Archive: December, 2007

wilton st decks the hall

deck the halls

Our whole apartment block (all three of us anyway) teamed up for a fun party in our slightly opulent entrance hall last Friday. A (mildly illegal) open fire, strong mulled wine and the odd drape of tinsel created a great atmosphere that lasted until only slightly later than expected (the 6:30 am bedtime certainly wasn’t planned).

Our friend Jamie Flett performed an impromtu set accompanied by only the crackling of the fire, there was doric incantations, and even slightly surreal ‘ninja rug’ bouts introduced by our downstairs neighbours – was a great way to end the year aND fun to combine with every one else in our building!

atp: the nightmare before christmas

portishead atp

While it might be possible to hold an outdoor festival in the middle of winter in benign Byron Bay, surely festival season has wrapped up months ago here in the UK. Not so fast however however – there is a solution – the ultimate in family holiday fun – Butlins Holiday Camps and the kind folks at All Tomorrow’s Parties & Portishead to the rescue.
It was time for a road trip, destination – deepest darkest Somerset, with a pile of CD’s, hire care and a map of Britain that filled the windscreen it was a seven hour trip from Glasvegas via the M6 & M5.

birmingham

We broke our trip with morning tea in Birmingham in the basement of the funky Future SystemsSelfridges (above), and watched the sun set with a homage at Portishead harbour (below).

portishead
As the band named after the town were curating the festival it seemed that most of the acts were either – bands from Bristol or on Portishead member Geoff Barrow’s Invada Records label. Portishead themselves played both Friday & Saturday nights – we saw their second set – very laid back and polished with many of their new tracks thrown in.
Other headliners Julian Cope and Aphex Twin were more of a mixed bag. Julian Cope was entertaining with his motley crew of bikers and ended his set with a garrulous five minute rant. Aphex also played twice and we saw parts of both sets – they were a little commercial and not eclectic enough for my taste.
Our highlights for what they’re worth were:

Chrome Hoof – the new genre of doom disco spearheaded by this ten piece multi-instrumental silver lame clad outfit is heading your way – either dance or duck!

Autolux – artful poppy noise from LA, with some beautiful drumming courtesy of the female drummers loose style (and perhaps her bionic elbow?) – great website too.
Fuck Buttons – danceable electro laptop beats from – you guessed it Bristol – these guys were so good early on that they were put on again to close the event.
Overall the concept for the festival works brilliantly – the crazy circus tent covered ‘street’ that spans between venues, bars and tacky amusement arcades (below) creates a very civilised festival atmosphere (complete with people picnicking on the ‘grass’ coloured carpet!). Achingly cool hipsters wandering around in such a searingly cheesy setting further enhances the surreal impression. And the cabin accommodation in endless barrack style rows is a very pleasant step up from the usual tented quagmire that accompanies summer festivals.

atp

Our sleepy journey home was broken only by a quick visit to Bristol where we took in Clifton and its famous suspension bridge (below) before hightailing back along the motorway.

clifton bridge

gillespie kidd & coia at the lighthouse

gk&c

There is a great exhibition at Glasgow’s kewl Lighthouse Centre for Architecture, Design + the City – Scotland and the Mackintosh School of Architecture’s favourite modernists Gillespie Kidd & Coia. Some beautiful brutal poetic post war architecture – and yes some crap leaky grey boxes. Their churches are definitely worth looking at for any architects out there (we actually have a great example around the corner from our place) and the abandoned St Peter’s Seminary at Cardross is amazing – we have yet to (illegally) visit but it is high on our to-do list.

It was also good to see where all the Mac trained architects are coming from as the two principals of GK&C ran the school for about twenty years influencing many of the current crop of Glasgow architects.

usa: architecture

federal building SF 1

While we tried to keep our usual architouring to a minimum to avoid totally ruining our friends holiday we did manage to sneak in a few select gems on our trip.

