Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's all in the translation.

There's this great op-ed piece from the NYT by Michael Cunningham, who wrote "The Hours." It's about having his works translated into other languages and how, no matter what, the meaning changes. Cunningham's happy if the new versions have a nice lilt to them. But he goes on to say that the creative process, in this case writing, is all about translation: From the head to the keyboard to the editor to the reader. In each step the idea itself changes, and then each person who participates along the way experiences something different. So it's really all translation all the time.
I think the same thing can be said of design. The house in your head -- especially for my architect followers (hey Ray! hey Kevin!) -- is not the house built. Ever. Can't be.
And that's not depressing. Just interesting.

Photo: Delta Shelter by Tom Kundig. And, yes, this applies even to Mr. Kundig.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The sauna: past and present

While tappin' my toe and slicin' up my Swedish pancakes last Sunday morning at the Swedish Cultural Center's once-a-month breakfast fest (if you haven't gone, get the hell up early the first Sunday of any month but August and go there, on Dexter. it's like a wedding without the pesky bride and groom. you got round tables, LIVE music, costumes, dancin' and eatin' for $9. And you can be nappin' by noon! costumes!) anyway, i find out about this there:
on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 7 p.m. at the same place, the Swedish Cultural Center, 1920 Dexter Ave. N., they're having a Finn hall. A what?? Gatherings, Finns. You get the picture. And this one features Arnold Alanen, Fullbright fellow and professor emeritus of Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin.
He's going to tell us how Finnish immigrants brought their understanding of the environment and cultural resource preservation with them to here. Here's the good part, and I quote: "He will also address the question: Did the sauna change when it came to America?"
Sure, I poke fun. But I think Mr. Alanen will be fascinating. As a Fullbright scholar, he's been declared to be smarter than most of us, maybe even Nobel winners. I'm not sure of the pecking order there.
Mr. Alanen also is the Finlandia Foundation National Lecturer of the Year for 2010. But I don't know who his competition was, so maybe that's not such a big deal. But that Fullbright thing is.

TIDBIT: I had a boyfriend once, between husbands, who showed his affection by remodeling my house. Unannounced. While I was at work. And one day he decided to pay his teen-age daughter to tear out the sauna in the bathroom. Then he rebuilt it on the deck. It looked EXACTLY the same, except for one thing. He took the old dog door, cut the window out of it and inserted it into the sauna so we could look outside while we sweated naked. Only you could never see out the window with all the steam.
Again, I digress. I blame it on and the exuberance of middle age.

photo: stock image of some naked guy in a sauna. if you wanted a naked women write your own blog.

It's a wild life. For sure.

So I know this guy on the inside at Schultz/Miller, contractor to the stars, and we were kvetching about this and that. OK, the economy mostly. Anyway, we were both saying that the jobs now are in remodels, expansion and upkeep. Not so much the megamansion or even a normal new house. But remodeling, expansion and upkeep can still be a big-money job on a big-money house. We're not talking about pulling up the Kohler for a Toto, ya know.
Anyway, I digress. He tells me this:
Schultz/Miller gets a call from one of their big houses on Lake Washington. Right on the lake. Big ol' house made of cedar. Owner says something's eating their house. Schultz/Miller goes right out. Sure enough, a corner of the house is bitten right off.
Not termites. Beavers. One 40-pound beaver to be exact. They had to call animal control and have the offender carted off.
My source says this (and here's our moral): Yeah, that's what happens when you build with cedar on the lake.
So, don't do that!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

As Chrissie Hynde says . . . (sort of)


The city, unusually, did the very right and exciting thing by choosing, from four world-class finalists, James Corner Field Operations to redesign the Seattle waterfront post viaduct.
Wow, maybe this little town really might grow up to be a city!

JCFO is so great that I'm tired of hearing about them. If my brother, who lives in New Yawk Cityaa, jingles the iphone one more weekend to rhapsodize about how beautiful High Line Park is I'm going to hop on a red-eye and go right there. And that's who we got: The guys who transformed New York City's railway viaduct into a downtown 1.5-mile refuge of pathways and plantings, waterfront views and benches for taking it all in.

Details, details: the team will have $6 million and a two-year contract for our waterfront transformation on nine new acres of public space (about the same size as the Sculpture Park.) But we'll have to wait (oh man!) because the viaduct won't be removed until six years from now. That's just mean.

These guys also designed a pier park in Philadelphia that lets people traipse on down to and get close with the Delaware River.

JCFO is a team group, and in Seattle that includes Mithun, The Berger Partnership, Herrera Environmental Consultants and Jason Toft.

We'll have to be patient: Final design deadline is 2015; construction by 2018.
Let's all make them welcome. Have them over to dinner, drinks. Do your part.

