This post began before Election Day. It began with surprising ambivalence: I wanted to love “Doug Aitken: Electric Earth” at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary, but didn’t. The projections felt too pretty, the loops too styled (quite unlike this perfectly layered coat). Time passed without much personality, leaving only the residue of “chic ennui,” as Christopher Knight wrote in the LA Times.
But now. Now I identify with standing at the edge of this slick abyss, distracted by the sonic spillover of another installation (Song I), diluting the staccato grace of this one (Sonic Fountain II). A muddled moment. A faux chasm now real.
My Mexico travelogue begins with an installation by an artist ruminating on his Mexican roots (thanks for the tip, Persephone Bakery). Originally from Mexico City, Gabriel Dawe explores textiles as an interface between notions of architecture, fashion, and identity. By stringing prismatic veils from unexpected vantage points—like the vaulted ceiling between the terminal and ticketing area at San Antonio International Airport—Dawe entrances viewers into meditations on gender, color, shelter, vascular networks—any and all threads. Considering the context of this particular new installation (administered by Public Art San Antonio), plexus c18 channels the magic of flight. Made up of nearly 90 miles of mercerized cotton sewing thread representing 19 colorways, the high-flying piece engages the full spectrum of visible light.
“What’s wonderful about this project is the fact that it will be seen by thousands of travelers, Dawe said, “My hope is that plexus c18 will bring them some joy in their journey.”
Unveiled last week, the public art installation will be on display for three years and upon its de-installation, Dawe will bundle the thread inside a plexiglass box and present it as part of his Relic series. A thoroughly joyful journey.
A new bar for chic shelter: French architect-designer Emmanuel Picault (of Chic by Accident) has transformed a 1920s townhouse into three meticulous suites, all within the hip leafiness of Colonia Roma in Mexico City. The intimate experience of La Valise—the brainchild of entrepreneur and globetrotter Yves Naman—laces refined European styling with Mexican accents.
Playfully ingenious touches abound: a stone orb in lieu of a door, leather bookshelves, a Yucatan hammock and rope swing strung up inside a walled terrace.
I’m eyeing an alfresco evening in La Terraza: The bed, mounted on a track, allows rolling the king expanse outside on the terrace. Ensconced en plein air, I’d watch movies projected on the stucco wall and order La Valise’s version of room service: Dinner delivered by a waiter from the neighboring hotspot Rosetta. Truly beyond.
A debate distraction: My soft spot for elderly care finds me scouting vanguard approaches. Like this compassionate compound designed by Tokyo-based architect Issei Suma in Japan’s Shizouka Prefecture. Two women in their 60s—one a social worker, the other a chef—live and work in this cluster of tent-like pavilions: here, they make food for the elderly residents of the village and provide therapeutic care for those with disabilities. Interconnected inside, each pavilion serves a different function: exercise in the spiral pool, cooking in the minimalist kitchen, and dining at round tables. Clad in timber panels, the cones seem at home in their surroundings, a magical addition to the mountainscape. My commune dreams come true.
Waking up to my first snowfall of the season, I retreated under down and dreamed of a deck like this one at Casa Bonay in Barcelona, Spain (thank you Of a Kind for the 10 Things inspiration).
A 19th-century home renovated into a boutique hotel, Casa Bonay embraces fun amid history, preserving design elements like mosaic floors while celebrating new inspiration in the form of friends-as-resident shops and eateries. A living concept, Casa Bonay welcomes its own evolution, just as Chan Luu seems to have happily evolved the manly bola tie into a dainty necklace. Same, same but different (seasons, locations, jewelry).
Partial, yes, but perfection, no? A glimpse of the dinners to come at my family’s winery in Paso Robles, California—Niner Wine Estates. The new landscaping schema frames the vineyard’s iconic heart-shaped grove of blue oaks with an allée of old-growth olive trees, a design that sets a stunning stage for outdoor events. The 50-year-old olive trees lend craggy elegance, especially when illuminated by bulbs angled under each trunk or laced above the sandy esplanade. Rising to the occasion, the menu mirrors the magic by featuring ingredients grown or known—elements harvested onsite (olive oil, chicken, eggs, seasonal veggies) or sourced from local producers and purveyors considered friends and partners. And of course, there’s wine; each course paired with one of our estate-grown varietals. If only I could attend an upcoming Harvest happening (in this dress from nearby Dôen) and toast the job well done. Bravo to all involved (Arcadia Studio, Fortini Landscapes, WRJ Design, Andy, Pam, etc.). Bravo bias.
