Archive for the ‘favourite’ Category

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

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.

Interpretation of Enzo Mari’s Sedia Chair by Russell Baker, Bombast Furniture

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

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Russell Baker, Allahppliqué, 2013
Pine, paint, tape, cushion, hockey sticks, pom-poms, leather, fabric. 1 of 1.

I ended up buying this chair at the auction I wrote about previously. I had no intention of buying anything nor any budget to buy but that is why they serve you champagne at auctions. Though I guess if I’d thought about it the chances of  leaving without this chair were always going to be small. The proceeds go toward building a new Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver.

I know Russell as a fellow designer. Like me, he comes from a visual arts background. He himself makes chairs (and other furniture) and is also a writer and art critic. His company, Bombast Furniture, is named for the cotton stuffing inside upholstery. The street meaning of “bombast” does not apply to his furniture, though, which is not loud and which is carefully designed and constructured to last at least 100 years.

There is humour in Allahppliqué but of course that doesn’t make it frivolous. I could talk about this piece at length but instead I will let Russell do it. Below is the text he wrote to accompany the chair. It stands as a statement about design in general, and I love it for its re-statement of the original critical or revolutionary impetus in Italian design.

 

Allahppliqué: Toward a Radical Bricologic
Russell Baker

It was while I was sitting in front of the Hermes boutique in Terminal 4, Heathrow, when transiting from Tangier (aka the Interzone) to Vancouver, that I first intuited that Enzo Mari, the man who famously called Rem Koolhaas a “pornographic window dresser” to his face—it was while sitting in front of the Hermes boutique that I realized Enzo might never have heard of Dina, the greatest living belly dancer in the Arab world. How this (merely probable) fact might relate to my project, I was at that time unsure. (How does one account for solitudes of this nature?) When I subsequently passed the Hermes boutique at YVR upon my return home, I had a better idea of how, precisely, the Enzo Mari/Dina axis (as I now refer to it privately) related to my project.

To back up a few steps—and for the purposes of clarity—I should add that before my departure for the Interzone I had been invited to participate in a fundraiser auction for Presentation House Gallery. The Gallery had offered me an Enzo Mari “Sedia” chair and invited me to do whatever I wanted to the chair. Upon completion, my manipulated version of “Sedia” would be offered at auction to supporters of the gallery in a relatively standard dinner-format fundraiser.

The “Sedia” is of course the most famous manifestation of Mari’s legendary DIY project (“Autoprogettazione”) from 1974. “Sedia” is a form rich in associations, and has been variously interpreted; it has been read as a gesture of disgust, as an offer of freedom, as a shot over the bow of the good ship consumerism from “the critical conscience of Italian design.” It is also, now, repackaged and delivered in a ready to assemble (RTA) format, something different than it once was.

My challenge, as I understood it, was to reinvigorate or reactivate the revolutionary potential lurking beneath various layers of historical accretion that had attached to the “Sedia” since its original appearance. As Mari has himself observed, the chair found its way very quickly into the arena of pure kitsch — was assimilated almost immediately into the marketplace as an (admittedly exemplary) manifestation of the decorative category “rusticity”. How then to reactivate a revolutionary object that had, by its creators own admission, enjoyed such a fleeting moment of relative power uncontaminated by market forces? To put it more simply, how was I to save “Sedia” from becoming just another signifier of belonging for an ever-growing group of puritanical internationalist consumers whose apparent appreciation of “simplicity” so perfectly paralleled an earlier generation’s drive toward “rusticity” (cf. Terence Conran, terra cotta, balsamic vinegar, Jennifer Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous). No small challenge indeed!

To understand the “Dina Thing” (by which I mean my unconscious concatenation of Hermes, Enzo Mari, and Dina) you would have to have had the experience of being shadowed by CIA operatives in Cairo, just before the so-called Arab Spring; to be innocently enjoying a belly dance extravaganza, at four in the morning, in a night club that seemed the perfect meeting place for secret agents, crooks, fellow travelling fruits and gamblers — a veritable Eldorado for the fun-loving but decidedly dishevelled Gulf State “Haute Volée.” (Boy can they drink!)

