Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Members of the newly formed Penn State Environment, Ecology and Education in the College of Education (3E-COE) group and other environmental activists gathered to protest the sale and use of plastic water bottles at Penn State. The activists also delivered a letter to Penn State President Graham Spanier's office asking him to ban the sale of disposable water bottles on campus.
"Eliminating water bottles on campus isn't without precedent," said Alexandra D'Urso, co-founding member of 3E-COE, citing Washington University in St. Louis as a university that prohibits the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. "We're not asking people to make huge cultural changes."
The letter to Spanier spelled out the environmental and health concerns 3E-COE says are associated with the use of plastic water bottles and gave examples of their negative effects, particularly the amount of discarded plastic polluting the oceans.
Instead of creating mountains of landfill out of plastic bottles, why can't we carry water in an eco-friendly and artful bottle such as SIGG's product? A simple change in our daily habits can make a huge difference on our planet!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
I'm so fascinated with this magic transformation of space in nature. I can't help thinking that even the natural world possesses such flexibility and possibility, what about architecture? Shouldn't there be more wonders to be created?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Dogs 101, a fun series on dog breeds, is airing on Animal Planet. When introduing Weimaraner, it features William Wegman, the artist whose favorite subjects are Weimaraners. I remember seeing the famous Wegman dog on the introduction of an Art: 21 episode.
These Weimaraners (especially the one named Man Ray) almost became icons in contemporary photography. They are supermodels who pose well in front of the camera. Their noble and mysterious appearances have made them particularly charming.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Today on Travel Channel Samantha Brown: Passport to Latin America features Montevideo, Uruguay. My favorite spot there is Casapueblo, a hotel+museum+gallery designed by well-known artist Carlos Paez Vilaró. Sitting on the cliffs, this 13-story building embraces the extraordinary view of the ocean. No straight lines but only organic forms are found throughout the space. He actually built up the walls with his own hands and a simple shovel, just like working on a huge piece of sculpture.
To me, Casapueblo is a combination of the white buildings of Oia Santorini and Gaudi's free forms exemplified in Casa Mila. I'll have to check out all these places in my life!
Friday, November 7, 2008
Everyone would be impressed with all the extraordinary views captured by the film crew. They traveled to the most remote yet otherworldly areas to get the first-hand images - wild giant pandas’ copulation was filmed first time ever in history. As a Chinese, I was so touched by all the sacred landscapes and exotic wildlife which are unknown to most of us. At the same time I was deeply concerned about many endangered species out there under human threats. I hope every Chinese can watch this documentary and make efforts to protect the remaining beauty which could be lost forever.
Unique lifestyles of various minorities in China are explored with an emphasis on the use of natural resources. Some Chinese traditions associated with animals and landscapes are also integrated into the depiction of natural environment. The soundtrack is outstanding as well, which results in a perfect fusion between Chinese traditional music and the poetic dimension of the landscapes. Obviously a good amount of research on Chinese culture was accomplished when making the series. I wonder why we Chinese can’t make such high-quality and meaningful shows about our own natural heritages.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The blue-and-white Penn State jersey is probably the plainest among all college teams. More distinctive is the "no-name" feature: only the player’s number is shown on the jersey. This classic and modest look is well in tune with Joe Pa’s coaching style: teamwork rather than individualism is more heavily emphasized. Ohio State jersey, on the opposite, is much fancier especially with the eye-catching buckeye-leaf stickers on each player’s helmet. The stickers have been a long time tradition at OSU to reward superior performance. They serve as a key incentive among football players. It reminds me of the “red flower system” I experienced in my grade school in China, which was manifested in the film Little Red Flowers. Today many colleges are the adopters of helmet sticker system, but it’s certainly not for Joe Pa - "I've never been for that stuff, that's why we've never had names on uniforms because nobody achieves anything without the others.”
It’s hard to say which approach works better, since both PSU and OSU have had excellent performance over the years, and different approach makes each team a unique one. Maybe they should learn more from each other to balance teamwork with individualism.
Monday, October 20, 2008
For a panoramic view of Gaudi’s works, you can't miss Antonio Gaudi, a documentary by Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara. Without voice-overs or commentaries, this unique documentary offers a pure visual presentation of Gaudi's expressive architecture, as if the spaces speak for themselves. The crafted soundtrack adds another layer to the haunting beauty of architecture.
Monday, October 13, 2008
In order to gain full control of a scene, Hitchcock preferred set shooting over location shooting all his life. From the book, I discovered that some of the most memorable shots were actually made from matte paintings or miniature models. For instance, in Rebecca all the exterior shots of the mansion Manderley were made from different-sized miniatures combined with studio effects, while all the rooms were studio sets. In Vertigo, the tower where the two deaths happen was set up solely for the film. The bird’s-eye view of the tower was just a matte painting. I was amazed at how well those special effects fooled the eyes of contemporary viewers considering some were made 70 years ago.
