Category:architecture

njtpk_signs_far.jpg

Can I just say how much I like the new aesthetic of the New Jersey Turnpike expansion project? I honestly cannot imagine that many people going to or from the Pennsylvania Turnpike; at least in my 10 years of DC-NYC shuttling, I've never seen that kind of volume, but aesthetically, I'm generally for it.

It's not the only place that has it, and maybe it's just the standard now in overpass and on- and off-ramp construction, but instead of bulky concrete pillars, the ramps are held up by huge, road-spanning I-beams. They all have a beautiful, oxidizing protective finish, too, like the best Richard Serras.

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Even cooler, though, are the new electronic signs, which are constructed of square, Cor-Ten pipe, and they have meshed-in spaces for maintenance. Not just catwalks, or ledges, but actual spaces. What we perceive as a flat thing--a sign--turns out to be a space. Like the window halllways at Grand Central or Philadelphia 30th Street Stations. The Turnpike signs are New Jersey's newest architectural icons, suspended across that state's iconic landscape: a 12-lane highway.

And someone designs this stuff. Probably someone at PKF Mark III, the firm which the Turnpike Authority awarded three contracts in 2011, totaling over $44 million, for the "Installation of Variable Message Signs at New and Existing Locations on the Turnpike."

njtpk_signs_cu.jpg

Oh wait, nope. Here it is, from the NJ Turnpike Interchange 6 to 9 Widening Program website: "Advanced Fabrication of Overhead Span Sign Structures for Variable Message Signs and Variable Speed Limit Signs," awarded to RCC Fabricators, Inc., on August 13, 2009.

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The project was one of the highlights in the 2011 newsletter for the Railroad Construction Company, Inc. family of companies [pdf, img above]. RCC Fabrication made 61 VSM sign structures, 41 for the Turnpike and 20 for the Garden State Parkway. The structures span up to 95 feet, and were built entirely off-site. I can't tell from the acknowledgements who is actually responsible for this form, but it works.

The architect/sculptor Tony Smith famously described the revelatory experience of driving down the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike in 1951 [pdf]. Me, I would like to move in before it opens. And before it gets too hot.

Previously: Michael Ashkin, "For Months He Lived Between The Billboards", 1993
Related infrastructure as domestic architecture: That Minnesota Skyway for sale again/still
Mies Gas Station

Has anyone ever bought artist wallpaper from Maharam Digital Products? Or have you ever seen it installed? 1 I'm kind of fascinated to know when, where, and who. Because is it seems to exist in this unusual space between pattern, image and object, between art and decoration. It has that visual punch, but compared to an artwork artwork, it's pretty cheap. [I think it starts at around $5-10,000 per installation.] Also, it's consumable, a one-time deal. You can't take it with you, and perhaps more importantly, you can't really resell it.

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So it really is for love. But it's also a little weird, like a counterfeit somehow. It feels strange that it's so customizable, a servicey product. Some artists' wallpaper feels close to their "actual" work. Some really tried to get into the essence of wallpaper as a tradition and a medium. I'm undecided which is the better approach.

Guyton/Walker's Orange_Lemon_Chex looks like it came straight out of an installation. But then if you just had wallpaper, wouldn't you wonder where the rest of the stuff is?

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Allan McCollum's The Shapes Project uses each of his 31 billion or whatever shapes only once, so each wallpaper installation will be technically unique.

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Goldkicker is one of two Marilyn Minter wallpapers, and I think it'd really, really hold a room. Part of me wonders how hard it'd be to have art in a room with artist wallpaper, though.

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Which is ironic. The degree with which an artist's artwork can be replaced by a wallpaper version of it has some critical implications. Also, it might cut into his market. Or maybe the price points are just so different, it's not an issue. Fred Tomaselli probably hopes so.

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James Welling's Glass House May, 2008, meanwhile, is similar enough to one of my favorite photomurals, the rare, surviving photomural that started it all [or at least my interest in photomurals]: a 1966 triptych of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion.

