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There is a lot to say, we think, about the value and attraction (and sometimes strangeness) of smaller things.  It seems only right to dish out the goods in portions.  Welcome to sm2.

small towns F-Den Haag-MadurodamIn 1952, the Dutch launched a good-hearted campaign challenging the notion that bigger must be better by building something grand on a very very small scale.  Madurodam in the Hague is a mini-representation of Holland as a whole that can be wandered through in half a day.

small town Muadurodam colourHouses, public buildings, canals, canal boats, railways, airport…tiny tulips and cheeses. The effect on the Dutch and the zillions of visitors seems to be calming, amusing, reassuring.  So cute.

The idea has spread. There are now “miniature towns” all over the place–many in the UK, many in Asia, maybe one down the road from you. Their success says something about what appeals to us, almost all of us, for escape and amusement.

But how about the real spaces we need to live in and work in.  How small is just right?  Well we live at a moment when smallness is all the rage in houses.  You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve found yourself cooing “ahhh, look at that!”.  Here’s a few we found at our fingertips:

swedish-red-spackhuggaren-bornstein-lyckefors-architecture-residential_dezeen_hero-1-852x479.jpg             Swedish interior spackhuggaren-bornstein-lyckefors-architecture-residential_dezeen_2364_col_13-1704x1278

olsen kundegfalse-bay-writer-s-cabin-olson-kundig-architects-small-house-bliss              Kimihiko Okada 63371309231

Tetsuo Kondo 63364985428    winter-black-house-03b_oisterwijk-brouwhuis-1024x694-e1529458837608.jpg

Aren’t they adorable?  We are as smitten as anyone by these diminutive domestic dwellings, but being of the wondering kind, we wonder if this craze might just be an economic necessity wrapped in a personal preference, dusted with big dollop of copy-catism, and bound together with quite a large dash of moral superiority.

But hey, it is also entirely possible that these are, in fact, just what we all need

johannesNorlander scandinavian-house-exterior-290117-504-10

But but…OK just one more, inside and out, from Brazil, all white.estudio brasBrazilFOTOS

Estudio-BRA_Residncia-Sorocaba-2280-21_670

Our local art gallery is currently presenting a show called “cabin fever” running all summer if you are in the area.

Images of these houses rarely show any people in them so it is hard to gauge how effectively they serve the real needs of actual living and working.  But there is strong evidence to show that great things can be achieved in modest surroundings.

small Workspace-18 EBW

E.B. White (the New Yorker, Charlotte’s Web, The Elements of Style, etc etc) hammered out some of the most graceful, beautifully realized sentences in any language on a bench in a tiny cabin with a view of salt water.  The spare, plain, durable qualities of the cabin and everything in it perfectly match the products of Mr White’s mind and fingers.

Producing great work, it seems does not (always) require a lot of space. joan miro at workJoan Miro at work, no bench, no table, no window, no ocean, no net.  Art needs only the artist.

 

So maybe we can live smaller, a lot smaller, without giving up the dream of doing great things. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Adorable small houses designed by:

bornstein lyckefors architecture

Olsen Kundig

Kimihiko Okada

Tetsuo Kondo

Oisterwijk-Brouwhuis

Johannes Norlander

estudio bra.

 

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2017-08-06 09.48.26Look, up in the sky…

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Look, there’s people.  Up in the sky.  Walking around and round inside a coloured ring2017-08-06 06.04.41Don’t worry, it is only–ONLY!–a work of art from Olafur Eliasson, this time in Denmark where where was born, this time in the city of Aarhus.  It is called Your Rainbow Panorama.

This is the same artist who put a waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridgeolafur waterfalls01

And managed to get another one to fall out of the sky at Versaiilesolafur-eliasson-waterfall-versailles-designboom-10

So maybe creating a rainbow you can walk inside on top of an art museum wasn’t such a stretch for him.  But he seems all alone (to us, anyway) in his capacity to astonish so many people from all over the place, time after time, with ‘public works’–open, visible, engaging to anyone.  Water, light, colour, always unexpected, always accepted.

Will we ever see another like him?  Is that even worth thinking about?

Olafur E Model for a Timeless Garden IMG_MDA107810_1600pxAbove Moments from a Timeless Garden, water fountains, made to freeze in mid splash.

Truth is, maybe, some things only come along once.  So get used to it and make sure you don’t miss any part of it.  Wherever you go next, Mr O, we’ll be watching.

