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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Alexander McQueen, FW ’09

Sunjar, Tobias Wong

Bioscleave House, East Hampton, Arakawa Gins

I have been hearing people in the industry say  ‘Architecture is Dead’. But how can we think that when our central role is as optimist? How can we imagine the future if we are pessimistic? If architecture is dead, then let’s talk about its rebirth. I know it’s been a hard time, and the recent deaths of 3 important figures in the design world have left some of us with a sick feeling inside. And this is why I have decided that the project brief for my studio (Architecture Through A Mixed Media Lens) has to be about architecture’s rebirth. My students will honor the 3 dead designers (Alexander McQueen, Tobias Wong, Arakawa) and the most optimistic aspects of their work, but also move forward to imagining the future. The 3 briefs they can choose from are ‘fantasy resort’, ‘shiny lightbox’ and ‘color fields’. I look forward to seeing projects that are fantastical, bright and colorful.


As an architect and a dancer, I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was about the Architecture of Dance series by the New York City Ballet. (I started dancing when I was 6, did ballet for a year, moved onto Classical Indian dance, which I did for years, and am now back to ballet at my gym). It’s the kind of excitement I had when I heard about the ‘Playing the Building’ installation by David Byrne (I also played piano for years).

Each aspect of the New Martins Ballet (Mirage) I saw last night gave me the sense that it was perfect-the choreography, the costumes, and the set design by Calatrava. Perfect and beautiful. And clean. A modern choreography obviously called for a new approach to costume and set design. The ballet showed off technique and there was symbiosis between the choreography, costume and set; the choreography made lines that resembled the set, the costumes’ black lines echoed the lines of the set, and the set mimicked lines created by dance. And perhaps this is why I wasn’t fully satisfied-the focus was on the line, and the other dimensions seemed just incidental. What I missed was any sense of narrative and specificity. I understand that this was not a traditional tale, and that it was concept-driven, but it is still possible to get a sense of narrative in even the most post-post-modern form of dance. This is neither the fault of Martins nor Calatrava alone. Perhaps it is the fault of their lines of communication. And as a result, the lines of communication between the dancers and the set were difficult to read.

In the video they showed as an introduction to the ballet, I caught a glimpse of a mockup of the set with a ballerina dancing between two sides of the set. I waited and waited to see this in real time, but the actual set never allowed for this. This is where the narrative could have been. I am not sure why this was changed. This may have been beyond Calatrava’s control, and perhaps even Martin’s, but the set floated above the dancers the whole time. It was aloof, like a roof. It was shelter. It changed, and the changes were spectacular, but I can’t truly think of it as a set, nor even as a backdrop. I think of it as sculpture, art installation. It lacked specificity, and I think it could have been installed in any space with a high ceiling. It was beautiful and perfect, right down to its symmetry, but dance itself is rarely symmetrical. The symmetrical set and asymmetrical dancers were at odds with each other.

Calatrava is undoubtedly a great sculptor, engineer, architect etc. And yes, he does look at the human body, gestures, lines of movement to inspire his work. But maybe this is where the relationship between the body and his architecture stops. Perhaps he is not that interested in how bodies interact with his environments, and is more interested in the making of object. This is not an uncommon approach, but how much can the body in space be subordinated?

As an architect, designer and artist, I was excited by the cleanness of the production, the spectactular set, the contemporary costumes, and the beautiful lighting effect at the end. As a dancer, I would have wanted more. I would want to inhabit, play with, be part of or set against it. But it would have eluded me in all its spectacular, aloof, perfect beauty.

