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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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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
And this is American artist Michael Heizer, image from here.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
Mr Noel Coward, 1954 photo by Loomis Dean for Life Magazine seen here
Who’s that up on the roof? Well, it seems lots of people like it so much up on the roof that they’ve built themselves a place to live and play and sometimes work. This woman in Paris (from a Jacques Rivette movie) has come up to take a look for herself.
This is one of those pictures that you can never quite forget. The pool is on the roof of a house designed by Rem Koolhaas called Villa dall’Ava outside Paris. It’s an iconic image for life on your own terms. Take the plunge here
New York is also renowned for people who live life with both style and daring. Diane von Furstenberg built her studio up on the roof of a 6 storey building in an area of the city once known for meat-packing. Supply your own quip if you feel the urge. (credit to Work Architecture Company; Image by Elizabeth Felicella Photography). See more at archdaily
New York being New York the desire to be on top has captured more than one resident. This is in Tribeca (found here) and it results in a splendid cupcake effect to our eyes.
Whereas this New York roof topper has more of a …what, French country house feel? Generous water supply very close by. See here.
But no matter what anyone says, you can actually find cool examples of unique living beyond Manhattan, even when it comes to rooftop living. The blue beauty (designed by MVRDV) above and below is in Rotterdam, Netherlands and was built for the Didden family. See more at archdaily again
The two pics above are of a playful rooftop residence (designed by JDS Architecture seen here) in Nørrebro, Copenhagen. Dad and son are having a nice bonding moment taking in the Danish summer sun–though the boy looks like he is not about to move his head and look down.
This remarkable book above takes us far from Paris, New York, and Scandinavia. Portrait from Above is a chronicle of rooftop living in Hong Kong. These roofies are not thinking about being cool or unique. They are just taking up residence in the only place available to them. More here
There is a neat video here of a guy who designed for himself a very compact home on a rooftop in Barcelona.
The above film series was hosted on a rooftop in good old Austin Texas. It was last year, but if you want to celebrate this idea of getting on top of things, you might look for a rooftop near you and see if you can organize a wingding or two.
This was in London atop Selfridges department store above Oxford Street, photo from here
Or maybe you could get a band to play some lively music like this one did on another London rooftop some time ago.
Above is part of an exhibit of important 20th century design established at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1993. These pieces of furniture were all designed by Pierre Chareau, born 1883, died 1950. In between, he rose to the top of his profession in France, and then, after being forced to leave his country, he found himself in America, in New York, unknown and mostly unsuccessful in finding opportunities to deploy his remarkable talent. Image above found here.
Today, his furniture pieces sell for $50,000 and more, sometimes much more (above from Christies, here), and a house he designed in Paris, La Maison de Verre, is among the most highly regarded examples of residential design in the 20th century.
Designed for a physician and his wife and completed in 1932, La Maison de Verre is a mind spinning display of creative talent–miles ahead of its time, completely unprecedented, and still capable of causing jaws to drop in 2011. Everything in the house was designed by M Chareau, everything (including the piano, we think). It was purchased in 2006 and has been very respectfully restored. Great story and slide show in the New York Times here. Beautiful photos by Mark Lyon above and below.
Another recent view of La Maison de Verre.
Pierre Chareau began his professional life as a cabinet maker, and he has left us with a wonderful (and much prized) collection of small household objects like tables, chairs, stools, mirrors, and cupboards.
Pierre Chareau Stool in mahogany and patinated wrought iron ca. 1927 from Artnet
Umbrella stand at La Maison de Verre (Wikipedia!).
This wall mirror above sold recently at Christie’s for €91,000 or about $130,00 seen here.
Cupboard–how cute is that–seen here
There are, nowadays, companies reproducing his designs, so people can own something approximating a brand new Pierre Chareau, such as this lamp:
Based on the original below.
Despite the chilly reception he received in America, Pierre Chareau did receive one commission of significance–a studio house for the artist Robert Motherwell in the Hamptons, outside New York. Once again he produced something joyously original: a low-cost structure employing materials and ideas based on military Quonset huts.
Wonderful photograph of Motherwell in his little Chareau house by the wonderful Hans Namuth in 1944, gratefully found here. The house was demolished in 1985.
Above interior of the Motherwell house from here
The story of Pierre is both inspiring and demoralizing. His was a talent that seemed to know no boundaries, one of the great design talents of the last 100 years, and yet it was a talent that was allowed to go largely unused and even unnoticed in a place that prides itself, above all, on its ability to know the real thing when it sees it. The lesson is, apparently, that talent is no guarantee to success, not then, not now.
Many books have been produced about Pierre Chareau and his work. Here is one:
If you you find that true and deep inspiration is sometimes hard to find these days in the wonderful world of design, give yourself over to a feast of Pierre Chareau. You won’t go away hungry.
This is the front entrance to the Shaw House. It is located along a much desired strip of waterfront property in Vancouver. It was designed by Canadian architects Patricia and John Patkau and their incomparable team. Image seen here.
When you’re in the Shaw pool, you can look down and see who’s at the door, and you can look north to see the ocean and mountains that people come thousands of miles to see. Image here
Above is one of the first of the Patkau’s fabulous houses, the Barnes House. It sits on acres of rugged land near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, looking back toward Vancouver. It has won many awards. Image from their website here
Above are three photos of an amazing library in Montreal known as La Grande Bibliothèque du Quebec. It is essentially the national library of the Province of Quebec, serving both as a public library and a repository for important archival material. Images here and here.
Model building is an important part of the design process for the Patkaus, and the models themselves become beautiful objects, not simply miniature versions of the building. Above models for Church of the Assumption Coquitlam from here.
Above is the model for Seabird Island School, an important project in Canadian architecture and the architecture of Canada’s first people. Image from here.
The Patkau major renovation and addition to Winnipeg Manitoba’s Centennial Library. Just really really nice. From their website again.
We’re not sure what you need to say about the work of John and Patricia Patkau and the superb, incredibly hard working architects and support people who, project after project, produce stunningly good work, from the big idea to the tiniest detail. It pretty much speaks for itself.
Maybe you just say Thanks and More Please.
Marcio Kogan has designed some beautiful houses. Some house hunters think they are among the most beautiful houses you’ll ever see. We pretty much agree.
He is Brazilian, and he says he is as much influenced by great film makers–Fellini, Bergman, Jacques Tati–as by great architects.
Mr Kogan’s houses are identifiable by their long clean lines, the satisfying play of light inside and out, and the feeling that forms in your heart while you look at them, a feeling that is roughly 7 parts admiration, 90 parts lust, and 3 parts regret that you didn’t manage to arrange your life in a such a way as to own a house like this. (Proportions may vary according to your age, current location, and upbringing.)
The three above photos are of Panama House, also in Sao Paulo, seen at the daily icon.
This one above was named C16 H14O3. Perhaps this is the formula for houselust. Seen everywhere, including here
Recent award winning BEACH house known as Paraty on a coastal island between Sao Paolo and Rio De Janeiro.
Paraty is nice inside too.
When Mr Kogan gets out of the house, he continues to do remarkable things. This is a furniture store in Sao Paulo he designed. It’s the VITRA furniture store.
I think that’s rebar on the left wall. carumba. Seen here.
There is an interview with Marcio Kogan here
C16 H14O3 again, saying everything that needs to be said, we think.