Monday, May 31, 2010

Brilliant Orange

A storefront on a London street: There's a legendary story of American painter James Whistler testifying in court against British art critic John Ruskin. The artist sued for libel following a review in which Ruskin charged the painter for his casual and thoughtless use of paint in a particular work. (Actually, the word Ruskin used was "splattering.") Asked how long it'd taken him to complete the painting Whistler replied, "two days." The question implying that 200 guineas for such a work was entirely too generous. But it wasn't for his labor that Whistler had asked such a price. Said he, "I ask it for the knowledge of a lifetime."

The decision to paint the storefront in brilliant orange may've come to the designer in a lark. But the ability to initiate such a lark, well, that could only result from an artist's long and arduous journey.

Brilliant orange, indeed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

MAXXI Overdrive: Where the angles aren't right

While on the subject of "blunt forces": Zaha Hadid.

She being the Baghdad born and Western educated British Deconstructionist-driven architect of international renown who was the mother mind behind the recently opened MAXXI Museum (National Museum of the XXI Century Arts) in Rome. As if the concept of modern art and architecture in Rome wasn't an exotic enough, behold:

Hadid's work style is often referred to as "super-contemporary." She's the architect of buildings where right angles go to die. She describes her work in terms of its visual stretching and elasticity; To those one might add fluid and whimsical as well.

Her work is female but not feminine. It is playful yet solemn. It's geometric but non-linear: If there's a model for her sweeping visual style it may be the serpentine script of her native Farsi. Stretching and elasticity are often actions brought about through acts of violence: Think childbirth or muscle injury. As interpreted by the MAXXI, the violence is visual and perceptual; But violence in the best possible way.

And that's just the outside. The inside takes the undulating forms hinted at with the exterior and powers up those vibrations manifold.

The eye may follow the building's interior lines in a wonderfully dizzying exercise. Here Master Hadid may've been paying tribute to the culture of her patrons by referencing the linear patterns of a bowl of pasta. For a country capable of giving birth to Da Vinci and electing a porn star to parliament, perhaps the MAXXI is its most fitting tribute of all.

Hadid completed the design in 1999 and MAXXI took 10 years and $224 million to complete. Check here for a little perspective from the Times of New York and London. And by all means, get thee to Rome.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Allure of Blunt Forces II

Is blue the master of a white room?

A whisper of earth tones, breaths of beige and moss green converge with a slightly more assertive cold gray at the boundaries. Accents of dark Rembrandt browns in the table and painting; the muted flatness of the wall hangings; the lines of the floor seem to rise into the chairs, resting as cozily as spoiled house pets. But before the chorus of earthen tones can resonate within us there's the delectable shock of royal blue.

Tones and textures repeat here and there, echoing and resonating. Ornamental trees stand like a parenthetical borders and yet they too must nearly bow before the royal blue ottoman.

Then, turn a corner and discover an alternate universe: The blue, softened now, captures the wall and bows in deference to the white cube in the fore; a canopy chair, a beige screen, and a white canvas all serve as precise support to cube's dominant white.

(Pictures from the British magazine World of Interiors. Respect.)

The Allure of Blunt Forces

It's where dark meets light, hard meets soft, and density meets sparsity; that place where oppositional forces create an alluring energy. Blame human consciousness: In our non-zenlike moments our minds tend toward a continuous whorl of tension. Such is creature life on earth. This may explain why we're so often drawn to blunt polar forces, whether in fashion, in a room, a chair, or a jungle.

Humans crave order and yet we don't trust it. This could explain why great design is often found to be that which pushes order closer to the edge.

The graceful chair, edged in lace, standing before the industrial-like rivets and stainless wall cover. The dark-stained matte hardwood floor snuggles easily with billowing drapes and a lamp shade's dangling appendages.

The libertine chaos of the rain forest is smoothed with the minimalist geometry of modern Shangri-La.

Sweet dreams to be found beneath a cave's coarse canopy. A rage of raw stone is softened with forced right angles and the sweep of white linen. All around the delicate aroma of aged Mother Earth and the quietude of her belly: Bliss.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Privy to Adventure

No, not The Land of Oz but the sensory-jacking toilets for Gentlemen at the Cork International Hotel in Ireland.

Appreciation to Ewan McIntosh for posting these pics on his Flickr photostream.

And a pink
pissoir, par excellence.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In case you missed this, the LA Times recently did a feature on a designer you may've heard of.

We'd also like to thank the Times for two other stories on Sean and Knibb Design from 2009: Sean Knibb's paint box; Landscape Designer Sean Knibb likes nature's ideas

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rustic Redefined

Remaking nature has almost surely been a human preoccupation since our ancestors first dragged their hirsute knuckles groundward. Despite humankind's best efforts, technology‒as sexy as it is‒still has a long way to go to prove itself nature's equal. (Granted, nature had a good head start.)

Two architects who seem to understand this well are Argentinians Martín Fernández de Lema and Nicolas F. Moreno Deutsch.

Their project in Mar Azul (completed in 2007), a forest near the seaside resort area of Villa Gesell 400 km outside of Buenos Aires, mingles the mechanic with the organic in a manner as comfortable and unassuming as humanly possible.

For more on this and other architecture to overload you senses visit ArchDaily.