With thanks.

shops milan dela spiga

Shopping, like a lot of things, can produce a smile and a sweet memory or it can make you grumble for days and hate yourself.  A lot of the difference lies in the attitude of you and me, the shopper.  But much depends as well on the shop itself, and the face it presents to the street. Above is a shopper’s street of dreams, Rue Manzoni in Milan.

 

shops live-italy-milan-vittorio-emanuele-ii-shopping-mall-oldest-in-world

Still in Milan, where commerce takes place in settings suitable for an opera or the overthrow of the government.  The Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele is centre stage, a shopping mall where you and everyone else is part of a performance–comedy, drama, money changing hands, loyalties tested.

 

shop naples Campania-Traveller-23Apr13-Alamy_b_646x430

Italy is more than Milan of course, and if you find yourself in Naples, for example, at the other end of the country, you won’t lack for chances to exercise your shopping muscles and the offerings may be quite different than Milanese high fashion.

shop naples-More_figurines_Apr_2010_Naples

Above is a windowful of Neapolitan wood carved figures,  a product of this ancient city that can be found all over the world (e.g on the giant Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum in New York).  Nicely photographed by this perceptive shopper.

 

shops mossbrosscay-architectsweb

But its not just Italy that has a history and a culture of shops and shopping.  England too is what it is because of trade and traders, goods and wares, purveyors and shoppes.  our life as a shopper isn’t complete until you’ve treated yourself to London. This is Regent Street, a shop front done up by architects in 2013.

 

Han Kjobenhavn ny facade-wide-600x400

This looks to us very English too, but it is in New York, via Copenhagen, albeit on “Prince” street. Nice job by Han Kjobenhavn, is a “playful” Copenhagen-based eyewear brand.  Fits right in and stands out all at the same time. Found here.

 

 

shop emilio_pucci_madison_avenue_boutique_facade_img_3_0

Awwwwwww.  Cute as a box full of budgies. How much for those red lips, Mr Pucci?  This store is up on Madison Avenue in NY where they’ve been setting up shops to feed your eyeballs since way before there was QR code or a #.

 

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Still on Madison Ave, this fellow and his fluffy companion have, I guess, seen it all before, but those gals in the window seem to be looking at him with intent. Nice photo.

 

MARNI 67th Street by MARNI

If you want to join the show on Madison, you better have your act together, and this is just about perfect, we think.  Nicely done Ms Marni.

 

Paris Pencils

We’ll give the last spot to Paris, not the fashion houses or perfume shops, but this little stationary shop between the Marais and the river.  Mmmmmm.  Wish it was just around the corner.

With shopping, as with dining, the best moment is often before you take the first bite.  Give yourself an eyeful next time you go shopping.  It won’t show up on the credit card statement and it won’t wear out.

Everyone should live alone–at least for a while, we think.  It teaches you how to take care of yourself and your cave.  It will make you a better roommate when the time comes.  If you make the choice–or it is made for you–to live on your own, you mostly have to make do with a place designed for two or three or seven.  Unless you get lucky.

Tobacco by Avehideshi Architects and Associates

A few designers have, luckily, turned their heads to solo living. Above dwelling (“close to transportation”), is in Tokyo (of course) and is a solo abode designed for a 60-year-old woman above a tobacconist shop.  Architects : Hideshi Abe / Avehideshi Architect and Associates. Photos by Hiroki Kawata.  Viewed at dezeen here

dzn_Tobacco-by-Avehideshi-Architects-and-Associates-6

The cost of land being what it is, the building has a small foot and lots of stairs to climb–beautiful stairs in this case, so take your time.

dzn_Tobacco-by-Avehideshi-Architects-and-Associates-11_1000

This drawing shows where the living quarters (or eighths) are, but how the solo householder has arranged it all is her secret.

 

Nor is this little lady telling us how she arranges her life and her bonnets inside this tiny red place.  Chances are it’s either neat as a pin or a spectacular mess.

 

micro-compact-home

If you want some space around your home alone, here’s a nice little cube among the trees and rocks to call your own.

 

home for one CA exterior-south-side-in-the-snow

This is a tiny onesy tucked right into the woodsy countryside for the winter.  Fits right in (“Maybe I should have the Birches over for hot chocolate”).  Seen here.

 

Home for one paavo norway tumblr_

Back to the future, this prototype for one is designed to supply food, energy, heat and oxygen to its occupant.  Its maker calls it  Oogst 1 Solo.   Sadly for us, no mention of it providing wine and potato chips.  Seen at polychroniadis on tumbler.

 

piirihouse interior

This is Piiri house, mostly wood, just for one, good for thinking about where you are and where you aren’t.