Maybe artist wallpaper is closer to architecture than to art.

Maharam Digital Products [maharam.com]

1 [I realize I have seen at least one installation before: L&M Arts had Paul Noble's wallpaper in its offices a while back. But maybe it wasn't this one; it seemed more city than ruin.]

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image: AA

Turkey is trying to control the flow of refugees from Syria and the unregulated trade and traffic across the open border by constructing a "portable" wall near Kusakli, a border village under the jurisdiction of the nearby town of Reyhanlı, in the Hatay province. No biggie, though, this wall's just 1200m. Really more of an installation.

The AA photo above shows workers installing the prefab concrete segments with a crane. They look like jacked up Jersey Barriers.

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As this DHA photo shows, they are jacked up Jersey Barriers, 30cm thick, and 3m square. Each weighs 9 tons. From their popular use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the US military's technical term for a jacked up Jersey Barrier may be a Texas Barrier [3.7m] or an Alaska Barrier [6m], or a Bremer Wall, after Paul Bremer, who did so much to create the demand for them during the early days of the occupation.

All these US-style barriers, though, are thinner, rectangular, more 2001 monolith-shaped. Their design heritage traces back to the model for an instant wall along the US-Mexico border that congressman/earthworks artist Steve King (R-IA) exhibited in 2006. And to the decidedly non-temporary, non-portable wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.

Turkey apparently does not want to use Israeli-style oblong walls, so they go with the square. A little heavier, but fewer lifts. They're apparently installing the wall at around 75 segments/day.

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I looked Kusakli up on Google Maps, and the awesome, gridded Benday dots of the olive orchards in the surrounding landscape are suddenly the second most interesting feature. Because there is this unusual Pentagon overlay around the town. What even is that? There's no way it's the wall. Or the demarcation for a wall, since the wall's only 1/8th built. Right? That'd turn Kusakli into West Berlin without limiting the flow of Syrians anywhere except in this tiny village. So it's something else.

Turkey builds portable wall on border with Syria [hurrietdailynews, image: AA via @aljavieera]
Turkey builds portable wall on Syrian border [todayszaman, image: DHA]

Previously: Study For A Fence And A Wall (2006)
Related: Afghanprogettazione: HESCO X DIY Troop Furniture

The Getty Museum is now included in the Google Art Project. Which is now a part of the Google Cultural Institute. I hadn't noticed how this context has changed, and how the Art Project has been subsumed and presented. The navigation options are, "Collections | Artists | Artworks | User Galleries." And institutions are collections.

getty_google_art_mirror_03.jpg

Anyway, Museum View. I know that Google Street View-based art fascination is old and busted, but Museum View for me is still the new hotness. Maps are for navigating, going somewhere, doing something. But Museums are for displaying and depicting and interpreting; they hold and show objects and generate discussions and critical context. And Google Museum View is doing that on a trans-institutional scale, and so it feels important to have some awareness of this process. Trans-Institutional Critique.

Fortunately, Google still sometimes documents itself documenting.

So many projects, so many browser tabs, open for so many months, I've gotta clear some of these things out:

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I've wanted to remake the lost/overpainted panels from Andy Warhol's Thirteen Most-Wanted Men mural for the NY World's Fair since the Destroyed Richter Paintings days, but now with the comprehensive-sounding show at the Queens Museum opening, I've probably got a week to do it. And process it. And put it behind me. Ah well. The show does sound good, though.

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Not sure why it didn't occur to me sooner, but the news this week that MoMA's started the dismantling of the Folk Art Museum gave me a flash of inspiration: The Williams+Tsien Folk Table Collection. Turn each bronze alloy panel into a unique memento/tabletop. Maybe there's enough material inside to use for legs, &c., too. I see a couple dozen dining tables, as many coffee/side tables, and a handful of console/sofa tables. They'd be a stunning addition to the finest home, and quite the conversation piece.

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Actually, the inspiration came from Chester Higgins Jr's photo of Billie & Tod holding architectural fragments. The domestication of architecture.

