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?
Our local Multnomah Public Library lets patrons borrow a Kill A Watt device to use in their home. This device measures how many watts your fixture or appliance uses. You just plug the appliance into the device, and the device into an outlet. You can also measure phantom energy loads, which is the amount of energy an appliance uses even when it's technically turned off. You know that little red light that says your TV is off? Or the digital clock on your trusty microwave? The Kill A Watt can tell you how much energy those little things are using, too.
The best solution for saving phantom energy is to plug a cluster of appliances into a power strip, then switch off the power strip when those appliances are not in use. This is especially helpful around the media console - TV, stereo, DVD player, etc. - where it's a pain to turn everything off one at a time. I know those digital clocks are reset every time they are unplugged, but do you really need 13 synchronized digital clocks in your kitchen? I didn't think so.
The device has been around for a while, but what got me excited is the fact that my library lets me and everyone else check it out and use it. Not everyone needs to own a Kill A Watt, but I bet many people want to try it out for a few weeks around their home. Find out if your local library has this device or something similar available, and if not, it would be worth requesting it.
I just returned from Japan, where it has been unusually hot this summer. To escape the heat, my family and I stayed in Hakone for a few days. (It is higher in altitude than Tokyo but we found that it was equally hot in Hakone, too.) The area is known for its beautiful countryside and historic hot spring, but during this visit we also fell in love with the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
Most of the work is installed outdoors, where the sun and foliage play against the art. Many of the pieces were interactive, like the garden maze above.
Even though the art never seemed overcrowded, there were things to see at every turn. It felt like an outdoor version of Charles and Ray Eames' living room: things weren't on display, they were placed as a backdrop for living.
We could also make our own sculpture, using colorful foam pieces imagined by architect Mikiko Endo. (I love the fact that architects in Japan work on such a wide range of artistic projects.)
Almost everything in the museum was enjoyable for children. They seemed to understand what the art wanted them to do - to touch, to inquire, and to enjoy. The child in me really liked the woven sculpture by Toshiko Horiuchi, housed in a heavy timber pavilion by Tezuka Architects.
I feel refreshed and inspired after seeing art and architecture working together to create an environment that everyone can enjoy. I recommend you visit the museum next time you're in Japan.