In the midst of the Mayan calendar predictions, prophecies came and went and on 12-12-12 in New York, the Mexican architect Fernando Romero released his book You Are The Context at the Guggenheim Museum. The launch was a celebration of what comes next, a young career full of potential and a designer with the means to create change in and out of Mexico.
Romero and his firm FR-EE published the book as a catalog of architecture projects erected and for consideration around the world. In an email he writes, "It is a manifesto of today's context for designers." The book reads like an architecture self-help guide: a serious investigation of trending topics in building and social design: museums, mixed-use, responsible vertical, cities, convention centers, bridges, etc.
The book starts "Since the mid-1960s, as a reaction against the formalism and functionalism of Modernism, the word context has seen a common and frequently used term in architectural discourse." Romero and FR-EE are pushing an agenda with regards to careful attention to the key elements of site, culture, time and society. These are considerations for a future architecture.
You Are The Context is self-published and reads as part calling card/part industry resource. FR-EE hopes to ignite conversations around key issues, shed light on the positive developments in Mexico, and also to bid for some US territory or at least make it's voice more laudable.
Romero won international acclaim for designing Museo Soumaya in 2011, a sequined hourglass of a museum housing Carlos Slim Helú's prestigious art collection in Mexico City. Romero is prone to organic shapes and experimental forms. His mentors include Enric Miralles, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas.
When Frederick Law Olmstead developed his vision for Central Park in 1857, he was inspired by the picturesque and privately owned gardens he had visited in England and France, vast greenery that was at once organic and controlled. The New York City park was revolutionary for the time as it was a public space where all people could enjoy the virtues of nature, despite social standing. Today, New Yorkers are still looking for ways to commune with nature and creatively imbue the city scale with greenery, stacking plant life on top of man-made structures like the Highline, rooftop farming or yesterday's news about kitchen island hydroponics.
Then comes the Plant-in City art installation, developed by a collaboration of NY architects, designers, and developers. The handsome terrariums made of cedar frames, copper pipes for water, digital sensors, and integrated lighting bring picturesque gardens into your home or office. The Plant-in collaboration contains the sense of park in your private space, the lighting and boxed frames lend themselves to punctuating the vitality of living plants, much like a still life. The boxes are equal parts art, science experiment, and high design. Huy Bui of HB Collaborative says that he and his partners, Med44, in the Plant-in City project spend a lot of time indoors surrounded by technology and hardware and were "looking for an opposing force to balance all of that and considered creating a living wall."
As a vehicle to celebrate emerging artists in one space, The Pulse Art Fair opens today at the Metropolitan Pavilion with an array of artists and disciplines including video art, dance, and architectural installation. Last night, I had a walk-thru with Cornell Dewitt, the fair's director, to go over the spatial and architectural-bent arts present in the show. He says that Pulse makes it a point to be "accessible, literally and metaphorically." In a city that hosts dozens of art fairs like the monolith Armory show to the edgy Independent, Pulse tends to run in a glowing medium. It's central location and eclectic mix of galleries makes for great inspiration grounds. The art here can be as opaque as in contemporary art gallery but Pulse strives for diversity. From a young Estonian artist to Fred Wilson, and a Fred Torres collaboration, Pulse's manageable-sized gallery allows for intimate moments with the art and gallerists.
Upon entry, the Lead Pencil Studio installation in the Pavilion's lobby brings the city into an art world space. The plywood set is an architectural take on a Chinatown street, with life-size re-creations of chain-lock doors, post box, fire escape, and storefront. The installation is meant to emphasize all of the formidable pieces attached to a building and it's street life that an architect did not put on that building. We are left with the stark imaginary formations of order and security from urban planning, emergency exits, and an attempt at street art. The plywood objects represent the hustle of city-life, but in their plywood manifestations we are hyper aware of their artful re-imaginings. We remember that we are in an art fair. Dewitt says of the space, "the world is falling away and you transfer yourself, bizarrely into this clarified art world."
"I wish to communicate with you" by Pablo Guardiola, 2011, 28 x 42 inches
The avocado is venerated the world over. The fleshy fruit, native to Mexico, can be found as far as Bali or South Africa. Its bulbous shape and dark rind became the subject of a nuanced correspondence between designers Christiane Büssgen of Germany and Jesús Alonso of Mexico.
Through emails and sketches the two romanced the fruit to hypnotic levels, fleshing out projects in tableware with mixed materials in porcelain, wood, and metal. The avocado silhouette became the basis for the duo C4's Project Avolution presented at New York Design Week in 2011, combining a passion for food and natural materials, where each item on the table is related to a part of the avocado through its material or shape. Think skin, shape, and pit. Then add the avocado as ingredient.
The two designers first met in 2010 during New York Design Week and kept a vigilant avocado log. Christiane had been making porcelain avocado prototypes for more than a year, excited by their porous skin and bowl shape. Jesus extended the dialogue with poetic sketches and his own cultural context.
El Vocho as shot by Adrienne Bard in Mexico City.
Combine the iconic Mexican culture expressions of the psychedelic Huichol and a Volkswagen Beetle or El Vocho as Mexicans have nicknamed it—and you get El Vochol, a beaded VW bug. This dynamic manifestation of indigenous folk art is being used to promote the artisan heritage of the indigenous Mexican communities to an international audience.
El Vochol was first commissioned by the Association of Friends of Museo of Arte Popular in Mexico City to elevate the work of traditional artisans in the public sphere both nationally and internationally. The project took on a greater message to the world: indigenous work is not to be forgotten, and in fact, celebrated. Sonya Santos of the Museo says, "People all over the world are responding in a fabulous way....They are all surprised by the magnificent work."
The Huichol, or Wixaritari as they call themselves, are known in Mexico for their intricate bead work lain into beeswax by needle one bead at a time to cover entire objects such as bowls and figurines. The Wixaritari live in the Sierra Nevadas of Western central Mexico and are praised in folkloric markets for their colorful and spiritual works of art produced mainly for tourism. The symbols represented in the bead and yarn work reflect their deep centuries-old shamanic traditions, with veneration to principal deities of corn, deer, peyote, and the eagle.