Azure clouds hover above the southeast entrance of Central Park. No, this is not a meteorological phenomenon, but rather a public art installation, a playful inversion of blue sky, white clouds. The plump aluminum panels, perched atop 35-foot-tall steel ladders, are the doing of artist Olaf Breuning in conjunction with the Public Art Fund. Installed in March, Clouds initially offered a color infusion as winter dragged on, and now, as trees bud nearby, the sculpture inspires wisps of wonder and humor. Clouds is based on a photograph Breuning staged in 2008 in Italy. Using cherry pickers and cardboard cutouts, he created a quick installation and documented it on film (for me to borrow, six years later). Keen to reconceive the image, he designed a new cumulus outcropping minus the climb-able cranes. Why clouds? In conversation with Vogue, Breuning suggested, why not? Everybody likes clouds. “There are those moments on a summer day when you’re lying on the grass and you look up and there are clouds,” he said. “I didn’t really think about the clouds; I could have prepared a lot of things to say, but I just now that clouds are recognizable and each person has their own thoughts about them.” Clouds invite the mind to wander, aloft, untethered. And by painting them blue, he channeled an age-old abstraction, the childhood instinct to scribble blue clouds against white skies. “See, my work is as simple as possible,” he said. “When you are a kid, you draw a cloud, and you make it blue. I don’t know why. I think it’s a design thing, and after I made it, I realized, Oh shit, clouds aren’t really blue. But it looks nice, the different colors.” The color puffs on this dress look nice too, camouflaged to a leisurely stroll past public art (before Clouds closes August 24).
Snow clings to the ridgeline framed by my bedroom window. So as escape, I imagine another rugged white landscape: the Mediterranean coastline of Spain. The small fishing village of Cadaqués exudes charm with its bohemian meets cosmopolitan vibe, a place long loved by artists and writers now primed for an even greater following with the new Tramuntana Hotel. Anchored in the old town, Tramuntana’s 11 rooms, beautifully designed by Barcelona-based firm Intsight, come in M, L and XL sizes. A locavore breakfast and a pillow-plush lobby pulls guests from their stylish slumber, ready to embrace sun-washed adventures. Wedged between the sea and mountains, Cadaqués calls me from my snow-steeped slumber, into this perfectly playful spring jacket by Valentine Gauthier.
Surprising. Sexy. Fearless. Joyous. Timeless. These are the words director Murray Grigor used to describe the quintessential California architect John Lautner in his documentary, “Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner” (2008). Over the course of his half-century career, Lautner created modernist poetry in concrete. Born in Marquette, Michigan to aesthetically-oriented parents of Irish-Austrian descent, Lautner parlayed his early years working under Frank Lloyd Wright into a visionary portfolio in Southern California. While many of his contemporaries experimented with glass and steel, Lautner considered concrete his muse, and developed progressive engineering methods to make the structures he imagined, spaces at once futuristic and organic. His goal: “architecture that has no beginning and no end.” I imagine such transcendence would translate into a transcendent Sunday spent in the resurrected Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs, California, a site he designed in 1947 as part of master plan for a never-realized desert community. Legendary in his approach to light, Lautner conceived of each room as a concrete cove harboring sunshine. Honoring his intentions, the hotel eschews blinds in favor of face masks, to my benefit: I would spend the day (in this silken Maison du Soir tunic) reading by natural light.
I’m feeling the ceiling today. Of place. Of profession. Of person. Coming across Richard Wentworth’s “False Ceiling,” a site-specific installation at the Istanbul Modern in Turkey, gives me hope that I can decide my ceiling's texture. His is one of cultural and intellectual commentary: the books, sourced from Eastern and Western cultures, rest just beyond reach, removed from their purpose as portals to knowledge, removed from the act of reading. His barrier of distance nullifies any of the information printed on their pages. These are books closed to learning, eroded of authority. No longer tomes of truth, they become merely material, forming a permeable, symbolic surface. This Love Moschino dress seems like an exuberant complement to Wentworth: Channeling the pop pows of Roy Lichtenstein, the words stand less for meaning, more for pattern and visual exclamation. Maybe these Wows will inspire you too.
