Monthly Archives: March 2012

It’s time

To pour out

The sweeps and the slants

And the snow on the back roads, where the horses and buggies run

Because the Helleborus has blossomed


Today’s Google Doodle celebrates a great, ominously talented architect…it’s the 126th Anniversary of the birth of the modernist Mies van der Rohe.  The Google image is of the German architect’s minimal design for Crown Hall (with its sweeping interior room) at the Illinois Institute of Technology on the south side of Chicago. Mies modernized ancient ideas of exquisite, unflinching logic, the embrace of courtyards and an honest use of the earth’s materials.  Consider his Toronto-Dominion Centre as a modern-day Pompeii.  His devotion to his principles meant repeating the same ideas of architecture in Chicago, New York and Toronto – and, in lesser versions, around the world.  Today my blog background gets changed to Miesian black.

Last weekend, I went to NYC’s Armoury Show 2012 to see art from around the world, and found plenty by the South Americans to dream about:  Fluffy mini clouds caught between layers of plexiglass by the Argentinian artist, Leandro Erlich. (Sold, apparently, for $65,000.)

I thought she was made of wax, until I circled back after an hour and noticed that she was not merely still, but still breathing.  Bed for Human Use, 2012, Luciana Brito Galeria of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as conceived and dressed by artist  Marina Abramović. How do you install this – her – in your living room? And, would she agree to share that rockin’ crystal?

Travelled south along the Hudson River and discovered newly created public space in the Meatpacking District, where historic architecture still matters as much as contemporary condos and people are starting to matter more than trucks and cars. That’s the art of urbanity, and my pick for #3.

 Across the street, there’s the radiant-cool Pastis restaurant, where New York and Paris artfully intersect, and wine comes in glass tumblers and  the bartenders rarely smile even if the arugula salad is divine.

Look up and around and you’ll find work #5: grafitti and collage laid on thick on a wall in the Meatpacking District, 2012.

 Late afternoon, Bryant Park at 42nd Street: an artful arrangement of Plane trees, sage-green chairs (just like the ones in the Jardin du Luxembourg) and the Beaux-Arts symmetry of the New York Public Library by Carrere and Hastings architects.  Another reason to stand up for cities, then sit down and luxuriate in the middle of artwork #6.

Why does New York’s Meatpacking District draw masses of people to it?  Because of all the collisions of culture still happening there.  The butchers and packers in white smocks are still at work in their brick factories.  There are edgy, industrial-looking boutiques like All Saints. And, not far away, on 14th Street… Alexander McQueen, Carlos Miele, Diane von Furstenberg…and, until last month, Stella McCartney who has moved to Soho – where the rents are cheaper.

 There is street art that The Pace and Mary Boone Gallery on 5th Avenue should collect.    Don’t sterilize this away to please the clubbers, or the growing ‘South Beach’ crowd that swarm the Meatpacking District on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Of course, there’s the powerful pull of the High Line, once an old elevated freight line, now transformed through design to become one of the most magnetic new public spaces on the planet. That’s where I spent the last couple days, joining the spectacle of people.  Where art collides with history, and spring appears to arrive in techni-colour.

Shelter from the wind.  Countless sound and visual experiences happen as you walk along the High Line, like this one:  artist Spencer Finch’s “The River That Flows Both Ways”, panes of glass based on a single pixel point taken from a day’s shooting of the Hudson River.

A hotel that opened with impeccable timing over the High Line three years ago, The Standard looks like a vintage inn – nicely done by Polshek Partnership – hoisted up and over the High Line.

Morning dawns golden at The Standard Hotel.  Interiors by Roman and Williams of NYC.

 And, no, despite what the weather man was warning, it didn’t rain.

For foodies, Noma is known – and ranked on – as the best restaurant in the world.  Actually, it’s an investigation led by its head chef René Redzepi of authentic Nordic cuisine and original sources: Icelandic skyr curd, halibut, Greenland musk ox, berries and purest possible water. But what if you trek across the world, arrive in the heart of Copenhagen, jump on a bike, pedal like mad and miss your dinner reservation?   Still hungry? You might try your luck at the just-opened Noma Food Lab, a place of experimentation with locally-grown and foraged food.

A palate of silver-ice, Nordic wood and dark historic flooring makes for a sublime combination, as imagined by Denmark’s 3XN architects and interior designers.  Actually, the design was led by Kasper Jorgensen, head of the 3XN’s innovation unit, who spends his days testing materials for endurance and thinking about ways to upcycle buildings rather than merely demolishing them.

 Noma Food Lab is set in an 18th-century heritage warehouse, not far from the original Noma, so the designers were required to deliver without banging a single nail into the walls or floors.  Instead, they innovated a series of stacked wooden cubes made of Nordic plywood that rest on the historic floors. Are they really planning to crack open those blue speckled eggs?

One of the things I try to avoid in life is shopping at a grocery store.  Which explains why I still order most of our groceries from the awesome “Vincenzo’s” family-owned grocer on the Danforth in Toronto.  Mr. Vincenzo cures his own prosciutto and invents his own spicey chicken sausages.  His wife, “Sam” still works the cash. Their high-energy daughter, Mary, a fabulous chef, has advised countless times on what to serve at raucous kids’ birthdays or fancy dinner parties.  The boxed groceries are delivered (for free!) by the gracious Al.  I’m sticking with Vincenzo’s…but as an alternative it’s actually exhilarating to shop at the newly opened Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto. (Pics by Trevor Mein.)

Pure foodie joy has been designed into this monumental space – what used to be, of course, the Art Deco home of Rolling Stone concerts and hockey played by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unlike the cerebral Nordic aesthetic at Noma, there are lots of reds and oranges to whet the appetite at Loblaws.  Get this irony:  the flagship store, within one of Canada’s erstwhile cathedrals of hockey, was designed by an Australian…nicely done, by the way, by Mike Landini of Landini Associates.  The  cheap, shiny plastics used in most supermarkets were replaced with enduring materials:  concrete, stone, white marble, ceramic tiles, and wood as well as a lighting scheme that plays up natural shadows. Feels deliciously civilized here. Go Leafs !