I read a recent article in the New York Times magazine about the meta-marketing of Legos (among other brands), and it made me dizzy thinking about how much we are happily digesting the self-effacing, yet unapologetic strategies of big businesses. It troubled me, especially as parent, since we try so hard to make informed decisions on our children's behalf. Lego seems like an educational toy, yet it's just as ruthless in the way it tries to infiltrate our lives.
But there is no denying that Legos are a brilliant invention. And the steady recovery and success of the Lego brand is quite remarkable. As a business, there is something awe-inspiring about that. And then I also read the article in Sunset Magazine about a blind father taking her daughter to Legoland and sharing the tactile experience, and I try to comfort myself in Lego's geniune intentions to create a unique experience and learning environment for children and adults alike.
Whether the Lego empire is "Lord Business" itself, I'm happy with what Lego has brought to our household. We are often huddled around a mound of Legos, happily tackling a kit or a random inspiration. Nico's 7th birthday party consisted of such a pile in the living room (thanks to a visit to Bricks and Minifigs, where they sell loose Legos by the bag), with him and his best friends making whatever their hearts desired. And the creations they made (completely on their own with no adult help) were complex and breathtaking. And that's pretty awesome.
It seems a little strange to post about a love for wood on a day when we declare love for other humans, but maybe it's appropriate, given what we do every day. At a job site in Berkeley, the carpenters are currently constucting a newel post out of douglas fir, and the grain was just gorgeous, my heart started beating a little faster when I saw this piece.
I hope someone (or something!) is setting your heart a flutter today.
Happy Valentine's Day!
me and my mom, at the Nezu Museum
While I was in Japan this summer, we spent a day in Aoyama and visited the Nezu Museum. The museum had been closed for several years, but re-opened in late 2009, after a major overhaul by Kengo Kuma. I hadn't seen it since it re-opened, so I was excited to go, especially since Kuma had recently been selected to design the expansion of the Portland Japanese Garden (his first public North American project).
beauty... and glare
I was busy trying to learn from the building, soaking in the proportions and detail. I admire Kuma's work and this was my chance to see one up close. We were walking through the first gallery on the main floor, when my mom remarked, "you know, I love the architecture and all, but I can't see the Buddhist sculptures' beautiful and serene faces when there is glare from behind them." And she was absolutely right; even though it was striking to see a framed view of the garden beyond, it was making it difficult to see the exhibit inside. I realized that I was so enamored with the building, that I forgot what the building was for: to house one of the most extensive and beautiful collections of Asian art and antiquities. My mom, as usual, was right.
Click on this link to see a sneak peek of Lynn's house, as well as some other projects in the works!
It's the end of the school year, which means final reviews: architecture students are presenting their final projects. Professors and seasoned practitioners (the critics) huddle around your presentation drawings and models, listen to your presentation, then proceed to dissect your project. By your final year, you know know not to take criticism personally, but rather to apply it constructively to your next design. I think the biggest and best lesson we learn in architecture school is the ability to analyze, critique, and to take that criticism and do something with it. It's a skill that can be applied to any discipline, and I have been thankful to have gone through that learning process myself.
Here is Carson, who is currently helping us with the Dress for Success Career Center design, and is also a fifth year student at the University of Oregon. She is getting ready to present her thesis project (in the picture she is doing a practice run with just me), and this is her last final review. She has been working on this project - a "sacred grove" healing facility and transitional housing for women and mothers - for almost 18 months, and she had a lot to show. She looked a little tired, I suspect she had been pulling several all-nighters. It's kind of a "rite of passage" for all architects, to push yourself to the very limit of your abilities. I think she's going to do very well during her review.
When I say I have "missed" final reviews, I mean the tension and energy, the rigor of young designers, and the performance aspect of reviews. Also, for critics like me (professors and practitioners who are reviewing the work), it's a window into the future: the students show us their design skills, their interests, and their tenacity. At its best, participating in reviews can inspire us and keep us invigorated.
To all the architecture students out there, having final reviews - keep up the good work!
Don't throw your food. Don't kick the seat in front of you. Don't run by the pool.
Life is full of Don'ts. That's why I love it when we can move a Don't-Do item to the To-Do list.
So let your imagination wander. DO draw all over ANY surface painted with IdeaPaint, a dry-erase paint that only needs one coat.
One last Don't to add to the Don't-Do list: Don't let the edges of dry-erase boards and paper pages hamper your creativity.
I've been thinking a lot about Coco Chanel lately. Not just her mark on fashion history, but also her profound and timeless quotes. I enjoy how so many of them can transcend the fashion context and be applied to design in general. Here is one I especially like: Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. Replace "fashion" with "architecture", and "dresses" with "buildings". I couldn't have said it better. The best designs are a balanced commentary on its surroundings. I find the best inspiration in the mundane and everyday, like wet footprints, a warm towel right out of the dryer, and the quiet of early morning hours.
or dry footprints... although I don't know how this is possible.
What inspires you to create? What do you think is beautiful?