Photo is High Line Park detail.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The honey-do list grows

Yeah, yeah, I know, every day it's another thing to do and see. But, it's fall, dear reader, the New Year for all things creative; everybody's back from vacation -- shaking out the turtlenecks, pulling out the boots, pondering toddies -- and museums and theaters get the big shows (Picasso's on his way to the Seattle Art Museum even as I write this), and so, yes, here is another go-do: Suyama Space.
This is the art gallery portion of the offices of Suyama Peterson Deguchi Architects in Seattle. They have one big room devoted to one big piece. Only two shows hosted each year; January and September. ALWAYS worth it. It's George Suyama, Rick Peterson, Jay Deguchi, for God's sake. Plus, usually somebody has to buzz you in. Not Friday, baby.
Friday is the artist's reception for Nascent by Gerri Sayler (plus you kinda get to snoop around the offices of one of Seattle's truly most magnificent team of architects)
At this show you will sip your free cheap wine (alert!) under a dripping gossamer film of more than 2,000 filigree ribbons of hot glue: "Evocative of rippling water frozen in time and space, the hand-sculpted translucent fibers cascade from an overhead grid running the length of the gallery. The diaphanous membrane animates the senses and skews perception, de-materializing in the play of light and shadow, while instilling a hushed tranquility."
End your workday or start your weekend with an art buzz. If George thinks it's worth it, I'm there.
Warning: you will pass through SPG's eclectic retail store. Some items designed by George. Others just plain cool. You will suffer much want.

Suyama Space
Friday, 5-7 p.m.
Saturday, noon, artist gallery talk
2324 Second Ave. Seattle. 98121
Otherwise open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. But, like I say, you have to buzz.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Things are hoppin'

So much architecture and design, so little time.
Wednesday, Sept. 15, is action-packed. Action-packed, I tell ya.

First, there's FutureShack 2010 Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center. This is FutureShack's second year. The thing, put on by AIA Seattle, was supposed to grow into a citywide festival to celebrate urban housing and the future of it. That hasn't quite happened yet. Young event, crappy economy. But Wednesday you, John Q. Public, (what DOES the Q stand for, John?) are invited to come see what this year's panel of judges have selected as the best in forward-thinking architecture around these parts. There are five winners this year, one of them so in the future that it hasn't even been built yet. Doors open at 5 p.m. for cheap-wine drinkin' (alert!) And at 6:30 the jury will talk about the places they picked and why. Cost ya $15 at the door.
Truth report: Yours Truly wrote about this for Pacific Northwest magazine, and the paper is a sponsor. But expect scads of local architects there for brain pickin'. Go pick one.

OK, so anybody who's not at FutureShack WILL be at Benaroya Hall to hear the four way-big-bigshot finalists competing (ok, they're not competing. ohhhh, yes they are!) to remake Seattle's downtown waterfront once the Alaskan Way Viaduct is 86'd.
This deal is called Reshaping Seattle's Central Waterfront. And it's at 7 p.m. in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium
This dog-and-pony comes to us by way of the city and the Department of Planning and Development. But this will be a goodie. A classic. A once-in-a-city's-lifetime opportunity, I promise you.
One of these firms, out of 30 originally in contention, will be in charge of reconnecting the city to Elliott Bay. And you get to hear their pitches for free!(which means no cheap wine) Designers will answer questions from the public, that'd be you.
This is kind of like a beauty contest, but with land, because a lead designer will be selected in part based on the quality of this presentation and the ability to engage the public. And, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'm, the design process begins in October 2010.

Here are the players:

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol. These are the locals, but with a worldwide rep. Locally, Kathryn Gustafson worked the landscape at McCaw Hall and the Seattle City Hall. GGN is no stranger to complex civic projects, the garden spaces of Chicago's Millennium Park are just one example.

Michael Van Valkenburgh is known for taking abandoned lanscapes and remaking them into kinetic area of work, culture and living. The Brooklyn- and Cambridge, Mass.-based firm stirs city and nature into one pot. Now working with with urban designer Ken Greenberg of Toronto to create a new neighborhood on that city’s Lower Don River.

Field Operations (James Corner) is responsible for the very popular and dynamic piece of nature reclaimed from elevated rail tracks that is High Line Park in Manhattan. E. Nuff. Said.

Wallace Roberts Todd. Firm headed by, you guessed it, Wallace Roberts Todd. Philadelphia firm. The firm also includes Atelier Dreiseitl, a German firm with a Portland office that is hot, hot, hot. Also, SRG Partnership is a Seattle partner. SRG worked on the Seattle Center Century 21 master plan.

This should be a truly amazing event. Not too miss. You don't even have to RSVP. Just go.

photo credit: By Yours Truly, taken on the Bainbridge ferry. Not this year due to lack of sun and puffy white clouds.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to work, everybody

They call it Labor Day, but it's one day most of us do not labor. Hmmmm. Existential that.
Well, we're all back at it now, aren't we? And here we are, snug in the two-man luge at the top of the slippery slope into Christmas, what with the sacks of Halloween candy stacked up like firewood near the cash register at the grocery store.

OK, here's something to get us off and running this week. (Also known as the Free Cheap Wine Report)
On Friday, Sept. 10, you should run here: To the corner of Jackson and First in Pioneer Square, Seattle, for the 30th anniversary hoop-de-do for Northwest Fine Woodworking.
This is a co-op of local furniture artists; men and women who craft beautiful pieces one at a time in their shops that were once garages, or out back, or in workshops some are lucky enough to have. The 18 artists of NWFW encompass many styles. Some make a pretty good living at it, others are subsidized by spouses, but all continue doing what they must, like any artist. Friday they celebrate turning 30, and even the opportunity to turn 30 in light of the crappy economy and competing against the ready-made likes of Ikea (no slam to Ikea. I'm just sayin')
The thing is from 6 to 8 p.m., and it's a very tactile event. You can pet the wood. You will want to. It's lovely. I know. I've written about some of these guys before, and it damned near killed the savings account.
There are more furniture makers in our area than even represented here. We are a lucky bunch.
Don't assume. Go see. Learn something.

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