The Factory

Has any place ever filled you with tremendous awe? With wonder and dreams of a different world? The way we feel while looking at The Factory, designed by Ricardo Bofill, just touches on these notions.

This amazing multi-functional home was once an abandoned cement factory, left for ruin in Sant Just Desvern, Spain. The enormous complex held over 30 silos, multiple subterranean galleries and huge machine rooms. Bofill’s vision for what could be transformed it into the main office of Taller de Arquitectura, including offices, model labs, archives, a library, a projection room and “The Cathedral”, used for exhibitions and cultural activities surrounding the architectural profession.

Carving new spaces and new life into a rejected volume brings such delicacy to the factory; the contrast of the discolored cement, oversized rooms and production elements with the light interior decorations and architectural production space is just brilliant.

This is a place that is rich with history and the effort to revitalize an amazing space. Bofill reminds us that the go-to of architecture and construction should not be to tear down and build over, but to look for the potential of a place and to look deeply into it to see all of its potential.

For more of the Factory, see ArchDaily as well as a video by NOWNESS with Albert Moya,

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The Parthenon of Books

A rousing political art piece by Marta Minujin will be on display in Kassel, Germany as part of documenta 14, an ongoing exhibition and place for debates on contemporary culture and its current sociopolitical contexts.

Documenta, which occurs every 5 years, has broken into two sites – one in Kassel, one in Athens – for the 2017 exhibition. On the decision to split into two sites, the documenta Facebook page has stated “The main lines of thinking behind this move are manifold. They have to do with the current social and political situation both in Europe and globally, which motivates artistic action. Further, they indicate the need to embody in documenta 14 the palpable tension between the North and the South as it is reflected, articulated, and interpreted in contemporary cultural production.”

The Parthenon of Books binds together a history of censorship experienced by Minujin, German citizens, and global histories of censorship. Minujin felt the oppression of military dictatorship in in the 70s and early 80s, and as a response to the fall of the military junta in 1983, she collected books that were previously banned and created a replica Parthenon. Bringing this idea to Kassel ties in the censorship from the Nazis during WWII, and the current Parthenon of Books sits on a site where Nazis burned books by Jewish and Muslim writers in 1933.

One of the most amazing details of the exhibitions is in the process of how the books were gathered. Together with students from Kassel, Minujin compiled a list of over 170,000 banned books that was then whittled down to a list of 170. They asked the public for donations of these books, which will eventually be redistributed to the public. The symbolism of the use and distribution of the once-banned-books by the public should not be lost on the audience at large.

The rebellion in the construction of a banned book parthenon is inspiring, reminding all of us that we must fight for what we believe in, and what is right. The temporality of the project – it will only be on display of 100 days before deconstruction – is an intense display of the strength and similarities in our communities worldwide.

Read more on documenta 14 and Marta minujin.

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A Home as a Museum

In contrast to the sterile oversized environments of most museums is the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a 15th-century Venetian-style palace filled to the brim with textures, art and life.

The entire collection belonged to Isabella Stewart Gardner, a woman who spent her life traveling the world and purchasing rare works of art along with her husband.

Each room is named for a painter, a painting, or a theme that ties the contents of the rooms together, such as the Raphael Room or the Long Gallery.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is kept as it was at the time of Gardner’s death due to a stipulation in her will stating “that the permanent collection not be significantly altered”. This may have remained the case if not for the heist that was carried out in 1990 by two men that were able to steal 13 pieces from multiple rooms. To this day, there is a $5 million reward for anyone with information that could lead to the location of the stolen art.

The original frames of the art are still hanging empty on the walls as a reminder of what used to be there.

Walking through this museum, there is a rich sense of history and personality that is not present in other museums. Every detail curated by Gardner fills the room purpose and beauty.

Take some time to view all of the rooms in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, or to read more of the history.

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The Magic Table

Junya Ishigami is known for creating astounding works of art and architecture; from a massive floating aluminum balloon, to an artificial interior forest that acts as a workshop, Ishigami defies the norm and pushes boundaries. This has been the case since one of his first completed works, a project that has been dubbed “the magic table”.

