Archive for the ‘Art’ Category


Luminous void / 88888 Studio, via DesignBoom

Sunday Conversation with Shane Coen, Landscape Architect The Star Tribune, 9/19/15
“Minneapolis-based Coen + Partners, a small firm in the Warehouse District, received the nation’s highest honor in design, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Award. Its founder, Shane Coen, now finds himself on a larger national stage and with a louder voice in the design world.”

Green Peace: The Healing Power of Parks for Young and OldAARP.com, 9/22/15
“Parks are public spaces, but they can be very personal ones, too. They can be homes to our daily rituals — from morning jogs to dog walks — as well as our milestone celebrations. They also can be our quiet places of solace after a long day or after a deep loss, as I experienced.”

Frank Gehry Draws Ire for Joining Los Angeles River Restoration Project The New York Times, 9/23/15
“Yet none of Mr. Gehry’s farewell enterprises seem more daunting — and fraught — than his involvement in rebuilding the Los Angeles River, a bleak and dispiriting 51-mile channel that winds its way through fields, suburbs, dark city corners and industrial wastelands from the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean.”

A Garden Where You’d Least Expect ItThe Wall Street Journal, 9/27/15
“A far more ambitious project alighted last week, when Diana Balmori, a celebrated landscape architect and urban designer, oversaw the launch of a floating landscape at the foot of the Whole Foods parking lot that overlooks the canal.”

88888 Sculpts Luminous Void Within the Water Surrounding the Castle of Horst  DesignBoom, 9/29/15
“In the water surrounding the ancient castle of horst in belgium, 88888 studio — the collaboration of karel burssens and jeroen verrecht — have sculpted into the earth, forming an unexpected, abstract interruption in the natural landscape.”

The Cultural Landscape Foundation Releases New Pioneers Oral History with Landscape Architect Nicholas Quennell – The Cultural Landscape Foundation, 9/30/15
“Quennell, in practice for more than 50 years, is esteemed for his work on iconic New York City parks including the Central Park Children’s Zoo and Fort Tryon Park, his innovative collaborations with artists such as Alice Aycock, Barbara Kruger, and Maya Lin, and his role in the civic realm as President of the Art Commission and with other organizations.”

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Baltimore bus stop / Knstrct.com

Landscape architects, architects, and artists are having fun with words in bus stops, playgrounds, and plazas. In these instances, letters become tangible and structural, so they can be touched, sat on, climbed on. The meaning of the words is clear or ambiguous. And, in one case, the letters can even be viewed from different angles to form new words. In three different public spaces around the world, word forms draw people in and enable new ways to communicate with the public. Given their tactile nature, they also invite conversation and interaction.

In Baltimore, a group of local and European Union arts organizations got together and financed a novel work by artists at mmmm spelling the word “bus” at, of course, a bus stop on S. East Avenue in Highlandtown. Each letter, which is made of wood and steel and is about 14 feet tall and 7 feet wide, can accommodate up to four sitters and even climbers.

As Baltimore’s Creative Alliance, one of the organizers of the project, explains, “the temporary and playful urban furniture was designed to promote interaction by having those seated inside the bowls face one another. The bowls are a social place for gathering, getting to know people, and fostering dialogue in small groups.”


Baltimore bus stop / Design Boom


Baltimore bus stop / Four one oh

In Port Adelaide, Australia, a bright, fun playground is made even more inviting with the addition of word play. Landscape architects with Aspect Studios created the space for Hart’s Mills Surrounds, which is located near a wharf. As they explain in Landezine, the new play space “draws on references of numerous trade port activities.”


Hart’s Mill Surrounds / Don Brice

Words like “purify,” “flour,” and “ever” somehow relate to the wharf’s past commercial activities, but their meaning is not quite clear to us. For kids, these word forms are scattered about as pieces to sound out and read or further explore. They are made of the same coated metal as the benches and playground equipment.


Hart’s Mill Surrounds / Don Brice



Hart’s Mill Surrounds / Don Brice

And, lastly, architects with Snarkitecture, who may now be famous in design world for their indoor “beach” installation at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. this summer, which has already been visited by more than 100,000 people, created a public art installation in the plaza just to the east of the Marlins Ballpark in Miami.


