Entree Alpine Panoramic Structure, Alice Studio/Atelier de la Conception de L'Espace, Valais, Switzerland.
In the same way that we need a vacation to rest after a vacation, we might need a home where we can chill out after spending time at home. Even modest houses and apartments today are so richly furnished and plugged-in that we can barely rest when we’re inside: we’re streaming TV shows and music, working remotely, and connecting electronically with loved ones around the world. Home can be as demanding and draining as the workplace.
Perhaps the answer really is another home, a small shed in a quiet, out-of-the-way place, where we can retreat from both professional and personal demands. There are some spectacular options inside the book Rock the Shack: The Architecture of Cabins, Cocoons and Hide-Outs. These refuges are, for the most part, small, freestanding structures on rural sites, most of them located so remotely that there are few other structures, or even roads or walkways, in sight. But unlike typical country homes these places aren’t programmed for leisure: they don’t have great rooms, tennis courts, patios and pools. Instead they offer spare interior spaces for living, windows to stare out of, and immersion in a powerful landscape.
The most dramatic homes have been designed to support one single activity. Some are studios for painting or writing, some are playhouses, and some aren’t much more than elaborate sleeping chambers.
© Roberta Ridolfi
Like memories suddenly resurfacing, Italian photographer Roberta Ridolfi shares rediscovered images from a trip to Andalusia last September. “It’s amazing how editing can change the meaning of an edit,” she says. The edit indeed has a lighter mood compared to the original. Ridolfi finds inspiration from classic cinema, as if foretelling of her chosen title for the original series, Texas Hollywood
. As if to emphasize this natural psyche, the way she describes how she became a photographer, is like reading the opening of a story: “My uncle had an old Nikon he bought in the 70’s he hardly ever used. For some reason he thought I could do something with it. Next thing I knew, I quit university and enrolled myself in a photography course. One thing led to another.”
Roberta currently lives and works in London as a fashion photographer.
The Cuyahoga River on fire/First Run Features
A warming climate isn’t the only source of heat these days. There is, in fact, another source of burning intensity. Organized groups of protesters amped up the temperature in their own fashion by taking to the nation’s capitol in a recent display of opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. As clarion calls to address climate change spread, it’s worth remembering that demonstrations and fights of resistance have stoked the environmental movement since its inception. These measures have succeeded in numerous cases throughout the years to protect communities from exposure to hazardous waste and to save endangered species or threatened ecosystems.
The ferocious fire that inspired the name of Mark Kitchell’s new documentary isn’t the sooty, pollution-fueling combustion of coal or the burning of rainforests. A Fierce Green Fire, now in limited release, is named rather for the life-sustaining inner flame that the conservationist Aldo Leopold once observed in the eyes of a dying wolf and for the corresponding zeal that has fueled the efforts of environmentalists for nearly five decades. The very same passion that was on display last month in Washington has fed the movement for generations through often bitter fights and against long odds.
In the time since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published and the Sierra Club was victorious in blocking the construction of dams in the Grand Canyon, activists have been busy responding to an evolving set of practices that threaten our land, wildlife, water, and air.
Crossing Social and Ecological Flows James Murray & Shota Vashakmadze
Imagine a power plant in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary. Try to picture an energy source as a work of art. That’s exactly what the Land Art Generator Initiative asked designers and architects to do. For its second site-specific design competition the non-profit organization (LAGI for short), sought to inspire plans for land art installations with the duel function of being both ornamental attractions for visitors and sources of renewable energy. This time the initiative found a kindred spirit in a parks department that has asked citizens to envision a dumping ground as a place of natural beauty.
When LAGI’s directors were considering places on which to focus their 2012 contest, New York City’s Freshkills Park seemed like the ideal choice. The location’s transformation from what was once the world’s largest landfill to a 2,200-acre preserve is now being undertaken in stages over a 30-year development phase with a similar intent as the one informing LAGI’s own mission — questioning assumptions and repairing environmental damage with smart sustainable methods. And when it comes to alternative energy, the park has already begun harvesting methane from decomposing garbage to heat area homes.
In LAGI’s ultimate goal of one day witnessing the construction of “the world’s first work of public art, slash sustainable utility-scale power plant,” environmental stewardship goes hand in hand with the establishment of a public gathering place, just as it does in the ongoing overhaul of Freshkills.
Ditte Isager/©Hachette Book Group, Inc.
The question What should we have for dinner? has never been so difficult to answer. A new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History presents a survey of the diversity in tastes, growing techniques, and methods of cooking that have satisfied appetites across cultures and centuries. It’s hard to consider this broad range of agricultural and culinary trends past and present and not come to the conclusion that ours is one of the more transformational periods in the history of food. Genetic modifications to crops, which were the subject of the recently defeated Proposition 37 ballot measure in California, represent only one way in which our foods are changing. More broadly, our entire approach to eating is being modified.
That monumental shift is due largely to a growing consciousness of the connections drawn between food and health being made in the context of strained food supplies in a changing climate. The health and wellness proponent Dr. Andrew Weil recently published a cookbook called True Food in which he argues that meals made from sustainable and wholesome ingredients can be both flavorful and easy. Dr. Weil spoke to PLANET about the common sense principles that he and his partners Sam Fox and Michael Stebner have followed in building a small empire of health food restaurants and the larger currents that have informed his thoughts about food in a world waking up to a new era of eating.