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Also from the Times: Fred Conrad's great photo showing the use of photomurals to evoke/approximate historical spatial experience at the Jewish Museum's "Other Primary Structures" show. It's interesting that they're angled and mounted on wall-sized panels, not stuck to the moulding-encumbered wall. Makes them a bit more exhibition design and a bit less exhibition, I suppose.

Richter tweeted this the other day, and it's been nagging at me ever since:

the exhibition of reproductions of paintings, that is, not just paintings based on photographs. Also, of course, the show is at the world's most intensely named museum, the Topography of Terror.
I've reached out to the Topographers, hoping to find out more about how paintings function in an exhibit like this, and how the decision was made to include them as reproductions. But so far I have received absolutely no response. But I did get some screencaps from a YouTube video of the opening, which I can't find right now:

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Hmm, actually the panels look like reproductions of pages of books, not of paintings. Simultaneously more and less interesting.

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While rummaging around the Met's collection database, looking for Arthur Vincent Tack info, I Google Imaged up this hard edge painting. Which apparently hadn't been documented in the color photo era, but I couldn't find it on the Met's site.

As I was posting this I realized the filename is the accession number, 1978.565, Larry Zox. 1978's obviously too old for Hard Edge; the painting's from 1966, an at once unusual and logical size of 50x100 inches. Untitled (from the Double Gemini Series).

Turns out the Guggenheim has a very similar painting, Alto Velto, from 1969. Color really matters in these jpgs.

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Martin Bromirski posted images from a 2008 Larry Zox show at Stephen Haller.

March 10, 2014

Rem Casafresca

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The Venice Architecture Biennale, which opens in June, held a press conference today with curator Rem Koolhaas and Paolo Baratta. The event was streamed live online. As @kieranlong pointed out on Twitter:

Intrigued, I quickly tuned in to the event, already in progress. The average age of the large crowd of press/reporters looked to be well over 60yo, and their questions were often longer than Koolhaas's answers, which were simultaneously translated by a rotating cast of female voices. It really was a mess.

The first words I heard set the tone:

So I decided to livetweet it.

With a couple of brief exceptions the text comes only from Koolhaas. I don't type very fast, and I can't figure out the keyboard shortcuts for accents, but otherwise I think this transcript captures the experience of watching quite well:

Yesterday at MoMA, I took extra time this time in David Platzker's 4'33" exhibit so I could dig into the Fluxus material a bit more. George Maciunas' extraordinary chart of the entire history of art as seen through the other end of the Fluxus telescope was especially awesome. [The site for last year's Fluxus exhibit has a huge image of Maciunas' chart for close-up study.]

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Fluxhouse™ model via Brooklyn Model Works

Trying to find a copy for myself, I headed to the Stendhal Gallery, the post-Fluxus home of the Maciunas/Fluxus legacy, as managed by Henry Stendhal. And that's where I found out you can now buy a license for a Fluxhouse™.

The Fluxhouse™ [always with the ™] was George Maciunas' concept for affordable, adaptable, lightweight, prefabricated housing to change the world The 1,900sf single-family house is raised on concrete piers, with structural flooring and cabinetry around the perimeter, a central kitchen/bath core, and with adaptable, non-loadbearing panels defining the spaces around a glassed-in courtyard garden. Originally, it was supposed to be made out of a cheap, environmentally friendly material like plastic.

When Stendhal's George Maciunas Foundation showed a model of the Fluxhouse™ last year [above, built by Brooklyn Model Works], the story was a bit more complex. From The Architects' Newspaper [via Fluxus Fndn]:

The Prefab Building System first appeared in plans that Maciunas and a sometime colleague, the pugnacious philosopher/musician/all-purpose gadfly Henry Flynt, devised in 1965 for a housing system in the Soviet Union, hoping to improve on the heavy concrete residences that Soviet builders had favored since 1960. Maciunas designed, and may have helped draft, Flynt's pamphlet, which urged a return to the revolutionary aesthetics of the 1920s and an adoption of certain technologies that could democratize cultural power, including electric guitars, Buckminster Fuller domes, and Citroen 2CV cars. The Prefab System was part of this document. The Stendhal Gallery's public presentation nearly erases this origin (thought a press-kit essay by Julia Robinson does mention it), perhaps to jettison what today appears as off-putting ideological baggage. It's easy to accuse Flynt and Maciunas of naivete in attaching egalitarian hopes to the post Stallinist Soviet regime, but abstracting the design idea from any utopian context seems naïve in a different way.
Henry Flynt's involvement, whatever it may have been, doesn't come up in the Fluxhouse™ pitch.