A Memorial Bowing / Noah Kalina

The giant letters, scattered throughout the plaza, hark back to the enormous “Miami Orange Bowl” sign of the stadium that stood on the site from 1937 until it was demolished in 2008. The exact same letters are reconstructed in the new plaza at the original ten-foot height, explains Snarkitecture. They can be touched, leaned against, and sat on.


A Memorial Bowing / Noah Kalina


A Memorial Bowing / Noah Kalina

They write: “Their positions capture an ambiguous moment between ruin and rebuilding; some letters stand vertically, others submerge themselves in the ground, and others lay horizontally as if at rest. As visitors move through the plaza, new alignments are created between the letters, spelling out different words as the new stadium is glimpsed through fragments of the old.”

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As If It Were Already Here / Studio Echelman

A grand new work of knots and colored rope from artist Janet Echelman floats 350 feet above the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston. Commissioned by the Greenway Conservancy, the piece’s name — “As If It Were Already Here” — is as enigmatic as the art work itself. Echelman, who recently won the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award, is a remarkable sculptor of massive floating net installations and frequent collaborator with landscape architects. This new mesh work in Boston, her home town, is some 600 feet long, 2,000 pounds, and is comprised of 100 miles of fibrous twine 15 times stronger than steel set into a pattern only made possible through a half million hand-made knots.

As with another recent piece in Seattle for the 30th TED conference, Echelman is increasingly lacing interactive technologies into her sculptural experiences. In Seattle, visitors could use a smart phone app to paint lines across the sinuous surface of her piece. Here in Boston, this new piece, which cost some $1.25 million, uses “dynamic light elements” that react with the wind. “Sensors register movement and tension, manifesting data into the color of light projected onto the sculpture’s surface,” explains Wallpaper magazine.



As If It Were Already Here color shifts / Studio Echelman

Echelman’s artwork hangs over the Fort Point Channel section of the 1.5-mile long greenway, which was tacked onto the notorious “Big Dig” project that replaced an elevated highway that cut through downtown Boston with an underground one. While the greenway is certainly better than the elevated highway, there have been numerous complaints over the years about the success of the urban design, largely because its many segmented parks are still separated from the city by 2-lane streets on either side. In a recent tour of the greenway, Christoper Hume, architecture critic for The Toronto Star, called it a “failure of the city and landscape architecture in general,” pointing out that few people seem to want to spend any time there. And Cathleen McGuigan, editor of Architectural Record, who was also underwhelmed, wondered “where can you sit?,” pointing to the dearth of public benches along the linear park.

However, local businesses seem to disagree with the critics. Boston Innovation reports that the greenway is increasingly a magnet for companies. “According to Avison Young’s Fourth Quarter 2014 Greater Boston Office Market Report, ‘vacancy in the 1.2-million-square-foot Greenway micromarket was 6.8% at the close of 2014, significantly lower than the overall market’s vacancy rate of 12.1%. The Greenway has seen 695,000 square feet of positive absorption over the past 10 quarters, a trend that has nearly halved the vacancy rate of 12.4% during the same time period.'”

Boston Innovation also argues that Echelman’s dramatic piece, with its “scope and dynamism,” has brought the greenway conservancy’s ambitious public art program to a whole new level, which could result in a sustained uptick in park use. “People are now actively searching out Echelman’s piece and are all the more likely to stroll the length of the park because of it.”


As If It Were Already Here / Studio Echelman


As If It Were Already Here / Studio Echelman

This is not the first time Echelman has been brought in to enliven a space that needed a boost. As she explained in an interview with The Dirt, “I am frequently part of a team that includes landscape architects who are addressing a fix to some previous plan, often the result of urban renewal.”

On her net sculpture now floating above the greenway, she said: “With my new project coming in, I’m part of the process of bringing this place back to the people.”

Go see it before it comes down in October.

And watch a video of the installation of “As If It Were Already Here,” which was so technically complex — it required attaching the piece to three nearby buildings — engineers at Arup were brought in:

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Painting with Light


From the series Decoding Scape (cropped) / Lee Jeong Lok

Contemporary artists around the world are painting with light, using photographic techniques to add layers of light art on top of real-world scenes. These layers, which take many forms, add depth, evoke awe, and are stunningly creative. These images also illustrate the changing relationship between real and digital realms, nature and technology, and the photographer and their studio tools.

