House Plans from Italy and India
Our window on the modern home is widening: we’ve recently added some exciting (and exclusive to us) contemporary plans from abroad. Plan 473-1 by architect Lorenzo Spano of Terni, Italy, takes an artful and sleek approach to indoor-outdoor living, from the cylindrical chimney floating over a circular hearth
that draws your gaze into the landscape (in a retro wave at mid-century modernity), to the dramatic concrete cantilever
that shades one side of the house,
to the seamless connection to a pool terrace on the other side. A roof deck also overlooks the water.
Plan 467-2, by Mumbai architect Rinka D’Monte opens up a simple box with walls of glass.
The floor plan takes the form of two rectangular volumes that appear to slide past
each other, which allows room for private decks at front and rear. It’s a new twist on the row house idea. We’ll be adding more international plans shortly.
Dutch Design and Other Inspirations in New York
I just returned from New York City, where I visited Governor’s Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan.
It’s a remarkable enclave of early 19th and 20th century Army and Coast Guard houses, barracks, forts, and other structures now being preserved by the Governor’s Island Preservation and Education Committee (GIPEC), a New York State agency. One model for them might be the public-private joint venture at San Francisco’s Presidio, which was reinvented as a national park.
When I toured the Island the historic officer’s houses (at lower right in photo above) were being used for art installations celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Dutch arrival in New Amsterdam (New York). Droog, the innovative Dutch industrial design and branding firm was one of the participants and worked with artist Marije Vogelzang (she is known as an “eating-designer”) to convert one house into a “Go Slow Cafe” that I found very appealing. I entered an all-white room and was asked to take off my shoes — the first gesture toward slowing down – and then sat at a white table. Lunch arrived on a simple board, like this:
with circles around each item noting the distance it had traveled. The wood and the food comprised the only color in the space. The point: to slow down, focus on the meal, and think about the energy used to bring us sustenance. The generous sampling of lettuce and cheese came from less than 100 miles away while the small portion of Chinese lychees (the white fruit at right) came many thousands of miles. For a while I was alone at the table as other visitors ambled past. I felt like part of the installation, which I guess I was. Of course another way to “slow down” like this is simply to have a real conversation with your family over the dinner table!
Droog is a fascinating global firm and reminds me of Marcel Duchamp in the way they transform an everyday object into something unusual, like a clothes hanger into a lamp, shown below:
a metal box that comes with a sledgehammer allowing you to bang it
(and your frustrations, presumably) into shape.
At the Island, Droog took a somewhat calmer, “Do Hit the Cool-It Button” approach (as we have seen) and also supplied products for an intriguing temporary design store designed by Marcel Schmalgemeijer. He stacked chairs to create shelving and display units like this:
It makes you reconsider the typical rented party chair — maybe a way to use that leftover furniture in your basement…
Finally, I just had to visit one of the greatest American Beaux Arts monuments: the monumental New York Public Library of 1911, by Carerre & Hastings. Now this is a room for reading!
In the age of Kindles and I-phones, it still has the power to awe and made me appreciate anew the grandeur and majesty that can arise from the intersection of knowledge and imagination. And outside, the famous lions
are still guarding the majestic Fifth Avenue entrance. Read about them and New York’s many other landmarks in the just published Public Art New York by architect Jean Parker Phifer (W. W. Norton 2009).
Deftly written, it’s an indispensable guidebook to every monument worth seeing in Metropolis. From the book I learned that the lions, sculpted by Edward Clark Potter in 1911, are named “Patience” and “Fortitude.” I think they’re good to have around in a time of economic uncertainty. Don’t leave home without them.