May 20, 2011
Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg are the founders of the award-winning architecture studio called Solid Objectives – Idenburg Liu (SO-IL ). Since its inception, SO – IL has worked on an array of projects ranging in scale from a series of prints for the Guggenheim Museum to the master plan of a cultural campus in Seoul. In 2010, the studio was awarded a project in the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program as well as the AIA New York Young Practices Award. Here they share their own live/work project called Common Ground, a rethinking of what it means to live and work in the city, creating a communal oasis with an extended family of friends.
Above: Jing and Forian’s house in Brooklyn from Common Ground film, 2011, image by Iwan Baan
We started our office somewhere between Amalia and Francis, our two daughters. In hindsight, it might have been because we did not differentiate very much between work and family, and that we were just ready to explore the possibilities of our own ideas in the real world and to take on the responsibilities. So we did. We got married, had children, moved out of our mouse heaven, east-village studio and opened shop as SO-IL, all at the same time, and all intuitively.
Above: SO-IL offices, Brooklyn, NY
We never got to have the time to think about what kind of parents we wanted to be, nor what kind of architect. We fought the sleepiness through the night feedings by thinking about the window details. We brought the kids along to the numerous site visits on weekends. They were always happy guests at our office dinners and holiday parties, knew the name of every one of our staff members, and proudly invited their friends to the openings of our projects.
Above: Pole Dance for MOMA/PS1. Winner Young Architect’s Prize, 2010
There are many ways one can learn to become a parent, or to start an architectural office. Our way took its own course rather than being set out by us. The conflicts between the two did not result in compromises, but help us in making wise decisions. We rarely feel the split between the two roles, but one always makes the other more interesting. Sometimes we are impatient waiting for the next step, other times we feel chased by the growth of a child or the office. In time, we learn how to wait for the current and ride it when it comes.
Above: Design for nursery school, Prato, Italy, 2008
Now our older daughter is 4 years old and the office 3, there came a natural convergent point where we sought to rethink the model of the living spaces, as we increasingly find the over-priced housing market in New York structurally ignores the relational spaces in a residential environment. We wanted to test the viability of an architecture that facilitated a communal oasis in a hyper-urban setting.
Over dinners and tea times, we spoke of this desire and our dream with our “extended families”, our diasporic friends who sought out each other in this metropolitan New York. Once planted, how powerful it is, the way in which a seed bursts out of its shell and pierces though the dirt to reach for the light, of possibilities! Quickly, the dream grew in an infectious way. Now it has a name, Common Ground. It is a place to work and to live; to support and to depend; to be and to become.
Above: Conceptual model for Common Ground, currently exhibited at BROODWORK: It’s About Time.
Above: A still from Common Ground film.
May 13, 2011
Andrew Berardini has a long list of accomplishments and enthusiasms: he is an American art critic, writer, and curator of contemporary art; he has published articles and essays in numerous art publications; lectured on art history at the Southern California Institute of Architecture and has guest lectured widely. He was recently made adjunct assistant curator at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena and is currently Los Angeles editor for Mousse and senior editor for Artslant. All this thinking and writing happens at a desk and a chair, which become - between dropping off and picking up his daughter at school- a room of his own.
Space is an awfully difficult thing to deal with. It’s not even really a thing, which I suppose is sort of the problem. I actually wish that space was just an emptiness waiting to be filled, a vacuum to easily occupy with dancing fantasies and comfortable sofas; a clean, well lighted place, but it, perhaps unfortunately for us, isn’t. For any space to exist, it has to have some parameters of reality, some boundaries or markers that make it a space. Take Montana, a spacious place by most popular reckoning, it has that huge blue dome painted with wisps of lonesome clouds, the horizon line stretching in all directions giving way to fields and plains and badlands and the feel of the earth and grass beneath your feet, the smell of dust or cattle or big-rig exhaust and the sound of Hank Williams or lowing cows or wind or Eminem echoing in your ears. Or, let’s take another space. Even the whitest white box of an art gallery, all accouterments stripped down to their most starkly minimal, still has all the connotations of what it is: the drywall and white paint, the polished concrete floor, the spot lamps. They all mean something, a spatial language developed over years and years of showing art. Even when reduced to what seem the simplest and most spacious places, they all still give shape to the liquid of space.
