Xefirotarch, SUR (detail) at P.S.1

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July 27, 2005

From the view at the top of a skyscraper to the sneaker treading the pavement below, architecture and design plays a significant role in enlivening our realm. Fascinated by form and function, Artkrush considers some innovative design objects, both old and new, and imaginative spaces that change the way people interact. We examine products dealing with touch in a museum, a futuristic club on an urban beach, fabrics filled with eye-popping color, youthful designers exploring fantasy, and mirrors that provoke a smile.

  INTERVIEW is unlike any other magazine. Nowhere else will you find exclusive, candid conversations between the icons shaping pop-culture today, and the hot young talents that will shape it tomorrow. Plus, memorable portfolios from the world's greatest photographers. Whether from the world of movies, music, fashion, or art, INTERVIEW will keep you way ahead of the mainstream.

Spencer Tunick Exposes Brits' Bits
(BBC, July 17)
American photographer Spencer Tunick, famed for staging public installations of naked people, has completed a large-scale project in the UK involving 1,700 volunteers from around the world. Participants, who posed on the banks of the River Tyne, described the experience as liberating. Tunick has a loyal following — he was named man of the year in Chile by the national newspaper La Tercera after an installation there. A BBC documentary about Tunick, who holds the world record for largest nude photo shoot with a 7,000-person installation in Barcelona, also aired following the event.

Graffiti Saga Ends with Artist's Arrest
(Washington Post, July 14)
Notorious graffiti artist Borf, who in recent months has been waging a ubiquitous stenciling and pasting campaign in Washington, DC, has been arrested. The 18-year-old artist had kept his identity hidden until a Washington Post article following the arrest. Citizens are divided about his legacy. Some feel he has caused incalculable damage to the public infrastructure while an active internet community is already agitating against his treatment by the authorities and press.

Gehry to Design Soaring LA Tower
(CBC, July 15)
Frank Gehry has been retained by Los Angeles city developers to design a soaring 40- to 50-story-high tower. The proposed building is located next to one of the architect's most recognizable works, the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Real estate mogul Eli Broad, who chairs the committee overseeing the project, expects another Gehry masterpiece. Gehry and rival Renzo Piano (who designed the Broad-financed LACMA expansion), have likewise been shaping the development of New York City, with each taking on high-profile projects there.

Beecroft Gets Catty with Cattelan
(Guardian, July 19)
Conceptual artist Vanessa Beecroft has accused her former lover Maurizio Cattelan, of stealing her ideas. The two had a relationship starting in 1990, when Beecroft was working at a gallery in Milan. Cattelan, one of contemporary art's most influential players, is an art world bad boy who makes shockingly winsome works. He deflected the accusations with trademark diffidence and humor.

Tate acquires Ofili's Upper Room » more

Krens still calling the shots inside the Guggenheim's realm of power and politics » more

Two photography powerhouses collaborate on website of archival riches » more

Centre Pompidou unveils plans for satellite site in Metz, France » more

Celebrated architect and fashion designer collaborate on Tokyo Midtown project » more

Drawing Center's move to WTC site jeopardized after "anti-American" allegations » more

Demanding more creativity, a new arts initiative sets up camp at Burning Man » more

Chris Burden's ghost ship sets sail with the help of science » more

Innovative film producer Christine Vachon signs Julian Schnabel for Dare Wright project » more

Harvard acquires influential Fluxus collection » more

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try akreader1 as the username and password.

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[ See Me, Feel Me ]


Zane Berzina / Naomi Filmer / Julia Leihener / Yoshi Saito

Today's designers are conceiving ergonomic products that look great and feel great — objects designed to be easily used and tactilely enjoyed. The Touch Me exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum highlights contemporary designers whose objects playfully engage with the sensation of touch, "our most neglected sense."

The most culturally influential product of the moment is a testimony to this new "touch me" technology. The iPod's click wheel feels like a rotating button, although there are no moving parts; it just responds to your fingertip's motion. Likewise Nintendo's new DS handheld console uses its touch screen to great and amusing effect with games.

Paul Cocksedge's Watt? Light emphasizes our interaction with electrical appliances in a human, novel way. To turn the light on, you draw a pencil line on a sheet of paper, the graphite completing the electrical circuit. Despina Papadopoulos' HugJackets turn human beings into electrical circuits — when two people embrace, both jackets light up.

Household objects, such as Gitta Gschwendtner and Fiona Davidson's Fruit Cushion, are also becoming more tactile. Think how our mouths and lips work the valves on plastic water bottles, or how the soothing natural feeling of pebbles underfoot is encapsulated by Noriko Yasuda's ridiculously simple but effective Footrest. Zane Berzina's Touch Me Wallpaper is printed with thermochromic ink, so its colors lighten with heat — via a hand or a radiator. Karim Rashid's new Bloob Touch kitchen table works similarly, with hot plates and saucepans making temporary white marks on its blue surface.

