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Archives: August 2010

Jeff Koons Redesigns CT Scanner Hospital Rooms for RxArt


No matter your opinion of Jeff Koons (we’re looking at you, angry French men), here’s something you’ll have to give the guy credit for. The non-profit group RxArt, which was founded by art dealer Diane Brown to help redesign hospital interiors to make them less sterile and fear inducing, had long considered Koons the one artist they’d love to work with, having already commissioned pro-bono work from people like R. Crumb and John Margolis. While they thought it would be nearly impossible to talk him into it, given his celebrity, the artist agreed readily. He began work on the CT Scanner and surrounding exam room at Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, just outside Chicago, and has since transformed it with paintings of his own work, including 2D copies of his iconic “Balloon Dog” and “Hanging Heart” pieces. Best of all, he didn’t take a dime for the effort. The RxArt site has a ton of great photos of the transition, with both before and after shots, and the York Daily Record has a behind the scenes look at how the group managed to bring Koons in and how the project was pulled off.

Michael Boodro Named Editor-in-Chief at Elle Decor

ED_sept10.jpgElle Decor, which lately has made us reconsider our lifelong bias against chandeliers in domestically scaled interiors, has a new editor-in-chief. Today former executive editor Michael Boodro officially takes the helm of Hachette Filipacchi’s art-savvy, idea-stuffed shelter magazine, one of the few to survive—and thrive—amidst the category’s recent implosion (R.I.P. Metropolitan Home, Domino, House and Garden, and O at Home). Boodro has completed a couple of stints as executive editor at Elle Decor, first from 2004 to 2006 and then again from 2009 to yesterday (and you’ll no doubt recall his tenure as editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Living in the in-between time). He has also worked at publications including Culture + Travel, The New York Times Magazine and Vogue.

The in-house shuffle is Elle Decor‘s response to veteran editor Margaret Russell‘s departure to Condé Nast, where she has taken over for editorial endurance champ Paige Rense at Architectural Digest. “What Michael brings to the table is [the ability to] continuously take what Margaret has done and elevate it,” Robin Domeniconi, Elle and Elle Decor‘s new senior vice president and chief brand officer, told WWD. “It’s basically like we have this wonderful entrée—all we need to do is add a little salt and pepper and some spices.” Joining them in the proverbial kitchen will be Anita Sarsidi, who has been promoted from design and decoration editor to design director; Florentino Pamintuan, who has ascended from art director to creative director; and Vicky Lowry, who moves from her post as executive editor of to executive editor on the print side.

Quote of Note | Mark Parker

M_parker.jpg“I think designers are often undervalued and underappreciated. I guess you could argue that’s okay because there’s some merit to the idea that the best design is invisible design. At Nike specifically, we try to keep it simple. It’s important to avoid any ancillary noise that doesn’t add to the design. Basically, get rid of the clutter—nothing gratuitous. I think overdesigning comes from a lack of editing. The strongest, most compelling, and most useful things in life are irreducible—love, truth, faith, honor. Some people want a product with a very overt aesthetic, and I think there’s a place for products all along that spectrum. But our company was founded on connecting with the athlete in a really deep way.”

-Mark Parker, president and CEO of Nike

It’s Official: Diller Scofidio + Renfro to Design Eli Broad’s Downtown L.A. Museum

(Anne Cusack for LA Times).jpg
See that parking lot beside Disney Hall? It’s the future downtown L.A. site of Eli Broad’s contemporary art museum.

As Willy Wonka (in the earthly form of Gene Wilder) said when regarding a young, rotund Augustus Gloop lodged in his chocolate-filled plumbing system, “The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last.” That encapsulates our enduring fascination with billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad‘s protracted plan to build a contemporary art museum. The site (Beverly Hills? Santa Monica? Los Angeles?) and architect (Rem Koolhaas? SANAA? Herzog & de Meuron?) of the place have been the subject of rampant speculation, whispering, and gossip since Broad’s 2008 announcement that he would not be donating his or his foundation’s art collection to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for which he had just funded a $56 million Renzo Piano-designed addition. The rumors we told you about a couple of months ago are true, and now it’s official: the museum will be located in downtown Los Angeles and will be designed by New York architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Gensler will be the executive architect on the project, which will deplete Broad’s personal bank account by an estimated $300 million.

The approximately 120,000-square-foot museum will be located on Grand Avenue, next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the exuberant steel swoops of Gehry’s structure factored into his decision to go with Diller Scofidio + Renfro. “We didn’t want it to clash, but we didn’t want it to be anonymous either,” said Broad yesterday. “Diller Scofidio prevailed by focusing its design attention not on sculptural form but on a smart if showy conceptual clash between public and private visions of L.A. culture,” writes architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne in today’s Los Angeles Times. “The most dramatic element of the firm’s proposal—its wow moment—is a lobby space that will bring pedestrians entering the museum from Grand Avenue face to face, through glass, with drivers on their way down to the museum’s parking garage.” Groundbreaking on the building is slated for October, with the goal of opening to the public in late 2012. Here’s hoping that Broad launches a global contest to dole out coveted places at the grand opening. Golden tickets, anyone?

