Subway Library

Commuting in New York has just become an exciting diversion thanks to Subway Library, a new digital platforms that allows riders to access hundreds of digital books and short reads for their commute.

NYC Public libraries, New York State, MTA and Transit Wireless have come together to celebrate actual cell service and free Wifi on all underground subway stations, resulting in not only Subway Library as digital content, but in the redecoration of a few cars to advertise the news and to resemble libraries.

Bringing the warm and calming aesthetic of a library to the congested and bustling NYC subway trains will hopefully slow people down and reintroduce them to a world of leisure and shared interests among strangers. It’s so easy to get caught up in a fast paced life, and taking a moment to breathe and enjoy a book will surely be a more pleasant way to start and finish the work day.

Take a minute to remember what makes you feel calm, or to think about something you enjoy. Think about bringing that into your daily life and remembering that the small enjoyments of life can make a big impact.

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Addressing Our Human Crisis

The immigrant crisis in Europe continues to strain countries and resources. A few countries have responded by closing their borders or implementing laws making it difficult or impossible for refugees to live in safety. There are many debates and issues regarding refugees such as the safety and/or resources of the host country and how much they can help, the opportunities for improvement and life beyond the refugee camp, nationalism and xenophobia. Regardless of the different views held about what a refugee is, was, or can be, it is important to remember that each individual refugee is a person with a story and a life, who’s fate shouldn’t be decided by the place they were born.

Renowned artist Ai Weiwei has recently done a string of installations addressing the difficulties that refugees face, all with the sculptural use of life jackets.

The journey from Turkey to Greece is well known and documented, and the human struggle of the journey is widely reported on. But to emphasize further the perils each refugee faces, Ai Weiwei collects used life jackets from the beaches on the island of Lesbos and creates eye-catching, and thought-provoking art across Europe.

His most recent piece, “Soleil Levant”, is an installation involving 3500 life jackets packed into the windows of Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. The density of the life jackets block visual connections into or out from the building, changing the experience of the street and forcing people to acknowledge the bright orange collection.

The refugee crisis is not going away, and having small reminders that refugees are people along the streets of Europe is a good way to continue the conversation around the people effected by it.

Check out more on “Soleil Levant”, the Berlin Konzerthaus, and “F Lotus”.

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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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