Paulo Niemeyer Apartments, Belo Horizonte, Brasil, 1954-60.
If we stop to remember Oscar Niemeyer, the great Brazilian architect who died this week at the age of 104, it should be less to mourn his passing than to admire a life richly lived. Niemeyer accomplished what few architects can. Over a career that spanned eighty years he designed hundreds of buildings whose forms helped forge his country’s contemporary identity. He built Brazilian style.
Niemeyer was in the right place at the right time and possessed just the right attitude. His country’s immense, rolling landscape and tropical climate offered the perfect setting for an abstract, sculptural architecture. He came of age as an architect in the 1950’s, at a time when Brazil was becoming more unified politically and undertaking enormous building and infrastructure projects. And he was a unrepentant sensualist, an aesthete and ladies man whose passions drove him to pursue enormous commissions like the capitol buildings in Brasilia, and to celebrate beauty above all else. All of these identities were merged in his work, an architecture of immense reinforced concrete shells and planes, at once archly elegant and dazzlingly sensual.
His style has been called “tropical modernism” to distinguish it from the works of European contemporaries, who used a similar vocabulary of slender columns, open plans, and ribbon windows, but who fixed its rules and meanings philosophically.
Skye will always be associated with her original group, Morcheeba, even if she is on her third solo record, Back To Now. When she originally broke out on her own, Skye embarked on the singer/songwriter path with her voice as the central focus and guitars and piano playing background roles. On her latest, Skye returns to the Morcheeba style of doing things with beats and manufactured loops backing her instantly recognizable honeyed vocals. No matter what accompanies her, it is Skye’s distinct silky voice that is her calling card. Back To Now is driven by dark electronics, which in turn bring out a moodiness to Skye’s normally sweet tones. The dance-lite “Featherlight” broaches pop territory and the spitting chorus of “Every Little Lie” helps make it stickable. Despite these effort, Back To Now is missing the immediate trip-hop pop that the Morcheeba combination brought so easily out of Skye. After a six-year break from Morcheeba, Skye is back to her day job with that group, so those hits are impending.
Trollstigen National Tourist Route Project, Trollstigen - Møre and Romsdal, Norway, 2005-2012. By Reiulf Ramstad Architects.
We tend to travel in one of two ways: to a city to dive into its rhythms and culture, or to some out-of-the-way place to abandon ourselves to the landscape. It’s this second kind of adventure that’s the focus of Once in a Lifetime: Travel and Leisure Redefined
. The book showcases new international lodges, campsites, retreats and lookouts that lure guests to a quiet, secluded place.
Instead of high thread count sheets and Michelin-star restaurants, what these places offer is private, uninterrupted access to a special landscape. So it’s regions with extreme, picturesque geographies, especially those in less-traveled corners of the globe, that offer some of the finest destinations. The book takes us to the backwaters of Cambodia, forests in the Alps, and the deserts of Namibia and Tanzania. These lodges and the amenities they offer are modest compared to typical full-service resorts. Instead they break down the routines of sleeping, bathing and dining into clarifying essentials, pursuing sensuality over opulence.
The architecture of these retreats sits restfully within the surroundings and opens itself radically to the outside. Sometimes the experience stimulates, like the otherworldly forest views that pour through wraparound picture windows at the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Norway.
© Misha Taylor
Most may be familiar with Misha Taylor as a fashion and portrait photographer whose undeniably seductive and grappling work has graced the pages of magazines such as V Man
. In a rare instance, today, Taylor shares with PLANET a very special personal project he has been working on.
Taken in Durban, South Africa, these images reveal a reality that often goes unrecognized in mainstream media– the effects of Chinese trade agreements on the youth of Africa. Ice cream vendors on the beach fronts of Durban sell 9mm replica pistols that shoot plastic BB guns made in China to young children. Regulations in China forbid the sale of such items within its own country’s borders, subsequently forcing exports to countries like Durban, where a less controlled government sees them sold, not only without regulation, but to those as young as six years old. On the one hand, Misha tells PLANET, “what is happening isn’t all bad”– indeed, Africa needs investment that can boost education and development and China needs Africa’s natural resources. However the emerging economic and political power of China on Africa has been a dual dance of good and bad.
Doug Aitken, Altered Earth, 2012. Commissioned and produced by the LUMA foundation, photo © Robert Leslie.
The gallery walls came tumbling down in the 60’s and 70’s when a generation of land artists stepped outdoors and used nature as their canvas. For Robert Smithson, the doyen of the Earthworks movement, whose “Spiral Jetty” still protrudes from the shore of the Great Salt Lake, art was meant to engage with the outside world in a way that it couldn’t when cooped up inside. “A work of art when placed in a gallery loses its charge,” he stated in that earlier era.
It’s a shame Smithson couldn’t be there for Doug Aitken’s projection of movie images on the façade of New York’s MoMA for 2007’s “Sleepwalkers.” It was a case of art finding its way outside the museum’s walls but with the added twist of actually becoming the museum’s walls. Delineations between inside and out, real world and representation, never felt so fluid.
As a multimedia innovator, Aitken has built a reputation for reimagining time and space. Few artists come better equipped to capture the kaleidoscopic fever dream we know as life in the present day. With his latest installation, “Altered Earth,” he sets about creating what’s being billed as land art for the electronic age, and in 21st Century fashion, the results are disorienting and overwhelming.