Reference Page: April 2008

Pocket Pads
We love that an architect in the third-largest state in the union has erected living quarters the size of a dollhouse! Jay Shafer, of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, in Sebastopol, California—population 7,774; square footage 52,411,392—has designed spaces as wee as 70 square feet, the rough equivalent of a standard American office cubicle or the tiniest room allowed in an early-twentieth-century New York tenement house. Anything smaller, a Supreme Court justice told the New York Times in 1908, is “hardly large enough for the cage of a wild beast.” Shafer’s own Lilli­putian home features a toilet that shares space with a shower, and a loft bed with about as much head room as the average coffin. Just like a studio in the Village! Take a tour at www.tumbleweedhouses.com. In Washington, Ross Chapin Architects has devoted entire blocks to pint-size clusters of matchy-matchy cottages and manicured pedestrian thoroughfares. There’s something vaguely Stepfordian about the whole thing, but judge for yourself at www.rosschapin.com. The coolest little house in our book is the sensibly named MiniHome. Less cramped than a Tumbleweed but more designed than Chapin’s wares, it’s the best-looking anti-McMansion on the block—and it’s good for the environment to boot. Unfortunately, none had been built as of press time, though staff at Altius Architec­ture assure us that loads are on order. Here’s to a big launch. Visit www.altius.net.

High Design Underfoot
Reference learned some wonderful new words while fact-checking this month’s Far Corner, a thinly veiled tribute to Fast Times model citizen Jeff Spicoli. Gnar, for instance, is skate-speak for “cool and dangerous,” as in “gnar hand plant!” or “gnar boots!” It enjoys many offshoots, such as gnartastic, gnarcore, gnarest, and gnar-gnar, all of which stem from the much more formal gnarly. Sick, meanwhile, is a catchall for “excellent” and is best understood when paired with terms like dude, totally, and broham. To wit: “Philip Nobel is a totally sick dude, broham.” That’s a compliment, we swear! Take a peek at www.urbandictionary.com for more translations. Or have a look-see at Thrasher, www.thrashermagazine.com, “the magazine for people who live skating,” according to our expert source (a childhood friend). Articles range from odes to sloping skate parks to interviews with ironic rock bands that booze on Courvoisier while getting lap dances from retirement-home hotties. (John Waters wishes he thought of that.) Of course, you’ll need a board too. Visit www.earthwingskateboards.com to learn about Brian Petrie’s “premium composite skateboards designed for speed and danger.” Righteous.

Missing Component
Steven Heller would love for food writers to notice teak dining chairs and menu fonts. But they don’t seem interested. For visual details overlooked by the New York Times’ dining section, explore www.jean-georges.com and admire the Thai/Cambodian–style dining room at Spice Market (403 West 13th St., New York). Your next stop is www.morimotonyc.com, where you can embark on a virtual tour of Tadao Ando’s beige-and-white glittering space (Mori­moto, www.morimotorestaurant.com, 88 Tenth Ave., New York). Not yet convinced that Frank Bruni should write about napkin colors and check holders? Then take a look at Morimoto’s logo, designed by Pentagram, www.pentagram.com, and get to know the graphic designers behind Spice Market, at www.number17.com. A former Times art director, Heller doesn’t limit his criticism to ex-colleagues: in his universe, Boston food writers have been just as remiss at noting the design details of fine dining. For the “wild fusion of graphic motifs” that New England papers left out, go to www.viamattarestaurant.com. (79 Park Plaza, Boston.) At Via Matta (“Crazy Way” in English), surrealist paintings by Alexander Goren­stein, www.davidsongalleries.com/artists/gorenstein/gorenstein.html, are as much a part of the experience as the focaccia.

Necessary Ingredients
Celebrity cuisiniers in this month’s kitchen feature count a large variety of technological innov­ations among their secret recipes. Dan Barber’s key equipment, the Combi-Oven, blends three cooking modes in a single stainless-steel oven—steam, circulated hot air, and the two combined. Models are available at www.blodgett.com/combi_home.htm. (Blue Hill at Stone Barns, www.bluehillnyc.com, 630 Bedford Rd., Pocantico Hills, New York.) For a kitchen reminiscent of a French neighborhood bistro, try hanging copper pots à la Alice Waters. Go to www.creativecookware.com/copper_cookware1.htm. (Chez Panisse, www.chezpanisse.com, 1517 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, California.) Meanwhile, Jamie “Naked Chef” Oliver (see page 64) is hawking his own bunch of wares at www.ontwerpwerk.com/ontwerpwerk_voor_jamie_oliver. In Chicago, Grant Achatz of Alinea (www.alinea-restaurant.com, 1723 North Halsted St., Chicago) uses a conical Volcano Vaporizer, which can be ordered at www.thevolcanovaporizer.com. And Wylie Dufresne, the industry eccentric (one of many, to be sure), keeps a tank of liquid nitrogen among his pots and pans. (WD-50, www.wd-50.com, 50 Clinton St., New York.) Tanks can be purchased at www.labequip.com.

One Bryant Park
In an age of eco-anxiety, Cook + Fox Archi­tects, www.cookplusfox.com, are rethinking the skyscraper with a series of energy-efficient, water-saving offices. At the new Bank of America Tower—now the second-tallest building in New York City—not only storm water and wastewater but also groundwater are collected from the site as well as from the neighboring Condé Nast building, with the holding tanks built right into the structure. It’s so simple! To meet the engineers behind this wastewater-recapture system, go to www.jbb.com. For a more holistic approach, check out Project Showcase: The Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, an exhibition at New York’s Center for Architecture, through May 3, that presents the 1,200-foot-high structure as a living ecosystem: www.aiany.org/centerforarchitecture/exhibitions.php. In their quest for a harmonious building, the architects of One Bryant Park have turned to biomimicry, a new “science” that imitates natural processes “to solve human problems”: www.biomimicry.net. Will interacting with the natural world help Bank of America’s employees overcome the depressing mortgage crisis? Probably not. But a Platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, www.usgbc.org, might boost morale.

The 10 Rules of Lois
It’s hard to believe that Esquire was once the iconoclastic and progressive voice of the Amer­ican male. Consider last month’s cover: Arnold Schwarzenegger looking positively sagacious in a slate-gray suit, clasping together two mammoth hands, which were once content to lift barbells and annihilate cops on the silver screen but now maneuver a Hummer around Sacramento. Then consider two of the iconic covers from George Lois’s time at Esquire: Muham­mad Ali as a martyred St. Sebastian and Sonny Liston as Santa Claus. Lois, after all, is to midcentury Amer­ican graphic design what Hunter S. Thompson was to gonzo journalism, which is to say he was brilliant in both his art and his self-promotion. Lois donated several covers to the Museum of Modern Art, www.moma.org, on display until next year in the museum’s Architecture and Design Galleries, and much of his groundbreaking work has been reprinted in Cover­ing the ’60s: George Lois—The Esquire Era (Monacelli, 1996). Meanwhile, his Web site, www.georgelois.com, claims that “the legendary George Lois is the most creative, prolific advertising communicator of our time.” Such confidence! We tip our hat to the man who turned Richard Nixon into a lip-puckering cover girl. If only Esquire had been so bold with Arnie, himself no stranger to gender-bending. (See Total Recall, 1990, and Junior, 1994.)

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