Category Archives: Architecture that inspires

Cosmic Quilt – NYC Design Week 2012

The Principals is an industrial design studio based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and they’ve come up with an interesting project that will be exhibited at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) May 19-21.

“Cosmic Quilt” will challenge the design community with questions about interactive environments, including these from ArchDaily: “What would it be like if the environment we inhabit responded to our present in an active way? What if we shift the scale of the way in which our devices operate to the way our buildings function?”

The project is on Kickstarter, so check it out!

Architect Bits

REA has come across a few interesting architects who integrate fine art and design into large-scale, experimental installations.  Enjoy the images and links below.

John Locke is an architect living in New York City.  Below, you’ll see the mirrored fence he built around the World Trade Center site to emphasize the shape of the sky in between buildings.  Sometimes, it’s the negative space hugging the angles of buildings that is quite beautiful in itself.

Locke also built bookshelves to incorporate into NYC phone booths, redefining the use for phone boots in a cell phone age.  The bookshelves invite people to take a book for free, or leave one for others to find.  This is perhaps the most public a “public library” could possibly be.

Ball-Nogues Studio is an architecture firm started by two friends, Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues.  They “explore the nexus of art, architecture, and industrial design” and have exhibited their work in various art museums around the world, including MoMA, the Guggenheim, and PS1.

RO&AD Architects are another duo — Ad Kil and Ro Koster — who came up with the “Moses Bridge.”  It quite literally parts the water of a moat for a fort in the Netherlands, called Fort de Roovere.  The fort is part of a defense-line that includes other fortresses and cities dating from the 17th century.  Drawing on the area’s historical context, RO&AD decided it was best to create a bridge that would be invisible to enemies trying to cross the moat.

Inspiration and Advice from Sol LeWitt

Detailed, painstaking, strangely liberating.  These terms have often been used to describe Sol LeWitt’s large drawings and paintings that span entire walls in some of the most well-known museums in the world.  LeWitt came up with the concept behind the work, then employed hundreds of working artists, art students and art historians to execute them–allowing his works to be subject to new and unexpected changes throughout the process.

In this way, “each instantiation, each iteration, is a new interpretation, as is a new performance of a musical score” (Dia: Beacon, Riggio Galleries).

A New York Times article written after LeWitt’s death stated, “…Mr. LeWitt gently reminded everybody that architects are called artists — good architects, anyway — even though they don’t lay their own bricks, just as composers write music that other people play but are still musical artists. Mr. LeWitt, by his methods, permitted other people to participate in the creative process, to become artists themselves.”

LeWitt offers a refreshing approach to art, especially in some of his personal writing.  In a letter to fellow artist Eva Hesse, LeWitt wrote: “Stop it and just DO.  Try and tickle something inside you, your ‘weird humor.’ You belong in the most secret part of you. Don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool… You are not responsible for the world — you are only responsible for your work, so do it. And don’t think that your work has to conform to any idea or flavor. It can be anything you want it to be.”

LeWitt started out as a graphic designer for the architect I.M. Pei, and later drew on this background to form his signature solid-colored, flat painting and drawing style.  Many of his earlier works were devoid of colors; later he switched to adding more colors and curves to his pieces in the 1980’s.  People questioned why the stark conceptualist suddenly switched, and he responded, “Why not?”

“A life in art is an unimaginable and unpredictable experience” (Sol LeWitt).

Olafur Eliasson: the Architect’s Artist

By Lecia Bushak, REA Intern

In today’s technologically-driven world, a contemporary artist must often be a hybrid of many disciplines: architect, philosopher, engineer; something like a 21st century Leonardo da Vinci.

Olafur Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist who creates immersive environments that mirror extreme landscapes and atmospheres.  Through the use of geometric constructions, light projections, mirrors, water, and other natural elements, Eliasson’s works transform the gallery space into a sensory experience.  He works closely with architects in various fields–including landscape architects and architecture theorists.

You may recall him as the artist who created the New York City waterfalls a few years back — he currently runs a studio called Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin.  It’s a laboratory for “spatial research” with a team of 30 architects, engineers, craftsmen, and assistants who work together on sculptures, installations, and commissions.

Façade for Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre, 2011

Quasi Brick Wall, 2002

Take your time, 2008

Take Your Time – A 1,000-lb mirror was mounted on the ceiling at MoMA P.S.1 and rotated at one revolution per minute in order to destabilize the viewer’s notion of space as they walked, lay, or sat beneath it.

The Weather Project, 2003

The Weather Project was installed in London’s Tate Modern as part of the Unilever series.  The installation filled all of Turbine Hall.  Eliasson used humidifiers to create a fine mist, and hung a semi-circle of hundreds of monochromatic lamps radiating single frequency yellow light near the ceiling.  The ceiling itself was covered with huge mirrors, reflecting the semi-circle to create the illusion of a full sun.  The result had the quality of an atmospheric, surreal mirage.

