Monthly Archives: November 2007

Weekend reading

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This weekend I am catching up on my long pending reading- books and magazines I bought during my trip to the UK and Holland a couple of months ago and here’s a lowdown.

Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW) undoubtedly remains one of the most revered architects of all time. He made living in the wilderness cool with his Prairie school of architecture and brought a new perspective to organic living when the term ‘organic’ wasn’t as fashionable as it is today. Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship (Welsh for shining brow) institutions in Wisconsin and later in Arizona became the training grounds for many aspiring architects.

Of course most know Wright for his masterpiece- The Falling Water built for the Kauffman family in Pennsylvania, but he designed many structures including the Price Tower skyscraper in Chicago (Wright’s only realised skyscraper; Zaha Hadid is now designing an extension of the tower to be named Price Tower Arts Centre) and the Guggenheim in New York.

If I were ever given the opportunity to write the biography of any architect, it would be FLW, Le Corbousier, Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid in that order. FLW also had an extraordinary sense of humour. Apparently once a client called him to complain about the leaking roof and water falling over a dining table chair. Wright is supposed to have told the client, “Move the chair”. I personally feel that every architect by the sheer virtue of their genius to design such marvellous structures are entitled to have a little bit of let’s say arrogance.

This isn’t a random blog. The reason I’m writing about FLW is because I’m reading this wonderful book that is basically a compilation of thirty years of correspondence between FLW and Lewis Mumford (a well-known American architecture critic). Even though Mumford was 30 years younger than FLW, the two became a source of inspiration to each other. It started out as a letter by FLW to the young writer in the form of comments and turned into three decades of communication which gives an insight into FLW’s more vulnerable side- the side that couldn’t have told the client to move the chair. Wright was also a passionate writer and had as much a panache for words as for drawing boards and blueprints.

Edited by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and Robert Wojtowicz and published by Princeton Architectural Press, the book is a collector’s item. I came across it during my visit to Holland in October and I had to get it. It’s highly recommended.

This weekend I’m also pouring over the beautiful pages of the November issue of the UK edition of House and Garden. Unfortunatley parent company Conde Nast have decided to pull the title off their magazine stable and the institutional magazine has reached the end of the road. The triple-gatefold cover of the November issue which is its 60th anniversary has about 75 of its most beautiful covers from the past issues.

I’m hoping like all things old, vintage and no longer available, the value of this issue will go up in the next 20 years or so and it will become a collector’s item so I could put it up for auction. Why not? If Britney Spears can put her half-eaten chicken wings on eBay, we are talking about one of the most popular magazines here. The reasons for the demise are not known but we can only guess that electronic media (yes it includes bloggers like yours truly) is fast taking over the print media. Of course there are still people out there who would religiously buy every issue of their favourite magazine and flip through the beautiful photographs. I still do and even had to go buy a new bookshelf to stuff my favourite magazines in there which I find very painful to throw away, even though they are neither rare nor collector’s item.

For example the Time magazine’s Style and Design Fall supplement. I have read it over and over again but there’s is something about the way they put the already-public-knowledge information together that makes you want to hold on to it. In this particular issue they have done a global luxury survey on growing markets such as China, India and Russia. According to a survey done by them, the Chinese consider Bally, Chanel and Lacoste to be the brands most closely associated with high fashion. The issue if full of interesting facts, figures and statistics.

But the fact is the new electronic media is very efficient and if you can get information at the touch of a keyboard and a lot more cheaper (sans the beautiful pix), would you really mind?

Happy reading…

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Filed under architecture/urbanism, Books/Magazines

Colour me beautiful

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I discovered the fabulously French Genevieve Lethu store at Mercato Mall who stock colourful home accessories that are a cross between Provence style and contemporary chic. Since kitsch is back in fashion, (don’t believe me? just check out the October issue of Icon magazine) I thought this would be a great way to bring some colour into interiors with nifty accessories. The store sells everything from china to decorative accoutrements, clever gadgets, table cloths and in the spirit of the season, Christmas decorations as well.