May 5, 2011
Multi-faceted Nina Tolstrup trained as a designer at the prestigious Les Ateliers School of Industrial Design in Paris and has a BA in Marketing from the Business School in Copenhagen. She is currently designing products for companies while also taking a pro-active approach designing, manufacturing and selling her own ranges under the Studiomama name. Here she shares the joyous interweaving of work and family at home and on the weekends.
I have my studio at home and a workshop down the road. I love the area in which I live, it’s in the heart of the East End, situated close to Brick Lane flea market and Columbia Road flower market. I love the atmosphere and characters you find as well as the odd bits of bric-a-brac. I am by nature a collector and cannot help arriving home with some strange artifact that I’m sure will come in handy one day.
Our live-work space is hidden away from the densely urban populated area in a very narrow cobbled street. According to our local pie and mash shop owner, who holds the collective memory of the neighborhood, it is a former sausage factory. When we acquired the space an artist had been living there and it was a raw shell. I worked on developing the space, it was a labor of love! It is unusual in many ways, and somehow secluded in this urban melee. It would be nice to have more space as we are constantly accumulating bits and pieces and the space is becoming increasingly cluttered.
Balance, Design, Products
April 14, 2011
Carola Zwick is one quarter of Studio 7.5. They designed Setu for Herman Miller and also the Mirra chair. Today Carola shares her ideal live/work space.
The laptop is my swiss army knife, it turned me into a total nomad. It’s reflecting and displaying all the different threads of action on a vertical surface in front of me. We call this “Auftischraum” (this would be translated as “creating an instant space on the table”). This is true for the studio, where we don’t have dedicated desks, but settle in a spot that fits the task, e.g. if you need absolute silence you pick the big table in our new “Einstein room” (that’s the name of the coffee brand neigboring that room, but fits pretty nicely to the purpose of the space as well).
If you want to exchange your ideas with your collegues or at least don’t want to miss what’s going on, you rather pick a spot on the big dining table in the modelshop/kitchen of our studio.
The same is true for my work style at home. I am wandering around, picking a spot on the couch or on the balcony, depending on the lighting conditions, the temperature and the mood. Only if I need to focus for a longer period of time for something urgent or serious, I pick a table and a serious task chair. The only odd habit: at home I need to put my feet up to think: so even when sitting on a Mirra chair, there is another chair on the opposite side of the table to put my feet up.
A new habit I now develop: I try to “suck” every artifact into the computer, because otherwise it tends to get lost due to my habit of deserting every work place after a while
March 31, 2011
Multi-talented Kiino Villand, a photographer, a director, and co-founder/editorial director of WSTRNCV Magazine, uses his house as a case study for integrating photography and editorial work with family, living in a setting that looks different all the time.
About 3 years ago, my wife, our daughter and I moved to Silver Lake, CA. As the second owners of a house built in 1937, we’re getting towards the tail end of a fairly substantial renovation. By far, the best feature of our place is the concrete regulation badminton court in the backyard. On first sight, it was obvious that this fairly unique feature would not only be ideal for hosting badminton tournaments (natch), but would be a fantastic outdoor studio for photography, film & video productions. On days when I’m not shooting, the court additionally works great as a roller-skating rink for our daughter. The goal is ease of use for shoot days and play dates alike.
As we get closer to finishing the overhaul, we’re still weighing the best direction to go in terms of setting up office space. Our project manager is my wife Andraleia, an interior and exterior designer who’s hands-on construction experience and amazing taste have made this a family effort. Andraleia would like nothing less than to get my butt out of the breakfast nook, where my temporary office is.
So we have our sights on one end of the badminton court as a place to build a small office plus multi-purpose makeup/wardrobe/equipment/guest room. Those are a lot of purposes. We’ll have to be efficient if we want to allow enough room to keep the court functional for the Silver Lake Badminton Club.
I often daydream about this perfectly organized space with its array of shelving, storage space and open desk area. Also of key importance will be the ability to allow for complete range in light levels. I prefer ample daylight when I’m writing or editing the magazine. But when working on photo editing and video editing, it needs to be very dim. This should be easily accomplished with a good set of blackout drapes or sliding panels.