Such was the experiential ground of the symbolic fusion that linked Hermes, Enzo Mari and Dina in my mind. For it was upon identifying the CIA operative in that bar, and realizing that his reason for being there was me, that I came to a rather concrete understanding of the new geopolitical realities. (It didn’t make me feel safer.) That I had somehow been mistaken for a “person of interest” in the most serious of international conflicts in our time for simply expressing a passing interest in the Islamic world (how else can I characterize my interest in Dina?) was food for thought. Could the dominant world order (symbolized here synecdochically by the “global” brand Hermes), be so fragile that my peripatetic, merely touristic wanderings through the Islamic borderlands actually attracted official attention? If this were so, might there be in this fact a clue as to how to reactivate “Sedia”?

What I was looking for was a recipe for (market) unassimilability that yet might somehow simultaneously invite a higher union. Was such a thing even possible?

Chair, Russell Baker

—Tangier, Morocco. October, 2013

Soviet Saturn vs. Hoover Constellation vacuum

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Vacuum - Soviet Life - "Constellation"

From “Soviet Life“, via Google Translate: “Hoover “Saturn.” In production since 1962 in Lithuania. His prototype – American «Hoover Constellation» 1955. Soviet engineers gave the American a spherical shape, and added features (the ability to use a blow-off mode) and mobility. As a nice bonus – the cosmic name and plastic ring “around the equator.” That was more like a planet.”

Пылесос «Сатурн». Производился с 1962 года в Литовской ССР. Его прототип – американский «Hoover Constellation» 1955 года. Советские инженеры придали американцу сферическую форму и добавили функций (возможность использовать в режиме выдувания) и мобильности. В качестве приятного бонуса – космическое название и пластиковое кольцо «по экватору». Чтобы был больше похож на планету.

Below, my own Hoover Constellation Four Forty Six, inherited from a great aunt and beloved by me. It is an also object of desire for my friend Anakana, a sort of high-level vacuum appreciater. Seeing the Russian Saturn, though, has made the Hoover Constellation shine paler in the vacuum firmament.

vintage Hoover vacuum

Ken Lum’s Pecha Kucha talk in Vancouver

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Ken Lum on the demolition of the Pantages Theatre and everything else in Vancouver

Vancouver artist Ken Lum took the opportunity of a Pecha Kucha appearance to talk about the his city, its history and its habits, and its demolition and disappearance. Though he said little about his own work, none of the concerns or ethic of his art were missing. His offhanded, throwaway tone only barely conceals outrage. And there’s a surprise ending.

Like me, Ken is one of the few Vancouverites with deep roots here. Of course Ken has now left the city, and we miss him.

How many others will leave now that the city is up for grabs by Big Money, derelict government and careless stupidity?

Ken’s right when he says that the demolition of the Pantages Theatre—the oldest vaudeville theatre in the country, soon to be condos—was an “abomination.”

The following slide got an immediate laugh of recognition from the audience. ”It just shows you how crummy the details are now when you look down at the street…”

Ken Lum - "how crummy the details are when you look down at the street in Vancouver"

 

Apelle – boat-like house by Finnish architect Marco Casagrande

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Apelle house by Marco Casagrande

Another pleasing structure by Finnish architect Marco Casagrande. (See other projects here.) Called Apelle, it’s made to resemble a boat, and was in fact assembled by local boat carpenters.

“Apelle is a wooden one family house located in Karjaa, Finland. The building rests in a natural harbor like a boat in a sheltering pocket surrounded by bed rocks and trees. The interior space of Apelle is a continuous tube that grows gradually along the house and through the main opening and terrace into the forest. Along this axis the collective and private actions are tuned according to the times, functions and needs of the day and night.  The same space is used for everything from sleeping to eating and from socializing to work as a studio space or a gym. This kind of multi-functional space of “tupa” or “pirtti” is common in traditional Finnish architecture. A free standing cube serves for water with a sleeping loft on top…

Apelle is well insulated with wood based materials and during the harsh winters it heats up by thermal heating supported by two fire-places. The main building volume is structurally supported by a smaller volume on the side acting as an outrigger.
Apelle is built by two local carpenters used to for building both houses and wooden boats. According to the carpenters, this is a boat.”

Apelle house by Marco Casagrande - fireplace

Apelle house by Marco Casagrande

Apelle_Interior_Marco Casagrande