Three years ago, Foster Huntington quit his job in New York City, bought a Volkswagen Vanagon, and hit the road. Eighty thousand miles on (and counting), he published a Kickstarter-funded photography journal, “Home Is Where You Park It,” chronicling the kindred characters he met out west, who too transformed axels into abodes (Huntington’s initial sojourn has since morphed into a way of life). I’m inspired by these nomad narratives, by the adventure, the asceticism. By the 1970s Dodge Sportsman, canary red no less, parked amid Central Baja’s sea of subcompacts and pickups. By the Honda Civic transformed into a polyhedron sleeper. By the family of five’s second home on wheels: a camping tent strapped to the top of a van, surf boards propped outside. Only classic essentials would come with me on my driveabout, like these Chucks.
Trees remain on my mind, although technically, this forest outside Kyoto, Japan is not striped by trees, but rather grasses, bamboo. Pathways cut through the swaying stalks, inviting people to stroll or cycle, and discover the small Nonomiya Shrine nestled within. Now is the time to visit: the cherry blossoms pop in April, making for a flora fantasia in Arashiyama. If like a spirit animal, I could have a spirit material, it would be bamboo, and my spirit pattern would be stripes.
Earth Day calls for an eco-minded pairing. No place better fits the bill than Treehotel, an enchanted forest of five treehouses suspended in the conifers of northern Sweden. Inspired by the documentary “The Tree Lover,” Treehotel assuages the modern disconnect from nature by returning guests to their childhood roots of climbing trees and playing in treehouses. Nature, ecology and contemporary design meld in this otherworldly refuge, grounded by a spa, 50s-style pensione and green utilities like hydroelectric power and combustion toilets. Each pod, designed by an acclaimed Swedish architect, offers a unique aesthetic experience: the Mirrorcube epitomizes the minimal environmental footprint of the entire project by being camouflaged in mirrors (an infrared film keeps birds from careening into the walls). I would spend my stay taking in the panoramic views of the Lulu River valley and the cubist kaleidoscope slicing through the treetops, the latter reminiscent of this Helmut Lang sheath.
Before I bid farewell to wine for one week, I wanted to indulge by exploring Ensenada, the wine country of Baja Mexico, conveniently located 90 minutes away from the San Diego airport. Overlooking the vine-rich Valle de Guadalupe, the Encuentro Guadalupe Antiresort immerses guests in nature and culture. The experience begins with 20 luxury bungalows staggered amid boulders, cantilevered from the secluded hillside, each outfitted with minimal but high-end amenities including a wood terrace with a chiminea, perfect for wine drinking at dusk. The “eco-lofts” share the 40-acre property with Vinicola Encuentro, a rugged mountain vineyard and winery bottling Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Blanc and Nebiolo (only sold onsite). Encuentro guests are encouraged to patron the bar, cellar and Origen restaurant– a locavore open-kitchen concept offering cooking classes and dinner service on a terrace overlooking the valley. Ever ready to go glamping, I could pack this Mum & Co suede backpack in a matter of minutes, leaving room for wine of course.
Sans kids, the festive nature of Easter has lost some of its luster. Hoping to reclaim a bit of that wonder, I looked for places with unique Easter celebrations. In the central highlands of Guatemala, Antigua – a UNESCO World Heritage city founded in the 16th century with the Italian Renaissance in mind – expresses Easter in an entirely different palate – vivid and vivacious (like this Mara Hoffman mini). The sensory spectacle begins by carpeting the streets in color; residents spend hours funneling dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles, fruits and vegetables into alfombras, which serve as route markers for religious processions. Every Lenten Sunday, the faithful traipse through the city, razing the rainbow in a riotous parade of floats, costumes and brass music. Ephemeral, elaborate, extraordinary: an indelible Easter experience.
You had me at bathtub. Abode, the first boutique hotel in Mumbai, India, boasts 20 airy rooms dressed in an eclectic design mix, from art deco-inspired custom tile floors to bedside tables repurposed from roadside chaat stands and vintage saris as upholstery. With beds wrapped in cotton linen and robes and handmade slippers at the ready, I would take a break from the Bombay bustle in this breezy jacket by Valentine Gauthier, aptly made in a small, NGO-run workshop in India.
But I digress; back to Abode. Nestled in Colaba, a historic part of town rich with landmark buildings, Abode’s own was built in 1910 as the private residence of an influential entrepreneur. Now, its stately wood-and-iron façade is augmented by a neon light installation quoting Bombay native, Rudyard Kipling. “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs the world is yours.” Truth.
His was a voice at once, “classical and familiar, opalescent and pure, able to praise and curse, laugh and cry, fabulate and sing and when called upon, take off and soar…” This is how Thomas Pynchon described Gabriel Garcia Márquez in his 1988 review of “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Márquez died yesterday at 87.
