Reference Page: November 2007
Running on Empty
Cars queuing at the pump, gun-toting gas-station attendants, 55 mph speed limits: it’s hard to imagine that anything good came of the 1970s oil crisis, but Mirko Zardini, director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, www.cca.qc.ca, does just that in his catalog essay for the exhibition 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas. A meta-analysis of post-oil-shortage architecture, this densely packed think piece references everyone from Yoko Ono and Jean Baudrillard to Ivan Illich. For a more complete history of the political, economic, and cultural impact of oil, see Daniel Yergin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power (Free Press, 1993). Epic indeed. This tome comes in at 928 pages, 2.7 pounds!
Wary of cloning projects involving large, dangerous animals, Reference hopes that the scientists at the World Mammoth and Permafrost Museum, designed by Thomas Leeser, www.leeser.com, have taken steps to ensure that their efforts don’t result in a Jurassic Park–style mammoth rampage. We also hope they clone Lyuba, the cute baby mammoth named for the wife of the Russian hunter who discovered her. A picture (of the mammoth, not the wife) is here: news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/070711-mammoth-picture.html. Until the first mammoth is cloned, we’ll have to make do with elephants, which can be seen live via the Elephant Cam at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park: www.sandiegozoo.org (scroll over the “quicklinks” menu). The zoo’s scientists are also continuing the frozen-biology trend Stateside in their “Frozen Zoo,” where the DNA of 675 soon-to-be-extinct species are preserved: cres.sandiegozoo.org/projects/gr_frozen_zoo.html.
Embracing the Now
Bid a queen’s farewell to dowdy design. London, per Metropolis jet-setter Karrie Jacobs, is fast becoming a sanctum of übermodern urbanism. Credit the 2012 Olympics, the impetus for a massive new collapsible stadium, improved transit lines, and a host of long-term planning initiatives. For construction updates and other news, see www.london2012.com/news/index.php. Another emblem of London’s “utter fearlessness of the new” is the Tate Modern, whose excellent Web site, www.tate.org.uk/modern, allows visitors to peruse the art collection by clicking on a 3-D floor plan. Finally, there’s St. Pancras Station, www.stpancras.com, the new home of Europe’s superfast Eurostar train and, most important, the world’s longest champagne bar. (Paging Christopher Hitchens!)
After the Aftermath
Resident provocateur Philip Nobel sheds his brass knuckles in this month’s “Far Corner” to declare that “New Orleans is going to be fine.” Such optimism! The city’s visitors’ bureau, of course, would agree. At www.neworleanscvb.com, you’ll find an inventory of the “many sensory extravagances that endure in the unique city,” from Mardi Gras and Zydeco dance halls to the Cajun cuisine of Paul Prudhomme, of Meat Magic fame (click on “What to Do” on the left-hand menu). Definitely not on the list: day trips to the Lower Ninth Ward, the geographic sinkhole that Katrina reduced to a pile of Lincoln Logs in 2005. According to this recent footage, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ImqSAFhw08, little has changed. Luckily, Daddy Pitt is taking time out from adopting children to help rebuild: blog.nola.com/times-picayune/2007/09/brad_pitt_is_helping_rebuild_l.html. Metropolis executive editor and father figure in his own right Martin C. “The Saints Go Marching In” Pedersen is leading his own New Orleans recovery effort, the Retail Deployment Initiative, corralling designers, retailers, and local groups to open transitional stores in underserved areas. Stay tuned for details.
Beyond the Spectacle
If Dubai is set to become the capital city of the twenty-first century, then Reference hereby declares the twenty-first the century of insane contradictions. One of Dubai’s newest attractions, the Chill Out ice bar, which is sure to enrage environmentalists as much as the Ski Dubai indoor ski resort, www.skidxb.com, offers compelling evidence. The bar is made entirely of sculpted ice imported from Ontario in refrigerated shipping containers to the stifling Dubai heat. And although it is nominally a “bar,” it complies with Muslim law by not serving any alcohol. Take a few moments to prepare for cognitive dissonance and then watch a video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS76cAlDXPE. One of the most popular English-language blogs from the emirate, Secret Dubai Diary, secretdubai.blogspot.com, has provided a chronicle of contradictions since 2002. Check out the entries with a “sex” tag for goodies like the controversy over the planned opening of a Hooters in Dubai, and the increasing popularity of hymen-replacement surgery. For the ultimate experience in contradictions, bring along a copy of Evil Paradises: Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (New Press, 2007) on your next trip to Dubai. Read about the social inequality and economic contradictions of this “evil paradise” while staying at the opulent Burj Al Arab hotel. The Burj Al Arab is, of course, famous in the architectural world for its elegant “sail” design by the British powerhouse WS Atkins, www.atkinsglobal.com, but is most famous here at Reference for its Hermes bathroom amenities and pillow menu featuring 13 choices: www.burj-al-arab.com.
Can LEED Survive the Carbon-Neutral Era?
James S. Russell questions LEED’s viability, but Grist magazine goes for broke in this New Republic–style takedown of the green-building program: www.grist.org/comments/soapbox/2005/10/26/leed. Undeterred? The U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site, www.usgbc.org, features a knot of resources for sustainable building, from certification guidelines to LEED point values. (Not that you’re LEED-point mongering.) For a glowing case study, see www.kresge.org, where the nonprofit Kresge Foundation has posted specs and photos of its new green headquarters like proud parents of a firstborn (click on “Our green headquarters”). Meanwhile, the European Union has its own gloss on energy efficiency: require buildings to meet and publicize minimum energy-performance standards. Brilliant! Have a look at europa.eu (continue in English, click on “energy,” then “energy efficiency,” and “energy performance of buildings”). Reference’s favorite energy-efficient European building: London’s 30 St. Mary Axe, www.30stmaryaxe.com/index2.asp, affectionately known to locals (and us wannabe locals) as the Gherkin. Foster + Partners, www.fosterandpartners.com, gave the building its unique shape to maximize natural sunlight and reduce the need for air-conditioning. Here’s hoping that LEED prompts U.S. buildings to be as green, and as delightfully pickle-shaped, as this one.
Starting from Zero
We don’t know about you, but the pictures from 21_21 Design Sight’s “Chocolate” exhibition gave us a powerful craving for well-designed Japanese chocolates: www.2121designsight.jp. We’ll see you in Tokyo at Japanese confectionary giant Meiji’s 100% Chocolate Café, www.choco-cafe.jp. Look for us in the corner, our mouths stuffed with TabLetter chocolate letterforms: www.meiji.co.jp/shopping/choco-cafe/tabletter. If reading about Issey Miyake fueled your hunger for fashion rather than chocolate, satisfy the craving at Tribeca Issey Miyake, the brand’s flagship store, in New York: www.tribecaisseymiyake.com. Designed by Frank Gehry protégé Gordon Kipping, www.g-tects.com, the store contains a huge titanium sculpture, or “intervention,” by Gehry himself, stocks all of Miyake’s collections, and serves as an exhibition space. Read the full March 2002 Metropolis feature on Miyake and the shop here: www.metropolismag.com/html/content_0302/miy. Further forays into the world of Japanese design (for the purposes of name-dropping the hottest Japanese designers—or, in our case, finding cute presents for our girlfriend) can be made via MoCo Tokyo, an excellent design blog, www.mocoloco.com/tokyo, and Ping Mag, a Tokyo magazine “About Design and Making Things!”: www.pingmag.jp. Also see Ping Mag’s Flickr page for wonderfully context-free images of Tokyo design: www.flickr.com/photos/pingmag.