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“When lighting looks like art, you know you have a winner!”
- D. Shultz, Interior Designer
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My experience at the 2012 Dwell on Design show at the Los Angeles Convention Center last weekend can be best summed up by a well-worn cliche: what a difference a year makes. Whereas last year's Dwell on Design Show seemed retrenched under the specter of the euro zone crisis (and completely out of step with its tagline "Go Big. Find Design."), the 2012 incarnation was 100% about thinking big.
Summarizing this year's event, Dwell Media President Michela O’Connor Abrams said, “Without exploration, there would be no innovation. This year at Dwell on Design, we’re exploring beyond the boundaries of expectation to get a first look at the people, products, and ideas that will redefine the very notion of modern.”
So what four things did I discover at Dwell on Design 2012?
1. Modernism is Alive and Well
If the exhibiting non-profits at the show are any indication, classic Modernism is very much the guiding light of Dwell.
I was delighted to discover Modcom, the Modern Committee of the Los Angeles Conservancy. Through research, outreach, and action, this group works to preserve L.A.'s post-war architectural treasures.
Also in attendance were representatives of Palm Springs Modernism Week, the annual symposium of lectures, tours and exhibitions dedicated to Modernism's rich legacy in the Palm Springs area.
2. Outdoor Is In
The outdoor "deck" of the show was larger this year. Plants, prefabs, pods, pots and more graced every corner of the space.
The show boasted two retrofitted Airstream campers, further underscoring Modernism's firm hold on the Dwell aesthetic.
Even the very notion of "outdoor" was expanded. As part of the show's onstage series, Artillery magazine's review editor Carrie Paterson presented "The Road Less Traveled: How Miniature Forests Will Humanize Long-Term Space Missions," in which she detailed the history of agriculture in space exploration, and offered the bonzai tree as a possible human companion in long-term human missions to space.
3. Big Design Fits in Small Spaces
As expected, the latest in modular home design was on display at the event. All three participating designers utilized diminutive floorplans to the fullest, and I caught more than one attendee peering into cabinets, checking under beds, and above appliances in an attempt to visualize how they might downsize their lives into a small, elegant space.
The ecofabulous LivingHome was the event darling - it seemed like there was someone pouring juice, wine or champagne at almost every hour outside the space. At their $172 per square foot claim, the LivingHome is budget-fabulous.
Connect Homes and Sustain Design didn't rival the ecofabulous LivingHome fanfare, but their designs equally inspired. Sustain Design's caliMini prefab packs a high aesthetic into the footprint of a flatbed truck:
All in all, these homes felt a bit, well, mobile. I found it hard to resist the urge to knock on the walls to see how they held up, but seen in a broader context, these structures are quite a feat. Given only a few days of set up time, each of these designers erected and staged a livable home. Who am I to complain?
4. We Live in a Material World
My favorite part of the show was that which was perhaps least practical in the most direct sense: a number of sculptural installations were on view that explored the limits of material. As Cori mentioned in her recap of the show earlier this week, Oyler Wu's Screenplay installation utilized 45,000 feet of rope to create a textured wall.
Student Bruce Guan from the Interior Architecture Department at Woodbury University constructed a fabulous curtain from paper airplanes (pictured below and in detail at the top of this post).
Los Angeles based Timeline Wood showcased a line of distressed wood planks. These FSC certified, low VOC treated planks had the appearance of reclaimed wood. The owners, Shelby Keyser and Matt Stroud, perfected the "aging" techniques during stints as furniture restorers and artists.
As evidenced by the event as a whole, design's role in the building of a better future is more important than ever. Nowhere was this more obvious than at the motor court in front of the Convention Center, where Green Car Journal hosted a test drive program showcasing the latest in electric, hybrid and clean diesel cars. A year ago, the electric vehicles on display were concept cars. This time around however, I was able to test drive two production cars: the Coda and Ford Focus (available starting January 2013).
When it was time to head home however, I did the green cars one better: I jumped on my bicycle and rode home. Sure, nobody walks in L.A...but they do ride.