But when the Foundation still writes that "George Maciunas is best known as the 'Father of Soho' for colonizing and gentrifying this neighborhood from a post-industrial dystopia into a mecca for the arts," it's safe to say that building a Fluxhouse™ still involves a certain utopian naivete.

Which may or may not be described in the FluxCty™ Assessment Report, the product of a five-year effort to finally take the Fluxhouse™ beyond the concept sketch stage, and to turn it into a commercially viable prefab building system. And now, the next logical step in a universal housing solution: selling up to five licenses to build your own Fluxhouse™ Limited Edition [pdf]. With a 2012 estimate of construction costs at $7.50/sf,, or $14,250, the limited edition license may end being the most expensive part.

there are a lot of Fluxhouse-related links in the sidebar here [georgemaciunas.com]
Previously, and definitely related: Modernism's embrace of systems, including George Nelson's strikingly similar modular house system from 1958
Jan Kaplicky was a fan of Fritz Haller's steel framing system
Kocher & Frey's Aluminaire House, which, obv
From sketch to Vuitton marketing scheme: realizing Perriand's beach house
Muji Houses

January 21, 2014

The Maze Collection

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Tony Smith conceived of The Maze in 1967 for a very early show of installation art at Finch College's townhouse gallery on the Upper East Side. The four units, two 10x7' and two 5x7, were originally made from plywood, painted black. Grace Gleuck said the light was low, and that "a walk among these gloomy, primeval presences evokes the feeling of an endless forest."

When I wrote about the little cardboard model of Maze in Aspen 5+6, in 2012, I did not know whether it had been shown since. That was because I just wasn't looking hard enough. It turns out that another plywood incarnation of The Maze was shown at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1988. And last Fall, Matthew Marks installed a black steel version of Maze [no The] in his Los Angeles gallery. I'm bummed I didn't get to visit it in person, but the photos look stunning [top].

smith_ubu_mazeGrid2.gif

The plan of the piece seems to show that the dimensions, including the inner and outer passages, and even the units themselves, were all 30 inches wide, and derived in some degree by the Finch space itself. Not sure about Paula's incarnation, but that site-specific aspect didn't make it into the 2013 version, which looks suitably monumental, but also clearly sculptural. And not a hint of primeval gloom.

In his statement for Aspen, curated by Brian O'Doherty, Smith actually gave permission to anyone to "reproduce the work in its original dimensions (in metal or wood)." And so I will. As The Maze Collection of functional household built-ins. It just seems like a lot of space to lose to sculpture. It's more Zittel than Zittel, and less Jade Jagger than Jade Jagger.

tony_smith_maze_kit_desk.jpg

I see The Maze Collection as having a really sick, velvety, matte black surface. No gloss, no lacquer. As long as you make that the panels close properly, and give you that clean, solid, not-at-all-hinged-or-doored look, I think it'll work.

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Big news, negative reactions, but very few surprises. MoMA announced today that the American Folk Art Museum building would be demolished after all, as part of an expansion & reconfiguration project connecting the current Taniguchi building to galleries in the base of the Jean Nouvel tower set to rise to the west. No one could honestly have believed that Diller Scofidio + Renfro had been brought into the controversial situation to do anything other than provide expert architectural cover for a decision that had been made long, long before.

