Art

October 16 2008




New York artist Tara Donovan is a master of seeing. Not just looking, but actually seeing. Her sculptural, one-of-a-kind art is based on her ability to see, imagine and create forms, shapes and textures from ordinary objects that most of us don't even notice. She creates art from rolls of tape, pieces of pencil, Styrofoam cups, paper plates, napkins. Her sculptural works evoke thoughts of nature. A perfect example is the 'Untitled' cloud formation she created in 2003 from Styrofoam cups and glue.

The 38-year-old Donovan has recently accomplished several things many artists never achieve. This September, the first monograph of her work was published by visual book press, Monacelli Press (now owned by Random House). A couple of weeks later, on October 10, a traveling retrospective of her work opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

But perhaps the biggest deal is the extra half-a-million dollars that she will have to work with in the next few years. In late September, she received a phone call from the John D. and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation. She was informed that she had been made a Fellow of the Foundation and that she will receive a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation 'genius' grant. It is a no-strings-attached support of her work over five years. She was selected as one of 25 recipients in 2008. Others include a physician, an astrophysicist, a violinist, a computer scientist and representatives of many other endeavours who were selected for their creativity, originality and potential to make important contributions in the future. - Tuija Seipell

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Travel

October 15 2008




Thanks to the jet-set generation, demand for boutique hotels is increasing around the world. The first boutique "chain," W, started the trend for a network of branded urbane-style properties and has just launched its latest edition - W Hong Kong.



Located in West Kowloon, the hub of the buzzing financial district of Hong Kong, the new W brings a large dose of New York style to this cosmopolitan Asian business capital. 



The area is right on the commercial waterfront, so instead of luxury yachts you are more likely to look out onto imposingly large freight and cargo ships. It works though, juxtaposing the designer, luxury environment with the gritty, functional realism of the hotel's location.



Overall the hotel's design is pitch-perfect for the W brand - New-York- style interiors with the W signature quirk in the form of butterflies (butterfly motifs everywhere, we loved it) and surprising contemporary art works such as a fiberglass seal holding up a grand piano (yes, a seal holding up a grand piano, it's for real and a feat of creativity and engineering).



Other standouts include the spectacular rooftop pool, featuring an incredible mega-scale mosaic of a butterfly graphic created by Australian designer Fabio Ongarato. The pool looks out over the whole island - one of the most breathtaking in the city. 



The rooms, designed by Australian interior desiger, Nicholas Graham and Japanese designer, Yasumichi Morita, are comfortable and welcoming. Each designer was assigned a specific floor to design, so each floor has its own personality, countering the cookie-cutter feel of most large hotels.



As for the suites - let's just say that they're apty titled  - "Wow" and "Extreme" - and are suitably enticing. Enough to turn a short stay in long one....- Laura Demasi

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Music

October 13 2008



You kind of have to feel a little bit bad for Foals. When everyone else was out getting girls, each and every member of the band was most likely holed up indoors, listening to Gang Of Four's Entertainment! and doing their philosophy homework. Their tracks are such focused lessons in tight, mathematical indie rock that’s there’s no doubt in my mind that they perennially struck out with the ladies. But we mustn’t feel too bad for Foals, after all it lead them to harness all that angst, awkwardness and romantic dysfunction and stuff it inside the Antidotes LP, which is still dripping out tantalizing singles, the latest of which happens to be the standout Olympic Airways.

While the remixes from minimal royalty Supermayer and disco revivalist Ewan Pearson are a big draw, we can’t forget the original Olympic Airways which has got the same scrupulously constructed rattle and hum you'd expect from UK group, from the fret-choking guitar work to the nod-'n-jerk chorus. And that soaring build midway through is like a fringe-swinging cherry on top. It's the band doing what they do best with an air of total effortlessness. And it's not getting old anytime soon. - Dave Ruby Howe

Foals MySpace

Watch Olympic Airways directed by Dave Ma

Music

October 8 2008

It’s difficult to find a new world culture that's as musically rich as that of New Zealand. Picking up your brother’s guitar and starting a band with your best friend and his sister is a rite of passage for most Kiwis. The Cool Hunter finds three grown-up versions of these backyard operations who are now taking the music of New Zealand to all corners of the globe, and that's just scratching the surface.