MoMA

In New York firstly I was a little disappointed with the new MoMA – I felt it lacked coherence and any clear rationale. There were some interesting spaces, particularly the main sculpture hall (above) – animated by people circulating through the gallery but the exhibition rooms themselves were fairly bland (ok maybe it should be about the art).

ps1

PS 1 in Queens (above) was a much more interesting space – situated in an old Primary School the only real architectural intervention is the wall at the front creating a serene courtyard, the interiors still feel like the kids only left yesterday (although the standard of their finger painting was pretty high). At times it was eerily like Toul Sleng in Pnom Penh – quiet neglected corridors filled with evocative imagery.

new museum

On our final day in New York Chhay & I snuck off for some more focused architectural voyeurism. We started with the new New Museum by SANAA (above) which was only days away from completion and looking fantastic – an ethereal series of stacked boxes, at once gritty and urban in the Bowery context yet at the same time light and delicate. The cladding of galvanised mesh over fibre cement was so utilitarian yet diaphanous – a true delight. It was a pity we missed the opening as would like to experience the interior of one of their buildings.

storefront
We followed that with a visit to a tired looking yet still successful Storefront for Art & Architecture (above). They had an exhibition of new Danish work including a lot of work by BIG, a firm that should we ever end up in Denmark I would love to work for – I really enjoy their playful yet well researched approach. Staying in the same area we had a rather damp look at some of the new ‘starchitect’ apartment blocks in SoHo – Nouvel’s 40 Mercer (below) & Herzog & DeMeuron’s 40 Bond, all very glam but fairly restrained overall, apart from the lower level cladding of H & DeM’s baby.

40 mercer
With the weather getting steadily worse we abandoned any attempt to see more buildings and legged it to diller + scorfidio’s The Brasserie (below) where we seriously lowered the tone – especially once we realised that cocktails were half price!

brasserie
Once in San Francsico we were in capable hands with our hosts interest in architecture.
As I mentioned previously the Federal Building by Thom Mayne (below + top) was our first stop. Although it is quite brutally inserted into its 3-4 storey context the level of detailing and polish is amazing. There may be a little too much going on for some tastes but it was one of the best high rise office buildings I have encountered. Unfortunately it was a Sunday so we couldn’t get inside (I’m not sure we would have been allowed in even if it was open).

federal building SF 3

The other major contemporary San Franciscan building is of course the new DeYoung Museum by our old friends Herzog & DeMeuron (below). It occupies a slightly surreal setting in the Golden Gate Park next to the Academy of Sciences sporting some new Martian looking green roofed domes – part of a Renzo Piano renovation.

de young 1

The detailing by the swiss is fantastic throughout although the entrance to the museum is very understated. The perforated copper cladding refracts the light in different ways depending on the varying apertures of the perforation, and the screened twisting tower sneaks in between mature trees providing great views of the park. Once inside light is brought in through glazed gardens with minimalist eucalyptus softening the light.

de young
On our final night we managed to tick another Phaidon Atlas building off our list somewhat unintentionally. James took us to an art gallery opening which happened to be in a fantastic apartment in the Yerba Buena Lofts complex by Saitowitz Natoma. Although we only saw it at night it is a magnificent sleek concrete box with projections and recesses forming balconies and creating varied double height spaces in the apartments – it gave me plenty of food for thought for shaking up multi-res design here is Scotland – so much of it poky and unimaginative.

More archi porn on our flickr if u want a peek – NY SF.

interpol

interpol

Interpol played Glasgow last night – giving us our first taste of the Carling Academy – which part from being named after an awful beer (think the West End Institute for any South Australians) is actually an impressive converted former cinema. We were up in the seated balcony area though – so although the sound was great and the trendy New Yorkers produced an extremely polished sound from a very fancy set including some really cool screens that appeared to be totally two-dimensional – it didn’t quite capture the atmosphere of the last time we saw them. Then we had waited for close to three hours at the front of a packed and sweaty Splendour in the Grass tent (including watching the Beautiful Girls – an endurance test for Chhay). However their set list included plenty of classic tunes which had us rocking ever so politely in the aisles.

that's enough of this laying about boy

tower

Her maj has granted me leave to remain so I’m back at work on Monday – it’s been a nice little interlude but I didn’t expect it to wrap up this quickly! I managed to get to a few museums and galleries we hadn’t seen yet as well as exploring a few random areas of Glasgow when the weather permitted – grand plans of travel to islands and London will have to be put on hold, although it will be two four day weeks to ease back into it as we have All Tomorrow’s Parties in Somerset next weekend.

cowcaddens