Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 09.20.09 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Crafting A City


Two of my favorite things came together this weekend: Dutch design and Governors Island. As part of a series of events celebrating Henry Hudson’s “discovery” of his namesake river in 1609, the island played host to Pioneers of Change, a two-week exhibition of Dutch design, architecture, fashion and high-concept no-category installations (the doilies, truth be told, were a little twee). A row of identical yellow clapboard houses in Nolan Park were opened up, emptied out and turned into exhibition spaces.

Their seriality suggested that Governors Island might be the solution to the problems of the Dia Foundation, now exiled from Manhattan. I couldn’t help but imagine Nolan Park as a sort of Marfa NE, with Dan Flavins propped in the stair hall, Ann Hamilton’s horsehair installation filling the first floor of the captain’s house, a Sol LeWitt taking over a long plaster wall. Even Warhol’s Shadows could be domesticated and related to the real shadows falling across the line of porches. That the scale and the architecture of these houses is much smaller and much more feminine than the industrial structures Judd took over in Texas (or that the Dia currently occupies in Beacon) would be a 21st-century twist. Some of the best design coming out of the Netherlands has appropriated the housewifely textile arts and reimagined them for industrial production and at urban scale: Hella Jongerius’s embroidered ceramics, Petra Blaisse’s carpets and curtains (a word that sounds too mumsy), Claudy Jongstra’s fuzz. House 18 was screening video profiles of several of these designers, which visitors were free to take home as a nifty rubber bracelet/flash drive. The audience could occupy a set of motley chairs, which I assume had been scavenged from across the island, Dutched up with coats of bright blue and green paint. I hope someone is taking them home.

As for the Pioneers, while my favorite art moment was Maarten Bas’s RealTime clock, in which a pile of dirt is painstakingly swept from minute to minute (a teenager walked in and asked “Is that animated?” I really hope someone explained), I thought the most successful exhibits were those that engaged with the problem of Governors Island itself. In House 7A, MVRDV and WORKac showed videos about urban farming, a definite possibility. But in House 6A, Platform21 applied the idea of reusing and recycling to the house itself. In different rooms, visitors were invited to repair old sweaters, cracked china and the peeling paint on the walls. The back parlor had a cabinet with tape in primary colors and volunteers had started to recreate Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie as a way of holding the room together. In the front hall, press-on versions of historic Dutch wallpaper were in a rack for the taking and two or three people were industriously rubbing pink leaves and velvety urns over areas that had cracked and peeled.

To me the activity suggested another way to bring Governors Island back to life and up to code: harness all that Etsy energy and make preservation into a citywide craft project. Great bones are there, in the houses as well as those chairs; the rise of urban compost and knitting circles suggest many of us are seeking a way to get our hands dirty; maybe GIPEC needs to let artists and their followers, take over the island for more than just two weekends.

P.S. If anyone knows where one can buy the super-thick yarn like that used for Christien Meindertsma’s Urchin Poufs (on display in House 6B), do tell.

|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>

RELATED POSTS


The Essence of a Teapot
While the traditional teapot should be at the very least functional — that is, have the ability to hold and pour a liquid, I recently viewed an exhibition that turns all that on end with the “idea of a teapot.”

Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.

Dear Bonnie: Cheated in Chicago
This week Dear Bonnie — our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler — advises independent artist "Cheated in Chicago" on the best course of action when her work is being used by a large brand without her permission.

The Renewed Art of Embroidered Photographs
Few creative things today are truly new — it's the work that builds on, pushes forward and continues to invent that gets noticed.

Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
Add Fredun Shapur to the pantheon of modern designers making winning and sculptural objects for children.