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Mark Your Calendar: Dwell on Design L.A.

dwell on design

Just two weeks stand between you and Dwell on Design, a veritable feast of modern design in the form of thousands of products, oodles of presentations, modern home tours, and demonstrations galore. This year’s West Coast ideas- and inspiration-fest takes place June 20-22 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Among the highlights in store is a keynote address by designer Stephen Burks, who will discuss his passion for craft and how to marry personal goals with marketable design, and a series of panels, including those that focus on designing L.A. The crew from Commune DesignPam Shamshiri, Ramin Shamshiri, Roman Alonso, and Steven Johanknecht—will take the stage to talk revitalization ranging from major residential multiuse projects to the recently opened Ace Hotel. And we hear that Coolhaus is whipping up a new treat, the Dwell ice cream sandwich, especially for the show. Ready to register? Save $5 on your show pass by entering the code: UNBEIGE.

Biennale Bling: Rem Koolhaas and Swarovski Sparkle in Venice

(Gilbert McCarragher)
(Photo: Gilbert McCarragher)

The long-awaited Rem Koolhaas-curated Venice Architecture Biennale is upon us. Along with a newly cohesive approach to the national pavilions, in which the 65 participating nations each address a “key moment from a century of modernization,” and the central “Elements of Architecture” exhibition (spoiler alert: “It is nothing to do with design,” Koolhaas explained yesterday), there is “Monditalia,” a multidisciplinary portrait of Italy in the form of 82 films, 41 architectural projects, and a merger of architecture with the Biennale’s dance, music, theater, and film sections. Mamma mia!

Visitors enter Monditalia through a dramatic illuminated archway, which is saved from smacking of Vegas or Disney by its setting in the augustly industrial Arsenale. Dubbed Luminaire, the sparkling facade—spanning nearly 66 feet in length—was created in collaboration with Swarovski using thousands of colored light bulbs and a generous dusting (read: 33 pounds worth) of Swarovski crystals, all encrusting an elaborate wooden frame. Koolhaas describes what lies beyond the gate as dealing with “the current state of Italy, between treasure and crisis, knowledge and controversies, history and politics.”

Collective Design Fair Throws a Few Curves

The Collective Design Fair returned to the Frieze-time fray this year, and we sent Nancy Lazarus to check out the new venue and the many curvaceous works on view.

Galerie BSL
A screen by Taher Chemirik was the undulating centerpiece of Galerie BSL’s booth at Collective.

International in scope yet moderate in scale, New York’s Collective Design Fair debuted last year “to provide new commercial and educational platforms for vintage and contemporary design,” according to Steven Learner, the fair’s creative director. The sophomore edition ran from May 8-11 in a new venue—Skylight at Moynihan Station—and added to existing strengths in Scandinavian design and ceramics with a new focus on wearable art. We chatted with some of the 36 exhibitors and joined a tour led by Cooper-Hewitt curator Sarah Coffin to round up five highlights.

Joseph Walsh, Enignum Canopy Bed, 3-562x748, 2013, Courtesy of Todd Merrill Studio ContemporaryTodd Merrill 20th Century Studio Contemporary, New York City: “A tour de force of woodworking” was Coffin’s apt description of Irish designer Joseph Walsh‘s Enignum Canopy Bed (at right), since it consists of ribbons of olive ash wood positioned on a raised platform. Walsh explained the craftsmanship involved in the accompanying materials: “In the Enignum series of works I have stripped wood into thin layers, manipulating and reconstructing them into free form compositions. The title derives from the Latin words ‘enigma’ (mystery) and ‘lignum’ (wood).”

Sienna Patti Gallery, Lenox, Massachusetts:Jacqueline Lillie‘s beaded jewelry plays off of Wiener Werkstätte, but is updated to be contemporary,” said Coffin. The French-born, Vienna-based designer works with materials including glass beads, corian, and stainless steel. “In addition to form and function, I also insist on flexibility,” Lillie has said. “That’s essential because all good jewelry should adapt to the wearer and be an extension of that person’s character.”
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(Eye) Candy: Oscar Murillo, Kara Walker Prepare for Sweet Shows

chocomelos

Move over, Willy Wonka. New York will soon be treated to creative confections from West Chelsea to the Brooklyn waterfront. The sweetness starts Thursday as Columbian-born, London-based Oscar Murillo transforms David Zwirner gallery into a candy factory churning out Chocmelos: chocolate-covered marshmallows sheathed in silvery smiley faced wrappers. The solo exhibition, entitled “A Mercantile Novel,” is a collaboration with the confectionery wizards at Colombina, where Murillo’s mother once worked.