Previously on UnBeige:

  • The Agonizing Slowness of Locating Eli Broad’s New Museum
  • More Eli Broad Museum Rumors, Still No Official Word
  • Eli Broad Picks Los Angeles for His New Museum (Maybe)
  • Israeli Officials Claim Destroyed Gravestones Were Fakes at Controversial Museum of Tolerance Building Site


    The controversy continues in Jerusalem over the planned Museum of Tolerance there. After years of a variety of groups fighting the project because the land it’s being built on was previously a Muslim cemetery (it was most recently a parking lot), construction had begun to move forward. While the project’s managers had promised from the start that they would being careful not to disturb any human remains they found, a particularly damning report published by Haaretz was released, detailing quite the opposite, finding that the developers had changed their tune and didn’t care what they uncovered and demolished en route. Now there’s news of another twist for the project, with Israeli officials saying that many of the graves were faked. Claiming that activists against the building secretly added hundreds of new grave markers to make the project appear as if it were destroying far more vast burial grounds. Officials even went so far as to get the new grave markers analyzed and confirmed that they weren’t real. The opposition has denied the allegations, saying the graves were there from the start. Here’s a bit:

    The new gravestones, typically constructed with old stones set in fresh concrete, also scrambled the physical record at an important historical site, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which termed the graves “fictitious.”

    The Islamic Movement‘s Abu Atta said all of the markers were constructed atop genuine graves, though in some cases nearly nothing was left of the original. He also indicated that the precise location of the graves was beside the point.

    “If you dig a few meters down anywhere here you’ll find bones,” he said. “We just want to guard the cemetery.”

    Once again, faced with all this continuing controversy, we’re sure Frank Gehry is plenty pleased that he removed himself from the project earlier this year.

    Rebuilding Construction Begins on OMA’s Charred Mandarin Hotel in Beijing


    In October of last year, then-OMA employee Ole Scheeren said he believed that Beijing’s Mandarin Hotel/CCTV office, which he and Rem Koolhaas had designed but was severely damaged by a massive fire in early 2009 before it had even opened, was still salvageable. Turns out he might be right. Crews have begun working on the charred remains of the skyscraper, planning to remove most of the steel and decorative portions of the building and reconstructing it based on the original plans using its still-intact and relatively healthy concrete bones. No word yet on how long the rebuilding will take, but we’d guess that it might take nearly as long as it did to construct the original, given how much damage the exterior suffered (here’s our on the ground report from seeing the building up close when we were in Beijing shortly after the fire). Meanwhile, eight more defendants have recently been prosecuted for the fire, which started after fireworks shot from adjacent buildings landed inside the tower. These eight join 21 others who had previously been tried and convicted in relation to the incident.

    Photographer Mannie Garcia Drops Case Against AP Over Shepard Fairey’s Obama Poster


    Some closure to at least one portion of the legal battle overShepard Fairey‘s Obama poster. Mannie Garcia, who was eventually revealed as the photographer took the photo Fairey used as reference for his now iconic illustration, has dropped his lawsuit against the Associated Press. The AP freelancer had filed the suit last summer, right after the AP was in the midst of its ongoing legal tangle against Fairey for copying the image of Obama they hold the copyright to. Garcia claimed instead that it was he who owned the copyright and had sued the AP. Now he’s withdrawn the suit, having apparently been exhausted by the entire process and eager to get back to taking photos. While despite some words two months ago that it would soon be over, the battle still continues between Fairey and the AP (and looks like to stay that way for some time), this is one chapter that’s now officially finished. Here’sthe AP’s official statement:

    The Associated Press is very pleased that Mannie Garcia has withdrawn from the case with prejudice, meaning that he cannot refile his claim against the AP. The AP has not wavered in its belief that Mr. Garcia was a staff photographer at the time he took the image of then-Sen. Barack Obama, that AP properly employed Mr. Garcia, and that AP is the rightful copyright owner of the photo in question. Further, the AP is pleased that Mr. Garcia voluntarily withdrew without any payment or consideration of any kind — this was not a settlement.

    In a Court hearing on Monday, Judge Alvin Hellerstein indicated that he would sign the stipulation and enter the order. Also in Monday’s hearing, the judge set both a summary judgment schedule and a trial schedule for the case involving Shepard Fairey. The AP is happy to have these dates set. The AP continues to be confident in its position that the use Fairey made of its photo is not fair use, but one that should have been licensed so as to help ensure the AP’s photographers will be able to continue creating new works. The AP looks forward to resolution whether through summary judgment or trial on the merits.

