Sunday, May 27, 2007

For inspiration

This is one of the best US Vogue covers (May 2007) in a while... the colors, photography, models (finally models are again on the cover), setting and clothes are all perfect. This photo is an inspiration in so many ways.

Photography courtesy of Conde Nast/Vogue US. Photographer: Steven Meisel. Fashion Editor: Tonne Goodman. Hair: Garren for Garren NY/L'Oreal Paris. Make up: Pat Mc Grath for Max Factor. Set Design: Mary Howard Studio. The models' names are on the pic, click on it to see a bigger version. Any bets as to who will really be a supermodel? (note that the tag line on the cover says top models, not super models...).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Reminder:2Modern contributor posts

Just to remind you that I am contributing to the 2Modern blog once a week. My two latest posts are here and here - completing the walk in modern Oslo. I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Architecture as a reflection of cultural identity

A while ago, on one of my posts, a friend commented: " What if anything do you think a people or nation's choice of architecture says about their cultural identity?"

I think this is an intriguing question, worthy of a Ph.D. I will post my initial thoughts about this and maybe we can start a lovely discussion on this.

First of all, the nation's choice of architecture is not always, if ever, the choice of the people. Public buildings designs are usually picked without any kind of approval of the people. I'm not saying it is right or wrong, just mention it. So the design of a public building is either the choice of a specially appointed committee that hopefully is made of people relevant to the subject at hand or the choice of the head of a public organization or holder of a civic office.
For example, the new Town Hall by architect Tassos Biris and his late brother Demetrios, in my hometown of Thessaloniki is a nondescript building built in the worst possible place, chosen by the appointed committee without people's consent. Whether it reflects the citizens' cultural identity? I think it does. If people really cared about it, they would have protested it being built. They did nothing of the kind. And in a city in need of a modern architectural identity, it is a gravely missed opportunity.

Public buildings are a chance for the state or city or municipality, to show their power, position in the world, affluence. Take as examples the huge monumental National Library of France in Paris, built by François Mitterrand. Or the now standard procedure of hiring star architects to built important landmarks in cities that may even change their cultural identity, not reflect it. Case in point: the Bilbao Guggenheim museum. And don't tell me Bilbao was a mainstay of modern architecture and style when Gehry was picked to do that museum there. But it happened. The town people had done the right thing. And see where they are now.

Private buildings on the other hand are the choice of the owner, in collaboration with his architect. Grand scale private buildings or small adobes, if designed by an architect worth his salt, will be an accurate reflection of the owner filtered through the eyes of the architect. Therefore they will reflect his culture, tastes, personality, identity. It will also reflect the public taste of the times - building styles change throughout the ages. It also reflects people's lifestyle: People have different needs in Oslo than in Thessaloniki. The problems begin when the local authority's regulating offices are issuing regulations that hamper any chance of building beautiful and functional housing projects, forcing instead the people to build huge blocks of cement to make a quick buck. See what Greece suffered from maligned building laws and regulations from the 50s onwards.
So, as the future archaeologists examine the ruins of our civilizations, what will they make of our public and private buildings? Will they marvel at our now modern wonders of architecture? Will they laugh at the awful apartment blocks and housing projects that fill many cities around the world? Will they preserve beautiful samples of architecture like this wonderful summer house of Mies Van de Rohe?

Friday, May 11, 2007

First post at 2Modern Design Talk blog!

You can read my first post at 2Modern Design Talk blog here.

It is about the recent Oslo trip, I hope you like it. More from that trip at 2Modern Design Talk next Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Muji heaven

During my short trip to Oslo, I found Muji products in the amazing House Of Oslo mall. I bought some of their scented tin candles (one in jasmine and the other in tuberose, which was the hit of the shop - only two were left):

And also got this recycled material cute bunny for my goddaughter:

I pretty much wanted everything they had there but my budget was not able to afford it, although the prices were not too much above the ones in other european cities - have in mind Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in Europe.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum - Modern Art

The Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam is temporarily housed in a nondescript old office building near the Central Station. Inside only temporary shows can be seen, while the new expansion is being built and the old building renovated. There is a great secret though - a lovely restaurant/cafe situated on the 11th floor (hence named 11) which becomes a club in the wee hours of the evening. From the very high ceiling hang 4 huge Algues curtains, giving it a unique note.

The collections when I visited where very interesting, some of the works even design related like the above rotating metal/light installation called Counter Composition by artist Germaine Kruip. "a mirrored mobile that takes its form from the construction of a painting by Theo Van Doesburg. This mobile changes the composition of Van Doesburg into a reflection, which perpetually projects through the gallery. Activated by an artificial light, its reflections move through the space in the opposite direction of the natural light and shadows directed from the windows. Based on the principals of De Stijl, the original painting attempted to find forms through which universal truth could be grasped. Here that 'universal truth' is animated not as a contained truth but as a constant movement that is nothing but a reflection of its own surroundings." This one was part of the Just in Time – Proposal for Municipal Art Acquisitions Exhibition, which was asking the question: who defines what is acceptable as art for a museum to buy? See below how it looked after a while:

There was also a weird chandelier by Cerith Wyn Evans. "The so-called 'chandelier' pieces that are a perfect example of Wyn Evans Trojan Horse strategy in which he disguises radical content by way of tremendous elegance. Altogether the chandeliers form a personal canon of literature from the last century including poems, letters, short stories, philosophy, etc. The texts are transmitted through Morse-code pulsing though the light bulbs of the chandeliers".

The artwork above was part of the Vincent Awards exhibition. Andrei Monastyrski was another artist shown there. This work was a bit interactive, in the sense that you could walk inside the installation, on the flour covered floor, and your steps on it became part of the artwork.

This work below is probably from Monastyrski but I cannot remember. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Netherlands: Amsterdam - NEMO

One of the most impressive places in Amsterdam (maybe in the Netherlands) is the NEMO museum. Why named NEMO? "NEMO means ‘nobody’. People visiting NEMO believe themselves to be in no man’s land, where fantasies suddenly seem to become real." from the museum's website. It was designed by Renzo Piano and was finished in 1997. The material covering it is oxidized copper, with a technique called "standing seams", one as old as the use of copper itself. The copper facade, which measures approximately 6,000 square metres, was assembled in less than six months.

NEMO is like a submarine emerging from the sea, or a huge whale, or a ship sinking. It is positioned at the very end of a road tunnel going under the sea, effectively hiding it from everyone! It is a science museum geared towards children (adult children too, :-)). Unfortunately I did not have much time there so I did not enter, only saw it from outside. I love their motto: Forbidden Not to Touch! In the summer, the roof is transformed into a city beach with a cafe nearby. You have to pay to enter the museum but the access to the terrace is free.

Blogging for 2Modern Design Talk!

I have an announcement to make: I was selected by 2Modern Design to post on their blog for International Modern Architecture every Thursday! A very big thank you to Holly Becker from Decor8 and of course Greg Finney from 2Modern. I hope I can contribute to 2Modern's blog in a creative fresh way.