Formerly considered an alternative to using other senses — such as Braille being used by those who can't see writing — the way we use touch has now rightly been pushed to the forefront of design. (SR)

Touch Me continues at the V&A; in London through August 29, 2005.

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Renzo Piano and Building Workshop: Selected Projects
Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Now through October 2

  Providing a look into the mind of a Pritzker Prize-winning architect, this survey offers three decades of Renzo Piano's projects, including the maestro's current expansion of LACMA. The exhibition space mimics Piano's studio, evoking a lively collaborative atmosphere that melds classical study with audacious experimentation — a combination that has produced such monumental buildings as the Centre Pompidou and Fondation Beyeler. The most compelling aspect of the show is undoubtedly the loving craftsmanship on display in the wood and steel architectural models that read as self-contained sculptural objects. These beguiling representations illustrate Piano's knack for retaining the sensual qualities of his materials on a grand scale while continuing to express the humanity at the heart of his ideas about public space. (SND)

Verner Panton: The Collected Works
New York
The AXA Gallery
Now through October 1

  Renowned for his disdain of conservative design and the color white, Verner Panton rejected the typical living-room layout of two chairs and a couch in favor of radically redefining lighting, textile, and furniture design. In his first American retrospective, the AXA Gallery (in cooperation with the Vitra Design Museum) presents an array of original objects, fabrics, and drawings that highlight the late Danish designer's role in creating some of the most ambitious and funky designs of the '60s, '70s, and '80s. From his innovative and ultra-mod plastic chairs to psychedelic patterned textiles to adjustable, multi-level couches, Panton integrated Beat philosophy and a hippy aesthetic with Scandinavian functionalism, creating environments and objects that blew the lid off of modernism. (NH)

Fantasy Design
Design museum Gent
Now through September 25

  What happens when professional designers collaborate with schoolchildren? Fantasy Design — a dynamic new museum education program — sought to find out by pairing 25 Flemish designers with 800 young apprentices from 10 schools in Belgium. Sponsored in part by the Design museum Gent, the ongoing project emphasizes the role of fantasy in order to achieve innovative solutions. Participating youngsters are initiated into every phase of design practice, from thumbnail sketches to finished products. The resulting exhibition of the project's 65 most engaging models and prototypes — including a car-plane and a sunshine seat — features cookware, lighting fixtures, jewelry, and luggage. The show will travel to Scotland and Finland. (MW)

Atelier Van Lieshout: The Disciplinator
Now through October 2

  From the same pranksters who proclaimed a "free state" in Rotterdam in 2001 comes two massive installations. Atelier Van Lieshout's The Disciplinator is a terrifying, cage-like construction designed to evoke a labor camp and is meant to illustrate the way people rationalize working too hard. The structure's exposed scaffolding and industrial materials further emphasize the theme of raw functionality. The Technocrat, on the other hand, is a colorful riposte to the utopian ideals of self-sustaining communities. Here, foamy mannequins are force-fed cheap "food" and kept subdued by "alcohol" in order to maximize the production of fecal material, which is used to power the community. Exploring the seamy underbelly of paradise, AVL provides a hilarious and brilliant perspective on the misplaced values of our over-rational society. Resistance is futile. (MS)

Maija Isola: Life, Art, Marimekko
Now through September 4

  Maija Isola was only 22 years old in 1949 when she became the first salaried artist and designer for Printex, the textile company that would later become Marimekko. During her 38-year tenure at the Finnish fashion and design house, Isola's eye-popping prints came to form the cornerstone of the company's style. The diverse collections on display in this retrospective were inspired by myriad subjects, including nature, folk art, and architecture. Isola's painterly touch and intuitive eye is captured in the floral Unikko patterns and variations that became synonymous with Marimekko. An anthology of lively but subtle abstraction, this show cements Isola's place in the pantheon of 20th-century textile design. (ML)

2x4/ design series 3
San Francisco
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Now through November 27

  From digital environmental installations for fashion boutiques to limited-edition art books to skin-care product packaging: New York graphic design firm 2x4 handles it all beautifully. With its interdisciplinary corps of artists, writers, programmers, and animators, the group pushes design from a mere vehicle for advertising into the realm of fine art. The first museum exhibition of their wares, SFMOMA's show leads viewers through the company's campaigns for such high-profile clients as Prada, the Brooklyn Museum, Wired magazine, and Swiss furniture company Vitra. Visitors patient enough to read the placards beneath each gorgeous swatch of the firm's custom, non-repeating wallpaper will be rewarded with a glimpse into the dizzyingly intellectual and creative methodology that has catapulted 2x4 to the top of its field. (AL)

