So pleased Jaime picked my shed project for Design Milk as one of her favorite posts of 2015. Looking toward 2016 I have a great many more ideas for upgrading the space, inside and out (next up – after the rain – is building a small surrounding deck).
Ricardo Bofill’s La Fábrica is Brutalist architecture of the highest magnitude, a salvaged industrial space turned into a cathedral of the aesthetic. The space is uncompromising in its beauty, with window views evoking the imagination of Magritte, the exterior shoulder strapped with stairways ascending with Escher-like purpose.
“A brutalist vision, with a romantic vision”, embracing the luxury of solitude. There is comfort and pleasure knowing a place like this really exists.
“The two things that excite me and make me vibrate are the aesthetic feeling … beauty is what moves me, after that intelligence.”
As an art installation I think these giant wooden acoustic amplifiers inside Estonia’s Pähni Nature Centre are beautiful. I admire their architectural integrity, their studied craftsmanship, and the academic reasoning behind their surprise appearance in the forest. Amplifying nature is an interesting concept, for I find being in its presence already so affecting to both mind and body. These structures manipulate the human propensity for curiosity, forcing occupants to focus on a singular sense with the purpose of listening.
That said, I believe the aural component of experiencing nature shouldn’t have to be amplified for us to appreciate the world unfolding around us. We already listen to things too loudly everywhere else, with most of our lives bathed in noise, welcomed or uninvited. As in cinema, sometimes the loudest emotional moments are the most silent, and nature provides us opportunities to experience existence without manipulative volume. The opportunity to give up ourselves to a place is offered when you turn the dial from “output” to “input”, occasionally all the way down to “off”…a frightening thought for some, for only then are we left with our own thoughts.
Hilbre tries to capture the feeling of summer on the islands. It follows the lives of the residents and the seasonal visitors, the beauty of the flora and the awe inspiring tides that cut Hilbre off from the mainland.
Those moments of silence interrupted by the lightly layered whispers of trees and grass swaying, the small avalanches of sand streaming down a hill, the chitinous chatter of insects crawling underfoot*, and the distant echoes of birds overhead are all amplified already when we make a conscious effort to give into our sense for more than a heartbeat. When sound can enter beyond the ear and be felt deep within our organs, tickling our skin, and affecting emotions and memory it takes on a whole new property than background noise or an imposition.
Sometimes the sounds of a place can be deafening: the crashing tide along the snaggle-toothed coast of Sea Ranch, the choral howls of monkeys in Costa Rica, a thunderous monsoon having an emotional breakdown in fits and fury of light and sound. Other times it’s only when I silence the chatter in my head I can hear – really hear – the space I’m inhabiting. Even in conversation, so much can be communicated with the pause when words are unnecessary or insufficient. Yet in our nervous state we continually decide to layer in more sound onto our lives? It’s a most perplexing habit of humans to continually speak and seek being spoken to with volume mistaken for meaning.
To learn how to hear the world without it screaming in our ears is a proficiency with lasting effects even after you’ve departed from sweeping sounds of the forest, the stark silence of the desert, or the throaty cool exhale of the sea. What a world…what a lovely world…is revealed when we set out not to seek more, but discover an appreciation for less.
* One of my favorite memories in Costa Rica was Emily and I both leaning our ears to the ground to listen to a streaming line of leaf cutter ants, each hurrying across a network of branches and fallen leaves with purpose, their percussive procession like the tiniest bars of a typewriter writing the story of industry with each footstep.
Earlier this year Emily and I made way up into the hills of the 90065 (Glassell Park) to meet with artist, designer, and activist Fritz Haeg about becoming on-site caretakers of his most unique creative compound, the LA Domestead. We were already moving from Silver Lake to the hills of Mt. Washington, but we both felt it was worth our effort to visit, knowing Haeg had created something truly unique in the surrounding hills.
Although we were much enamored by everything about the multi-level geodesic dome and accompanying verdant edible garden – from its open multi-level layout, dramatic panoramic deck view, winding garden trail, and the potential of an on-site yurt – we sobered up to the fact that the sizable duties required of caretakers wouldn’t offer a realistic opportunity for us to maintain both our professional aspirations. The maintenance of the property and the influx of AirBnb guests on a daily basis were better suited for someone who made the house their primary focus, perhaps with art or writing as a creative supplemental.
