Friday, August 31, 2012

Blinded By The Light

Last weekend I commandeered my brood to Freemans Restaurant, located at the end of a dark and gravely lit alleyway in NYC. Against all disciplined intuition, I was practically skipping down the sketchy lane with children in hand like a vacuous mosquito being sucked toward a deadly repellent coil. Curiously, the distant sight of holiday luminaries festooned from the doorway's entrance had me forsake all that my father had ever instilled in exercising prudent judgement calls. Once menu was safely in hand and Shirley Temples ordered, I realized that a couple of spiffy lights are social circuit breakers. Clearly, no matter the conditions of the surroundings, lighting implies the promise of safety.

Here's the quagmire for Malcolm Gladwell. When I was a Landscape Architect for the New York City Housing Authority, lighting plans were intentionally sparse. Illuminating areas only created a hospitable area for drug deals and petty crime to play out. Thugs relied on lighting to see monetary denominations to conduct "business" (It's only my provincial suggestion but, perhaps they should operate in colourful Canadian currency?). Contrary to conventional wisdom, by omitting these fixtures and dressing the site in a cloak of darkness, the public open space actually became safer.

So, the theory behind lighting is obviously not binary. In my opinion, lit areas should not be considered safe destinations in urban arenas and those with holiday twinkle lights - are a flashing yellow (a potential wolf in sheep's clothing)...approach with caution but order the three cheese macaroni when you are safely seated with menu in hand:)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

peacock pavers

Peacock Pavers are a great alternative to bluestone when considering stonework in the landscape. I love how they can be used both in and outdoors and are surprisingly affordable. My architect-crush, Bobby McAlpine uses them almost exclusively in his projects as seen in his book The Home Within Us

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To All The Girls I've Loved Before

It is a true atrocity that I have not showcased my affinity for Martha Schwartz until now. She greased my slide from Architecture to Landscape Architecture with her ersatz take on design. Schwartz first gained exposure when she engineered a formal garden using carbed-out bagels and purple, aquarium gravel in Boston's Back Bay. Eventually, she would be commissioned to design an installation to replace Richard Serra's controversial Tilted Arc in Manhattan's Federal Plaza. Her ability to think beyond the box and still nail the target is fantastic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Robert Frost

"The only way around is through"

Monday, August 27, 2012

High and Tight

Heatherwick's Seed Cathedral at the Shanghai Expo was architecturally unreal. Poised to school visitors eager to learn of the Royal Botanical Garden Millennium Seedbank, the structure was sown with 60,000 transparent optical plugs. Each plug then had a seed planted at it's root tip. From the interior, light filters through this punctuated seed library and from the exterior, there's a rolling landscape brush cut for passive recreation.

Friday, August 24, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

Tori Tori is a restaurant in Mexico City designed by Esrawe Studios.  An amalgamation of  a Mies van der Rohe glass and steel structure with a fishnet stocking has me thinking...  it's sexy. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guggenheim Redux

The sense of arrival you feel at Peggy Guggenheim's Venice outpost is bellissimo. The green, Botero-style columns beached at the entrance are the bomb. Mimicking the structural pilings from the water, they rhythmically pull you into the space. Their large-scale is perfection too. Recalling the Lion Gate, a Mycenaean treasure, they make you feel childish in proportion. Suddenly, I was cued to be "seen and not heard" in anticipation of entering the museum. Brilliant.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

At the Heath

The pergola at London's Heath hemorrhages the design brain. The rough-hewn materials are a lovely departure from the vaguely gauche whitewashed Walpole standards stateside. It's silvered patina, the wayang kulit-like shadow play spawn from the intricate lacework of overhead beams and task plantings of wisteria.... burgeons a spree of landscape inspiration.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Espaliered trees are a visually tantalizing layer in any outdoor setting.  Historically, this technique of growing trees was used to increase fruit production in agricultural areas. Farmers realized that if they braced the trees along sun drenched brick walls, they could rely on the heat of the bricks through the night to speed up fruiting. Complete beautility.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mail Pattern Boldness

I started reading an article in Vanity Fair about a "Beatrice Inn" spin-off in Chinatown. The piece became far more savoury when I realized that the proprietor, Andre Saravaiva was former graffiti artist, Mr. A.
Painting Parisian mailboxes in Bansky's documentary "Exit Through The Gift Shop" was his crowning, illicit glory. Love it -these gestures are what transform vast bolts of urban fabric into identifiable and delineated neighborhood pockets.
Now, you catch Mr. A behind bars. His latest, NYC nightclub "Le Baron".

