Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Jón Gnarr, Mayor of Reykjavik, on his dream for Iceland

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Reykjavik
Photo of Reykjavik by Gunnar Steinn /
Made by Iceland

Jón Gnarr, mayor of Reykjavik and member of The Sugarcubes, shared Made by Iceland‘s photo on Facebook and wrote this:

My dream

(It’s pretty naive but I just have to get it off my chest)

I think Iceland offers a unique opportunity for the world. It is a small community with only 350.000 inhabitants, highly modern and educated within less than 3 hours flying time to London and 5 hours to New York and endless possibilities, beautiful nature and security for families, good schools and solid infrastructure. And don’t let the name scare you. The weather is not so bad. The average temperature in Reykjavik is actually higher than that in New York!

There are so many ideas that could be tried out here to see if they work, and then be exported around the world and adopted to bigger places for the benefit of mankind.

Iceland is a stable and peaceful nation with a low crime and corruption rate and offers renewable electricity that is about 35% cheaper than in the US. Everybody speaks English, many speak German, French, Spanish, Polish and many other languages.

Human rights in Iceland are among the best in the world, women and LGBT among others. Iceland is the best place in the world to be a woman. Here nobody cares if you are gay and you will not be discriminated against.

In my dream scientists, artists and creatives, entrepreneurs, designers, philanthropist and dreamers will flock to here and join hands to make something special happen. Something that has never happened before.

I dream of a UN Peace University. An international Research center for Arctic studies, climate change and global warming. Research and development of electric cars. Peace conferences and peace talks. Artistic happenings. Natural history museum. An international institution of non violent communication.

I want to make Iceland the Home of Hope for Humanity.

So please come before Sauron and Ronald MacDonald take over the place :)

Sophisticated sundial clock in Medellín, Colombia

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Medellin_5180

A little hard to tell from these photos how beautiful this clock is. Depending on which side of noon you are, you view either one side or another. I believe noon hits (more or less) the circle in center. ON the top of the two black polls is a tiny mirror that depending on angle hits grooved lines from 1-12 that run horizontal on the curved walls. One of hundreds of beautiful, functional objects in Medellín’s many, many free public spaces.

It’s one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever visited, and one of the best run. Its generous provisions of civic space and enjoyment is actually really moving. The new few posts will gives some examples of this.

I’m really glad the UN Habitat World Urban Forum was held here this year, or I may never have experienced this place. (I attended as part of my research for my upcoming book on UN Habitat ’76 in Vancouver.

sundial clock, Medellín, Colombia

Medellin_5178x

Medellin_5181x

And thanks to Carlos from Medellín who has lived all over the world, speaks a ridiculous number of languages and was a great guide for this UN tour of the city.

Carlos with sundial clock, Medellín, Colombia

Ultra Ruin in Taiwan by Finnish architect Marco Casagrande

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Ultra-Ruin_jungle_Casagrande

“Ultra-Ruin is a wooden architectural organism that is growing from the ruins of an abandoned red brick farmhouse in the meeting place of terraced farms and jungle. The weak architecture follows the principles of Open Form and is improvised on the site based on instincts reacting to the presence of jungle, ruin and local knowledge.”

For more photos of Ultra Ruin see Marco’s post here. For my other posts on Marco Casagande’s work see Chen House and Apelle House.

I have always liked Marco’s work. His use of materials has an ancient feel – you often can’t tell if it’s modern or very, very old. The locks/door handles on this house are both beautiful and ingenious.

Taiwan is lucky to have a climate that allows free flow between indoor and outdoor area and you can see this realized in all Casagrande’s projects there.

This is a beautiful tree house – or system of houses between tree bridges – sitting fairly lightly on the land.

Ultra Ruin by Marco Casagrande Casagrande

Ultra Ruin by Marco Casagrande Casagrande - roofs

Ultra Ruin by Marco Casagrande Casagrande - bench

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Ultra Ruin by Marco Casagrande  bath

door_lock+closed

Marco Casagrande - Ultra Ruin - door_lock+open

Torggler doors

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Klemens Torggler door evolution

Two brilliant, beautiful door designs by Klemens Torggler. Above is the Evolution; below is the Stahltür. They work on a similar principle.