Images: Modcom, Sustain Design
Not since the City Beautiful movement of the late 19th century and its most prominent advocates (including landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of New York's Central Park) have designers, policy-makers and the public embraced ambitious landscape designs for public spaces. Today, as the world's foremost designers are joining efforts for the task of creating new urban green spaces, a few challenges arise: How to incorporate hardscape with landscape? How to design attractive drought-tolerant landscaping? What are the best practices in outdoor lighting? And with those challenges come solutions that each of us can apply to our own private green spaces.
The following six projects represent the vanguard of thinking in outdoor design. The first three are already completed; the second three may never break ground, but represent visionary thinking nonetheless in the greening of public space.
The Elevated Park - High Line Park, New York City
Manhattan's famous High Line park (above) opened in 2009. It occupies more than one mile of a former elevated rail line.
The Pocket Park - Materials & Applications, Los Angeles
This small green space in Los Angeles (above) is technically private property, open in the daytime to the public. With a rotating schedule of outdoor design exhibitions, M&A serves as a park space for neighbors and an innovative hardscape studio for designers and architects. Made from a series of interlocking plates, this sunscreen by Benjamin Ball & Gaston Nogues shares its inspiration with modern ceiling lighting designs.
Cassini Collection Bronze 16 1/2" Wide Ceiling Light Fixture
The Rooftop Park - City Hall, Chicago
Chicago was a leader of urban design 100 years ago with the advent of the skyscraper and it leads again today with rooftop parks popping up across the city. Among them, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Center for Green Technology and Millennium Park. Perhaps the most prominent sign of Chicago's all-in commitment to forward-thinking urbanization is the rooftop garden atop City Hall (above).
The Vertical Park - SkyFarm, Toronto
The SkyFarm (above) by designer Gordon Graff is a proposal to erect a 58 floor "agri-tower" in Toronto's Theatre District, intended to provide fresh, organic produce to the surrounding city with minimal carbon footprint.
Despite boasting some of the world's largest parks located within metropolitan boundaries, the City of Los Angeles ranks far behind other major U.S. cities in parkland per capita... Which leaves designers and developers (as well as this blogger) dreaming of expansive park projects in the horizontal city.
The Flyover park - Park 101, Los Angeles
A joint project between several different design firms, Park 101 (above) proposes to cover a section of the 101 freeway in downtown Los Angeles with a green lid, uniting the city's civic, cultural, transportation and historic centers with vital green space.
The Reclaimed Park - The Piggy Back Yard, Los Angeles
The Los Angeles River (yes, there's a river) has long been a target of reclamation projects intent on returning the notorious concrete viaduct to its natural state. The Piggy Back Yard (above) proposal transforms abandoned rail yards near downtown Los Angeles into a drought tolerant park and river flood basin.
As important as the landscape design is, it's only one step in a functioning outdoor space. Hardscape design and outdoor lighting is key to increasing access and safety. In the July/August 2011 issue of Monocle magazine, Christine Loh, CEO of the Hong Kong based think tank Civic Exchange, explained the need for reasonable lighting in city parks and streets: "Street lighting can obviously make people feel safer but it doesn't have to be bright, bright, bright." To minimize light pollution, both amateur and pro landscape designers are increasingly turning to dark sky outdoor lighting. The examples below are attractive but unobtrusive by day, and bright but not too bright by night.
Hinkley Luna Dark Sky 16" High Bronze Outdoor Wall Light
Hubbardton Forge Lightfall 13 1/2" High CFL Dark Sky Light
Not everyone is landscaping acres of reclaimed land or rooftops. Despite plot size, home garden or city park, the same general design principles will always apply... Use native and climate-specific flora when possible, let hardscape enhance the space without overpowering it and use lighting modestly for best results day and night.
Images: The Architect's Newspaper, Aether Journal, Archinect, Growing a Greener World, Torontoist, LAist
Relaxing on your patio is the perfect way to spend these hot summer nights! Making your outdoors chic is as simple as adding bold pops of color. This ceramic stool is not only a beautiful piece of outdoor decor, but functional too. Lush greens, concrete fireplace, and large planters create a serene backdrop and really allow the colors to pop in this setting. Get the look of color with this sky blue glazed ceramic stool (below).