Korean artist Lee Jeong Lok overlays glowing Korean characters, symbols, and stylized natural forms like butterflies and trees on the natural vistas he has photographed.


From the series Nabi (cropped) / Lee Jeong Lok

In Designboom, he writes: “I have been painting something that exists despite its invisible nature; places that correspond to the visible world, places beyond our sensual cognition, profoundly mysterious places that nevertheless cannot be separated from our world of cognition.”


From the series Nabi (cropped) / Lee Jeong Lok

Lok adds: “painting with light is the body, mind, and the soul harmoniously following the rhythm; it is an act of delivering positive energy felt by the body, rather than creating something from nothing.”

French artist Julien Breton, otherwise known as “Kaalam” is also inspired by light, translating his own movements with flashlights into gorgeous depictions of Arabic calligraphy.


Dead’s place. Abstract calligraphy. New York, USA, 2012. Calligraphy by Julien Breton aka Kaalam (cropped) / David Gallard

The characters seemingly appear out of thin air, although in a few photographs Kaalam doesn’t completely photoshop himself out, so you see the man behind the light, the precise moves that result in the alphabetic additions.


Billy and the Kid (cropped) / Morocco

As This Is Colossal writes, Kaalam is attracted to architectural backdrops as well as dark rooftops and streets. The contrast between the tightly-scripted visions of light and the organic urban scenes adds to the allure of these art works.


La lumière – The light. Arabic calligraphy. Jodpur, India, 2012. Calligraphy by Julien Breton aka Kaalam (cropped) / David Gallard.

And then there’s Italian photographer Paolo Pettigiani, whose augmented layer is an infrared filter, which completely remakes the Italian countryside into a candy-colored (or perhaps toxic) fantasy world. Designboom brings together a collection of these photographs.


Italian countryside infrared photograph (cropped) / Paolo Pettigiani

Like Lok, he is also showing us an unseen world, given humans can’t see infrared light.


Italian countryside infrared photograph (cropped) / Paolo Pettigiani


Italian countryside infrared photograph (cropped) / Paolo Pettigiani

Beaches, woodlands, and marshes become unfamiliar, their forms seem renewed.

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Crawick Multiverse / Charles Jencks

As Scotland becomes one of the first countries to run solely on renewable energy, communities face the question of what to do with the country’s abandoned mining infrastructure. In one Scottish village, Sanquhar, the answer is to transform a former coal mine into a 55-acre, $1 million work of land art. Conjuring images of Stonehenge, Crawick Multiverse, which opened July 10 with a ceremony of music and dance, was built from materials found on-site, including 2,000 boulders half-buried below ground.

At the urging of local residents, the landowner, Richard Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch, commissioned landscape artist Charles Jencks to build something dynamic that would benefit the region, which has been struggling economically. Crawick Multiverse, “represents the cosmos, from the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies to a spiral of rocks that make up the multiverse.” While Jencks often draws inspiration from astronomy, at the nearby Garden of Cosmic Speculation for example, Fast Company writes that it was also a natural fit for this site, where prehistoric stone art and Celtic gold necklaces designed to represent the moon have been found nearby.

Traditionally, former coal mines in the country are bulldozed and returned to the pastures they once were, but this misses an opportunity to reflect the cultural significance of a site. “Around the world, mines produce an environment which is depressing, and derelict and desolate and deserted, full of junk,” Jencks told Fast Company. “There have been laws put in place to restore these areas to their pristine original quality — that often means putting grass over the site, plowing it back, and returning it to the cows. We wanted to build something positive for the community instead.” By using on-site materials to create the dramatic earthworks rather than flattening the site, construction costs were also reduced.

A network of paths weave through the sites four different ecosystems (grassland, mountain, water gorge and desert), while navigating landforms represent the sun, universes, galaxies and comets. At the heart of the project is a 5,000-person amphitheater inspired by a solar eclipse.

5,000-person amphitheater inspired by a solar eclipse / Charles Jencks

5,000-person amphitheater inspired by a solar eclipse / Charles Jencks

Dramatic earthworks include the two galaxy mounds – Andromeda and the Milky Way – which stand at 25 and 15 meters high, respectively. The mounds represent “the cosmic ballet of the two galaxies coming together,” and each have lagoons that add to their visual impact.


