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Marc Kristal’s Well-Crafted Take on the Human Touch in Architecture and Interiors

heatherwick.jpg
Foiled again! Thomas Heatherwick’s design for the Aberystwyth Arts Centre at the University of Wales—eight timber-frame sheds clad in crinkled steel.

recrafted.jpgIn a time of tight budgets, teeming store shelves, and easily knocked off (or Photoshopped) perfection, craft is cool. Fendi followed up its Craft Punk project with DIY baguettes, while Gucci has dispatched its artisans to wow waffling customers with in-store demos. Droog recently commissioned design luminaries including Stefan Sagmeister and Studio Makkink & Bey to creatively reinterpret surplus goods from bankrupt companies, and today the Museum of Arts and Design debuts its second exhibition dedicated to remixing the ordinary, this time with entirely natural materials (and artists such as Jennifer Angus and Nick Cave). Next month, crafty SANAA duo Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa will collect their Pritzker medallions and $100,000 check. Writer Marc Kristal explores the invigorated interest in making and the made in Re:Crafted, a lush volume just published by Monacelli.

“Everyone shares a sense of what traditional craft represents, both in terms of objects—a George Nakashima coffee table is a great example—and architecturally, as in the work of Greene and Greene in America or William Morris in England,” Kristal told us. “What interests me about it, and serves as the subject of the book, is that there are many ways to skin the craft cat, as it were, that we don’t associate with tradition.” Kristal’s approach to the fickle feline led him to select 25 diverse projects that have been completed in the past ten years and will keep design fans glued to Re:Crafted. Don’t bother trying to skim.

“I tried to pick projects that approached the idea of craft from multiple standpoints,” explained Kristal. “The first one (above), for example, by Thomas Heatherwick, is a collection of artists’ studios in Wales that are clad in crinkled, wafer-thin steel that Heatherwick detailed by running it through a crinkling machine—called ‘the mangle’—that he invented for the purpose,” he said. “At the other end of the spectrum is a multi-million-dollar opera house in Oslo, by the firm Snohetta, that derives its quality of craft from the two teams of artists that were engaged to deal with the stone and metal surface.” For every feat of intricate African woodworking (Kirk Lazarus and Stephen Falcke‘s Molori Safari Lodge) and Giotto-flavored ceiling (Rick Jordan‘s Renaissance recreation in a New York apartment) there is a mobile canopy of thermoplastic-composite rods (Moorhead & Moorhead’s mobile chaplet in Fargo, North Dakota) and a “hot-rodded” shack covered in overscaled glass panes (the work—and home—of Tom Kundig in Seattle).


Re:Crafted offers a fascinating look at an elusive quality—that authentic human something that separates your uncle’s Hans Wegner original from the reissued version you’ve been considering. “I’ve always been sensitive to whether or not the essence of something, whether it’s architecture, design, or an object, is present or absent,” explains Kristal, pointing to the iconic plywood side chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames. “The Eameses’ original method of bending the plywood, which was somewhat primitive by contemporary standards, resulted in a very distinctive object that had a suave and singular elegance. Whereas the contemporary versions, while seemingly identical, feel stamped-out and slightly canned—Stepford Wife versions of the original.”

Kristal will be adding a human touch (read: his signature) to copies of Re:Crafted tonight at a cocktail reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at L’Art de Vivre in New York City (978 Lexington at 72nd Street). Tell them UnBeige sent you!

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