London Jaunt


I’m a lucky man.  Wen had to go to London for a business trip so she gave me a ticket to come with her as a fifth anniversary ticket.  Wen was lucky enough to fly first class-meaning that I got to visit Virgin’s “Clubhouse” in Heathrow-that’s it in the photo above.

We were able to catch up with a lot of friends and see a tonne of stuff.  As usual, we went to the Tate Modern, where we saw how Unilever spends its shareholders’ money on art installations.  This one’s called Test Site and is by Carsten Hoeller:

The idea is that our German friend is using the Tate’s Turbine Hall “to test a hypothesis he has been investigating for a some time concerning the possible effects of sliding.  What would be the result of sliding if it was part of the daily routine?”  I’d never thought of sliding as part of the daily routine, but I can see how it would be something new.  Here’s a great quote from the exhibit: the French writer referred to sliding as “a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind.”

The main exhibit at the Tate Modern was a scatological retrospective of the work of Gilbert & George.  Some of the work was quite shitty-see below:

I also saw a great exhibit at the Barbican on the works of Alvar Aalto as interpreted by Shigeru Ban.  I didn’t know who Aalto was, but it turns out that’s he’s the father of the more human style of Modern design.  He took the works of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and made the more personal and approachable.

Some of the great buildings he designed were:

The Turun Sanomat building.  This building had the offices and printing presses for a local paper (Turun Sanomat) on the ground floor and a hotel/apartments on upper floors.

The main window was used to project a copy of that day’s news for public viewing.  This building was considered so important that it appeared in a legendary 1932 Moma exhibit called The International Style: Architecture Since 1922.  This exhibit, co-curated in part by Philip Johnson, introduced America to European modern architecture.

His Villa Mairea-a private house-features a unique staircase that mimics a forest:

He also designed the Finnish Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.  It looks strikingly contemporary even today (alas it was build in a temporary structure):

A final interesting project of his was the North Jutland Art Museum, where he used multiple terraces with skylights to create a bright interior that contained almost no direct light:

Of note as well, is that Aalto would create almost all of his own fixtures and even materials (a lot of his items are still for sale courtesy of Artek).  Additionally, he was fascinated with certain geometric relationships: many of his projects contain repeated motifs of the angles 18, 72 and 75 degrees.

I also saw the Hogarth exhibit at the Tate, but I’ll put that in a separate post.

The last site I managed to make it to was the British Museum, where amongst priceless antiquities I finally saw the incredible roof designed by Norman Foster:

Also, if you’re in London and looking for some great furniture, go down to Brick Lane, grab a slab of salted beef on a bagel and then go to Unto This Last.  If they only shipped to North America!

If you want to see the most ridiculous store on Earth, drop by the Dover Street Market.  The folks from Comme Des Garcons mix their clothes along with those of independent designers across four floors set up as market stalls.  Quite an experience, especially given that the stalls are intermixed with antique curiosities picked by Emma Hawkins.


Friday, March 16, 2007

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