With regret we bowed out for consideration.
Today Haeg sent word he’s putting the home on the market:
“After 15 happy years at home here, from the olden days of Sundown Salon gatherings to Sundown Schoolhouse programs, I’ve decided it’s time to find new hands for this special place as I focus exclusively on the future of the new long term project Salmon Creek Farm in Northern California.”
At $890,000 asking price, I’m a little short in funds to make an offer myself. But I’m hoping someone out there who shares an appreciation for the spirit imbued by the architecture initially designed by Los Angeles architect William King back in 1982 and further expanded by Haeg’s vision throughout the year will continue evolving one of the most unique homes in all of Los Angeles into something uniquely their own.
All photos by Fritz Haeg
Proust believed the “real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes”, but in Costa Rica he’d be wrong. In the farmer’s market surrounding the perimeter of Santo Domingo de Heredia’s town center it was our sense of smell which enticed us explore. Situated around three blocks across from the town’s religious centerpiece, Basilica Santo Domingo, the bustling Costa Rican outdoor market didn’t disappoint during our daytime excursion. Led by local resident and ceramic artist, Gerardo Selva Godoy, we were given a tasting tour of the myriad of tropical fruits, vegetables, seafood, legumes, and even fresh roasted coffee grown in the region, alongside an opportunity to observe locals shopping for their weekly provisions. Pineapple, mangoes, plántano, granadilla, mamechinos (aka rambutan), cooked pejibaye (peach palm fruit), and countless other real-world Starburst fruit flavors all mixed into an intoxicating perfume. This urgent scent of ripeness permeating the market is unforgettable, an allure like the scent from the nape of an imaginary jungle fertility goddess’s neck.
The Costa Rican diet is primarily made up of beans, rice, fish, vegetables, and a wide variety of native and Asian/African tropical fruits mostly eaten whole or in juice form (plantains and the pejibaye are two exceptions, with each enjoyed preferably cooked). Some warned the food in Costa Rica would leave me unimpressed. I’d disagree. There was much to appreciate in the populace’s appreciation for freshness, as was on full display as sellers peeled, poured, chopped, scooped, stirred, and shucked the cornucopia of the region’s bountiful produce. It will be a long time before I forget a market so characterized by its fragrance and punctuated by flavors so dimensionally rich beyond sweet.
Wow [happening upon this 10-record set]. Whoa! [noting the price]. Sometimes it’s best to appreciate a design simply for the appreciation it exists. I believe this is such a case, with only 100 sets pressed.
Featuring exclusive music and artwork, this very special limited edition box set has been created in celebration of Carsten Nicolai’s exhibition at The Vinyl Factory space at Brewer Street Car Park, which featured unicolor (2014) and an expanded version of his audio-visual artwork, bausatz noto (1998).
Four Technics SL-1210 turntables are integrated into a table. On each of these turntables lies a specially produced vinyl record with endless grooves, each of which provides the visitor with the opportunity to play several sound loops endlessly. The table functions as an instrument allowing the viewer to layer and superimpose the sound loops and to create perpetually new combinations. The field of interaction is further expanded by the option to substitute the record, to vary its pace and to have it rotate unpredictably through alternating holes. Headphones on the table invite the visitor to attentively follow the emergence of the sound surface.
Since moving from our one-bedroom Silver Lake apartment to a small Mount Washington home, increased water and energy use has been a concern. So much so I recently dreamt I had left a hose on in the garden, the idea of water being wasted worthy of my subconscious to burden my sleep with sweaty brow panic. Maybe it’s because I’ve taken upon myself to try to keep the surrounding trees alive with a watering stake to directly reach the roots, but every time I turn on the tap I think of the drought and the luxury of clean water on demand, any use connected with a pang of guilt.
