Reference Page: February 2008
36 Ear to the Ground
For those puzzled or intrigued by Jarosław Kozakiewicz’s association of planets with orifices, his Web site contains more information about his “Concept of a Humanistic Theory of the Solar System” and stunning images of his work, which often blurs the line between fine art and architecture: www.kozakiewicz.art.pl. Click on “Works” and then “Projects” to find Nature of/for Living (2007), which imagines the desolate Modernist towers of a Polish apartment block transformed into massive Chia Pets, with plants growing in the porous concrete of the building’s exteriors. Kozakiewicz exhibited Transfer at the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale, www.labiennale.art.pl/kozakiewicz.html. The project suggested a new direction in urban planning, with enclosed grass-lined pathways for pedestrian and bike traffic raised above the cars below. Visitors to the Mars Project in Germany should be sure to plan their visit to coincide with Transnaturale, www.transnaturale.de, a yearly festival that includes
light-and-sound installations projected onto the dramatic surfaces of the old power plant at Boxberg and other remnants of the area’s long history of coal mining. Many former coal mines in the United States have also been reclaimed, although it is unclear whether any of them have been transformed into avant-garde cultural parks. Find out more at the Mineral Information Institute’s Web site: www.mii.org/reclcoal.html.
40 Green Growth
Ross Lovegrove’s Solar Trees are rustling some leaves, as skeptics and Luddites alike balk at the prospect of steel supplanting natural greenery. Says one commenter on Inhabitat.com: “We’re living this weird divided, technological paradigm in which we find ecological salvation in mechanical ingenuity rather than the true power and performance of nature.” (Search for “Ross Lovegrove,” click on the Solar Trees story, then scroll down.) Lovegrove, of course, isn’t the only one to push fake flora on the urban landscape. Until recently, a set of stainless-steel trees adorned New York’s Madison Square Park, and they could’ve passed for the real thing had it not been for the blinding glare. Watch artist Roxy Paine discuss his work at www.madisonsquarepark.org. (Click on “Mad. Sq. Art,” then “Launch video.”) Meanwhile, Columbia University scientist Klaus Lackner has developed synthetic trees capable of sucking gobs of CO2 from the atmosphere. Speak of ecological salvation! Go to www.grestech.com.
58 Lovefest 2008
Harrumph! Philip Nobel is back to his old grumpy ways, and we don’t blame him. New York City’s bus shelters are indeed a cruel misnomer come winter’s chilly winds. On the bright side, they’re part of a vast municipal project that’s peppering the city with shiny new newsstands and, most important, public toilets—the city’s first in nearly 20 years. Cross your legs nevermore? We did say municipal. Details available here: www.nyc.gov/html/dot. (Scroll down to “DOT Initiatives,” then click “Street Furniture.”) As for the New York Times Building, we leave it to you to determine whether those Saarinen tables and Panton chairs amount to an interior that’s “ice cold,” per our peevish columnist, but we’re guessing the paper’s rumpled news assistants are delighted they’re allowed to sit in anything worth more than their paychecks. View a slide show at Metropolismag.com. (“Archives,” November 2007, “The 100-Year Home,” and click on photos at right.)
70 Coming to America
Tom Dixon, www.tomdixon.net, is truly a designer for everyone. He’s been known to create products for the express purpose of giving thousands away for free, but he still finds time to lend his definitively cool contemporary design to elitist clubs in countries with a legacy of strict social hierarchy. The in-house publication of the Dixon-designed Tokyo Hipsters Club, the Hipsters Journal, www.tokyohipstersclub.com/html/magazine, is a window onto the mind of the Japanese jet set. The entire site smacks of Japanese glorification of Western “cool,” and the exclusively European and American “hipsters” profiled in the “Hipsters file” are a little troubling. Certainly there are Japanese artists, designers, and musicians that are hipper than Tom Wolfe, no? Dixon was one of ten curators who selected their favorite new product designers to be featured in the book &fork: 100 Designers, 10 Curators, 10 Good Designs (Phaidon, 2007). Like all great product-design books, it will elicit equal parts wide-eyed wonder and acute longing in its readers, who may be tempted to throw away everything they own and start over using it as their guide. See some of the designs here: www.phaidon.com/andfork.
78 A Garden Blooms in Queens
In its quest for the elusive LEED Platinum rating, BKSK Architects, www.bkskarch.com, has endowed the Queens Botanical Garden with some green design features that are more often associated with utopian science fiction than with Queens. The green roof is just the kind of design idea that Reference loves. It decreases heat, creates fresh air, provides relaxing garden space, and produces the wonderfully bizarre and weirdly soothing effect of high-tech buildings overgrown with shrubbery that made I Am Legend so awesome. Learn more about the benefits of green roofs and how you can create your own at www.greenroofs.org. Another incredible feature of the new building is its use of recycled rainwater, which allows it to stay disconnected from the sewer system. If you’re inspired by the garden (or the Unabomber) to attempt off-the-grid living, check out www.off-grid.net for tips and encouragement. The garden has come a long way since its humble origins at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. By embracing the latest in sustainable technology, it embodies a future quite different, but no less amazing, than the one imagined at the fair. For a glimpse at the way New York imagined its tomorrows all those years ago, and some amazing examples of retro-futurist architecture and design, watch a downloadable compilation of amateur films taken at the fair at: www.archive.org/details/NewYorkWorldsFair.
86 Carbon-Neutral U
When it comes to college environmentalism, leave it to the Ivies to be chronic overachievers. Take Harvard, which rates LEED proj-ects as highly as Nobel prizes, then tracks the progress online: www.greencampus.harvard.edu/theresource
(click “LEED submittals”). Meanwhile, Cornell devotes a master’s thesis of a site to its eco-fabulous lake-chilled water system. Read the science, down to the last 48-inch steel slide gate valve, at www.utilities.cornell.edu. (Click on “Lake Source Cooling,” then “Heres How It Works.”) Not to be outdone, Yale has the Student Task- force for Environmental Partnership (STEP), which has taken to scraping cafeteria trays, an effort to guilt students into “Efficient Eating.” An online spreadsheet details dormitories’ waste pound for pound at www.yalestep.org, much to the horror of libertarians and dieters campus-wide. The university also boasts a new(ish) Office of Sustainability, whose site, www.yale.edu/sustainability,
features a sustainability podcast, international sustainability news, and a blog advising on everything from sustainable gift ideas to sustainable weddings. Next up: Sustainable tuition?
“Massin is first and foremost a man of culture,” Laetitia Wolff writes in the introduction to Massin, a massive, 3.9-pound monograph paying homage to
the octogenarian French graphic designer (Phaidon, 2007). Oui! Though relatively unknown in the United States, Massin helped define the style of late-twentieth-century French books; his playful “Folio” paperbacks for the publishing house Gallimard (www.gallimard.fr) were to French households in the 1970s what Atari was to Americans in the 1980s. Wolff’s writing is stiff and incurious, but she smartly lets Massin’s work speak for itself, dedicating some ten pages to his best-known piece, a wild absurdist gloss on Eugene Ionesco’s first play, La Cantrice Chauve (Gallimard, 1964). Another titillating work: his typographic transposi-tion of Edith Piaf’s “La Foule,” a mashup of cardboard, printed letters, and—weirdly—condoms. (To quote the chanteuse: “Si! Si! Si! Si!”) Massin, who smokes two cigarettes a day and consumes 88 pounds of chocolate a year, lives in Étampes with his dog, Proust. A man of culture still.