The entire house serves also as a case study for Andraleia. Her clients see what the rooms actually look like and she can figure out first hand what certain materials work for what particular purpose (fixtures, patio pavers, etc.). It’s a tactile proof of concept.
Because of all this multi-functionality we regularly move furniture all over the place. I consider this a good thing.
Friends are always saying the place looks different when they come over. They’re always right, and always welcomed.
March 10, 2011
A full creative life involves many twists and turns. Being open to them creates new opportunities. Artist, writer and healer Ann Faison holds an MFA from Cal Arts in Music and Art, and her work has been exhibited widely including at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Since the birth of her daughters she has discovered writing and body work are an integral part of her artistic life. Her first book, Dancing with the Midwives, has just been released. Here Ann describes her means to keeping it all in order.
My ideal workspace is spare, sparse, empty and clean. That way I can walk in, set down something I have in mind to draw, and draw it. Or I can sit my computer on the empty desk and write clear, succinct expressions, unhampered by the clutter and clumpy detritus that clogs my home.
Children (and cats) are exceptionally messy. Their boundless enthusiasm makes life one big tangle that is constant. How to untie the knots of an over-scheduled day. How to clear the rubble of snack time, meal time and glitter-glue time. How to cleanse the crustiness of the growing child. Dried cheerios in the jacket pocket. Rocks in the washing machine. I am not particularly neat, but the messier my life is, the more order I crave.
March 3, 2011
Anyone who has children in their life has most likely seen the work of screenwriter and producer Brian Hohlfeld. Head writer for the new animated series Gaspard and Lisa, he is well known for his work with Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise. Hohlfeld received the 2008 Humanitas Prize for Children’s Animation while story editor and executive producer for the series My Friends Tigger and Pooh. With 13 feature film credits, seven producer credits, as well as songwriting and directing, this true Hollywood veteran shares his secrets for making the most of your life/work environment including how to boost your morale and mastering the video chat.
How to Set Up and Maintain Your Home Office
First of all, determine how big a home office you’ll need. For most purposes, a queen-size will do. If you have lots of paper work to deal with, or if you have a spouse or significant other who insists on using your office to sleep in, you might want to step up to king size, or even California king. You can get away without using a bedframe, and, indeed, proximity to the floor makes stacking papers much easier; but you’ll find that your morale is much higher with a nice, inexpensive frame. Make sure to get one with a handy ledge, for your coffee cups, pencil holders, and alarm clock.
Furnishing your office: You’ll require the usual—a laptop, stapler, telephone, good quality cotton sheets (nothing less than a 180 count, preferably), and several comfortable pillows to prop yourself up on. A two-drawer filing cabinet is also a good idea, and it can easily double as a nightstand. Same for a mini-fridge, which will also eliminate those interruptive and exhausting trips to the kitchen. A warm quilt or comforter is optional, but is certainly nice to crawl under during those post-lunch “brainstorming sessions!”
February 17, 2011
Nicole Walker is the author of This Noisy Egg (Barrow Street Press, 2010). Her writing has appeared in a number of literary journals including Ploughshares and North American Review. Assistant Professor of Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at Northern Arizona University and nonfiction editor of Diagram, Walker co-created the artist/writer collaborative project “7 Rings” on the Huffington Post. Here she ruminates on motivation, adaptability, and the inevitable unloading of the dishwasher.
First, what is ideal about working? The best thing about my work is that it takes place while I’m doing other things.
I empty the dishwasher because the dishwasher is nine feet to the right of the end of my kitchen table, and ten and a half feet from my computer that sits on the kitchen table. I need to get away from that workspace and go dominate another. One percent of that need is that the dishwasher needs emptying. The other 99% is that I need to get away from that bad idea, that half a good idea, the almost idea, the stupid idea, the internal editor that called my idea stupid, the idea that is almost fully formed Athena-like but then evaporated when I went to check my email.
As I empty the dishwasher, I hope the dishwasher simultaneously washes away whatever I was thinking about and recovers the original, best thought. I would like to erase. I would also like my pristine idea.