Andromeda and the Milky Way Earthworks / Charles Jencks

The site was once valued for its industrial purpose, but there is a beauty in the surrounding landscape that Jencks sought to emphasize in the design. The comet walk — a ridge trail with white-yellow sandstone emulating comets’ tails — leads to the Belvedere, a lookout offering a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Again, stones from the site have been repurposed, this time into a stone hand with a finger pointing to the North Star.

Intersection boulders – the largest rocks on the entire site – mark the start of the Comet Walk / Charles Jencks

Intersection boulders – the largest rocks on the entire site – mark the start of the Comet Walk / Charles Jencks

The lookout from Belvedere / Charles Jencks

The lookout from Belvedere / Charles Jencks

“Destroyed sites are an opportunity to renew. It’s wonderful to see this park used in different ways. For a designer, such as me, that’s the pay-off,” Jencks explains in a video for the project. “This site is big enough to absorb 10,000 people a day and you wouldn’t feel crowded, so I’m really happy about that. It’ll take time to get there, but I’m sure it will be used in thousands of different ways we can’t even predict. All successful parks have to embed themselves with the locals who will use them in new ways.”

The project is potentially the beginning of an exciting series of reclamation projects poised to take hold in Scotland’s post-industrial landscape. As coal mining becomes increasingly obsolete across the country, Crawick Multiverse, in its striking whimsy, offers a practical strategy for industrial redevelopment at the landscape scale.

See a video of Jencks discussing his inspiration for the project:

And see more images.

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The Tree Church by

The Tree Church designed by Barry Cox / Barry Cox

While some aspire for grand pools or tranquil gardens in their backyards, New Zealand resident, Barry Cox, had other ideas for a 3-acre space in his own yard. Yearning for an old stone church like those he had admired on his travels through Europe, Cox united his passions for religion and tree relocation to create a 100-seat chapel at his Ohaupo, New Zealand home made almost entirely from mature trees. According to the New Zealand Gardener, as a child, Cox wanted to be the Pope, but instead, settled for the position of head altar boy in his hometown church. His interest in Christianity, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of trees, came full circle in the creation of Tree Church.

Cox, who owns the mature tree rescue and relocation business, Treelocations, spent only four years “growing” the church. By re-homing semi-mature trees, he accelerated the maturity of the structure, giving it the appearance of a project 20 years in the making.


Barry Cox with one of his dogs, Scruff / New Zealand Gardener by Sally Tagg

Cox carefully selected from a wide variety of trees for the chapel. He writes on his website that he used live cut-leaf alder trees for the roof canopy and copper sheen for the walls, as well as camellia black tie, Norway maple, and pyramidal white cedar. These species were specifically chosen for their flexibility and their ability to be trained around the iron frame of the chapel. Some of these trees have stone-colored trunks, while others have sparse foliage, ensuring that the church can always be illuminated by sunlight.

Inside the church, rows of wooden benches form a pathway to an altar that holds special significance for Cox. The altar come from his family’s church in Shannon, New Zealand and is made of marble from Lake Como, Italy, where his ancestors are from. The copper-sheen walls of the church’s interior have thick, stone-colored foliage that must be trimmed every six weeks to maintain their lush quality.


The inside of the church / New Zealand Gardener by Sally Tagg

Across from the church, Cox designed a labyrinth walk based on the walls of the ancient city of Jericho, created in 460 BC. He also constructed a large canopy from military cargo parachute to be used for after-event gatherings. Preparing for these events at the church is demanding for Cox, who told New Zealand Gardener it generally takes “five hours to mow the lawns and at least three hours of final primping to get the gardens and Tree Church to the standard to be happy for an event.”

Aerial view of the church and labyrinth / Barry Cox

Aerial view of the church and labyrinth / Barry Cox

While Tree Church was originally “designed to show how an instant garden can be created” using a tree spade, since its opening to the public in January 2015, the church is now not only “a welcomed retreat from society” for Cox, but for others as well. After urging from his friends and relatives, he decided to open the church to the public twice a week and it’s now a popular spot for photo shoots, events, and, of course, weddings. While it’s currently closed for the winter, it will open again October 2015.