DS+R also brought some necessary conversation changers, architectural features that would allow The Modern to proceed in a constructive, rather than a purely destructive context. Everyone and their dog has weighed in tonight on the few renderings of MoMA's plans, so I'll skip most of that. Except to say that Diller's proposal for the AFAM site, an entry/gallery open to the street, and a performance space on top, neatly renders the volume of the demolished building in the negative. It's like a ghost space of the structure that was once there. That design solution has a certain morbid integrity.

And I will note what others haven't, that one of the changes DS+R have proposed is not just "an architecturally significant staircase," as Jerry Saltz dismissively called it, but an extension to an architecturally significant staircase: the Museum is planning to continue the iconic Bauhaus Staircase, which connects the 2nd and 3rd floor galleries, all the way down to the Titus 1 and 2 movie theaters. As a longtime member of the Film Department's Trustees Committee, I suppose I should know more about how this will impact the presence and experience of film at the Museum. I'll look into it.

[Probably a disclosure, or at least a heads up: I was co-chair of the Modern's Junior Associates for many years, and helped raise money for the 2004 capital campaign. My own association with the Museum has been long and deep and deeply rewarding, even though I've never had the resources to donate trajectory-changing amounts of money. I'm glad for the relationships and engagement with folks all through the Museum, and I won't pretend that I have any juice, or inside knowledge of the Museum's capital and construction plans.

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Travertine House, 1963, Gordon Bunshaft, image: Ezra Stoller/ESTO via archnewsnow

I have purposely steered clear of the Folk Art Museum issue over the last couple of years, in part because I remember some impassioned discussions over the Museum's sale of Gordon Bunshaft's modernist house in East Hampton around the time Martha Stewart gutted it and flipped it to Donald Maharam. The Museum makes a clear distinction about what enters the collection, and the curatorial process by which it happens. In this regard, Bunshaft's house, which was willed to the Museum by the architect, had the same status as the Folk Art Museum: it was an asset, not a part of the collection. And it was dealt with as an asset. Maybe someone should ask Barry Bergdoll if there was ever any discussion in the Architecture&Design Department of accessioning the Williams+Tsien building. I'm going to guess that there wasn't. It's an exceptional case that throws the collection out of scale. Anyway, this reality is exactly at the root of much of the disagreement with MoMA's decision, but I believe it was internally consistent. Whatever that means for the state of the city and the urban experience of the Museum, of course, remains wide open to criticism. And now this parenthetical has veered back on topic.]

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AFAM images: Paul Mauss/ESTO, 2001, via architectmagazine

MoMA's gonna do what MoMA's gonna do, but what can be done about Williams & Tsien's Folk Art Museum Building? It's worthy architecture, and I think it can be saved, and it should be saved. The Folk Art Museum Building could be moved. And given MoMA's centrality in this carefully crafted building's destruction, I think MoMA should open itself to the possibility of facilitating the rescue.

When I say it should be moved, I obviously don't mean entirely intact, as-is. But it could and should be dismantled, and Williams & Tsien could be enlisted to rebuild it somewhere else in town. And it should be reborn as a townhouse. Why shouldn't it be the most spectacular new townhouse in town? I just read a ridiculous article in the American Express magazine about the race for the $100 million penthouse. What roving billionaire shopping Jean Nouvel's MoMA Tower penthouses wouldn't want an award-winning "bespoke" house museum instead?

williams_tsien_towhouse_e72.jpg
GSV, obv

Not coincidentally, the model for such a project would be the extra wide townhouse [above] Williams & Tsien built in 1996 on the Upper East Side for none other than Jerry Speyer, the collector/developer who is currently MoMA's Chairman.

pj_east_64th_st.jpg
GSV, obv

Speyer's house is 33 feet wide; the Folk Art Museum building is 40 feet wide, 85 feet tall, and 100 feet deep. Those dimensions may not work in most traditional side street townhouse environment, but it's not impossible. There was a foundation building designed by Philip Johnson [above] on my block of East 64th Street that's almost the same volume. And there have to be sites across the city that could accommodate it. It might even fit in better than it did in the cramped shadows of West 53rd Street.