Born on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, the eldest of 12 children, Márquez spent his early childhood living in his grandparents’ ramshackle house, a rambling expanse the imaginative boy populated with the ghosts who starred in his grandmother’s stories. Later in life, on the occasion of accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 for his epic “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Márquez described magical realism with humility at humanity: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination. For our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”
Unbridled believability: the man, his words, his manner. Channeling his fastidious fashion sense – he liked wearing all white from his linen suit to his shoes and watchband – I picture Fermina Daza of “Cholera” wearing this bone shift by Billy Reid in the Aquabar at the Tcherassi Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. Imagining her in this magical setting evokes a moment from “Cholera,” a sentiment suited to the passing of the person who wrote it. “The Captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelashes the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.”
Log cabins and cowboy hats are part of the visual vernacular in Wyoming, my interest in them diluted by their ubiquity. This Joshua Tree installation arrests my ambivalence: Phillip K. Smith III modified a 70-year-old cabin with mirrors and LED lighting to create the illusion of transparency, particularly profound in the arid expanse of scrub brush and desert sand (a profundity referenced in the installation’s name, Lucid Stead). This organza frock channels the installation’s colorful translucence and calm amid extremes. Even though Lucid Stead is no longer open to the public, Smith is busy working on other ambitious artworks: this Friday at Coachella, he unveils Reflection Field, a more elaborate light installation involving five massive, mirrored volumes of light. Computerized color progressions will make the sculptures disappear into their dramatic surrounds. Lucky Coachellians.
Marble laces the pages of the most recent New York Times T Magazine. The marble vein begins with a photo collage tracing the metamorphic muse in architecture, design, fashion and nature (hence Chile’s Marble Cathedral and my literal pairing with Rachel Comey's maillot). In a profile of lone-wolf sculptor Hanna Eshel, the marble slabs she hoisted by crane into her SoHo loft – photographed in all its light-washed glory – speak to her indomitable spirit. Eshel discovered marble after realizing that she felt confined by both her painting and her marriage. “I needed a material with its own soul, one that I could love,” the octogenarian said. Marble also fills an aesthetic need for French architect Joseph Dirand, who welcomed the magazine into his personal Parisian experiment in livable minimalism. “I like to look for materials that express a lot of disorder,” he said of the exquisite slabs paneling his bathroom and kitchen. Marble expresses self-reliance in the article on self-taught artist Alma Allen, who has carved a remote refuge for himself out of the Joshua Tree desert. Soul. Love. Disorder. Art. These references embrace marble’s metamorphic origins, the fiery folding of rock and time and talent.
A skyline of arcs and angles rises from the high desert of Arizona. Arcosanti is the living, breathing architectural ecosystem conceived by Italian architect Paolo Soleri. A student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Soleri moved to Arizona in 1970 and began experimenting with his “lean urban laboratory.” Intention pervades the place: abiding by the conceptual constitution of Arcology, the portmanteau of architecture and ecology, every built element exercises resourcefulness and restraint. Apses abound, quarter spheres structures Soleri recognized as passive solar machines that form cool micro-climates in sites like the ceramics workshop (where the settlement’s signature bronze and ceramic windbells are made). Ever unfinished (and underfunded), the capstone of Soleri’s plan is a kilometer-high tower with housing for 100,000 residents plus cultural and professional spaces (the population currently hovers between 50 and 150 people).
And the experiment continues in Soleri’s absence: he died exactly a year ago, leaving his legacy to the community of craftsman who inhabit Arcosanti, as well as the thousands of visitors who come to see the harmonious habitat for themselves (some spend the night at the Sky Suite pictured).
While pairing this place with a consumer product seems contrary to Arcosanti’s antimaterialism ethos, this pair of shorts by Atelier Delphine traces my connection to Arcosanti via the online filament linking imagery and inspiration: designer Yuka Izutsu described her trip to Arcosanti as part of her Of a Kind edition. I hope Soleri would approve of the paradox, of a thoughtful designer making beautiful things, finding beauty in the world he made, and the two together inspiring a far-flung writer.
This mise-en-scène gives a whole new meaning to rolling out of bed. Rusty wheels, weathered wood, hand-dyed linens (the new Brooklyn Collection from The Oriole Mill) and a steel guitar waiting to be strummed. I can hear the bed creak and shift as I tip over to check the time on the vintage clock, or take a sip of the half full (or empty?) glass of water. Plenty of morning left to while away in this union suit, to unfold the paper at the foot of the bed and tuck back in.