    The Real Story Behind Fake Sneakers

    fake_nikes.jpgElaborate disguises, subterfuge, slightly subpar swooshes: welcome to the world of counterfeit-sneaker manufacturing. In the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine, Nicholas Schmidle voyages inside the knockoff factories of Putian, a Chinese town teeming with ersatz Nikes, Adidases, Pumas, and Reeboks. “Shoes from Putian are designed primarily for export,” writes Schmidle, “and in corporate-footwear and intellectual-property rights circles, Putian has become synonymous with high-end fakes, shoes so sophisticated that it is difficult to distinguish the real ones from counterfeits.” In some cases, the only way to tell the difference is by the smell of the glue, notes one knockoff factory owner. And while the Chinese government doesn’t turn a blind eye to counterfeiting, things do get culturally complicated.

    Beijing’s top intellectual-property officials…seem to disagree over what even constitutes counterfeiting. Last year, a debate occurred between the heads of the State Intellectual Property Office and the National Copyright Administration. The dispute revolved around shanzhai, a term that translates literally into “mountain fortress”; in contemporary usage, it connotes counterfeiting that you should take pride in. There are shanzhai iPhones and shanzhai Porsches.

    One top intellectual property official goes so far as to distinguish shanzai from counterfeiting. “Shanzhai shows the cultural creativity of the common people,” said Liu Binjie of the National Copyright Administration. “It fits a market need, and people like it. We have to guide shanzhai culture and regulate it.” And then there’s the argument that counterfeiting is a form of industrial training: a technically illegal way to bone up on branding and production techniques. “We are developing our own brand now,” one fake-shoe factory manager tells Schmidle. “In the longer term we want to make all our own brands, to make our own reputation.”

    Smart and Sustainable Bike Wheel Is U.S. Winner of James Dyson Award

    copenhagen_dyson.jpgJames Dyson, maker of the bladeless wonderfan that has allowed UnBeige HQ to make it through the summer sans air conditioning, and his industrial design-boosting foundation have announced the 18 regional winners of the 2010 James Dyson Award competition. The top American entry is the Copenhagen Wheel—a plug-and-play wheel that turns a regular bike into a smart, electric hybrid—invented by Christine Outram and a team of students at MIT’s SENSEable City Lab. Controlled through a rider’s smart phone, the wheel can capture the energy dissipated when breaking and cycling and save it for later use. The sleek red hub contains a motor, batteries, and an internal gear system, as well as environmental and location sensors that provide data for cycling-related mobile applications. Now in its final prototyping phase, the Copenhagen Wheel (named for those cycling-crazy Danes!) is slated to debut commercially next June at a cost of approximately $600 per wheel.

    As national winners, Outram and SENSEable City Lab associate director Assaf Biderman are invited to visit Dyson laboratories in the UK (hint: tell them you have to go the bathroom and then grab a fan!) to participate in a workshop run by Dyson engineers. Meanwhile, their project and nine other U.S. finalists selected by alphabetically compatible design experts Allison Arieff and Amelia Amon have advanced to the next round of competition. Stay tuned to UnBeige to learn which problem-solving inventions make the international shortlist before the grand prize winner is announced on October 5. In the meantime, we suggest using your foreign language skills to peruse the other top regional entries, including an innovative Italian soap dispenser called “Whippy” that has a kicky Memphis group vibe.

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    The House Kept in the Frank Lloyd Wright Family


    While there are certainly dozens upon dozens of stories of those who have lived in Frank Lloyd Wright homes, and likely to be more what with the famous architect’s first prairie style house now open for tours and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation beginning to dig through his archives, this story from this past weekend’s Washington Post seems perhaps the most endearing. In Bethesda, Maryland, Thomas Wright lives in a house his grandfather built. What’s more, the house was built for his parents, for his sixth child, Robert, specifically, back in 1958 (it’s known as the Robert Llewellyn Wright House). Though Thomas didn’t grow up in the house, it’s great to see it’s still in the family and likely will continue when he passed the residence along to his children. Beyond the warm feelings of a family connection, the Post‘s piece also offers up a great look at one of Wright’s lesser known homes, as well as the difficulties and expenses of their upkeep:

    The house has health issues of its own. After several attempts at repair, Wright thinks the flat roof is now sound, but the concrete blocks that form the big round chimney have taken on water over the years, and a serious renovation is required.

    “I would need to spend at least $100,000 to do the things I need to do to the house,” says Wright, who lives on a government pension. Organizations such as the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust do not provide funds for properties that remain in private hands, so Wright tries to use preservation tax credits and his own savings to underwrite repairs.