Over in Brooklyn, the industrial relic of the Domino Sugar Factory will be the backdrop for Kara Walker’s first large-scale public project: “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.” The expansive work “will respond to both the building and its history, exploring a radical range of subject matter and marking a major departure from her practice to date,” according to Creative Time, which is presenting the exhibition beginning May 10.
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At Architecture & Design Film Festival, a Look at Building Communities

This month marked the Los Angeles debut of the Architecture & Design Film Festival. We dispatched writer Brigette Brown to take in a few of the 30 flicks on offer along with the program of talks and panels. The five-day festival kicked off with If You Build It, a documentary that follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller as they lead a group of high school students in rural North Carolina through a year-long design-build project, and wrapped up on a similar note, with a closing panel entitled “Hands-on, Ground-up: Community and Design/Build.”

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The Los Angeles Theater Center, an early-nineteenth century bank turned theater, was the setting for the inaugural L.A. edition of the Architecture & Design Film Festival. (All photos courtesy ADFF)

27_ADFF_LA_2014-(22)-Kyle-Bergman_Steve-Badanes“Hands-on, Ground-up,” the final program of the Architecture & Design Film Festival in Los Angeles, left the audience wondering how we, as community members, designers, architects, and structure aficionados, can collaborate and build more. How can we push ourselves back into building and problem solving away from the computer, getting our hands dirty?

Architecture critic Mimi Zeiger moderated a panel of seasoned minds in the architecture and design/build field: Steve Badanes (pictured at right with festival founder and co-director, Kyle Bergman) professor of architecture and director of the Neighborhood Design Build Studio at the University of Washington; Jenna Didier, founder of experimental design and exhibition space, Materials & Applications; and, Dave Sellers, founder of Sellers and Company Architects. Though each panelist approaches the topic of design/build differently in their practices—professor, architect, artist—they each showed how small steps within design culture can help guide American culture to a more hands-on way of living.

“Why is it important to talk about design/build right now?” Zeiger asked to kick off the discussion. This simple “why should we care?” question shaped the conversation that followed. “A day’s work usually involves staring at a screen, pushing around a bar of soap, and maybe answering a few emails and sending some texts,” said Badanes. “So, you don’t really get the satisfaction that you’ve accomplished anything. When you make things, it’s really visceral…you have the satisfaction that you’ve made something.” The panelists agreed that design/build is about getting back in touch with making things. Using a hammer, painting columns and, as Sellers said, “having the oldest lady you can find make [you] blueberry pies” to eat on site are what architecture and design should be about.
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Olafur Eliasson Visits MIT

eliasson j

If Cambridge seems a little brighter today, it’s because Olafur Eliasson is in town. The artist will be at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) through Friday to accept the 2014 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts. In addition to collecting a check for $100,000, taking part in public programs, and attending a gala (hosted by the likes of diplomats from Denmark, Iceland and Germany; Agnes Gund; and Anne Hawley, director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), Eliasson is taking part in a residency that focuses on his art and social business enterprise Little Sun, a portable, solar powered lamp that he calls “a work of art that works in life.” He’ll be on campus to discuss sustainable development, community engagement, design, product engineering, and social entrepreneurship in developing economies, and, in a lecture today at 5:00 p.m., “Holding hands with the sun.”
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Collins Creates New Identity for Internet Week

internet week ny 2

internet week nyHere at UnBeige HQ, every week is Internet week (if the wi-fi goes down for even a few minutes, we become testy and commence the hoarding of foodstuffs), but capitalize that “W” and you’re talking about a “festival of technology, business, and culture” that has been taking place in New York since 2008 and in London since 2010. Each Internet Week consists of hundreds of events that draw thousands of people, and yet the festival’s logos have long been, well, less than cutting-edge—sufficed to say that at one point there was a pixellated apple involved. Then they got Collins on the case.