Sky Blue Glaze Ceramic Decorative Accent Table
Other times, staying neutral and even all white is better. The slats covering this patio (above) create a dynamic linear effect while maintaining the natural aesthetic. Simple, modern outdoor furniture keeps any space clean and open. Create your outdoor chic space by choosing monochromatic pairings, like an all white dining set. These modern outdoor chairs (below) add interest, but do not visually take up a lot of space.
Zuo Gumdrop White Outdoor Dining Chairs
Keeping it all natural is another great way to create your chic outdoor patio. The element of fire in any outdoor space, along with natural modern outdoor lounge chairs creates a very cozy atmosphere. Perched high above the city, you could lounge in these chairs for hours and just take in the views.
Zuo Modern Cartagena Outdoor Arm Chair
Whether you have a tiny outdoor patio or a huge backyard, designing in style is sure to help you enjoy your Summer!
Images: COCOZY, Apartment Therapy, JMA
I had the incredible opportunity to listen the magnificent architect Chad Oppenheim speak at Sustainability Stage at Dwell on Design this past weekend. I was completely blown away by him and could not get the images of his upcoming project in Wadi Rum out of my head so I had to share it with you! Is this not one of the most gorgeous experiences you could ever imagine? Chad Oppenheim's competition-winning plan for a new Desert Lodge in Wadi Rum Jordan uses sustainable architecture to give travelers the luxurious opportunity to really be at one with nature. Architecture merges with the pristine setting and sweeping views of the sandstone valley to create accommodations that are both luxurious and elemental.
The lodges are carved directly into the sandstone cliff face, using the existing geometry to create the form. The others structures are comprised of rammed earth and cement, mixed with red sand.
The architecture is powerful yet minimal and really creates a sense of harmony and balance as it frames the gorgeous views. The power of nature is evident no matter which way you look. Elements of natural stone incorporated into modern landscape lighting or home decor can bring balance and harmony into your home.
“We have trained and heightened our senses to see, smell, taste, hear, and touch the mystical beauty of Wadi Rum. We tapped the inherent power of the desert through primal and instinctual design moves, informed by the forces, rhythms and patterns of nature— past, present, and future,” says Oppenheim about his creative process for the project.
Due to the use of natural thermal mass, artificial heating and cooling should be minimized. Utilizing local materials is a key element in sustainable architecture as well as water conservation and harvesting. In this project both of these have been given very special attention.
Water conservation and harvesting will be completely integrated into the design.
Completion of the 47 Desert Lodges in Wadi Rum, Jordan is not scheduled until 2014. This project will forever enhance the natural beauty of the pristine landscape. Outdoor lighting is a key element in guiding you through these paths to luxurious harmony.
Dwell on Design was an incredible event. Listening to Chad Oppenheim speak was one of my highlights, but we will be sharing many more highlights with you throughout the week!
Images: Oppenheim Office
The winners of the 2012 AIA Design Awards are presented in the May/June issue of CA Home + Design Magazine. Winners are either located in San Francisco or designed by local firms. These Bay area architects are given the spotlight for their innovative designs ranging from parking spaces recast as parks to an office that balances work and life.
Bar Agricole, designed by Aidlin Darling Design is located in San Francisco's industrial South of Market district. The design was inspired by the sustainable agricultural roots of the restaurant's artisanal food and cocktail menu. It's currently in the process of becoming LEED certified.
Track lighting is a great way to add an even distribution of light while creating a chic, urban aesthetic. It can be used in commercial settings or residential, scale being the largest difference. Check out this idea to get the look above.
Two Rail Adjustable Ceiling Fixture
The illustration below demonstrates the architect's sustainable strategies and the detailed planning involved from the ground up.
For example, there is a wood "hull" made from whiskey-barrel oak, which sits above the guests, giving intimacy and scale to the space while also providing openings for the sculptural light scoops. Bar tops, table tops and banquette seating (below) was made from reclaimed barn-beams.
Small pendant lighting is a great way to illuminate each table top without taking away from the gorgeous wooded surroundings. This mini pendant below is a great way to get this look.
Piper Satin Nickel Tech Mini Pendant
If you live in the Bay area, make sure to stop by and see this award-winning design. You can feast on some deliciously fresh food too!
Images: AIA SF, Aidlin Darling Design
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