Yigal Azrouel, SS ’10

In case you haven’t already guessed, I am very much into color, though I do indulge in some monochrome from time to time. When I shop for clothes, I am often looking for colors that I don’t have, or prints as well as a good cut and good construction. For the sake of economy, I often try to find colors or prints that go with something I already own. Every now and then I need to go back to basics and neutralize my wardrobe and this is what I have been doing lately. After all, colors need a canvas. This ‘neutralization’ not only applies to getting more neutral separates, but also, I guess, ‘neutral shapes’-streamlined, simple etc etc. Of course, to me neutrals come in a range of different ‘colors’ and no, black does NOT go with everything. The neutrals I have seen this summer make me excited about my neutralization process. I have seen a lot of what I think of as liquid neutrals; blue-grey-khaki-greeny kinds of neutrals. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Cool greys with hints of blue, green, khaki, etc and many of them in fabrics such as crepe de chine, silk satin, silk twill, silk charmeuse, jersey etc-flowing, liquid-y fabrics. They remind me of cool, fresh water and grey skies. I want to use them to neutralize my wardrobe and the temperature outside.  In other words, my wardrobe is almost there-I just need to add water!

I just got back last night from the National AIA (American Institute of Architects) convention in Miami. I attended a number of very useful seminars and sessions including one about starting a practice. I was only there for 2 1/2 days so I had to plan out my time very well. I looked for sessions related to where I am right now and where I would like to be in my career. Naturally, any session about starting a practice and marketing was of interest. Given that I am working on a passive solar straw bale house, sustainablity/green building seminars were also high on my priority list. Teaching has put me in a mentorial role, but I still feel like I am in need of a mentor (or mentors) myself, and the ‘network of mentors’ session was a very good starting point. In addition to the daytime seminars and forums, I was able to attend some fun events in the evenings including the Columbia GSAPP Alumni reception at the Raleigh Penthouse and an RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) AGM followed by a reception hosted by the UK consulate at The Wolfsonian. My last night in Miami ended with a RIBA Haiti benefit dinner where we had the pleasure of the company of the RIBA president. We got to the Haitian restaurant ‘Tap Tap’ in a rather curious vehicle (pictured here). The last event I attended was the Keynote Presentation during which Peter Bohlin was presented the AIA Gold Medal. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, like his buildings, he himself seemed to be sensitive and humble.

The Versace Mansion

I did manage to schedule in some free time during which I made use of the pools at my hotel (The Shore Club) and took a dip in the sea (warm, calm water, in case you were wondering and haven’t been there yet). And just before I got into a taxi to go to the airport, I had one of the most delicious desserts ever at Nobu (coffee cream, tres leches ice cream, macadamia nuts and hot chocolate foam). I definitely wish I had had more time there. I got the sense that something is about to happen in Miami, something transformative, something exciting, something that will involve a lot of architects, designers etc. The colors, the weather, the culture of the city are all so unlike New York. The Latin influence is ever-present in the food and the fabric of the city. The taxi drivers and others are grateful for your business in these hard, economic times. It has been hit hard, but something’s brewing; I don’t know what yet.

The Shore Club

How can I possibly sum up how I felt about Women Without Men by Shirin Neshat? This is a film I have been waiting for for at least 2 years. Neshat gave a talk at Columbia about her work and this film, and showed us a few teasers. Ever since then, I have been watching, waiting, and even when I heard it had been released I couldn’t actually find it anywhere in New York. Was it worth the wait? Without a doubt. It was beautiful, sophisticated, stunning, artful….blah blah blah I could keep throwing around adjectives but there are really only 3 words I have to say about it-GO SEE IT, GO SEE IT, GO SEE IT.

I knew there was a reason I was drawn to this store beyond the shoes being ‘nice’. When I saw these shoes at United Nude, I started thinking about structure, triangulation, architectural models, furniture, construction etc well before I started thinking about whether or not to get it in black. I feel that people use the term ‘architectural’ somewhat loosely to describe clothing and accessories. But with these shoes I really did find myself thinking about architecture,remembering architecture. And a google search told me why.

This company was started by an architect and a shoemaker, and the architect just happens to be Rem D. Koolhaas, the famous Rem Koolhaasnephew. This particular shoe is inspired by the Eames chair, and called Eamz.