But it wasn’t just the ‘things’ I discovered at the shop but also the fact that Imelda Marcos was actually a kind woman who didn’t exploit her people. Yes, Banjie, the lovely Philipina sales assistant, even if a little chatty, told me that poor Imelda was only doing the small-time shoe companies in the Philippines a favour by wearing their shoes to high-profile official events and earning them free publicity so they could be sold in foreign countries.  Unfotunately, she became a victim of political shennanigans and was vilified.

 Next time you visit the store, make sure you get a few nuggets of trivia by Banjie. Tel: 04- 3448810.

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Award-winning landscape architecture

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I’ve to share with you the work of Lebanese-based architect Vladimir Djurovic who recently won the prestigious Aga Khan award for his Samir Kassir project in Downtown Beirut. It’s a reflective tranquil space with Ficus trees and a water feature surrounded by wooden planks and nautral stones and stands in stark contrast to the hectic urban development around it.

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Sound of music

picture.jpgHere’s the latest gadget for discerning audiophiles- the Steinway Lyngdorf speakers called Model D by the high-end Danish audio system producer Lyngdorf and music instrument company Steinway & Sons. As much a work of art as technology, these  high-performance audio systems combine design and fine crafstmanship.

 The speakers that weigh almost half a ton are yours for a bargain price of USD 150,000 approx. Ouch! Buy them as a christmas present for yourself (better if you can get someone else to buy them for you) and make a super-stylish statement.

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Helvetica rules

Traffic design gallery- Dubai’s hippest hot spot for the creative community will be screening the typeface phenomenon documentary Helvetica from December 9-16 co-inciding with Dubai International Film Festival (George Clooney and Sharon Stone will be shimmying down the red carpet) . Entry is free for the documentary but seats are reserved and on a first-come-first-served basis.

Helvetica was a sell-out world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival and has since created a global frenzy. It talks about the modernist icon evoking poetic images of its worldwide use through interviews with designers who either love it or loath it. It’s also been shown at the hallowed grounds of MoMA NY.

Originally named Neue Haas Grotesk, the name was changed to make the font more internationally marketable, so Helvetica was born deriving from the latin name Helvetia meaning Swiss.

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Cool messenger

Knomo’s Lyndon bagAre men too prone to ‘It’ bags of the season? And we thought it was only the fairer sex who made getting on a waiting list for a super expensive bag sound glamorous. Personally, the waiting game doesn’t do it for me. While the latest isue of GQ would have us believing that the old-fashioned Wall-street accessory- the briefcase is back (even a version with Swarovski crystals- can’t think of anyone but Snoop Dog carrying it even) and that the messenger bag doesn’t quite pronounce sophistication like the briefcase. Well take your pick, here is Knomo’s latest lime green pony skin Lyndon laptop bag for too cool for school dudes. The eye-catchy man accessory is available at Harvey Nichols for Dhs 1610 only. The bag also features interior pockets for every possible gadget you could think of such as PDA, iPod, mobile phone, keys, pens etc. Leave the briefcases for the pin-striped variety. This one wins hands down.

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Design for a good cause

Now I shouldn’t even be here today. I should have been in Singapore clocking up some miles for a free ticket and on the side also attending the Singapore Design Biennial. Bah! Anyway here I’m, enlightening all you good people about important issues in Dubai.

For starters, the design aficionados-cum-good samaritans at the Traffic gallery are organising a charity auction on December 4th, 7.30pm. About 30 t-shirts designed by local and regional designers & creative establishments will be auctioned off starting at 3000dhs to fund the city of hope shelter.

Yes I see you eyes popping out at the price, but it’s for a good cause and the sky wouldn’t fall down if you bid for a t-shirt instead of splurging on the latest iPhone or Balenciaga bag.

If you’re interested and/or know people who are please feel free to RSVP at traffic@9714.com

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