Watch a video about the project

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Brightwater / Jared Green

Imagine a wastewater treatment facility where people get married, amid 40-acres of restored salmon habitat with designed ponds and wetlands. It sounds far-fetched but it’s reality in Snohomish County, Washington, near the border with King County, about an hour northeast from downtown Seattle. In a tour of the Brightwater facility during the American Planning Association (APA) conference by Michael Popiwny, the landscape architect who managed this $1 billion project for the King County government, we learn how wastewater treatment plants can become assets instead of drains on communities and the environment. The key to success was an interdisciplinary management, design, and construction team that was highly responsive to community feedback and deeply sensitive to environmental concerns. Plus, Brightwater was paid for by growth in the region. As new people are attracted to the quality of life the Seattle area offers, they move in and pay a $4,000 – $8,000 sewer hook-up fee. “The fact that new people were paying for the system helped us to sell it to the community.”

Brightwater, a 15-year endeavor that began operations in 2011, is a wastewater treatment facility, environmental education and community center, and ecological system rolled into one. It’s a 114-acre site, nestled in a wealthy residential area, with some 70 acres of trails and parks open to the public. There are 13 miles of underground conveyance pipes that direct wastewater to the plant. When it reaches the plant, the wastewater is cleaned through the largest membrane bioreactor system in North America, which makes the water 70 percent cleaner than conventional approaches. It is then sent out through a 600-foot-deep outfall pipe a mile out into the Puget sound. Excess materials are turned into “loop,” a biosolid that is sold to local farms and orchards at very low cost.

However, this description of the system doesn’t do justice the experience of being at Brightwater. Popiwny explained the critical role excellent design played in “selling this place to the community.” He said, “we realized that this place needed to be beautiful. We need it to be very well designed.” Just siting the project won King and Snohomish counties, along with CHM2Hill and Environmental Design Associates, an ASLA 2005 Professional Analysis and Planning award. Then, engineers with CHM2Hill and landscape architects with Hargreaves Associates and Mithun along with restoration ecologists and conservation biologists came together in an interdisciplinary design team to create a welcoming place that actually restored the ecological function of the landscape, turning into a place that aids salmon in their annual migration.

Popiwny briefly described the design and construction process: “We had separate contracts for the engineering and design teams. We needed the strongest engineering team and the strongest landscape architecture team. The teams completed their work separately and then we combined their efforts in the final design. Internally, we had an engineer lead the engineering team, and I led the design team. It’s important that you set up competitions for top notch talent in each category and then give them equal status.”

As the deep processing facilities were dug out of the landscape, the excess soil was turned into “decorative, geometric landforms,” by Hargreaves Associates. “These landforms alone took thousands of trucks off the highway, saved lots of carbon,” explained Popiwny.


On the way to the North 40 acres, Brightwater / Jared Green

Amid these landforms in the “north 40 acres” is an elaborate system of forests, meadows, raingardens, wetlands, and ponds that hold and clean rainwater before directing it to the streams salmon use. What was once an auto depot is now a place that provides great environmental benefits.


Restored forested habitat / Jared Green

The process of restoring the habitat and turning into a publicly-accessible park was complex, involving stream and wetland biologists, who guided ecological decisions, and landscape architects with Hargreaves. The team used 15 different types of rocks to create two different stream corridors that empty into ponds where salmon rest on their uphill climb to the places where they spawn. “The result is something similar to the original stream.”


Restored stream / Jared Green

To restore the forested wetland, the Brightwater team made it an environmental education and community outreach project. Kids from the area helped plant over 20,000 native willows. “Native willows are easy for children to plant. We had about 4-6 busloads of kids from the surrounding area per week.” This effort really helped create community buy-in and grow a sense of greater investment in the success of the project.


Forested wetland / Jared Green

As you walk out of the park and into the environmental education center, which was designed and built to a LEED Platinum level, you can see how an open-minded couple would actually want to host a wedding here. Popiwny laughed and said one comment he read about the onsite wedding online was, “it’s today — get with it!” There are pleasing views of the green infrastructure. One of the larger buildings is also a frequent host for local non-profits and community meetings.


Environmental education center / Jared Green

All of this is a result of efforts to stave off protracted lawsuits that would have delayed the project from the beginning. The parkland, environmental education and community centers, were all part of the $149 million set aside as part of the “mitigation budget.” According to Popiwny, “budgeting this kind of work upfront meant saving money over the long run.” However, the Brightwater project was still sued by local sewer districts who argued that the project “spent too much on mitigation.” The state supreme court eventually sided with Brightwater. Popiwny said “lawsuits are an inevitable part of large projects.”