Friday, August 17, 2012


I can distinctly remember my singular thought when my older siblings subjected me to the movie Tommy when I was 6. "I don't get it". Another delusion of similar sequence washed over me when I recently read Architectural Digest's feature on the "design genius" behind the 1990 Draimes Garden in Ohio (above). Huh?
Dan Kiley was the true pinball wizard whom originally penned this installation in 1953 for the Miller Garden in Indiana (below).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Slim's Pick'ins

Noted photographer, Slim Aarons spent his career posing himself as a fly on the fence panels of Hollywood's cognoscenti. His work is documented in a small but stunning collection of books. From a design slant, Poolside With Slim Aarons is the most satiating. Each image is a parable that illustrates the interplay between social harmony and tricked out landscape architecture. It's pictorial eavesdropping through the Baroque lens of Big Brother.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

London Bridge

I'm loving this Northwest London footbridge. Members of the shoe leather express must be positively soft-shoeing over the beautility of Heatherwick's engineered feat.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Daniel Ost is the bomb of the floral industry. In the sea of competition, he basks on the periphery as a lonely jewel. The monogamous relationship that he has cultivated with his medium truly defines the bandwidth of his concise talent. Each simple but emotive installation detonates a sensory oasis. Genius.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Caspian Must See

Zaha Hadid's glass and reinforced concrete Heydar Aliyer Cultural Centre in Baku is splendiferous. With a Le Corbusier-like pitch, it appears that the roof structure was sown from the creases of the surrounding topography. The blur between the emerging landscape and architecture is fantastic.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Textile Field

The Raphael Gallery in London's V&A Museum is home to a sensational new installation by brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Crafted from foam and spanning 90 feet, the giant bed poses as a vast landscape to relax on while enjoying the surrounding art. The color palette for the upholstery was honed from the tones found in the surrounding Renaissance landscape paintings. I love how the artwork becomes a blanket around you. Genius.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Moss on Washington Street

While having lunch at the Standard Grill, I spotted a street artist peddling his charms from the further sidewalk. Over one heck of a Cobb Salad, I watched as he leafed through a Rolodex of Kate Moss-inspired canvases from the flatbed of his mobile office. With his Charles Barkley-sized dog at his side, the gregarious artist worked his illegal outpost on the sidewalk with such envious finesse. The generous social interactions "man and dog" cultivated with passing pedestrians was just marvellous.
I love the random opportunities that are spawned from large scale, urban street life. They seem to take root from the inhospitable shade and rock of concrete ambiguity.
For whatever reason, the anonymity of these landscapes seems to breed litters of personal exchanges and delightfully engages chance encounters. Brilliant.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

urban scar

I was at the corner of 72nd and 5th Avenue waiting to cross the road into Central Park when I noticed this quiet installation. It was as if the sidewalk had torn open under the weight of the city and someone had kindly sewn it back together using industrial brass sutures.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Late Bloomers

Recently on exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery was Yayoi Kusama's "Flowers that Bloom at Midnight". I see it as a peculiar mix of Damien Hirst, Jean Dubuffet and MacKenzie-Childs. Interpretation aside, I'm not crazy about the yawn-worthy landscape surrounding the sculpture. How unfortunate.
If however, the sculpture was placed in a monotone, cold and imposing concrete jungle.....I would smile. A lethal injection of color to the urban tissue, it would appear as three dimensional graffiti. Now we're talking baby.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Starchitect Seating

Zaha Hadid has launched her first line of outdoor furniture.  A true departure from the bulky Adirondack chair, this installation feels flavoured by the Head of the Charles.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Fourth Plinth Project

I'm all over the Fourth Plinth Project in London's Trafalgar Square.  In each corner of the open space supports  a sturdy plinth featuring expected gubernatorial sculptures - except for the fourth plinth which has never been trimmed with a stone occupant. 
Fantastically, London deemed this site as an excellent depot to house art installations.  The recent winner of the Fourth Plinth Project is local talent Antony Gormley.  His bid invites volunteers to take over the plinth for one hour segments to do whatever they please.  The imaginations of these participants is extraordinary.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

monkeying around

Artist Allen Hirsh was recently interviewed by the New York Times to discuss his muse; a monkey named Benjamin. Relying on a mix of mediums, he has depicted this capuchin monkey tirelessly. My fav were the two pieces he set in the landscape.

Using the urban fabric of SOHO as a canvas, he erected giant sized photos of Benjamin on flat and perpendicular planes.

Located above the "hidden" entrance to trendy La Esquina Restaurant, is another portrait but this time, an elevation crafted from aluminum.

Small contributions to New York City's expanse reduce the scale of anonymity and play into context the need for intimacy in an urban setting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Diamond in the Rough

The Natural History Museum of Utah has recently updated it's score by the hand of Todd Schliemann of Ennead Architects. The harmonious dialogue it plays with the surrounding Wasatch Mountains is fantastic. Relying on a simple palette of materials (stone walls and copper roof), Schliemann was able to sew the mammoth structure into the natural environment with scaled sensitivity. Love it.