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[ The Design Can ]

The Design Can

Sometimes mirrors can be unforgiving objects, reflecting our outer and inner imperfections. They foster our insecurities and are a static reminder of all that we'd like to change. Fortunately, the creative and compassionate designers Jeannie Choe and Steven Tomlinson of the Brooklyn-based Design Can feel our pain, and they offer witty solutions to mundane conundrums. Their SELF-PORTRAIT mirrors playfully alter appearances, giving us moustaches, pearl necklaces, and antlers. This sense of empathic humor runs the gamut of their designs — for example, their ACHOO table will be at our side through every wintry flu and cold. In the same vein, the SUPERFLUOUS candelabrum makes us re-examine the simple gesture of extinguishing a flame, replacing our breath with a single drop of water. This shift of perspective infuses all of their designs, most notably their SKEW shelf, which plays with our sense of scale and direction, especially when clustered in a disconcerting conglomerate.

The Design Can's unique creations reflect their resistance to pat efficiency — they stimulate the mind, making you pause to consider their objects and your haptic relationship to them. Choe and Tomlinson met in 2003 at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute and have maintained their borough pride, recently exhibiting at Brooklyn Designs with great success. In a world overrun with dismissive irony, this design duo proves that a serious — yet light-hearted — dedication to craft is still very much in style. (AK)

Watch for a solo show of the Design Can's clever objects in the fall of 2005 at the Future Perfect in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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[ Hernan Diaz Alonso ]


Paul Laster interviews Hernan Diaz Alonso, the principal and founder of Xefirotarch, an award-winning design firm in architecture, product, and digital motion, about their current project, SUR, for the Young Architects Program of MoMA/P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center.
AK: SUR undulates through the courtyard of P.S.1 like the skeletal remains of a giant alien creature. What was your point of departure for this project?

HDA: The project doesn't have a point of departure in the traditional sense. SUR belongs to a series of projects that share a similar technique of "cellular aggregation." In other words, it belongs to a species that has been generated from a common origin. The first of this series was a master plan for the Pusan International Competition in Korea. From that master plan we developed a concert hall for the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale, and that became a laboratory for the generation of this particular kind of form, of which SUR is the last mutation.

AK: This is the sixth year that the MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program has commissioned an experimental project to serve as an urban beach for the Warm Up music series. How does SUR relate and differ from past projects?

HDA: One way it differs from the last two projects (Tom Wiscombe/EMERGENT and nARCHITECTS) is that those projects, which were great, operated at the scale of a rave. We wanted SUR to have more variation in scale, to create a club effect. This variation in scale allows the audience to occupy the space and interact with the form. However, I think it relates to previous projects in that the goal is to produce a laboratory of ideas. That seems to be the major achievement of this program — to offer the opportunity for firms to test the limits of their own vision, under a very tight schedule and budget.

AK: More than 7,000 people attended the opening day event this year. What kind of shelter, comfort, and ambience did you envision SUR providing for such a massive crowd?

keep reading the interview »

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The Editors of Phaidon Press
Phaidon Press

Building on the success of 10x10, a massive tome released in 2000 and re-issued in paperback last year, Phaidon takes another brilliant look at 100 of the most talented architects working today. For 10x10_2, 10 design experts, including architects Zaha Hadid and Toshiko Mori, Centre Pompidou curator Frederic Migayrou, and 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale director Kurt Forster, chose 10 emerging architects from 28 countries. Buildings and plans, intermixed with informative texts by the selecting contributors, are dynamically illustrated across four-page spreads — adding up to 400 pages (1,500 images) of innovative design. Although firms such as Elastik (Slovenia), Roy (USA), and Urban Future Organization (UK) may not be household names, they are already imaginatively altering the world we inhabit. (PL)

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Cover image
Xefirotarch, SUR (detail), for the Young Architects Program
Courtesy MoMA/P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
Photo: Robert Mezquiti
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster
Andrew Maerkle
Shana Nys Dambrot
Shiraz Randeria
Melissa Lo
Greg Zinman
Nikki Columbus
Jocelyn K. Glei
Mark Mangan

Christopher Elam
Mark Barry

Rachel Cook
Lisa Cooley
Leigh Goldstein
Nicholas Herman
Allison Kave
Jessica Kraft
Christopher Y. Lew
Anli Liu
Natasha Madov
Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Marlyne Sahakian
Michelle Weinberg

Anjuli Ayer

Mailer Design
Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

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