I like to pretend that if I could record every idea, get the idea at the moment it happened, then the true and good work would prevail. But that’s not what happens. In the middle of Harry Potter, I have an idea of humans and adaptability. Should I get up from where I’m reading in bed and write it down? Should I have some technology that allows me to nod in the general direction of that idea and have it permanently imprinted on a document that one day, if I put it through the dishwasher of revision, it will come out clean?
That idea, if it’s a good one, will emerge again. And so my ideal workspace is wherever there is other work to do to allow the ideas to resurface.
I should go outdoors without shoes on. I should sit in the middle of my garden with my laptop and type the words, “let’s all adapt.” I should pull a weed or two and write, “there’s something very much like the movie Waterworld about humans adapting. I don’t want gills.” I should go find a hoe and dig a trench. Into it, I should plant tiny carrot seeds. “But maybe I do want gills. Who am I kidding? Gills would be rad.” Now I stand up. “If I had gills, would food still taste good?” I both wonder this and write this and I’m so glad my computer doesn’t mind a little dirt and tiny carrot seeds.
The ideal workspace is a place where my computer can be and I can escape from it. It should be in an open enough place where I swear I just saw a fox run out the backyard and with just enough open windows and doors that my kids can find me and bring the kitchen forks outside and take the pinecones inside and the wind can send me away and the flicker of a hawk tail can draw me back. It should be in reach of both popcorn and tea. It should be loud enough that I have to stand up and ask, “what?” and quiet enough that when I do get one of those pristine ideas, I can hear it echo, resound, resonate and come back until it’s finally ready to be written down.
February 10, 2011
For Jillian Armenante and Alice Dodd their 1923 Mediterranean home in Hollywood is a perfect place for their full lives. Armenante, easily recognized for her role as Donna Kozlowski on Judging Amy, and Dodd also co-produced, co-directed and co-wrote Laura Comstock’s Bag-Punching Dog which won the Theatre L.A. Ovation Award for “Best New Musical” and “Best Musical Production”. In this interview they share their home – a place where their creativity is focused by the nuances and particulars of the unique space and helps them to work collaboratively.
Back in 2000, almost by accident, we bought a 1923 Mediterranean in the middle of Hollywood. We happened by an open house, instantly fell in love with it and without ever looking at another house, offered to buy it. Maybe it was the grapefruit tree, or the easy walk to the Larchmont Farmers Market, or the legacy of the Hollywood sign looming in the distance-we just had to have it. We knew it would be the perfect place to start building a family. Well, almost perfect, after we made a few additions here and there. We now have two beautiful girls ages 2 and 6 to mess it all up.
We are both actors, but work as a team on our numerous writing projects. Being able to work out of one’s house is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that you can write or memorize dialogue for hours without ever having to find your pants. However, when one needs to concentrate with two kids running around, it can be a bit of a curse. It is difficult for us to think in clutter…chaos. Our home is decorated in 18th and 19th century furnishings and the juxtaposition of the inevitable brightly-colored plastic toys can be a bit maddening. We do our best work when we can find that one area of the house that has been untainted by the detritus of the kids’ day.
For instance, the only official “office” space is a small detached room in the corner of the backyard. We don’t want to say “converted garage” because, like a lot of structures behind Hollywood homes, the transition from garage to office was not a city-permitted venture. It’s where we house our library and is where we tend to do most of our research and organized thinking.
The antique partners desk enables us to face each other as we bounce ideas back and forth, the baby monitor hissing gently in the background. The oversized windows and a glass door allow us to see the backyard in it’s entirety, as the girls play on the swing, in the sandbox or up the apricot tree.
But the real heart of the house is the kitchen. As actors, we work together to memorize lines in preparation for an audition or a shoot. These rehearsals most often end up at the kitchen table in spare moments snatched from the day’s schedule. The deep red tones, Regency chairs, the giant rooster staring down at us are lit by the ever-present California sun. And at nightfall, the kitchen is where the post-dinner dance happens, usually to a Rosemary Clooney song or the likes, as the family, en masse, blows off a little steam. After the girls are asleep, the kitchen table is where the brainstorming begins. A legal pad… a bottle of wine… invariably leads to the evening’s furious scribble-fest.