Umschreibung, 2004

Umshreibung, which means “Rewriting” was built in the courtyard of KPMG–a global accounting firm–in Munich.  The stairs are 9 meters high; the spiral is a beautiful intertwining of art and architecture.

Your rainbow panorama, 2006-2011

Your rainbow panorama is a transparent glass ring constructed on top of the ARoS Museum of Art in Aarhus, Denmark.  Every color in the spectrum is represented in the glass; each color thus marks the physical location of the viewer, acting as a visual compass.

Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid

By Jessica Wertheim, REA Intern

How does the hotelier make his hotel the most desirable, beautiful, and unique in an extremely competitive crowd?  Does he hire the best architect and design studio?  What about bringing together 19 of the top architecture and design studios, from thirteen different countries?  That is exactly what the development did for the Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid in Madrid, Spain.

Each floor of the hotel has a unique concept and is designed by a different architect.  From the moment the elevator doors open on a new floor, a new story and adventure begins.  The guest is invited not only to view, but also to explore and interact with the space – to look, to touch, to smell.

Unlike most hotels where each room and floor is virtually identical to the other, the designs of this hotel differentiate one room from another.  The uniqueness of each room reflects the overall themes of the hotel – individuality, culture, and freedom.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the floors:

Hotel Garage (Teresa Sapey): Brightly-colored walls and text graphics set the tone for the rest of the hotel.  The words that form the finger pointing to the exits, a person walking a dog, and a person in a wheelchair are all from a poem called “Libertad” (freedom in Spanish) by Paul Éluard, Sapey’s main source of inspiration.

Sapey intends to tell an emotional story about the right of every person to live life to the fullest.  “It is to move emotions that I work with spaces,” Sapey said. “I’d go for provoking just about any kind of feeling, no matter what it is… [A]rchitecture should provide a varied range of sentiments to be considered both inspiring and useful.”

Floor 1 (Zaha Hadid): Hadid was the first woman recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in the award’s then 25-year history; and, after exploring the first floor, it is no surprise to understand why the jury selected her.  Curvy lines create the flow and movement of the space.  The snow-white corridor produces a dream-like, fictional world, free of distractions, open for imagination.  Once stepping out of the elevator, one enters a clean, well-lit space.  Curved benches extend from the walls, illuminated by a twisted lamp that hangs from the ceiling and slowly changes color as time passes.

A unique feature is the guest-controlled messages that appear on the outside of the door.  For example, if a guest wants to sleep in, he can project the word “privacy”; he can also project “breakfast” to have a meal delivered to the room in the morning; or even “repair” if something needs to be fixed.

Floor 4 (Plasma Studio): Floor four is a visually and architecturally complex space that plays with geometry and brings the meaning of three-dimensional to a whole new level.  The studio used a “repetitive rhythm of partition walls, service ducts and entrance doors as a sectional framework.” Dramatic geometric shapes, built entirely out of steel, are suggestive of spaceship panels; color-changing LED lights outlining the shapes provide a fictitious feel.

Floor 8 (Kathryn Findlay): Kathryn Findlay believes “architecture’s success depends on the convergence of all the elements integrated within the work: external aspects, internal space, structure, environment and location.”  She has worked extensively on the integration between technology and architecture – the way in which technological advances influence design and the final product – and continues to explore and incorporate that combination on the 8th floor.

For this project, she collaborated with a lighting designer, Jason Bruges.  The two decided that the guest should play and interact with the space.  In order to achieve this, they had fiber optic panels constructed for the lobby of the floor, which capture the movement of the guest and then project a distorted image above the panels with some points of color.   The walls react to the movement of people walking in front of them; the bedroom numbers are light projections in front of the door.  The rooms are completely white – the furniture, the walls, the curtains.  It is a place of meditation, peace, and silence.

Floor 5 (Victorio & Lucchino): This comfy and serene space welcomes guests with warm colors and textured fabrics.

Floor 9 (Richard Gluckman): Inspired by the concept of a “box within a box”, Gluckman strives to deliver to the guests an experience entirely different from that of their home; cement ceilings and walls highlight this attempt.  The result is an industrial-looking space.

The Hotel Silken Puerta América Madrid is simply “the best in avant-garde design and architecture, where creativity and the freedom to develop each of the spaces has been the hallmark.”

Now, does that scream original or what?

Live, Work, Create

Here we go … the continuation of our December REA APPROVED excursions.

Chip & Brittany found some awesome things to “Approve,” so check out the rest on our REA APPROVED blog here.


Today our staff was sent out in pairs to discover the things we normally ignore during our hectic New York City lives.  The city is filled with wonders large and small that we miss on our rushed way to work.  This was a chance for us to walk aimlessly to search for the beautiful things the city has to offer–focusing on design, architecture, and street art.

The staff brought back a lot of photos in a mere hour’s time, so we’ll post them bit by bit.  Check out our REA APPROVED blog for Part I.

Do you have any suggestions of places in the city where we can find some inspirational street art work?