Wednesday, August 18, 2010

John Greenlee: The Lawn Is Dead

The lawn, as we know it, may be as dead as Dada.

For many in the Lawn Reform sphere (especially those with a flair for the dramatic) the traditional green lawn is now a form of "eco-terrorism." For Southern California and elsewhere, the classic period of the residential lawn
may've come to an end. Whatever your view of global warming, the fact is fresh water resources are dwindling. And as landscaping accounts for 60% of all residential water usage, you don't have to be a visionary to see where this is going.

Meadow landscaping, on the other hand, requires
no pesticides and only one quarter as much water. (The Los Angeles D.W.P. even has a program to pay homeowners $1 per square foot to rip out their lawns.)

At the vanguard of the kill the lawn movement, one of its
most avante leaders has been John Greenlee, otherwise known as the creator of the oldest specialty grass nursery on the West Coast, Greenlee Nursery. He is also a landscape designer, horticulturist, author of two bibles on ornamental grasses, and meadow visionary.

In his latest book, "The American Meadow Garden," Greenlee argues that despite our culture's love affair with lawns, meadows are sexier. Says he:
“Grasses are sensual. You can smell them and hear them and watch them move. Meadows are... just like lovers — they never stop changing, never ceasing to surprise.”

What is most definitely not sexy about the traditional lawn is its addictive dependency on labor, fossil fuels, water, and the synthetic chemicals required to keep it in its preferred unnatural state of lush greenitude. In fact, Greenlee implies our fetish for manicured lawns drives us to something akin to floral torture:
"[Lawns are] like grass topiary. You can never see the plant... By never allowing them to go to seed, turn brown in autumn, or die back in the face of heat, we've purged grass of sex, death, seasons, of life."

And just in case the message isn't clear yet: "There is no doubt that lawn culture is not good for the planet."

So much for John Greenlee the visionary/activist. On to John Greenlee the designer:

For an interview with John Greenlee, see here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Iceland: Hot plumes and cool towers

There may be more erupting in Iceland than

From the land of trolls come these conceptual images submitted for a 2008 competition held by local transmission company Landsnet
and the Association of Icelandic Architects. The winning entry, called Land of Giants, re-imagines electric transmission pylons as galumphing giants.

The designers were the American firm
Choi + Shine Architects.

Thanks to the excellent De Zeen design magazine blog for the heads up.

But wait. There's more:

Also from the competition were these images from the mind of Architect Dietmar Koering of Arphenotype.

Call it the de-industrialization of industrial design. We expect the trolls will be delighted.

For more on the work including pics, ethos, and design manifesto-ing go here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Raising the Floor

The floor has been elevated.

Raised beyond it's traditional station as a field of color or texture background, the floor serves as a more integrated feature. As important as the objects it supports.

Wood is comfortable in both modern and traditional settings. Also, it's infused with a quality of contradiction — soft and hard, smooth and textured, organic and industrial it'd be difficult to imagine a circumstance in which it wouldn't harmonize.

Tile: Here, dappled colors beneath a white sofa
nearly hold it aloft in their warming energy.

Look closely: A shower. An enclave of stone and tile in a woody disguise.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Enter, the Garden

Plant the garden on both sides of the window and suddenly, like a flower, the room grows.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Happy Collision

In which a cloud, a poodle, and a rolling meadow collide fashion forward on a astral plane.

Taiwanese-born and London-based designer
Shao-yen Chen calls the collection "dark angels all
in white."

Or maybe another rendition of the landscape archetype where the wearer and the meadow become one.

“Waver” is a set of dresses in pure white, with fluffy waves of rough nylon twine turned into soft delicate lines, varyingly attached to the arms or midriff of a dress. In Taiwan the twine is commonly used in traditional markets and factories to tie up poultry or secure parcels.

For more perspective, see here.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Shock of Color 2

Even a slight touch of color on a black field can have explosive impact. Here, the soap becomes the visual equivalent of a cosmic black hole by overpowering the space around it. Unlike the black hole, it does so with subtle elegance.

Color may come in the form of something small and changeable: A tray, a throw, an accented base board, or a vase.

In a field of color its absence creates impact.

Contrasts: Color, surface elevations, hard and soft, solid and liquid, organic and ordered.

Light, as a source or in reflection, can also accomplish extraordinary things.

In a jungle of off-whites and subdued tones, fuchsia petals dominate.

Texture with color also creates a compelling accent.
(No less than the red liquid in the bottle.)

A suggestion of red over the window, the pale green of the bench, and the tinge of yellow in the candles all add a dynamic to the dark stone.

Orange against textured green foliage = A comfortable tension.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reduction by Design

A bridge, a canal, a sky.

We probably see a thousand raw master strokes of design daily: The way a building meets the sky, the way a cluster of streetlights, wires, and telephone towers meet, how an orange bridge meets a blue sky and still water. The challenge is clearing away the surrounding noise and finding the purer signal.

The art of design is both a matter of collection and subtraction and the resonant harmony in-between.

Often the answer is the simple one; Simple it may be, but not unconscious.

Chaos will find us soon enough. For now, let's just enjoy the quiet

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Shock of Color

It need not be overpowering but it can be powerful. Even in the role of accent it can forge a balance.

It may be a subtle disguise to hide a material or simply change its mood.

Below, inlayed: Color promotes visual rank and structure becomes the focal point.

Whimsical, even.

Effecting a statement while standing outside the room.

Through shock we may find the zen: Balance.