Our first water and power bill arrived recently and I was relieved to be informed by Emily that our total use is actually far below the average. In fact, if these figures are correct, we’re only using about 1/4 the average of the typical LA resident. It’s a welcome surprise discovering a small house can be comparatively efficient to an apartment, but those figures underlines our city as a whole has a long way to go in regards to water/energy efficiency (for those seeking some help about recommendations for reducing water use, check out the Home Water-Energy-Climate Calculator)
It helps our place is small, there’s no lawn, we cool the home with natural circulation and ceiling fans instead of AC, I’ve been switching all of our lighting to LED, and we’ve been trying to reuse greywater for the garden as much as possible (bucket by bucket in some instances). Our big project for the next few months – years – will be to convert the front and backyard into a drought tolerant landscape, one which also invites pollinators and stabilizes the surrounding hills from soil erosion. In comparison being water efficient inside seems much simpler than changes and work required outside.
And yet we’re living comfortably, underlining conservation doesn’t mean a life of wanting. It seems all of those “if its yellow, be mellow” and “shower every other day” practices have merit.
Stella Maria Baer‘s paintings of celestial bodies exert an undeniable gravitational pull, each watercolor hinting at an opportune coffee stain abstraction envisioned into something more astronomical. Each of her paintings are an evocation of her memories of the Santa Fe high desert where she grew up – “the lines, the color, the space” of each piece tinged by the vast open lands of New Mexico’s wild.
As we begin readying to move from our home of the last four years in Silver Lake to a new abobe just a few miles away at the start of next month, the process of determining what to keep, donate, sell, gift, and dispose of has begun in earnest. It can be an arduous process for those who feel an innate connection with memories through the physical. For there lays a fear for many of realizing the axiom, “out of sight, out of mind”…that by throwing out any given box of possessions which help maintain the gossamer of recognition to who we once were might otherwise be severed.
But as we only have so much time in the day, so much energy to expend, so much attention to focus, I believe our minds and hearts only have so much emotional expanse for the storage of memories worth safekeeping. This obsessive nature of keeping everything – so prevalent in American culture – is tied to the subconscious worry that yesterday will forever be better than tomorrow, rationalized further by the perception tomorrow’s necessities should dictate how we live today (e.g. “I might need that one day”).
By letting these “things” we accumulate for the promise of attention and use tomorrow, we’ve hampered our own potential to realize unexpected possibilities only presented when our life’s canvas is blank, versus one already obfuscated by the scribbles and splotches of yesterday’s idea, memories, and worst of all, possessions. The true significance of memory isn’t in these singular snapshots delivered by owning and keeping, but the imprint they’ve left upon on us in ways that truly matter during the time they’re with us: how we live, love, and even hurt. For the memories we most cherish are those that clarify, not complicate. And so should it be with those things we bring into our homes…or leave behind.
“So it is important to work at finding interest in simple things, in noticing things and being curious, in looking for connections, significance, puzzles, meaning, explanations. The more able one is to do this, the richer one’s world is. The more things that catch your attention and interest and prod questions and connections as you go about, the more meaningful everyday experience is. If only big, expensive, spectacular things grab your interest, you will be much less often interested in anything. This can be put in terms of openness, awareness, sensitivity and the capacity to be observant. Some people notice things that might have gone unseen, or realise there is significance and meaning in things others might miss. We adult humans have a strong tendency to get bogged down in a normal, everyday, routinized, take for granted consciousness that makes us oblivious to the wonders and miracles all around us. ‘That is only an ant.’ ‘That is only a daisy.’ But some people are struck by what they run into and see in them interesting aspects to mull over.”
In the late 1990’s industrial designer Duncan Jackson fell in love with the Napoleonic defense towers built in the early 19th century, enamored by their history and the intricate and durable brickwork designed to endure unwelcome guests. Jackson was able to buy one of the towers situated overlooking the sea in Suffolk and decided it was to be reborn as a residence. Referred to as Martello Tower Y, the military tower was renovated with painstaking detail into a residence, the project a partnership with Billings Jackson Design and Piercy Conner Architects, no small feat considering the original structure is comprised of solid bonded brick walls 3 meters thick built to withstand artillery fire from naval attack. It’s an outstanding example of re-envisioning vernacular architecture for a lifetime a hundred years forward instead of sentencing it to the role of historical ruins, all the while honoring the landscape it sits upon.