Dive into the archives.
- Urban China Source Material 05: Blind School
I had my morning rocked by these images today. They were taken by Nan Li in 1989 during a trip to a school for the blind, deaf, and mute. Unfortunately that’s all I know. Click to enlarge.
- Calling all Berliners…
Get your asses to the AedesLAND Gallery this Friday (or any other day between then and March 26) and check out “True Cities,” an exhibition of photos by artist/curator/editor/writer/very friend Charlie Koolhaas. Here’s some more info from the PR release:
‘True Cities’ is a collection of photographs by Charlie Koolhaas featuring four global cities that determine, in different ways, our political and cultural landscapes and that will increasingly shape our collective destinies in the future. Within a single space, ‘True Cities’ weaves a photographic patchwork of urban fabrics from Guangzhou, Dubai, Lagos, and London, creating a multi-layered picture of an intricately connected world.
Charlie Koolhaas is a Dutch artist raised in London who currently works from her studio in Guangzhou, China. Trained as a sociologist, throughout her career she has worked as a magazine editor, exhibition curator, writer as well as photographer, and in her photos we see this multidisciplinary approach applied to the urban experience. In ‘True Cities’ she brings together hundreds of disparate images of different places to bounce off each other, resonate, and begin a dialogue.
The exhibition will include a series of 200 images viewed like a large book that spans the entire wall of the AedesLAND space. Within these pages images of Lagos, Nigeria are paired with images of Dubai, UAE. In the arches of the gallery hanging photographs place Guangzhou, China and London, UK side by side so that they feel like two distant suburbs in the same city. ‘True Cities’ is an exhibition of the world. It is about cultural fusion and confusion, connections, moments of creativity and pain. By looking at the opulent and insignificant, the broken down and the emerging, these photographs depict the mundane and the absurd with equal enthusiasm.
It’s sure to be eye and mind opening. If you can, check it out…
- Urban China Material 04: Peasant Mansions
Well, I am still working on a book with my friends at Urban China magazine. And after a month spent in fearsome battle, I’ve finally managed to slay the Chinglish Dragon and have officially moved on from editing to design. So I’m gonna put up a few more things as the process goes along.
Here’s a page I laid out today dissecting changes to housing in the Chinese countryside. The introduction of free market money has done wild things to village life, particularly from an architectural standpoint. The houses of the most affluent farmers are often similar to the one above, Frankenstein hybrids that mix materials and styles in a way that would even give a cartoonish post-modernist like Michael Graves pause.
I wrote about this phenomenon in an article for Architecture Digest last year. (The original piece was about the new campus for China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou. That’s a pretty interesting architectural spectacle in itself. Click here to see some beautiful photos of the campus by very friend Iwan Baan.)
To fully appreciate Wang Shu’s new campus for the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, it’s useful to travel to the city by bus. For much of the trip, your view is dominated by the unindustrialized agriculture that occupies so much of the Chinese countryside. You will see very little nature, and a great deal of mud, divided into tiny, meticulously parceled plots, some of which extend to within centimeters of the expressway. Small clusters of buildings appear every few hundred meters. They are mostly constructed of locally-produced brick and mirror the ruddy brownness of the earth from which they came, giving the scene a tranquilizing color consistency.
As you get nearer to the city, things begin to change. The foreground of farm life is compressed by a backdrop of cooling towers and smoke stacks. The air perceptibly grays. The images of rustic toil – elderly women bent over rice fields, teens transporting pigs by motorcycle, middle aged men hauling hay bales… – assume an ominous aura. There are glints of promise in the gloom, though. As if to compensate for the worsening atmosphere, the living conditions noticeably improve. The houses look sturdier, many are covered in a protective layer of plaster, some have multiple floors. An exceptional few are covered in rectangular tiles of white, pink, or lime green. Against the dreary surroundings, these unexpected bursts of color appear almost fluorescent.
As you approach the city limits, the proximity of money and opportunity grows more apparent and the decorative flourishes more dramatic. Colored tiles become commonplace. All houses now have glass windows and some are tinted blue. A few megastructures – a convention center, a long distance bus depot, one or two under-construction, already-populated housing complexes – mark the transition from rural to urban. They raise the bar for ornamentation and initiate an open competition of architectural showmanship which quickly drowns out the landscape.
The homes of the most affluent farmers – many of whom now work in the city as builders or businessmen – shoot up to three or four stories. Though the basic plan remains the same, the houses suddenly sprout absurd additions – Greek columns, Dutch gables, emerald curtain wall from an office building, granite stairs from a hotel. On nearly every corner sit mounds of broken bricks covered in a thin layer of white dust like loaves of ciabatta bread. Now that everyone can afford tiles, their size, color, and arrangement becomes the focus. Some use tiny, multi-colored squares to create a kind of pixelated static; others create simple, bold gestures like candy cane swirls; others eschew tiles altogether and create elaborate patterns of alternating vertical and horizontal brick. The result is the architectural equivalent of a car show. Riding past feels like being lost in gingerbread land.
