a language that define a world of meaningful relationships that add up and tell a story.

“For those of us who brought out the ideas the of visual understanding, we would find Bill Fogler gazing in wonderment when shoes were worn on the wrong feet, while Rowena would be fascinated with the shape of the shoe’s developed surfaces. As for me, well I saw that the shoes looked more like petite amphitheaters.

“Rowena was our endearing Mother, Bill our doting Father and Gerry Gulotta, our Great Uncle, who perhaps would appreciate how those shoes relate best to tableware.

“Now about space. We created a box where we manipulated the space in the box with exhausting articulated planes and curves to champion our vision of the negative space and beyond. One year at Christmas I dreamt that the wall full of stacked boxes from the students were all gifted wrapped, teeming with the anticipation of Christmas morning. I also dreamt about the Wire Problem exercise, lines in space that carried perfect asymmetrical balance. Yes, perfect, at least until one of my classmates inadvertently sat on it, flattening its dynamics into a pool of a contoured cluster. Hence, Gerry Gulotta’s realization was that “Once you’ve experienced something, you can destroy the exercise and you haven’t lost a thing.”

“Now, in my role as a Professor, on my first day of class, I tell my students about when I was a very small girl. I explain how I took my little pearl necklace and decided to keep it in the chimney of my doll house. A perfectly good place to keep something safe and special. I love those things about my childhood and especially when I have those moments in my adulthood. We need to find and maintain those special places in all that we create and design, for it is in this spot that we find a better world.

“Another thought on the first day of school: I ask the students to think of their bedrooms back home as a child. “Remember how you would move one piece of furniture and then you would have to move all other things in the room as well so everything would fit together. Well, that’s what we will be doing this semester, placing many three-dimensional elements in space so they relate well with each other.”

“For homework I asked my class to design something just awful and tortured looking with pieces of paper and cardboard. The next homework assignment was to design beautiful shapes and forms using the very same materials. Together, during the next class, we analyzed the work and recited language that emulated the Visual Literacy that Rowena lived by. This language has been our legacy for nearly 80 years now in our Industrial Design program.

“One semester, I was just so frustrated with one student’s work, as it was just awful. With no words, it left me speechless. I had no understanding of her or her potential progress. I always see something beautiful in their work. Always. However, I didn’t even know what to say. By the end of the semester, this student’s work became the best in the class. It had little to do with me, but with the wonderment of how their abilities came in their own time, when they were ready, just like when things came in our time, when we were ready.

“So now, where do Pratt students go after they graduate? Well that’s a book in the making. Soon after I graduated I began to design for Smart Design.

“For me, some of my first steps were Smart. It was a wonderful place for cultivating creativity. At the time, it was a big, open, bullpen space. Although open space is very conducive for creativity and a great conduit for intelligence, I preferred a quieter space and dreamt I had a cube on my head for privacy, peace and quiet. The VPs and president would come to review my work. However, there were times they would often walk away scratching their heads. I liked working for Tucker. He’s a great designer. He was always motivated toward innovation. If he liked it, I knew it must be good.

“Years later, I learned that I was hired at Smart because I laughed at Tucker’s jokes during my interview. I still find him very funny.

“The next stop on my journey brought me to designing medical equipment for Operating Room. Rowena’s language would delineate the design realities of the acute awareness in the visual field of the operating room just perfectly. The computer aided imaging on the TV monitor used Endoscopic procedures requiring tremendous visual acuity with language. The surgeons used some of the same language we were taught, such as using words to describe Convexity, Spiraling movement, Volume Characteristics, Linear, Negative Space and all in relationship to one another. Incredibly, the very same language I had learned through Rowena’s teachings. Designing a table setting or in the operating room field. Visual is visual!

“Now in a very different example of these experiences, I volunteered for the Library for the Recording for the Blind. Here we needed to create oral documentation of text books for the blind where my task was to describe art work to people who couldn’t see. Here too, the acuity for using such words as ascending, receding, concave, tension, linear, convexity and negative space were all part of Rowena’s vocabulary as well. Designing for the seeing, the blind, the hearing, feeling, smelling and more. Her language was really beyond Visual.

“Designing and teaching, experimental work, became less part time for me and more and more interesting after leaving the medical field.

“From the moment of discovery, a project begins to flourish. At best we are really all Inventors. Rowena used to call Leonardo Da Vinci the first Industrial Designer.

“When the eye sees something in the world for the very first time, it allows us to reach a global understanding. This pathway is truest when working through the abstract. As a Professor, to see and feel this phenomenon of originality evolving in the entire classroom, simultaneously, can display an infinite state of wonderment.

“Now I began designing independently for billable hours in part to afford the opportunity to work experimentally designing teapots, vases, tremor free arm braces, night light lamps with removable flashlights, personal stacking glass water bottles and including award winning eye ware and tabletop designs found in homes and permanent museum collections.

“Apropos of societal changes, I am working on a concept for a Border Control Wall using undulating waves of solar panels. This wall would help finance affordable housing for immigrants and perhaps start a trend in positive relations and more control on both sides of the wall.

“Here Rowena would certainly not be concerned with a 10 ft height extension unless it related to the negative space tension and shadows from all sides of the wall. Im sure she wouldn’t even call it a wall.

“We can have empathy for meaningful relationships, be it virtual or visual. When relationships are challenging, we have the opportunity to discover great meaning. As Industrial Designers and as people, we owe this responsibility to one another and the potential of global pride. Victor Papaneck said it best when he said, “There are more harmful professions than Industrial Design, but very few.”

“As a designer, your boss or client may say that your final work is good enough to proceed. When your task is done your designs may now distribute around the globe…the globe! Good enough is not the goal and consider that you may be working for the wrong company for beauty is not about compromise.


“You know Rowena was our treasure. Our national treasure. Studying with her left you feeling nothing less than gifted.

“To Pratt, and the members of the RRK Fund, you enable us to speak to a world of imagination. To my colleagues and professors who will follow, thank you for your friendship and mindfulness in our connected goals. Rowena’s vision allows us to define “industry fluency” and ultimately capture the consumer’s understanding in today’s world market.

“To our students, you are all such a joy and bring out in us the finest we have to offer.

“I also want to give a very special thanks to Alvaro Uribe, Alex Pinks, Karen Stone and Johanna Burke for their help in creating a wonderful program this evening. Great thanks to Knoll, HumanScale and Lisa Smith amongst many others for bringing us all together.

“This award has literally taken my breath away. I feel so privileged to be able to share my thoughts with you about Rowena and am so honored to teach in the continuance of her lifetime work. Her influence continues to open my eyes and define my life as my own. Thank you so much!”

— Linda Celentano with Johanna Burke

About the RRK Fund

The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund at Pratt Institute was organized after her death in 1988 to continue her teachings by supporting scholarships, publishing and programs. Rowena, with her husband Alexander Kostellow and Donald Dohner, created Pratt's Industrial Design program merging form, function, and industry. Their objective was to develop an education system based on analysis of abstract visual relationships that would be valid for all forms of visual expression, including architecture, product design, graphic design, and fine art.

The program flourished and became the foundation of many courses and ID programs around the world. For over 50 years, Rowena taught three-dimensional design at Pratt, where she told her students “If you can't make it more beautiful, what's the point?”

Contact: Tucker Viemeister, 1239 Broadway, NYC 10001, 917 969 6268

Learn more about Rowena, her teaching methodology, and Pratt Institute in Gail Hannah's book, Elements of Design: The Structure of Visual Relationships, published by Princeton Architectural Press.