The chapter on Hitchcock’s preference in domestic setting is also intriguing. The typical Hitchcockian horror exists in a hidden dimension, a horrific dimension underlying our most familiar environments, especially houses. Many of the most terrifying scenes happen in either a house or a motel room, which is best exemplified in Psycho and The Birds. However, Hitchcock did sometimes take strong interests in the tourist gaze. Quite a few dramatic scenes were shot at national monuments such as Mt. Rushmore in North by Northwest and Statue of Liberty in Saboteur. The landmarks shown in Vertigo also make San Francisco even more irresistible to fans like me - I visited most filmming locations of Vertigo the first time I was in San Francisco.
As discussed in the book, the objects in Hitchcock’s films are “never mere props”, but “the very substance of his cinema”. The objects often associate with symbolic meanings, link with tensions and terrors, or even seem alive. Many of these objects are architectural elements, such as a door, a window or a staircase, which have formed some famous Hitchcockian motifs. After reading the insightful analysis on many key objects, I came to realize how many visual details I’ve overlooked during previous viewings. I will go back to those films again for new discoveries.
In short, this book offers a comprehensive examination on architecture’s role in Hitchcock’s films. Despite its theoretical quality, the book is graphically alluring by blending original frames, behind-the-scene photos and architectural drawings. The author also wittily rephrased some Hitchcock’s film names into his key titles, from the book title to some of the chapter names. If you are a Hitchcock fan, you are gonna love this book!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
First discovered in 1773, Palenque has been photographed and documented a few times by European expeditions. The first professional excavation took place 1949-1952 led by Mexican archaeologists. The excavation still continues today, and archaeologists estimate that only 5% of the whole city has been uncovered so far! Since Palenque was deeply buried in the jungles for centuries, the process of revealing it was exactly the opposite of creating a new park: instead of building everything out of nothing, Palenque was unveiled by removing everything around it, a method of subtraction rather than addition.
Of all the visible structures in Palenque, the palace is the most fascinating to me. The whole palace is a maze: as you walk, you pass through different corridors, courtyards and rooms, while the tall tower always forms a visual center and implies the directions. Beautiful carvings are found on huge stone slabs in some courtyards. The palace is at once architecturally sophisticated and spatially interesting.
East of Palenque in Guatemala stands the larger Maya ruin Tikal. Hopefully I can get there someday!
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I watched Paul van Dyk's DVD Global, a MV collection filmed in several cities around the world. I was fascinated with the cool interiors shown in this MV Tell Me Why, hoping to find more info on the design.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Kawasaki was shocked by this soaring demand for his design under Palin's influence. But he asked American voters to pay attention to her positions on the issues, and not vote on image or his glasses. I hope for the same!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Light and shadow was a major interest in his design, for instance, the play with light and shadow by adjustable shutters, the use of windows and skylights to embrace views and natural light. The subtle use of light and shadow simply adds a phenomenal quality to his minimalist style, which also had a strong influence on Tadao Ando.
The house is an introvert space speaking of its own language inside the bustling city, a space of poetry written in light, texture and color. Unfortunately, we didn't have time for Francisco Gilardi House and Tlalpan Chapel, two of his excellent works in Mexico City.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
The salt mounds reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy's "ice cone". When covered with shallow water, Salar de Uyuni becomes extremely reflective. The human figure in the middle recalls the atmosphere in Antony Gormley's work Another Place (1997).
Bolivia is already on my travel wish list!
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
How great such an influential band is going GREEN. The dazzling visual effects of their show prove that LED is really the future!
Here are some videos showing the lighting -
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Our first stop was the Royal Ontario Museum by Libeskind. I was so eager to see a Libeskind’s building, but felt a bit disappointed when I got there. Maybe I’m no longer strongly attracted by striking forms. The play of form here didn’t invent a new model for exhibition or offer the visitors a new way to experience a museum, almost the same feeling I had when visiting Akron Art Museum by Coop Himmelblau. To me, the only interesting space is the Stair of Wonders which combines the sculptural form with fascinating object display at each level. However, I still want to visit Berlin Jewish Museum since the spatial sequence generates deeper meaning.
Gehry’s new addition to the Art Gallery of Ontario is under construction right now. Unlike his signature sculptural exterior, this building has a simple linear transparent skin while the crazy forms are kept inside.
Ontario College of Art & Design by Will Alsop is such a playful and structurally challenging building. I really hoped to get to the top, unfortunately it closed during the weekend.