- Inauguration Day: High Concentration Motivation
Well, the day has finally arrived, believe it or not. This day delivers that ultra potent one-two of disposing of my least favorite president and replacing him with the only politician I’ve ever personally cared about. It feels like a party, except everything is a mess and there’s too much to do. So instead of the celebratory mix I was planning, here is something more fitting the first day of what has to be a takin-care-of-business presidency – an ultra high density motivational speech, courtesy of overthinkingit.com
I respect that he resisted the temptation to turn the event into the orgiastic celebration of newness that most of those in attendance seemed to want. Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times thought the speech was an anti-climax, but I think he’s just placing himself in the sad tradition of political commentators who devalue Obama’s restraint.
IMO restraint defined the speech in message and execution, nowhere better shown than in its steady, subtle rebukes of Bush. It’s difficult to condemn nearly everything your predecessor stands for while he’s sitting just a few meters away from you, but the Prez pulled it off.
It reminded me of another inspiring Bush-side performance, Stephen Colbert’s inverted tribute to W at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. The Bush administration provoked a lot of good satire over the years, but that routine is for me the pinnacle. Now that we’ve officially sent them off and are hopefully on to better things, it’s seems fair that we enjoy the last laugh. Here it is:
- Domus Interview 01: Michael Rock
Throughout 09 I’m going to be doing an interview series for Domus China magazine. The idea behind the series is to examine architecture as a collaborative art form. To realize a building of even modest ambition requires architects to commit themselves to a huge number of specialists – engineers, a developer, a rendering company, plumbers, a photographer, etc. – each of whom is responsible for a vital piece of their vision. I hope that by talking to the people who operate around architecture’s edges, we can get a better understanding of what architects do and what sort of personality (disorders) architecture requires.
The first one came out this month and its with Michael Rock of 2×4, a NY-based design studio that’s works with Prada, Nike, as well as many architects OMA especially. It’s too long to put up here and I’m probably not supposed to do that anyway, but here is an excerpt. Michael’s talking about branding and the way that brand manuals have shifted control of design away from the architect and designer into the hands of the marketing and sales departments. He also mentions his idea for a Leica cell phone, which I think is awesome.
- Bedroom Boogie
Man. I just received this from my friend Lisa. It was apparently made by some dude named Stoops who is a cadet at the US Air Force Academy. Don’t want to give away too much away, so just watch first.http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5405366458619564374
Now, I’m not even gonna get into all the amusing details of this thing, that’s what post comments are for I guess. I just want to say, first of all, PROPS to you Cadet Pele for bringing that big ass speaker to your Air Force Academy dorm room. I’ve never been to a military academy of any kind, but I assume they look down on thumping basslines. You’re making a statement on day one hauling that thing in there, a statement in affirmation of joy. Second, although it may feel like he humiliated you by secretly taping you and then showing it to all his friends then putting it up on the internet and trying to style it out like he’s some sort of secret agent, the reality is that your roommate’s done you a favor. I can imagine that in your life you encounter strong anti-freekydeek forces. At times perhaps you even question whether your God-given love of music and dance is a curse, something that marks you out from your peers, a secret to be hidden away in your dorm room. But I know that deep in your heart you know music is what makes life worth living. You couldn’t give it up if you tried. But your hating ass roommate doesn’t know your joy and so while him and his non-dancing buddies are yucking it up at your expense, I sincerely hope that you feel sorry for them. I saw the way you tried to loosen Stoops up when he crashed your party. I admire that, but believe me he’s wound way too tight to ever make his ass pop to some C+C Music Factory. That simply will never happen. But he’s not to be resented for what he did, because he’s actually done you a favor by forcing you to embrace who truly you are: the dancingest MF at the US Air Force Academy. Salute!
PS – Go Steelers!
PPS – And just in case you’re concerned that your affliction will make it difficult for you to find employment outside of the exotic dancing industry, I ask you to take a look at this clip. Peep the camera man at about the 20 second mark. Do you think there’s a happier person on that set?
- Stoned Kitty: “Salted Sessions is my shit”
Last time I saw my friend Jesse he gave me a copy of Salted Sessions, an instrumental EP he’d just made under the name A La Shook. It’s been in steady rotation ever since and is now a household favorite, particularly with the cat pictured above. Jesse’s now put the EP up on his website for the recession-proof price of Free.99
Here’s a sample:
A La Shook – 77
right-click + save link as (mac) / save target as (windows)
To download the whole thing, press HERE
Check out more of Jesse’s music on his site jessekoolhaas.com
09 is just under a week old and I think it makes sense to start off a fresh year with some fresh faces. Here is a collection of awesome musical kids to remind us of the unspoiled potential and enormous programmability of youth.
DJ Sara (8) & DJ Ryusei (5)
DJ Sara (8) & DJ Ryusei (5) are a brother-sister DJ combo from Tokyo that manages to do the virtually impossible, make noodling scratch solos entertaining.