Now the challenges to projects like Brightwater are “often in the guise of environmental protection.” But Popiwny just sees this as part of the broader system of checks in a democratic system. “There needs to be multiple checks as these projects can affect communities. The region benefited from the opposition to the project as it pushed us towards a higher performance, but it also made it more expensive.” The Brightwater team included other forms of technical fail-safe systems, like multiple, isolated ponds to separate acid or bases if there was an overflow or accident caused by an earthquake, and engineering all pipes and systems to withstand high levels of seismic activity.

As we walk out of the environmental education center, which features flexible classrooms for groups of all ages and enables a range of hands-on learning about the water cycle, we head to the facility itself, which is strangely odorless. “There are three levels of odor control.”


Brightwater wastewater treatment plant / Jared Green

Spread throughout the site is public art, as the project was part of the state’s 1 percent for art program. Climbing up a stairwell to the spot where the millions of gallons of cleaned water is sent out to the sound, there is artist Jane Tsong’s poem, which actively blesses the elements of the plant (air, water, biosolids) as “they depart from the treatment process and continue their life cycle into the natural world.”


Poems by Jane Tsong / Jared Green


Poems by Jane Tsong / Jared Green

Popiwny said the facility staff particularly connect with these poems, as it is reminder of how meaningful their work really is.

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Parading floats at the Sambadrome / AP

As finalists for this year’s Wheelwright Prize gathered at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) to present their research, Gia Wolff, the inaugural winner of the $100,000 traveling fellowship, returned after two years of funded research to give a lecture. The Brooklyn-based architect and GSD alumna won the prize for Floating City: The Community-based Architecture of Parade Floats. Her talk recast the famous Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as an allegory of the city itself.

When Wolff began her research, she knew very little about carnival traditions, or the infrastructure, culture, and community behind the spectacle. She learned that mapping a float’s route through the streets of Mangueira by drawing a set of precise arrows on an aerial photo wasn’t helping her figure things out. Carnaval “is off the map.” In the end, it’s not about getting the sequencing and choreography of floats in the Sambadrome, a linear stadium, exactly right–“it is not really about that, but everything else.”

The first surprising notion was that in Rio, carnival is not an event as much as a practice. Its duration and influence span more than a single show or the arena of a stadium. Wolff refers to this as the “cyclical nature of Carnaval.” It pervades the urban fabric and is deeply embedded in the culture. Preparations begin long before the performance. Samba schools practice the music and dance throughout the year and the Carnavalesco designs the floats months in advance. Costumes and floats are constructed in old warehouses, disguising the work up until the eleventh hour–no small task for a float the size of a building. In fact, the floats can’t take final form until they enter the parading ground of the Sambadrome. After months of rehearsal, the “perfect image of Carnaval” is fulfilled only during the parade. It is as if sneaking a peak would jinx the final picture.

The Samba schools also operate under a fierce system of competition. Wolff likens the organization of the schools to a soccer league. Three tiers with varying degrees of monetary and cultural capital all participate in the carnival with their respective floats. But while the first and second-tier schools parade in the Sambadrome designed by Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1984, the third tier moves through the streets, the original parading ground. This reminds the audience that the Sambadrome is little more than a glorified avenue, constructed and reserved for a single purpose and only a few days each year. The surprising permanence of this structure contradicts its relative temporary function as a street, and the otherwise pervasive nature of Carnaval.

But what really captured Wolff’s imagination were the immense and utterly spectacular floats, which set the whole parade into motion. It’s the float that drives the performance, draws the crowd, consumes much of the labor, and occupies the street. The Portuguese term for float is carro alegórico, “the allegorical car.” But she considered, “could it also be an allegory for the city itself?”

If not the city, perhaps its components. When floats “move through the city like mobile buildings,” the sheer size of the floats–in this case, some of the largest in the world–transform the exterior realm of a street into a new interior. These temporary structures are made with steel frame, wooden construction, and foam, all in the name of a thematic story, which the float, the carro alegórico, tells. The final transformational act, however, that makes the “allegorical car” into a live spectacle and truly gives scale to the construction is the addition of people.