Seasonal submergence. My kind of cleanse. Every spring, snowmelt from the Karst mountains in Austria swells the Grüner See (Green Lake), flooding the park that rings the lagoon. For most of the year, visitors can stroll across bridges, sit on park benches and jog along footpaths. Not so from mid-May to June: the park becomes an underwater wonderland populated by waving green grass, wildflowers and leafy trees. Swiss scuba diver Marc Henauer spent a week exploring the magical expanse in his scuba gear, snapping light-dappled photographs. This Zimmermann one-piece seems suited to the park’s bifurcated existence.
A tiresome day of (tax) tasks leaves me feeling like I’m climbing, always climbing, destination unknown. Instead, I’ll imagine ascending these millennia-old stairs up Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in the Anhui Province of southeast China, in this stylishly reversible Nobis coat. The moody mist would pull me out of my cloud.
Rolling the grill out of the garage yesterday fired me up for the charbroiled parade of summer. With meat on my mind, I sought out an exotic outlet for my carnivorous cravings and found this Arcadian jewel in the fishing village of Jose Ignacio, Uruguay – beloved by some jetsetters in the high season (December to February). Dubbed the best beachside restaurant on the planet by Bon Appetit in 2012, La Huella sits at the end of the six-by-seven street downtown, on the sandy doorstep of the Atlantic Ocean (Bon Appetit food editor Hunter Lewis described the scene as a “bohemian pirate ship run aground – a warren of dining rooms, decks, and open kitchens made of wood and canvas”). Against a soundtrack of Tropicalia music, chef Alejandro Morales has mastered the art of the asado – the South American tradition of cooking meat of an open fire – in addition to many other gourmet traditions from around the world. The menu is a palimpsest of influences: Morales learned to make paella in Spain and shellfish pastas in Italy; for his breads, he drew inspiration from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and Chez Panisse compelled him to forge connections with organic farms. Now (spring, their autumn) is the time to visit Jose Ignacio: the 300 year-round residents resume their small-town rhythms, and with a new international art fair set for next January, the village – and La Huella – will surely see a spike in appetites.
Daylife. Nightlife. Lifestyle. This is the triad encapsulated by Fuglen, a Tokyo outpost which takes the coffee it presses as seriously as the cocktails it shakes and the mid-century finds it sells. The immaculate mix that is Fuglen – “the bird” in Norwegian – began in a decades-old coffee shop in Oslo: a barista and a curator revived the place in 2008, and two years later, a bartender joined them, hence the trifold offerings. From the get go, the trio talked about translating their concept in their two favorite cities outside Norway – Tokyo and New York City. Luckily kismet smiled on the idea and the pieces started falling into place: in Spring 2012, they opened Fuglen in their friend’s grandfather’s house in the up-and-coming Shibuya neighborhood. Not ones to rest on their hybrid laurels, the trio recently teamed up with famed artist Takashi Murakami on Bar Zingaro, a blend of Murakami’s Japanese kitsch aesthetic with their Norwegian living room vibe. With Tokyo saturated, the group is turning to New York, paving the way for a US of A Fuglen through a May showcase of Norwegian designers. I’ll welcome them stateside in this equally inventive rubber skirt by emerging Norwegian designer Christina Ledang.
Over time, wind and weather will erode Desert Breath, a breathtaking land art installation in the eastern Sahara desert. Sited at the meeting of mountains and sea, Desert Breath is a monumental meditation on infinity made by D.A.S.T. Arteam – installation artist Danae Stratou, industrial engineer Alexandra Stratou and architect Stella Constantinides. The team spent two years sculpting a pair of interlocking spirals formed by 178 conical mounds and depressions, precise inversions of positive and negative space radiating from a vessel of water. From above, the work presents a visual image, but on the ground, it becomes a physical experience as visitors walk the spiral pathway. So far, Desert Breath has survived seven years of desert conditions, still “becoming through its slow disintegration, an instrument to measure the passage of time,” D.A.S.T. Arteam writes (for a complementary timepiece, this Shinola wrap watch – intrepidly handcrafted in Detroit – seems like the perfect way to mark such stunning temporality). “The project is rooted in our common desire to work in the desert,” D.A.S.T. continues. “In our mind’s eye the desert was a place where one experiences infinity. We were addressing the desert as a state of mind, a landscape of the mind."