ARCH_Mauss_ESTO_FolkArtMuseum_int_02.jpg
again, Peter Mauss/ESTO via architectmagazine

So given that the building will come down soon, the thing to do is to salvage and stockpile as much of the structure as feasible. This would begin with the cast bronze alloy facade, whose 63 panels could be saved as easily as the could be sold for scrap. Then there are key handcrafted elements and materials in the building that gave it its character: cherry railings, custom fixtures, the molded glass curtain, flooring, etc., that should not simply be scrapped in any event. I mean, there's a Georgian bank facade in the American Wing of the Met, and in 1992 Stefan Knapp [who?]'s op arty sculptures were peeled off the facade of Alexander's department store and sent into the design market without blinking.

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Stefan Knapp facade for Alexander's, via cityofdave's flickr stream

The other essential elements of the building--cast concrete walls, stairs, balconies, skylights, the space itself--aren't portable, but they are recreateable. Or adaptable. The AFAM was actually a helluva piece of craftsmanship and a cramped museum. People called it a "jewelbox." Billie Tsien called it "a house for art, not a museum." Which, well, we see how that turned out.

Now maybe the architects get a second chance to configure a successful spatial experience inside their stylish envelope. I imagine that whoever wanted to build or buy such a place would probably collect. So with some reprogramming and rebalancing, it could once again become a house for art. MoMA would only need to let the deconstruction happen.

perriand_maison_vuitton_raleigh.jpg

I'm as stoked as I am nonplussed at Louis Vuitton's over-luxed realization of Charlotte Perriand's une petite maison au bord de l'eau (1934), which was unveiled at the Raleigh Hotel during Design Miami last month. It's a small U-shaped shed with glass opening around a canvas-shaded deck.

As LV's publicists explain it in designboom [small caps sic]:

the pavilion was originally conceived by perriand for an architecture competition sponsored by l'architecture d'aujourd'hui magazine - for which it won second place. she brilliantly prefigures the ease of construction and assembly, and affordability. the pavilion was built (and furnished) by louis vuitton's inhouse architectural team in collaboration with perriand's estate to adapt her loose sketches. the design probably would have slipped unnoticed into 20th-century architectural history where it not for julie de libran, the woman's creative director at louis vuitton.
Mhmm. Except that Perriand's project is mentioned and reproduced in numerous catalogues and exhibitions of the architect/designer's work both before her death in 1999, and especially after.

And as for rescuing and realizing Perriand's history and design, the Perriand archive hasn't released more than a sketch, and no information about the competition, which was specifically for a weekend beach house, and no information about the variations of the design Perriand made over the years.

borddeleau_perriand_original_sketch_designboom.jpg

And in realizing the house, Vuitton doesn't say that they changed it significantly: Perriand's original concept was for a living space raised on stone columns and walls, with open space underneath for storage and parking. So in structure, material, and affordability, Vuitton's sleek, hardwood construction is beautiful, but it is not an accurate representation of Perriand's concept. When a luxury giant like LVMH comes calling, though, the estate [run by Perriand's daughter] can be flexible. And when design shoppers hit Miami Beach, the right logo can obviate any concern about notions of history, accuracy, or context. The Perriand pavilion [sic] was for sale; it's not clear if it sold.

kocher_frey_canvas_hse.jpg

But the entire project demands an open reinterpretation that tries to be true to Perriand's original design--or at least to the aspects of it that don't appeal to a fashion marketing priorities of a luxury purse manufacturer. Imagine an ultralight version built on pilotis, and realized in, say, sealed canvas, like the beach cottage Albert Frey & Lawrence Kocher built in Northport, LI in 1933-4?

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image: abc containers (au)

Or bring it all forward. Who can look at the Vuitton Perriand House and not think of shipping containers? Two 40's open on the side, and a 20' in the middle, BAM.

charlotte perriand's la maison au bord de l'eau is a louis vuitton tribute [designboom]
Louis Vuitton realises unbuilt Charlotte Perriand beach house in Miami [dezeen]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
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Category: architecture

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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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