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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Another dreamy window seat on a Saturday (perhaps this will become a weekly installment). Plucked from a two-story apartment in Sweden, this light-washed nook is lofted above the living area – the perfect roost for reading. Endearingly disheveled, I wouldn’t change a thing: the rooftop vista, the nest of pillows, the knitted throw, the bowls of coffee, the stacks of mags. But I would add me to this scene, lounging in these cheery silk pjs, made playful with cartoony toadstools and rabbits.
Who knew SOUL was a partial anagram of LOUISANA? Neon designer/artist Evan Voyles deconstructed an old highway sign announcing the southern state, reimagining the letters as the SOUL that shines above the pool at the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, TX. Designer Liz Lambert has transformed the old Victorian house and grassy property into a design oasis in downtown Austin. Drawing inspiration from Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music and poetry, Lambert created a rich aesthetic that DesignSponge described as “Old World European taken over by rock n’ roll decadence.” Vintage finds and a vibrant palette – cobalt walls, red Chesterfields, white leather headboards – embolden the space, and hipster amenities – every room boasts record players and bookshelves stocked with poetry, art and music titles – complete the experience. These Arielle De Pinto tangled drip earrings would suit the rockstar royalty vibe.
Mexico City has been on my mind, thanks to friends’ glowing reviews and the most recent 36 Hours In. And now I can picture the (bunk) bed where I’ll lay my head. Hotel firm Grupo Habita applied its high-design aesthetic to its first hostel, Downtown Beds, near the central Plaza de la Constitucion. Downtown Beds fills the servants’ quarters of a colonial palace (the palace itself is now Grupo Habita’s upscale Downtown Mexico). With innovative material use and a fresh aesthetic throughout, the group was able to create a design-driven experience for a fraction of the price of its other properties. Key details makes Downtown Beds sparkle, like the acid-green lattice brick used on bunk beds, the restored barrel vault ceilings in some rooms, and the interior courtyard with its crimson bar and café seating. With the hostel's beds costing as little as $15 per night, I can splurge on these similarly spunky Loeffler Randall sandals.
Yesterday, a seismic event happened in the architecture world: Japanese architect Shigeru Ban won the Pritzker Prize, the Nobel of architecture awards, a decisive move away from the celebrity monuments often lauded toward architecture focused on the greater social good. According to the NY Times article announcing the award, Ban has challenged the notion of “what it means to have a roof over your head” by creating temporary shelters, often using cardboard and paper, in areas devastated by natural disasters. When a 2011 earthquake leveled a 19th-century cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, Ban designed a transitional sanctuary with a nave of cardboard tubes. Dubbed the Cardboard Cathedral, the 700-seat church still stands until funds can be raised for a permanent structure. “His work is airy, curvaceous, balletic,” wrote NY Times critic Michael Kimmelman in 2007. “… he is an old-school Modernist with a poet’s touch and an engineer’s inventiveness.” The same could be said of design duo TeslerMendelovitch, kindred innovators of Ban who actually do the inverse by using wood instead of more playable materials in their architectural clutches.
Not long ago, centuries-old Casco Viejo was a crumbling patch of Panama City. A stucco palace of luxury apartments, built in 1917, had been taken over by five drug gangs, each occupying a floor. After UNESCO deemed Casco Viejo a World Heritage Site in 1997, an intrepid development group led by the palace builder’s great-great-grandson, lawyer Ramon Arias, began preserving properties within the district – gentrification embodied by the palace’s new occupant, the American Trade Hotel, a collaboration with Atelier Ace (of the trendy Ace Hotel chain). Beyond its stately structure (arched windows, interior gardens, red-tile roofs), hip interiors (a blend of Bertoia chairs and Mexican midcentury-inspired pieces) and alluring amenities (coffee bar, jazz club, farm-to-table restaurant), the hotel lives out its community-development creed: developer Conservatorio dissolved local gangs by putting members to work on construction crews, and the hotel staff includes graduates of a rehabilitation program for abused women. “Buildings are more interesting with people,” said Conservatorio’s restoration architect Hildegard Vasquez in a W magazine article. “You can’t just fixture the architecture – you have to fix the people. And in the process, they change you, too.” A room with a view and values.
It’s dusk in Beijing. I lie on the floor of an ancient Buddhist temple, exposed sky above. The last colors of the day melt over me. Bats dash across the ceiling cutout. A star blinks. James Turrell, a reclusive genius with light, traveled to China to fine-tune “Gathered Sky” at the new Temple Hotel. I imagine his astonishment at the calm achieved within the restored grounds, within the cacophonous capital – a site symbolic of the city itself. Built in the mid-18th century, the temple became a factory after the Cultural Revolution, churning out bicycles, medical supplies and black-and-white TVs (the latter: a stunning foil for Turrell’s profound palette). I shall visit, wearing Holst + Lee’s Somewhere in the Indian Ocean necklace, a handmade collar echoing the fans of color inside the temple.
Maybe it’s because I live in winter, awash in white and ash. Maybe it’s because I miss the brocade of Brooklyn. Or because I still think in Vietnamese and imagine an alternate life abroad. Or the way my writerly mind works, constantly crafting characters and scenes. For these reasons and a myriad more, I’m always scheming where to go next, and what to wear when I’m there. So to exer(or)cise my sartorial wanderlust, I present Wear + Here.