Reference Page: September 2007
For those lucky few who achieve the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches dream (or more likely, inherited the family fortune), multimillion-dollar second homes on the eastern end of Long Island are the prized pigs of success. Clad with the blue ribbons of backyard pools, SUV-lined driveways, and lots of class homogeneity, the decked-out abodes run upward of $5 million (a handful sold for more than $20 million this summer; go to www.hamptons.com/realestate.ihtml for a taste of the horror). The late Harry J. Brown tried to tone down the extravagance of Hamptons living, hoping to clue residents in to a little concept called “self-restraint.” His aptly titled monograph American Dream:
The Houses at Sagaponac—Modern Living in the Hamp-
tons (Rizzoli, 2003) details the original mission of the Sagaponac settlement and includes renderings of the projected Modernist starchitecture. But a perusal of the asking prices on the project’s Web site, www.housesatsagaponac.com, shows that the focus is not so much on revolutionizing the overinflated housing market as on injecting
tasteful architecture into the midst of blah McMansions—unfortunately, in exchange for a Hamptons-hefty price tag.
Our beloved self-righteous columnist Philip Nobel will freely admit he’s loathe to write a puff piece merely to gain popularity among the so-called starchitects (Remember his May column, “Die Another Day,” exposing the vicious circle of fluffy reviews and bad architecture?). So we nearly went into cardiac arrest when Far Corner reached our desks brimming with unadulterated love and nary an insult for SHoP Architects, this month’s object of Nobel’s affection. Don’t, however, dismiss the lovefest as a sudden gust of undeserved critical goodwill—in the words of jazz legend Al Jarreau, “It’s hard not to love you,” dear SHoP. Its Web site, www.shoparc.com, is the antithesis of most other architects’: concise, easy to navigate, and unpretentious yet smart. The firm’s work is too, though we wish more of it were shown on the firm’s Web site. Until then, outside sources will have to suffice. There’s a 20-image slide show with projections of New York’s revitalized East River at www.lowermanhattan.info/future (click on “Looking Ahead” then “East River Waterfront Development”), a slew of boxy-cool SHoP-designed furniture for sale at www.unicahome.com (enter “SHoP Architects” in the search box), and a New York
magazine feature on the firm’s radical vision for NYC’s
airports at nymag.com/news/features/27826.
“Promiscuous new ecologies”
sounds sexy. The phrase is part of the tagline for Jason Johnson’s blog (robotic-ecologies.blogspot.com), devoted to documenting news and events from the hot and burgeoning field of interactive architecture. Johnson is generous on his site, updating frequently and posting a sea of photos capturing various stages of his students’ projects, like the post devoted to a former UVA (now MIT) student’s work, Crowd Farms, a dynamic floor model that harnesses energy simply by being tromped upon: robotic-ecologies.blogspot.com/2007/08/crowd-farms.html. Johnson is not alone in the vast blogosphere: Michael Fox, of Fox Lin Architects, fills his blog, robotecture.com, with links to interactive projects undertaken by both his firm and SCI-Arc students. One such project, “Bubbles”—an installation unveiled this summer at a research center in Los Angeles—has its very own site: ibubbles.blogspot.com. Inspired by the countercultural art installations of late-1960s groups such as Utopie, the big white balloons of Bubbles inflate and deflate depending on visitors’ movements. The Robotecture site calls it “airy sociopolitical revolution.” We call it “good fun with big things that inflate.”
From Runways to Room Service
It’s a sad fact that not one Christian Lacroix bustier is to be found in the collective closet of the Reference staffers (admittedly, one of us is male). Solace, for now, comes via the glamour accessible online, such as this photo of Oscar-winner Helen Mirren draped in a Lacroix gown made especially for the Dame: www.moviecitynews.com/awards/2007/winner_mirren.htm. Assured that our custom-made Lacroix couture will one day be in the works, for now we bask in the designer’s more democratic projects: a short video of his colorful Montpellier tram gliding by on YouTube (enter “tramway Montpellier” in the search bar); a photo series showing every inch of the brightly hued TGV interiors, www.railfaneurope.net/pix/fr/electric/emu/TGV/Reseau/cab+interior/pix.html; and then, of course, the fall 2007 fashion show, also on YouTube (search for “Lacroix”). We’re allowed to dream of sequined boleros, aren’t we?
Hear Color, See Sound
Christopher Janney is a baby boomer who’s with the times. Evidence? His “Sonic Forest” installation got center stage in 2005 at the annual hipster extravaganza Bonnaroo Music Festival—a video of concertgoers interacting with it can be found on YouTube (enter “Sonic Forest” in the search bar). Moreover, the man even keeps an updated MySpace page: www.myspace.com/christopherjanney. On it you’ll find a rather debonair picture of the 57-year-old artist, a link to a video of “Rainbow Cove”—his sound-and-light installation at Logan Airport—and a link to a downloadable Boston public-radio interview with him that aired in May. Curiously enough, among Janney’s 29 MySpace friends (of late) is former West Wing star Allison Janney—a relation perhaps?
Peter Gluck’s Social Work
To peruse Peter Gluck’s portfolio on his Web site, where one can view multiple slides of his firm’s current and recently completed projects, is to lose no less than 20 minutes of a well-intentioned workday to the wispiest of daydreams. Sure, there are the admirable socially responsible public projects—schools, playgrounds, ball fields, and community centers—along with their theoretical opposites, high-rise condominiums. But it’s the homes that encourage one to indulge in a Rocky Mountain reverie of coffee sips on a supermodern veranda, or a swim in a tiered swimming pool, or a sockless go at a long novel in one’s own study cube in the woods of upstate New York. The firm has published two monographs, Ten Houses (Rockport, 1997), featuring dwellings alone, and A Modern Impulse (Oro Editions), encompassing its oeuvre, so to speak. And yes, in the Great Big City—as we at Reference can well attest—the yellow lamplight coming from a secluded home is as rare as a reasonably priced one-bedroom. That’s why we collectively doff our caps and look to the day when the cozy Little Ajax affordable-housing development will have a Brooklyn brother. Besides, maybe Gluck can make dreams come true: just now in Aspen, Gluck & Partners is building an office complex around a modest home that looks to have been designed in Willy Loman’s wildest retirement imaginations. Have a look-see: www.gluckpartners.com.
Ada Louise Huxtable
If our Text Message exchange with Ada Louise Huxtable only whets the appetite for the critic’s wit and charm, check out Phillip Lopate’s rundown of her important career in the January 2006 issue of this magazine. It’s complete with our house photo of Huxtable doing her best Biggie Smalls impression (eat your heart out, Tom Wolfe!). Our subscribers can access that story and an accompanying conversation with our own executive editor, Martin C. Pedersen, by entering “Huxtable” in the search bar at www.metropolismag.com. And speaking of Wolfe, whose 1981 From Bauhaus to Our House introduced the double-breasted culture critic into the genre, the two (sort of) went to blows over the proposed landmark status of 2 Columbus Circle, a crumbling Modernist structure that she unceremoniously dubbed the “Lollipop building,” now in the throes of construction after a redesign. Slate offers a rundown of the aesthetic argument (Huxtable has by now proved victorious): www.slate.com/id/2093606. If you are impressed with ALH’s lack of sentimentality, you may well enjoy her biting critique of the Ground Zero plans, which can be read from her post at the Wall Street Journal: