In his own words, Dutch artist Theo Jansen is “creating new forms of life.” His mechanical creatures, the Strandbeests, are comprised of hundreds of yellow plastic tubes forming a skeletal structure that is able to walk along the beach with only the help of the wind. According to Jansen’s web site, he is looking “to put these animals out in herds on the beaches so they will live their own lives.” He has given his latest creations “stomachs” able to store the wind using a series of bicycle pumps powered by sails or wings on the Strandbeests. The air is compressed into plastic bottles that can power the machine when the wind dies down.
Knoll Textiles, 1945–2010
Bard Graduate Center Gallery
18 West 86th Street
Through July 31
A new show at the Bard Graduate Center (BGC) takes a comprehensive look at the history and influence of Knoll Textiles, both as a brand and a company. It also aims to bring to light the importance of textiles in relation to modern design. Curated by a multidisciplinary team (Earl Martin, associate curator at the BGC; Paul Makovsky, editorial director of Metropolis magazine; Angela Völker, Curator Emeritus of Textiles at Vienna’s MAK; and Susan Ward, an independent textile historian) the exhibit features 175 examples of textiles, furniture, and photographs that explore the innovations, from production of materials to marketing, during the 1940s through the 1960s.
Armory Center for the Arts
145 North Raymond Ave.
Through November 6
MacArthur-winner Jorge Pardo gained his reputation by blurring the boundaries between art, architecture, and design. In his temporary exhibit in the courtyard of the Armory Center, Pardo engages the surroundings, deploying four pepper trees to act as three-dimensional framing devices for groups of translucent hanging globes. What at first seems to be a festive environment becomes a contemplative one, as visitors sit on benches surrounding the base of the trees and take a closer look at the spheres. Each reveals an ethereal universe inside: delicate reflective materials sit protected from the surrounding activity, casting shimmering, changing light onto the world around them.
Architecture isn’t just for rich, young caucasians. In fact with explosions in senior, minority and student populations it’s time to take a hard look at how these changes impact architecture. You can do that tonight at a panel called Designing By Demographics at LA’s Brewery, sponsored by AN. The event, hosted by journalist and media expert Marissa Gluck, brings in experts from architecture, art and community redevelopment to discuss how demographics impact design, from senior housing, to childcare, and low income communities. Panelists include architect Patrick Tighe, designer of the Sierra Bonita affordable housing project in West Hollywood; Edgar Arceneaux. Executive Director of the Watts House Project, an arts and community redevelopment project in Watts; and a great lineup of architects, artists, and academics. No to mention The Brewery is one of our favorite locations in LA ( Telemachus Studio at the Brewery, 672 South Avenue 21 Unit 2).
We got to see one of our favorite new architectural documentaries on Sunday, called Unfinished Spaces: Cuba’s Architecture of Revolution, by Alysa Nahmias and Ben Murray. The film documents the creation, and subsequent scuttling, of Cuba’s National Arts Schools. Designed by architects Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti, the highly expressive Modernist schools, built mostly of Terra Cotta, were an example of visionary architecture and idealistic arts education for all, from dance to visual arts. But after the Castro government wearied of creative expression and embraced Soviet-style building, they changed their minds, shutting down construction, although classes later continued in the schools’ ruins. Now the country has once again done an about-face and is hoping to save them, despite a lack of government funding. Look at our next issue for a full review. And if you’re in LA, check out more screenings of the film on June 24 and June 25. Read More
Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
Pulitzer Fountain, Grand Army Plaza
60th Street & 5th Avenue
Through July 15
Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza has been overrun with a menagerie of sorts: the installation of Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. This is the first major public exhibition in America for the Chinese artist. This site specific installation is a modern reinterpretation of the 18th century Yuanming Yuan fountain-clock that featured 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac spouting water. With this project, Ai explores the “fake” in relation to the original sculptures (which were ultimately pillaged by French and British troops in 1860; five of the original heads are still missing). In this version, 12 oversized bronze animal heads ring the Pulitzer Fountain, each weighing approximately 800 pounds. While this project explores some rather esoteric themes, it is accessible and “a work that everyone can understand, including children and people who are not in the art world,” said Ai, who collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics.
Bikes First. To protect its cycling tradition and its bikers’ safety, Copenhagen continues to enhance its metropolitan bicycle system. StreetsBlog reports that 37 percent of the city’s urban population bikes to and from work and school on the city’s extensive network of bicycle-only lanes, park paths, and renovated railway tracks. The public transportation system also supports bicycle-travel, while the city has slowly reduced the number of car lanes on streets and auto-routes.
Pedestrians, Too. Chicago moves forward this week on its highly anticipated Pedestrian Plan – an attempt to remedy high levels of hit-and-run fatalities and create a safer walking environment. After the tragic death of Martha Gonzalez at the South Halsted Street intersection, the municipal government realized that further safety measures must be taken. According to the Tribune, the city will host eight public meetings throughout the summer to gather constituent input, the foundation of the Chicago Department of Transportation’s action plan.
Construction Sand-Box. While excavating the foundation of his new home in Colorado, Ed Mumm was inspired to develop the Dig This project–a construction equipment playground for adolescents and adults. PSFK reveals that Munn’s second Dig This location recently launched in Las Vegas, where guests can operate a Caterpillar bulldozer or excavator after attending a 30-minute safety briefing.
River Craft. BldgBlog brings news that the Dutch art group Observatorium finished Waiting for the River, a 125-foot-long habitable bridge, in 2010. The project is installed on the Emscher River wetlands, a sewer canal contained by dikes that will flood completely within 10 years. Observatorium invites people to wait for the river in the reclaimed-timber cabins; furnished with beds and plumbing.
Domino: Old and New
Tuesday, June 20
Museum of Jewish Heritage (reception following at Skyscraper Museum)
36 Battery Place
Tonight at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Skyscraper Museum hosts “Domino: Old and New,” a program on reinventing Williamsburg’s historic industrial waterfront that focuses on the development of the Domino Sugar Factory site.
Principals from the project’s design, engineering, and construction teams will present on development possibilities for the 11.2 acre site (slated to include over 2000 residential units and four acres of public space) and participate in a panel discussion led by AN‘s own executive editor Julie V. Iovine. Further details at the Skyscraper Museum.
Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) shared a few images of their newly complete Tour FIRST tower in Paris, France, now the city’s tallest building. Standing 760 feet tall in the city’s La Défense district, the glass tower isn’t completely new. It’s actually a major addition on top of a 1970s structure designed by Pierre Dufau—a move the firm said makes the building more sustainable than new construction. New windows were punctured in the old structure’s concrete skin and the building was opened up to surrounding public space. With Tour FIRST, New York-based KPF continues its skyscraper spree, having designed what are currently the tallest buildings in Hong Kong and London.