I find the doors so beautiful that to some extent questions about practicality seem a bit irrelevant, but let’s deal with those first. One architect asked what design problem the doors solve. The answer is perhaps that they avoid the space-inefficient arc of a swing door on the one hand, and the functional and maintenance problems posed by sliding door tracks on the other. While they are perhaps not as space efficient as sliding doors embedded in a wall, it’s a fact that good sliding doors are costly and time-consuming to install after the fact. I’ve done it and it’s a pain; you have to remove a lot of drywall, turn the studs on edge, install (which can be finicky) and re-drywall. Whilte it’s true that you can install sliding doors on the face of a wall (ie. a “barn door”), that too requires tracks and/or hangers. The Torggler doors avoid all of that hardware and setup. I’m unclear how difficult these would be to install, not to mention fix once the hinges or articulating folds break down, they look as if they have few parts.

The doors are probably not particularly soundproof without the addition of a door frame. Also, with the Stahltür’s almost medieval clang you could hardly creep in or out of the bedroom quietly. It’s as if there might be a knight on the other side when you open it. Or a dragon, or a dungeon.

Another reaction was “hopeless for children,” but then before a certain age children can’t reach door handles either. And if we’d had this in the house when I was a kid I’d have been profoundly impressed.

Quite apart from the basic function question, I would say that aesthetic pleasure and wonder are an important function too.  The beauty of this object at rest and in motion never gets boring. And how often is it that we see a familiar object like a door reconsidered in an entirely new way? This was a bit like seeing a Delorean open for the first time, but far more magical and arguably more practical.

The Evolution alternately reminds me of the slow wing flap of manta rays, Japanese origami, or actual magic.

I’d love to have both of these doors. My first thought was a wish my mathematician father were still alive to see them.

Friend and architectural photographer Krista Jahnke first told me about these.

TorgglerdoorStahltur

Update on the Ming Sun Building – low-income housing in Vancouver’s boomtown architecture threatened

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Orange Cars Powell, 1973, by Fred Herzog

Orange Cars Powell, 1973, Photo reprinted by kind permission of Equinox Gallery and Fred Herzog. (Contact the gallery if you’re interested in purchasing one of this edition of 20.)

The Ming Sun Building is still standing. So far. Please see the previous post on the building, written in December when its survival seemed even more precarious.

The Restore 439 Powell group posted the above photo today. Thanks to eminent Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog and Andy Sylvester of Equinox Gallery for allowing us to republish it. Fred’s support of this conservation effort has been valuable and most welcome. We were glad to have him visit the site in late December.

The Ming Sun building at 439 Powell Street, one of the 20 oldest buildings in Vancouver, still remains under a demolition order by the City of Vancouver despite being deemed structurally sound by more than one set of structural engineers. One of these engineers actually told me that it’s much more structurally sound than many functioning buildings in the city. One of the reasons it’s in such good shape is that it was meticulously maintained over the years by its various owners. The Ming Sun Benevolent Society has a perfect record regarding inspections and in fact exceeded the City’s requirements decade after decade, including installing sprinklers inside when it was not required to go to the expense of doing so. All of this maintenance was methodically documented, so anything you read in the media about it being ill-kept or derelict is absolutely, patently false. It is very disturbing to hear staff and a councillor continue to spread this misinformation, when they’ve been shown ample evidence to the contrary. This building was a clean, well-lighted place, to lift a phrase from Hemingway, and it provided excellent housing for low-income seniors. Even the appliances were all new.