Designed for a temporary exhibition, this is an extraordinarily thin table – only 3mm – that seems to float in the air – held up only by 4 small legs on the ends. The table is as complex and challenging as any other project, requiring an extremely large, (9.5m x 2.6m) pre-stressed steel panel to be curled into itself in a seemingly impossible manor, so that it was able to be unfurled into a perfectly horizontal plane, without the middle dipping downward.

The table can only be properly flattened out once many objects are placed on top of it in locations calculated with precise applied and calculated loads.

The result is a astounding, an decidedly rigid looking table with movements that mimic a fluid as the table is disturbed.

The work put into this, as well as the outcome, stretch what we know as the limits of furniture design, and never ceases to amaze us.

See more of Ishigami’s work here.

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Japanese Woodblock Prints – A Reintroduction

Japanese woodblock prints from the 17th to 20th centuries have been collected, digitized, and made available to the public through the Library of Congress.

Frequently depicted in the block prints are actors, women, landscapes, daily life, Japanese literature scenes, and views of Western foreigners; themes present from moments of leisure and entertainment in Japan. According to the Library of Congress, “Many schools, traditions, and genres are represented, notably surimono, privately distributed prints combining pictures and poetry, and prints from the Russo-Japanese and Sino-Japanese wars. However, the primary strengths of the collection are the Japanese art forms known as Ukiyo-e and Yokohama-e.”

The dominant schools present are Ukiyo-e, translated as “pictures of the floating (or sorrowful) world”,

and Yokohama-e, which translates literally to “pictures of Yokohama”.

Prior to the 1850s, Japan had a policy of national seclusion, meaning, among other things, that Japanese prints were not seen by anyone outside of Japan. Now, due to the donations of various people and institutes, anyone anywhere in the world has the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of this art form.

View the whole collection here.

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Garden of Architectural Dreams

“An absolute garden, synthesis of nature and architecture”.

A collaboration between Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi and the Dubai based group Designlab Experience has resulted in Archetype, a large scale wire mesh installation that blends the visual connections of natural and architectural space. Fabricated for a royal event in Abu Dhabi, the installation encompasses 7,ooo sqm of space that creates a contemporary design language by blending classical and modern typologies.

Archetypal architectural designs are disrupted by pure geometries, wire birds, and living plant life, creating an atmosphere crossing between reality and a dream.

The physical layers that build up in this installation allow the viewer to reinterpret the contrasts and connections of the garden, as well as the formalities of space historically known to architecture.

We are incredibly jealous of those that were able to see this in person, the richness of the space and atmosphere is thrilling even through images.

When the event is over, some portions of Archetype will be relocated to museums and universities across the UAE, where we hope to eventually have the chance to experience them in person.

Check out more work by Tresoldi and Designlab Experience.

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A Lock Not So Grimm

Residing in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago is an astoundingly intricate lock depicting the Grimm Fairytale, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”.

The lock was created by the German-born metalworker Frank L. Koralewsky in 1911, after he immigrated to Boston and became a member of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts in 1906. Koralewsky specialized in locksmithing and hardware, and is known for one other piece currently held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; a scene carved in steel depicting men outside of a cottage with a horse.

The entire “Snow White” lock and key took seven years to complete, and although the overall form is enticing, the level of detail brought to life through the carving is breathtaking.

Reading the scene on the lock, one can find Snow White making a stew, surrounded by columns and overhangs of straw. Hidden in recessed pockets of stone are dwarves finding their way to Snow White, with carrots and rabbit in hand. A table set for seven sits empty as the remainder of the dwarves work their way home for their meal…

…or hide from a fierce dragon.

Both of Koralewsky’s known expressions are well preserved except for the key used to open the Grimm lock, which is missing. Unfortunately, the seventh of the dwarves was sitting atop the key, and the scene is no longer complete.

We are entranced by the level of detail and the amount of time put in to craft this work.  “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, and more information can be found on their website.

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Exploded Chair – Joyce Lin

The ubiquitous form of a wooden chair is called into question by artist and designer Joyce Lin with her “Exploded Chair”.

Lin’s chair is a “response to themes of inter/dis-connectivity with our environment”, and is an unanswered question of the relationship between materiality and permanence. By encasing the separate pieces of the chair in acrylic boxes, commonly held notions of the functionality and strength of the wooden chair are removed. Instead, the unfinished, unconnected joinery becomes the focus, and the strength of the chair is revealed in the moment two boxes meet.