Can you see the forest for the trees? Scottish artist Katie Paterson hopes so: her Hollow exists as a microcosm of all the forests ever on Earth, a miniature sprouting 10,000 unique tree species into a single sensory snapshot of bio-history. Commissioned by the University of Bristol and made in collaboration with architects Zeller + Moye, Hollow will live in perpetuity at the Royal Fort Gardens in Bristol, England. Paterson worked with evolutionary biologist Dr. Jon Bridle to collect tree samples from every country (including some now extinct). The cocoon-like enclosure accommodates one or two people at time as they contemplate the sweeping relationship between organic beings.
The artist’s desired effect: Standing “inside a forest of every forest” ever in existence. Much more than matchsticks, the installation includes a who’s who of tree-story: A sample from the mysterious 4,846-year-old Methuselah tree (found in California’s White Mountains); a trimming from the UNESCO-protect cedar trees of Lebanon (the favorite of Egyptian pharaohs); a branch from the Banyan Tree under which Buddha achieved enlightenment; a shard from the Atlantic City Boardwalk destroyed by Hurricane Sandy; and an offcut from a Japanese Gingko tree that survived the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Hollow isn’t Paterson’s first foray into forests: in 2014, she launched Future Library, a project which will cultivate 1,000 trees over 100 years as an arboreal anthology. In every installation, she speaks for the trees.
Caring about capsule concepts like this: Airbnb recently revealed a new evolution of its sharing economy. Slated to open this fall, the Yoshino Cedar House is a semi-communal space that nurtures relationships within its walls as well as within the rural Japanese community in which it resides. Designed by architect Go Hasegawa, the two-story building— entirely clad in local cedar trees—enables communal gathering on the ground floor with bedrooms upstairs. Meanwhile, inhabitants of Yoshino—a village in the rural Nara district of Japan—maintain the Airbnb listing, with proceeds reinvested in cultural organizations. A community incubator on multiple levels, the house addresses a pressing concern in rural Japan, as young professionals leave home for the cities, never to return.
The Yoshino Cedar House is the inaugural offering of Airbnb co-founder and CPO Joe Gebbia’s new design studio Samara, based in Tokyo, which endeavors to “bring together design and engineering experts from Airbnb to further avant-garde ideas and build advanced services that explore new areas of the Airbnb community.” If it works, the community house could be replicated elsewhere. Gebbia says: “We’ve sprouted our first seed with the Yoshino Cedar House,” Gebbia says, “and we’ve got a lot more on the way.”
To America’s best idea. Wish you were here to celebrate with us, John Prine, Emmylou Harris and 6,000 other celebrants at the Roosevelt Arch marking the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. America the beautiful, indeed.
…the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations…by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.
AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES,
Approved August 25, 1916 (39 Stat. 535)
A monumental steel beehive, planted deep inside London’s Royal Botanical Gardens, animates with the activity of a nearby natural nest: Glowing LED panels vary intensity according to the bees’ busyness, as does an accompanying soundtrack by Be—a dream team including Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and string section Amiina (a favorite of Sigur Ros) that recorded a series of ambient key-of-C improvisations inspired by bees’ buzzing. “These days we are bombarded by so many digital images and sometimes we forget how powerful and important sounds, touch and smell are,” said its maker, British sculptor Wolfgang Buttress. “So to me that was really important, that these elements were at the heart of the installation.”
In 2015, Buttress created “The Hive” as the centerpiece of the Milan Expo’s UK pavilion. Responding to the fair’s theme, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” Buttress imagined the installation as an homage to pollinators’ importance in feeding humanity and a clarion call for the challenges bees face (climate change, pesticides, lack of biodiversity). The intricate lattice, constructed out of 170,000 pieces of aluminum, took architectural cues from both the movement of the bees and the designs they build. “The Hive” won the expo’s Gold Medal, and has since garnered more than 20 accolades including judges’ and people’s choice in the Architizer A+ awards.
As the first pavilion installation to migrate from an expo to the UK, “The Hive” now sits within a historic urban ecosystem. Standing nearly 56 feet tall, visitors can meander through the meditative orb, and next month, experience it by night. On September 1 and 15, Kew Gardens will host two museum “lates” around the installation, inviting visitors to experience the soundscape amid the stars.
“The Hive” will live in Kew Gardens through 2017.