The situation with the Ming Sun Building, as explained in the previous post, was triggered when the building immediately to the east was hastily demolished by the City after it suddenly (perhaps not so mysteriously) developed structural problems. Subsequent to that demolition, the City arbitrarily deemed the Ming Sun building at 439 Powell to be unsafe as well. Here are only a few of the questions we have about this situation: If as more than one set of structural engineers has confirmed the Ming Sun building is structurally sound, why did the City hastily deem it a hazard and evict all its elderly tenants? Why not bring in engineers to look at it before evicting? Having evicted the elderly, why did the City not find those tenants replacement housing, leaving an organization to attempt to re-house them all in under 10 hours before nightfall? Then, having disallowed the Ming Sun Benevolent Society and its tenants from entering, thus leaving the building open to vandalism, why did the City not secure the building? Not surprisingly, extensive looting of items like copper electrical wire and other recyclable metals ensued, causing major damage to the interior. This was then followed by suspiciously expert sabotage of the sprinkler system during which someone turned the building’s water back on at the main, smashed key sprinkler heads and then left all the pieces on the floor (indicating this wasn’t looters looking for metal to recycle). The building was then flooded overnight, and while this failed to destroy the building, it caused extra heartbreak and damage. Where was the City while all this was going on? Additionally, why was a police investigation into the vandalism called off? There are too many questions that remain unanswered regarding events at the Ming Sun building. I have omitted many here, particularly regarding high-handed actions on the part of the City and some of its staff. And then there’s the neighbour who owns the lots on either side of the Ming Sun building (including the one where his now-demolished building stood) and who has in the past openly stated he would buy the Ming Sun’s lot too. There are other even more concerning facts and questions which I’ll leave for now, but the story cries out for a TV drama.

When the above picture was taken in 1973 by renowned Vancouver photographer Fred Herzog, the Ming Sun Benevolent Society building was light blue and bore a sign saying “Bak-Mei Kung-Fu Association” above one of its two shopfronts. But its history goes back much further, to 1891, and includes a long history in the Japanese community. Many “firsts” in the Vancouver’s Japanese community occurred there, and then enjoyed a similar role in the Chinese community under the Ming Sun Benevolent Society. The building thus acts as a lens for viewing a large chunk of the city’s history. Take a look at the website that our Restore 439 Powell Street group has built for ample evidence of this.

To sum up, the Ming Sun Building was needlessly deemed uninhabitable, the tenants were needlessly evicted, damage was needlessly allowed to happen, and a huge amount of work was needlessly inflicted on the many of us trying to rectify the situation.

The City of Vancouver must pay restitution for everything that happened under its orders and on its watch. It needs to foot the bill for getting the building up and running, just the way it was when City Hall set all of this needless destruction in motion.

Fred Herzog at Ming Sun buiding December 2103
Fred Herzog at 439 Powell, now known as the Ming Sun building

I will post more updates soon. If you have any spare cash, please make a small (or large) donation to our fund, which helps pay for security and other immediate repairs/building protection until we can get the situation sorted out.

I’ll end with an item from the UN Habitat Declaration on Human Settlements, as part of values affirmed by the international coalition of municipalities:

“We shall promote the conservation, rehabilitation and maintenance of buildings, monuments, open spaces, landscapes and settlement patterns of historical, cultural, architectural, natural, religious or spiritual value.”

Other interesting stories on this building that may be of interest:

•  Detailed account of the demolition fiasco from the 439 website

•  A letter on the important, early Japanese history of the building in historic Nihonmachi or Japantown, by a well known activist in Vancouver’s Japanese-Canadian community.

•  Omni TV aired a history of the Ming Sun Benevolent Society, mentioning its role in funding the overthrow of the Qing, the last imperial dynasty in China, and helping Dr Sun Yat-sen in Vancouver.

•  Two very interesting articles in the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong daily with an enormous readership:
Outrage at demolition order for Chinese elders’ Vancouver home – Distraught Chinese tenants of Vancouver benevolent home claim property developer is behind council’s action to evict them
and
Volunteer watchmen guard the legacy of Vancouver’s threatened Ming Sun Society

Ming Sun Building, December 2013, 439 Powell St Vancouver

Mother of Pearl

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry singing Mother of Pearl at Musikladen

Merely because this blog was previously bereft of this song, which was an oversight.