This striking piece is clearly expressive of Lin’s “[passion] about making interactive sculptures and functional objects as a mode of exploration and play”. We enjoy the whimsical contrast between the functional exterior and the untethered interior, that seen from afar, appears unstable, defying logic and gravity. It isn’t until the chair has drawn you in that you understand the unique relationship of this chair’s parts to its whole.

See more of Lin’s  furniture and art.

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Step into Kinfolk magazine

Every few months we look forward to being greeted by a gorgeous cover of Kinfolk magazine. The toothy paper, natural lit photos and bold composition are always a delight for our senses.

The Design Issue

The magazine founded by Nathan Williams and Doug Bischoff  in 2011 is based out of Portland.  It features photo essays, fashion, design and most notably food and entertaining. Each issue of the quarterly lifestyle/arts magazine is themed around a topic such as “Family” “Work” or “Travel.” The magazine uses different contributors for every issue to give each topic its own personality.

A spread from the “Age Issue,” features all things that age well…including pickles

The warm pastel colors and crisp type have become the hallmark of current north west publication design.  Since Kinfolk does not feature any advertisements the strong use of the grid and negative space give extra room for us to take in the lush photography.

It’s clear that Williams puts great thought into how the magazine flows, “We try to think of the experience from cover to cover, always asking ourselves if the stories blend well and if the colors and images feel like an intentional experience.” The latest issue, “The Weekend Issue” should be arriving soon.

In the meantime, we have the Kinfolk Home book to keep us company.


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Chicago: A Beautifully Detailed City

Chicago is a unique city: from its master plan by Daniel Burnham right down to its crafted brickwork, the Midwest Metropolis oozes its own character.  The Great Fire of 1871 and the construction of the Sears Tower in 1970 bookend a century of development in which the city showed its architectural daring.  In these architectural pursuits, the details were never overlooked; Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Burnham and Root, and Mies Van Der Rohe, as well as scores of other architects, were all seeking a kind of truth in the craft of the detail.  Sometimes we forget to fully appreciate the work that goes into the construction of our buildings, of our city, but here we’d like to hone in on some of the little moments around the city that inspire us.

Window Ornament – Carson Pirie Scott, Louis Sullivan

Louis Sullivan was one of the pioneering architects of the Chicago School, his organic layered ornament can be found around the city.  This first example from the Carson Pirie Scott Building (now City Target) can still be seen today on the corner of State and Madison.

Interior Ornament from Old Chicago Stock Exchange

This example shows Sullivan’s prodigious eye for proportion and order, even while working with challenging forms.  The Interior of the Trade Room from the Chicago Stock Exchange was preserved after the building’s demolition, and can now be experienced at the Art Institute.

In the early 1890s, a young Frank Lloyd Wright came to work for Sullivan.  The two collaborated on the Charnley House in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, and there we can see what would be the beginnings of the “Prairie-Style”, which would embody wrights ideals of harmony between man and nature.

View of the Charnley House Balcony

The way the freshly conceived ornaments seem to appear out of the proportions of the building continues to inspire, and as designers we are always asking, “how does the part relate to the whole?”

Interior of Unity Temple

Fast forward only fifteen years to Wright’s design for Unity Temple, and we can see a totally different kind of detail emerging; Wright was incorporating every aspect of the building, the pews, the lights, the windows, into a unified whole.  The way the light fills the space and cascades over the form of the nave creates an ephemeral experience.

Reliance Building Burnham and Root

At around the same time as the Auditorium Building, the Reliance Building was being designed by Burnham Root for the corner of State and Washington.  It should be noted that Burnham and Sullivan were not on good terms at this time; Burnham was chosen as master planner for the 1893 Exposition and the city at large, and Sullivan vocalized his distaste for both.  The repetition and precision of Burnham’s details contrast the organic flowing nature of Sullivan’s, but both contribute to the city’s beauty.

We hope that you can find wonder in the details of Chicago as we do.  Next time you’re walking around our city, or another, take some time to look around, chances are there’s something beautiful that isn’t immediately apparent.

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