Later we walked by the Graduate House by Morphosis and Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building by Norman Foster on Univeristy of Toronto campus, the last two stops of my architectural tour.
After seeing the pictures of all the famous buildings again and again, what caught my eyes are the ‘behind the scenes’ photographs: those captured the construction workers taken by photographer Iwan Baan. These migrant workers should not be forgotten, for they are the people who are building the new Beijing under heavy workload and low wages.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
This phenomenon reminds me of the world’s largest restroom, as one of the main structures of a theme park in Chongqing. The building looks like a cheap amusement park castle with 1000 toilets inside. Some of the urinals have fancy shapes such as a crocodile mouth and Virgin Mary. It was the mayor’s decision to make a new attraction or a “culture” out of the toilet. To their satisfaction, the huge restroom entered the Guinness World Record. But I doubt what kind of attraction or culture it will bring to people simply considering the smell of that place.
In the realm of profit-driven capitalism, either the form or function of a familiar space can be replaced. In this case, prison and restroom are transformed into festal space. The degree of being public or private in such space also gets shifted: the jail hotel becomes publicly private; the restroom castle becomes privately public. Is it a new type of heterotopia?
More satirically, the restroom is made of all recycled materials. Perhaps it’ll get LEED certified? Remember the 60-story single-family home being built for the Indian rich is also a green building? Does the idea of sustainability not offer a convenient excuse to build socially controversial buildings today?
Monday, June 30, 2008
It reminds me of another wonderful film, The Namesake (2006), whose opening credits is similarly stunning. The letters transform from Bengali into English with abstract paintings in the background. The blending of the two languages reflects the notion of cutural transition in the movie.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The Incredible Hulk is just another blockbuster movie. One thing that caught my attention is the mountain favela of Rio de Janiero in the opening sequence. The apartments are so densely packed together like piles and piles of containers. The place just looks UNREAL! I can’t imagine how people could live in such density with minimum room for trees and natural light. Apparently such a site is exotic enough for a Hollywood chase scene: the connected up-and-down rooftops, the dark and narrow alleys….
It’s not surprising that Hollywood action movies are exploring some of the poorest areas in Africa, Asia and South Africa, just to offer the viewers a fresh and different look. It instantly raises the controversial question between tourism and poorism. As a matter of fact, the favela shown in Hulk has been a tourist spot for 16 years. Is it really exciting to watch a chase in a favela like this? Will the movie bring more tourists to the slums? Or will it bring some positive attention or changes to the living environment of the residents?
Here's a related article Slum visits: Tourism or voyeurism?
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Compared to the high-cost BBC series, PBS makes intriguing and informative documentaries at low budgets. A good TV series I watched recently is Art:21 which offers a great introduction into contemporary visual art. The show covers 72 influential artists living is US, including my familiar ones like James Turrell, Richard Sara, Cai Guoqiang, Maya Lin and Krzysztof Wodiczko, as well as many others I didn’t know of. The best part is seeing the work process of each artist, accompanied with the artist’s own interpretation. Each episode presents a theme by introducing 4 related artists. I can understand the advantages of doing that. But often times I found the artists’ works don’t fit into just one category. By sorting them out, it simplifies the broadness and complexity of the artist’s approach. That’s my only criticism of the show.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The earliest ensemble film I’ve seen is Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989). It pictures the daily life and racial conflicts within a black neighborhood in Brooklyn on a sizzling summer day. The switch between different characters feels so natural, as if we are walking down the street encountering the real life of the neighborhood. It’s very funny, satirical, at the same time realistic. The famous “fuck all” rant in his later film 25th Hour is actually a condensed version of the themes in Do the Right Thing.
Two years later, Richard Linklater made Slacker. I don’t much he was influenced by Lee, but Slacker appears to be an extreme case of ensemble film: we follow one group of people down the street, then another group pass by and we start following them instead. Thus the whole film flows between all the different characters who don’t know each other but only pass by each other by pure chance. The common thing among these people is that they are all slackers on the street.
Robert Altman’s The Player came out one year after. The opening sequence uses the same continuous flow as seen in Slacker. Then Altman made his exemplar ensemble film Short Cuts which palpably presents the everyday lives of typical families in LA. This film probably influenced many famous ensemble films later, such as Magnolia (1999), Crash (2004) and Babel (2006).
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Nature has always been a powerful source for design inspiration. Jellyfish is one miraculous design by mother nature: it is attractive for its exotic beauty, at the same time it's repulsive due to its poison. My favorite jellyfish images come from BBC's classic Blue Planet (above).
Jellyfish Sonic water speakers by Kota Nezu