To generate new material we often link up two keyboards and connect them to the television in the living room so both of us can have control over the same document. At night the uncluttered space, low light and more formal setting makes it a place free from the physical and psychological happenings of the day. It’s the room where we can light a fire, swirl a medium-bodied red and dig in.
When reading through and evaluating drafts, we often treat ourselves to an outdoor session: sitting on Adirondack chairs, we project the computer onto a ten-foot screen and sit under the stars ruminating our literary efforts. When school projects and various arts and crafts have consumed our surfaces, we resort to alternative venues: our bedroom window-seat, the front porch, or even the bathroom, with one of us in the tub as the other quizzes from the throne of the toilet seat.
This is how we imagine the first inhabitants of this house, the actors and actresses of the 1920’s, working on their lines. Houses are like handbags. We will always manage to fill the space we have to maximum capacity. If we only had more storage…
All photo: Gary Judson Smoot.
February 3, 2011
This week we continue our series of writers with Chairs and Buildings blogger Annie Coggan who inspires us with her vision and her optimism. She has always loved chairs and a certain shade of light blue. Coggan is a founder of Little Building Café, a teacher, and has an architecture office with husband Caleb Crawford.
A Lifetime of Studios
We lived and worked for 10 years in a brownstone in Brooklyn. Life was separated by a staircase–work downstairs, life upstairs. As a young, composed designer most of my day was spent downstairs and then my kindergartener would walk in and change the tune and I would float upstairs – with the intent to do both. This was modeled on the Eames House, two clear volumes with two clear occupations. For years the space was clearly divided where I was not – I existed perpetually on that staircase, never quite sure which floor I should be on.
A radical move to a small town in Mississippi provided another model for working. A Queen Anne extravaganza, it allowed for rooms to live in and rooms to work in and more rooms and even more dust…I mean rooms.
Photo by Caleb Crawford.
The model for this can be Olana, where Fredric Church resided over epic landscapes (real and painted) and an ever-growing family. Influenced by his East Asia travels, Church manipulated a beaux-arts floor plan into a Persian court as a sitting room for his family, directly adjacent to his studio.
“You’ll see, great work will be produced in the bosom of your family!” I proclaimed. My studio was a dream studio, a large square room with a pink crystal chandelier, graciously next to the kitchen. I was paralyzed with creative fear and made furniture in the garage, burned a lot of dinners writing “just one more” e-mail and never finished a slew of drawings. The studio remained very neat.
When the Queen Anne house proved too much, a small industrial building (that had been our ill-fated dream café and its small apartment in the back) became our oddly productive construct.
Many might say that a 600 sf two bedroom/one room apartment with a 5’-11” thirteen year old girl was a bad idea. We find the broad space of the café makes for the perfect workshop-atelier. The density and layering of life suits my work.
For this stage I look to Vanessa Bell’s Charleston, a small cottage used as a refuge from the bombing in London during World War I. Life ebbed and flowed through the house. All rooms were studios and all life was art. My family might be too straight-laced to provide the bohemian drama of Charleston, but I have employed Vanessa’s “all over” method for work and my couch is the anchor.
I know! You’re horrified – I am designer, I should designate a space for work. Be more Virginia Woolf (“a room of your own”), less Vanessa. But finally, with my daughter older I have the luxury to do creative work. That can be done any time, any place, and with my family. My daughter has a workspace in the workshop equal to that of her father and mother. I can write first thing in the morning on the couch. I can embroider during homework. I can sew in the studio next to the freezer. Furniture is painted as dinner is assembled. The garden can be composed and picked at before coffee is finished and I can read that book at last. This messy blending of life and work is our most productive state.
I would love to believe that the buildings presented these problems, but life did, and happily I have decided to look to Vanessa Bell for more architectural solutions.
Life will present us with another space come this summer. We are not sure what the square footage will be or what architectural style it will promote but I would like the clarity of thought from the Eames studio, the epic expanse both imagined and real from Olana and the nurturing of ideas and activities at all scales from Charleston….that would make a perfect studio.
All photos except as specially noted by Jennifer Hudson.