Liam Finn is very much a product of his genealogy, but that only partly explains the appeal of his beguiling music. Finn plays through a memory of family holidays and kids toying in the backyard while his delicate arrangements cast you into a spell conducted only by your own reminiscences.



Equal parts fastidious and inspired, there is barely a hip-hop album coming out of New Zealand that doesn’t have P-Money's production and DJ nous behind it. The epitome of the quiet performer, P-Money keeps schtum and lets the stomp of his gleaming productions blow your headphones.



In a world plagued by the manic, Fat Freddys Drop stand back, holding up a ‘hi-tek soul’ elixir.  This is music to be shared by close friends over a quiet cookout that runs from the long breezy summer afternoon into a warm, star-lit evening. By Matt Shea


Architecture

October 7 2008




Dupli Casa, a private residence by the Neckar river, near the old town of Marbach in South- Western Germany, is a wonderfull example of connection and fluidity. It connects the inside with the outside, up with down, air with ground and - most cleverly - past with present and even future.



From the outside, the three-storey concrete villa looks like a bit like some sort of a fiberglass motorboat job gone funny, yet it also manages to look immensely appealing and intriguing. From some angles, the structure appears to be standing upside down - the lower exterior rim spilling onto the lawn and forming a part of a roof structure, if the building were to stand the other way around. It could have been blown there by the wind; it could be a StarWarsian vehicle frozen in place; it could be just taking off to outer space.



The outdoor swimming pool and the white surface surrounding it seem like a perfect reflection of the house, almost as if the house had been face down on the ground, and when it was lifted off the ground, the process had left an imprint of a swimming pool on the ground and the large window opening in the house.



The views from the inside are amazing, especially from the vast ground-level openings that again, give the sensation of flying, being airborne, weightlessness. Everything is fluid, flowing and smooth.
 
All of this is very much in keeping with the main inspiration for the house. The new residence follows the footprint of the previous dwelling and its numerous extensions. The idea was to let the 'family archaeology' continue in the new building. It's a house that remembers its beginnings in 1984 yet projects boldly into the  future.



Dupli Casa is the work of Jurgen Mayer H., founder and principal of his cross-disciplinary studio. J. Mayer H. Architekten in Berlin. Other team members include Georg Schmidthals, Thorsten Blatter and Simon Takasak, plus Uli Wiesler's architecture studio based in Stuttgart. - Tuija Seipell
 


Offices

October 2 2008



Trust Melbourne (the city that holds Design close to its bosom) to be the home of the latest initiative from ANZ Bank; a Breakout & Learning Centre designed by Hassell. As the title suggests, this large, flexible, multi-purpose space is designed to encourage creativity, however it is in the execution that the freedom from constraints of a “normal” office environment is apparent.  Forget about boring corporate colours, obvious branding and drab office furniture (in the style of hit series “The Office”).  



The use of unexpected materials and contradictory colors in the space and its furnishings produces startling results. Plywood, paint and patterned rubber with industrial raw finishes are topped off with a pop of fire-engine red and frog green! Various-size meeting rooms are equipped with state-of-the art technology to enhance the group experience. Perhaps my favorite design features are the “Tree of Knowledge” and the “Giant Foot”. Just like in a fairytale, the tree grows between floors in a natural raw shape reminding us that the childlike imagination is where creativity is ripest. Beneath the tree, the Giant Foot reminds us about reality and perception.  — Kate Vandermeer




Events

October 1 2008



Hector Serrano Studio has curated and designed the exhibition Spain Emotion as well as the communication campaign of the Spanish participation at this years Tokyo Designer's Week. The event is organized by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) and will take place in the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo from 30 October to 3 November 2008.