 

252-living-area-mobile-house-1

And if you aren’t yet sure where you want to live, consider the mobile option.  This one in Lego colours folds up into a trailer and folds out into different rooms.  More here

 

APH80-Portable-Tiny-House

Mmmm. Designed for one, maybe but surely occasional sleepovers are allowed.  APH80 tiny home designed by the Spanish design team at Abaton,

Once you start looking, it turns out there are more people than we thought, professional designers and just plain soloists, who have considered the uni-dwelling:

Blob-VB3-Mobile-Tiny-House

Blob VB3, Designed by Belgian architectural firm, dmvA above.

Front Architects modern-billboard-house

A bit of a cliffhanger, by Front Architect

L41home-modern-tiny-house

The lovely  L41home, designed by Architect and Urban Designer Michael Katz and Designer Janet Corne

So if you’re ready to go it alone, at least for a while, you just might be able to find the right fit after all.  Lots more here and here  Just don’t be a stranger, OK?

 

sandswept-desert-road_peru

To those of us who have spent our lives in a moderate climate–ours is moist, mild, misty, and lush–it is stunning to encounter the desert for the first time.   Pic above is a desert in Peru looking to swallow up the highway, found here.

The desert eats me, Uyuni tour

We are here to say that people can lose their heads over this landscape, falling quickly and hard. The torrid attraction to desert heat and space happens not only to ordinary boys and girls off on a road trip (like this smitten traveller in Bolivia seen here ) but to all sorts of exotic creatures, including architects and artists.

Desert vacation home architizer

If you want to do more than just look and swoon at the desert, if you want to live there, find yourself an architect who’s got the desert bug.  Above is called the Four Eyes House by California architect Edward Ogosta, more here .

desert house olson kundig idaho desert house RosaMuerta R Stone DesertNomadHouse R Joy

Say “Desert house” to many an architect and you’ve got them where you want them.  Here you don’t have to worry about the zoning restrictions, the neighbours, or where to put the lumber, trucks, and tools while you are building.  This freedom, combined with the sheer harshness of the physical factors, has produced some beautiful results. Above three desert designs are by Olson Kundig Architects, Robert Stone, and Rick Joy, all found here.

Ant Farm Cadillac Ranch 1974 Photographed 1977

Artists too have found freedom and inspiration in the desert–the flat open space must seem liberating to any artist who feels confined by the canvas and the studio. Above is Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo Texas as it looked when produced in 1974 by an art gang named Ant Farm.  See here.

desert christo oil barrels

The artist who in our time has set the standard for getting out of the studio, Christo, has wrapped up big things (bridges, buildings) all over the world and now intends to place a very big thing in the desert landscape of the United Arab Emirates , as reported here

michael heizer_city

And this is American artist Michael Heizer, image from here.

michael-heizer city wide

Mr Heizer has devoted a good slice of his life and imagination and hutzpah to creating, not a sculpture, not a monument, but a city in the desert of Nevada.  Above image from Treehugger and more from the NYT 

And if you like art and light and you don’t know what James Turrell has been doing in the desert, you need to go here now.

turrell roden crater

Above is an entry into James Turrell’s Roden Crater project found here  

But don’t go getting the idea that it is just the 1% of the artistic club, the superstars, who get their hormones and imaginations all swept up in the desert.  Lots of everyday free spirits with a gluegun and a hammer and a glint in their eye do too.

noah purifoy

This is a portion of the life work of one Noah Purifoy, now known as the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art exhibit near Joshua Tree CA. Visit here.

Many of the freest spirits who lust for the desert end up at the Burning Man Festival every late August/September.

burning man 2010 boston big pic 15 

Held in northern Nevada in Black Rock Desert, it is about art and life and transportation and fire and lust and freedom and a lot more.  Only a desert seems capable of hosting such a collection of desires. Pic by Jim Bourg/Reuters via Boston.com

burning man 2010 Boston Big Pic

Before the burning, time for tea.  This image is one of many at the Big Picture site at Boston.com.

Some of the sculpture is wondrous, such as the piece shown below in this photograph by Frederick Larson of the SF Chronicle.

burning man sculpture 2008 F Larson the Chronicle

The desert seems to be able to accommodate and excite all varieties of humanity. It’s not just the unclothed and untamed who fall for it, but the super sophisticates who find something unexpected and rich in the plain hot flat emptiness if it.  How about you?

desert noel2

Mr Noel Coward, 1954 photo by Loomis Dean for Life Magazine seen here

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