A team that included Brian Collins, Dave Frankel, and Ali Ring looked beyond familiar tech tropes—the slash, the dot, the leaning arrow—and onward to the bracket. A three-dimensional pair is at the core of their flexible new identity for Internet Week. Not only can the brackets open to accommodate copy, photography, and illustrations but their angles play nice with the letterforms involved, all of which can be layered at various weights to simulate a blinking cursor. Keep an eye out for banners real and virtual that herald the next installment of the festival, which gets underway on May 19 in New York.

David Rockwell Brings NYC to LA in Oscars Greenroom

greenroom

How do you luxe up a windowless room in the bowels of Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre? Architectural Digest poses this question to one designer each year as it creates a backstage lounge for the Oscars. The task of creating the AD Greenroom (the 12th!) for the 2014 Academy Awards (the 86th!) went to David Rockwell. Having perhaps exhausted his interest in Hollywood Regency and cinema magic through his work on the on-stage proceedings, Rockwell looked to New York City loft living as inspiration.

Faced with the equivalent of a basement studio, he focused on “urban simplicity, but married with film glamour.” The latter came in part from actress Susan Sarandon, who helped select works from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archive that line the walls: on one side, a wall of screens powered by Rockwell LAB software display digital images from socially conscious, Oscar-winning, and Oscar-nominated films, while on the other side, 14 framed works features images from classic screwball comedies—one of Sarandon’s favorite genres.

Architecture & Design Film Festival Heading to Los Angeles

ADFF_IF YOU BUILD IT_photo Brad einknopfThe Architecture & Design Film Festival is heading West. After years of celebrating the creative spirit of architecture and design through a dynamic line-up of features, documentaries, and shorts in cities including New York and Chicago, the festival will debut in Los Angeles with a 30-film slate as well as a program of panel discussions and Q&As, a pop-up bookshop, and other design-related events. The five-day event kicks off March 12 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center with Patrick Creadon‘s If You Build It, which follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller as they lead a group of high school students in rural North Carolina through a year-long design-build project.

Other highlights include the world premiere of TELOS, a film on maverick architect Eugene Tssui, and the U.S. premiere of In The Midst of Things, which explores the life and work of Portuguese architect Manuel Tainha. And local flavor abounds: the L.A. programs includes The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat (which includes interviews with the house’s current owner, actress Kelly Lynch) and Levitated Mass, a fascinating tale about the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s two-story, 340-ton granite boulder that was moved from a quarry in Riverside, California to the museum site on a 105-mile journey that spanned 10 nights and crawled through 22 cities and four counties on a football field-long transport vehicle.

Pictured: A still from If You Build It. Watch the trailer below.
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New York Ceramics Fair Spotlights Contemporary Feats of Clay

We asked writer Nancy Lazarus to throw herself into the New York Ceramics Fair. Here’s her well-sculpted roundup:

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Rainbow Luster Bowl (2006), made by Haggerty Ceramics.

“With the resurgence now of porcelain and ceramics, it’s not old-fashioned love, it’s eternal love,” said designer Alexa Hampton, who was joined by fellow designers and ceramics lovers Kitty Hawks and David Scott on a panel co-sponsored by the New York School of Interior Design at the New York Ceramics Fair, held last week in the Grand Ballroom of the Bohemian National Hall.

Museum exhibits devoted to ceramics have also heralded the medium’s revival, including recent and upcoming shows at New York’s Museum of Art and Design and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ceramics have a long history, alternately associated with ancient rituals, children’s crafts classes, and hippies, but haven’t always been perceived in high regard.

Ceramics are now recognized as a multi-dimensional art form, as the designers pointed out. “One of the beautiful aspects of ceramics is its deep, entrenched history of usefulness,” noted Hampton, adding that one can delve into ceramics in interiors or in doses by being a collector.

Both Scott and Hawks are ceramics collectors, and Scott described the pursuit of such objects as a compulsion. Still, he noted that not every piece has to be precious. Hawks agreed that provenance is not always necessary and said ceramics preferences and tastes can be quirky.
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