More than an exhibition, Spain Emotion is a celebration of the best Spanish design in the Tokyo Designer's Week that encompasses not only this exhibition, but also conferences and seminars; a forum that provides with an exceptional opportunity to get to know at first hand those who are behind the products. The aim of Hector Serrano Studio this year is for emotion to be the guiding threads of their story, and the products its main characters. To this end, they have created a space that aims to surprise, entertain, seduce and encourage, rather than simply showing; four large stages where light dramatises and bathes the surroundings and the pieces in colour. Colour to communicate the vitality and energy with which the Spanish character is so often identified. In short, an experience aimed at revealing the latest in Spanish design, in a most emotive way. - Tuija Seipell




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Design

September 29 2008



Great surroundings will not camouflage poor programming in movie theatres. No matter how swanky the theatre, if it shows poor movies, we just won’t go. Which isn’t to say that we have given up on movie-theatre design. We still wish that one day, somewhere, someone is going to design a decidedly different, interesting and exciting movie theatre.


 
Glimpses of brilliance are visible in the new Light House Cinema at Smithfield in Dublin, Ireland designed by Dublin’s award-winning DTA Architects Of course, you really need to design – and judge – a movie theatre so that it looks and functions best when people are using it. So, having not paid personal visits to the new Light House, we cannot say for sure, but the images we have received of the empty space indicate that the play of light, colour and height works exceptionally well here.
 


Light House cinema has been a bit of an institution in Dublin. It started showing Irish, independent, foreign-language, art house and classic cinema 20 years ago, closed in 1966, and re-opened this summer in its new, customized space. The four-screen, intimate art-house cinema includes a wonderful, inviting and open cafe that looks like something you’d see at an art museum, not a movie theatre. The leader of the Light House project at DTA was Derek Tynan and the project architect was Colin Mackay.


 
The new cinema benefited from the financial assistance of The Arts Council, the Irish Film Board, and the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. For Dublin’s city planners, this was to be a cultural magnet and a focal point for the largest mixed-use development ever in Dublin’s inner city, the massive rejuvenation plan for the historical Smithfield Market area.


 
And if you’d like to make our wishes come true, please let us know of any supreme movie-theatre design concepts you’ve seen, designed or commissioned. We are all eyes and ears. - Tuija Seipell

See also Home Theatre and AMC Pacific Place Cinema in Hong Kong.

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Design

September 24 2008



In most cities, strategic downtown street corners are flanked by enormous, old banks, the ornate cathedrals of capital designed to impress and intimidate. With the massive changes in real estate values and consumer banking habits, such monuments to Mammon are no longer smart or necessary. But what amazing opportunities such massive commissions must have been for the architects of the day! And what depressing alternatives we’ve experienced since! Luckily, online banking has made a bank visit almost obsolete, but when you must visit, most of the time you’ll find a boring, convenience-store-type standardized box – retail banking in the worst meaning of both words.


 
But we are starting to see a change. Several new bank design concepts are in the works, and some have been launched recently, including CheBanca! in Milan by Crea International. The concept for CheBanca! (translation: What a bank!) reflects the brand’s simplicity, transparency and innovation. When Crea International co-founder Massimo Fabbro will speak at POPAI Italia in November on the power of physical brand design to bring to life a brand's language, spirit and values, he will no doubt mention CheBanca!


 
And now that we have seen a few examples of fabulous bank design, we want more! If you’ve seen, designed or commissioned one, let us know. — Tuija Seipell



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Events

September 24 2008



A glass of expensive champagne on a swanky rooftop bar just doesn't cut it in the competitive world of product launches, which are all vying for VIP attendees and press coverage. 

Chanel decided to think outside of the square for the launch of the brand's new perfume, ‘Eau première,’ staging the event at a private Parisian apartment. Chanel recruited acclaimed set, window and interior designer Jean-Marc Gady to create an experiential event for guests, a "scenography" tasked with bringing the new fragrance and the heritage of the brand to life. Gady has created spaces for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon and Apple.



The designer transformed the apartment into a set, which guests were encouraged to explore as the event played out. While they played with artfully arranged test sprays,  a fountain sent drops of the new fragrance into the air, sweetly permeating their senses. The evening ended with the unveiling of large format photographs of Chanel's iconic "faces" over the years, from Marilyn Monroe through to Nicole Kidman. - Lisa Evans