chandeliers in treehouses (tbt)

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Toshihiro Oki Architect P.C. with Toshihiro Oki, Jen Wood, and Jared Diganci, “tree wood,” 2013

This was a pretty cool project, and one that I almost didn’t see. The last summer I was in New York, I was living in Astoria, but didn’t explore much of my neighborhood until the last few weeks I was there. It was July (2013), and it was hot, but it was also so green and beautiful. Ah, how I miss TREES in Shanghai! Anyhow, it was my first time to the Socrates Sculpture Park, and for the most part I found the park to be just so-so – nothing wildly impressive, but a nice stroll.

This particular project “tree wood” was pretty cool, although it blended in so well with the trees I almost completely walked past it. Socrates is a sculpture park, but this was more along the lines of installation art or temporary architecture than sculpture. Basically it was a tree house structure of sorts, framed with two-by-four studs, with a chandelier, which just won the whole thing. With the streaming sunlight and the quiet tranquility of the park and the sheltering of all those leaves and branches, the project had a really interesting quality to it, natural yet manufactured, unfinished yet refined, public yet secluded.

Not sure if this is still up since it’s been over a year since I visited, but regardless, I love the idea of the project.

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And whaddaya know, the project was designed by architects … I wonder if that’s why I appreciate it so much. I think it’s true that there’s no such thing as a ‘former architect,’ because even though there are many of us who have moved on to other fields, I feel like there’s some sort of weird bond/understanding between architects (past or present) where we just ‘get’ each other. I was talking to a jewelry designer whose pieces I admired, and whaddaya know, she was trained as an architect. Maybe it’s suffering all those hours in studio that gains one entry into the imagined community of architects.

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remembering 5 pointz (tbt)

I was off on vacation for a while, but now I’m back in Shanghai and it’s Thursday! Which means that it’s time for a throwback. And my choice for today is … (drumroll, please) … 5 Pointz in LIC! This place was SO COOL. Unfortunately, emphasis is on the past tense.

5 Pointz as I knew it no longer exists, and soon it’ll be completely gone. Sad but true. So join me in remembrance of this truly amazing building.

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5 Pointz was one of the stops on my whirlwind “must see everything before I leave New York” tour back in July 2013. In November its awe-inspiring graffiti was whitewashed, and I just heard that the building itself will soon be demolished to make room for *gasp* condos (ah gentrification, that dirtiest of words).

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Basically the building was one giant canvas. It was an ever-changing art studio, an exhibition space, a piece of artwork in itself. It was amazing. I had heard of this building before, but never gave it much thought while I was living in Manhattan, because gosh darn LIC (Long Island City) in Queens is annoying to get to from upper Manhattan. But during my last two months in New York, I was subletting a place in Astoria … and wow. Breathtaking. The scale, the talent, the variety, the “holy crap, you can do that with spray paint?”

New York City has great public art, whether it’s ‘official’ or not, and there are a lot of darn talented New Yorkers. Much of the ‘graffiti’ seen around the city is more along the lines of street art than vandalism and 5 Pointz was by no means standard graffiti. 5 Pointz was graffiti in the best sense of the word. It wasn’t spiteful vandalism, it was public art in its truest form. It was out there for people to see, to wonder at. It was bold, it was unapologetic, it was part of the city, and it was oh so New York. And it will be sorely missed. Goodbye 5 Pointz, you were amazing.

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Oh, and 5 Pointz’s appearance in the film Now You See Me (2013) made me smile so hard.

lic ps1: the stairs

PS1 is a museum in Long Island City (LIC), not too far from where I lived in Astoria, Queens. Dedicated to contemporary art, PS1 is located in a former school building turned warehouse and was known as the P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center … then it got affiliated with MoMA so now it’s just called MoMA PS1.

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I think it’s cute that its moniker reflects the original building’s program (P.S. = public school). Also, PS1’s an exhibiting museum rather than a collecting one, which I suppose is fairly normal for contemporary art museums … because they’re all about the contemporary (id est, the now). I had been to PS1 once to attend a lecture/book launch that one of my professors was involved in, but otherwise the trek to LIC from the UWS was not worth it in my eyes. Anyhow, over the summer I lived in Astoria, so before saying adios to NYC I paid PS1 a proper visit. Nice place, but not my favorite.

I liked how there was art everywhere and it had a grittier work-in-progress feel to it compared to the Met (a ‘proper’ museum where things are in gilded frames and I always feel underdressed) or MoMA (a more free-spirited museum due to the type of art on display, but which still adheres to that typical ‘gallery’ look). PS1, however, however, is downright chill.

Take the stairwell, for example. Stairwell A, to be specific.

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This is art. A long-term installation called “In the Woods” (2004) by Ernesto Caivano. Yeah, it’s kind of a grungy space, but it’s the cool hipster kind of grunge that you’d expect from Brooklyn or some such. The walls and ceiling weren’t primed white before Caivano made the space his canvas, but it’s better because of that. It’s an interesting mixture with the concrete, chain-link fencing, hanging light fixtures, rough walls, and this beautiful scene of crossing branches and birds in black laid on top. It just works.

Other stairwells had paintings by other artists. And then some areas were left as … authentic grunge.

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