Carro alegórico carioca, a Brazilian “allegorical car” in Rio de Janeiro / Gia Wolff

We see an image of a large, crane-like machine lifting and lowering elaborately-dressed participants into position, to become part of the float itself. Even though the performers appeared grossly out of scale, they gave the float a dimension at the “unexpected architectural scale.” And then we see a short video clip from the Sambadrome that features a boat and rowers at the center of a large blue tarp. The tarp is suspended from the hips of the performers standing in dispersed perforations, and their coordinated hip-swaying is making waves in the sea. The objects represented are everyday objects, but Wolff promises, their performance transcends the urban scale. In this way, she observes, Carnaval presents “hyper-reality as a new sort of normal reality.”

This guest post is by Lara Mehling, Student ASLA, Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, Harvard University Graduate School of Design

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Artist Peregrine Church has created Rainworks, a project that turns Seattle’s over abundance of rain into an opportunity to enliven street life. Using stencils and a non-toxic, biodegradable “superhydrophobic coating” made of nano-particles called Always Dry, Church has created a fun, do-it-yourself template, demonstrating how to use concrete pavement as a canvas for artworks, illustrations, and messages — but only when wet.

Church has created about 25-30 works of “rain-activated art,” featuring messages like “Stay Dry Out There,” a lily pond filled with frogs, a fun hopscotch game, and other natural patterns.


Rain-enabled art / Rainworks

According to Church, the coating of nano-particles only last about 4 months to a year, given wear and tear. “A rainwork is the most vivid during its first couple of weeks, then slowly becomes more subtle.”

Rainworks is actually legal, too. Church checked with the Seattle department of transportation, which gave the OK, because the works are “temporary, don’t harm the property, and don’t advertise anything.” Also, the concrete retains the same texture once it has been sprayed. The material leaves “zero residues and is 100 percent invisible, odorless, and doesn’t alter the texture of the substrate.”

In this brief video, Church says: “It’s going to rain no matter what. Let’s do something cool with it.”

Another D-I-Y way to improve street life and, really, a whole city’s approach to accessibility, is Walk [Your City]. This non-profit started by Matt Tomasulo, a landscape architect, enables communities to order and install their own signs explaining how far it is to walk to different locations. Cities like Santa Fe, New Mexico; West Hope, West Virginia; Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, have all used Tomasulo’s process and signs to create more walkable places. See Walk [Raleigh], which won an ASLA student award in 2012 — and really started it all.

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Contemporary Flower Art


Flowerworks / Sarah Illenberger

Flowers, one of nature’s most appealing experiences, continue to be a source of inspiration for artists. Their form, color, and delicate, ephemeral nature are compelling. Their unique qualities make them the focus of photography, painting, even the material for sculpture. Today, contemporary photographers and artists are highlighting the seasonal lures of plants in ways never seen before.

In Flowerworks (see above and below), Sarah Illenberg has created an ingenious series of photographs that transform flower arrangements into fireworks exploding in a night sky.

Many of her photos have an incredible sense of movement.


Flowerworks / Sarah Illenberger


Flowerworks / Sarah Illenberger

Makoto Azuma has long been at the avant garde of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, taking his living installations further into the world of abstract sculpture. Now, he is subjecting his arrangements to extreme conditions. With Iced Flowers, floral bouquets are suspended in pillars of ice. According to This Is Colossal, Azuma said the “flowers will show unique expressions they don’t display in everyday life.”


Iced Flowers / Makoto Azuma


Iced Flowers / Makoto Azuma

Azuma has even sent his arranged flowers into outer space, the most challenging environment. Last year, he launched a bonsai tree and collection of flowers up 91,000 feet into space from a launch site in Nevada. He told The New York Times Style Magazine this shows that “flowers aren’t just beautiful to show on tables.”


Bouquet in space / Makoto Azuma

And lastly, the young Spanish artist Ignacio Canales Aracil has created unique sculptural forms out of pressed flowers, only made possible after being woven into place on large vessel-like molds.


Flower Vessels / Ignacio Canales Aracil


Flower Vessels / Ignacio Canales Aracil


Flower Vessels / Ignacio Canales Aracil

This Is Colossal describes his process: “The pieces dry for up to a month without the aid of adhesives and are sprayed with a light varnish to protect the sculpture from moisture. The final pieces, which could be crushed with even the slightest weight, are rigid enough to stand without support.”

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