Monthly Archives: December 2013

A few books on architecture and design

On this page, I’ll keep a running list of books on the topic of design.

Richard McMillan – 101 Cool Buildings: the best of New York City architecture 1999-2009

For the first time in many years, New York’s most exciting buildings are also its most recent. This guide brings together the 101 best, listed by location with descriptions, photos and directions. A map guide and index makes it easy to locate specific projects. Among the many internationally famous architects represented are Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Renzo Piano, Michael Graves, Jean Nouvel, Steven Holl, James Stewart Polshek, Bernard Tschumi, Rafael Viñoly, Aldo Rossi, Cesar Pelli, and Christian de Portzamparc.This book is an indispensable guide for the resident or visitor who wants to experience the best of contemporary New York architecture, and is a fascinating read for anyone interested in cutting edge building design.


Sharne Algotsson – African Style Down to the Details (which features Padouk Design furniture)

“Today more and more of us are striving to bring personal meaning and beauty into our lives and homes. African style is the perfect way to express that joy in living, whether your look is formal, traditional, minimal, casual country, or eclectic,” writes Sharne Algotsson in her stunning new book, African Style: Down to the Details. Following on the success of her first book, The Spirit of African Design, written with Denys Davis, Sharne now offers a gorgeous, hands-on guide to decorating any home with the richness of Africa.

Bursting with hundreds of full-color photographs, African Style: Down to the Details looks at a full range of home decorating options, with chapters on Color, Paint, and Pattern; Textiles; Furniture; Accessories and Display; and The Mix, which reveals how to coordinate all the elements to create a harmonious whole. Sharne offers a number of simple, inexpensive but exciting how-to projects that can revitalize a room, such as an African-Style Padded Window Cornice, as well as dramatic before-and-after photographs of quick makeovers for chairs, tables, mantels, and more.

Art and the issues around it, in today’s world: guest post by Josh Stevenson

My young friend Josh Stevenson, aka Halo, wrote this piece about various issues surrounding art in our contemporary world. I thought it was a very thoughtful piece and even if it may not reflect my personal opinions on all points, I asked him for permission to post it below and maybe open up the discussion. I did not edit anything (except change a few upper-case letters into lower-case)–this is Josh’s voice!
5Pointz in 2011You can find out more about Josh and his musical work at

The Silent Assassination of Art and Expression

When the art space called 5 Pointz was suddenly whitewashed and subsequently buffed yesterday, I first reacted to the news in anger. I was furious. To me, this was yet another example of an ongoing war against graffiti and the artists contributing to that art form.
A day has passed and I’m not as angry as I was anymore. In fact, I even gained some sense of maturity and perspective on the issue. I first thought – DAMN, all the prolific NY writers should just gather up and bomb the sh*t out of the place…and HARD. Take back what’s yours, so to speak. Then I thought of the obvious police presence that would be patrolling the vicinity of 5 Pointz and decided that wasn’t such a good idea. My brain wouldn’t accept the fact that the owners of the building had the right to do with the property what they felt. I was so consumed by the visual scars of white paint over years of creative murals painted by legendary artists…some who had traveled from other countries just to create masterpieces within that space. Then, I read an article this morning from Jerry Wolkoff’s (the building owner) point of view and it all became clear to me.
CIMG6337Now let’s not misconstrue the message here. I didn’t read the response from Mr. Wolkoff along with his claim of having “tears in his eyes” while watching his hired contractors painting over the pieces and think to myself; “oh man, this guy really feels for the artists…he really didn’t want to hurt them, he just had to do what he had to do…”. Not hardly. Neither did I buy that crap about how “demolishing the building piece by piece would’ve just been torturous to the artists”. At least with that option, the artists would’ve stood a chance at preserving their work. However, I did understand where he was coming from when he said that “they paint over their work continuously – a piece goes up and then six months later someone paints over it”. How true that statement is (a lot of those pieces on the outside of the building were there for YEARS untouched) can be argued; however, I believe the point he was trying to make is that graffiti is never meant to be permanent – it is forever changing and its evolution is an integral part of Graffiti’s culture. 

5 Pointz, LIC, NYC
5 Pointz 2011

That’s what woke me up. We are at strange conundrum or juxtaposition if you will when it comes to art and expression – and that is the involvement of capitalism and MONEY within art and expression. Most art forms were born out of pure expression and that expression was fueled by many different factors. Whether it’d be love, happiness, anger, frustration, boredom, curiosity – whatever it might be – if you are an artist (in any form) you feel compelled to express yourself. The art form of graffiti can be traced back to the beginning of civilization, the days of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome – where the mediums of a pen and paper didn’t exist. Someone felt there was a story that needed to be told for others to view and decided to tell that very story in the form of drawings on a wall, tomb or public space. Graffiti as we know it now is a form of “vandalism” that has been demonized as a criminal act and an unacceptable violation of private space.

5 Pointz
Graffiti detail, 5 Pointx, 2011

A pattern I’ve noticed as our society has flourished and progressed, is that with each passing decade public areas where artists can express themselves among their peers have decreased. If there is a public space available for expression and art, it’s usually accompanied by a set of rules or with a price tag attached. I often hear adults that are older than me talking about the “good ole days” where they would throw parties in parks and dance to popular music. While it makes me smile to hear those stories, it breaks my heart knowing that children growing up in today’s generation will never experience those types of events. You play music in a park today without a permit, they shut the party down and you get slapped with a $75 fine.

This is why I can’t even become fully upset when I see young men walking the streets with their pants sagging. As easily as I can scoff that “it’s a shame how ignorant kids are these days” with a pretentious scowl and no desire to help them understand why appearance is vital to their perception and character; I also understand that when they do that, it’s their form of expressing themselves to the world. Rebellion – it’s the cornerstone of most cultural and artistic explosions. It’s what made Hip-Hop grow and stand out as an art form in itself. Hip-Hop was a blanket to the misunderstood, a voice for the unheard and a stage for the otherwise shunned artistic geniuses during its early stages of development.
Between gifted lyricists, innovative and graceful dancers, revolutionary DJs and stunning visual artists – Hip-Hop was a cultural revolution. Then MONEY became involved and it was essentially pimped for commercial gain. Ciphers where MCs and artists would congregate freely with each other became restricted to club settings and elite social gatherings. Forget the 360 deals and the silly “ethnic” McDonald’s commercials of today’s day and age. Artists, who would normally express themselves freely, now fear that their creations will be overlooked if they don’t conform to a certain style or message. In order to break ground and be noticed on a higher scale, the aspiring artist must then tailor their work to meet the needs of a sponsoring brand. What was once a expression of freedom becomes a promotional tool based on that companies agenda.
Money in itself has helped sustain artists while at the same time desecrating what true art stands for. Getting back to graffiti, it’s interesting to see how this particular art form is classified. Last month, art connoisseurs from all over the world were clamoring to be the first to catch a glimpse at the world-renown and elusive street artist, Banksy. Why? Banksy is a famous street artist and “street art” is the latest contemporary trend for the art world to capitalize on. Banksy could easily be classified as a graffiti artist, but because his aerosol creations are perceived as “art” by many – most media outlets refer to him as a “street artist”. This goes back to the age old adage that “art is within the eye of the beholder”.
Living in NYC, I see what I would call “street art” everyday and what some others might call “graffiti”. What necessarily distinguishes one over the other? Why isn’t the man who creates aerosol masterpieces in Times Square referred to as a street artist? Most successful “street artists” started out as graffiti writers attempting to bring attention to their work. This highlights the “Catch 22” that comes with being an aspiring street artist. What you’re doing is illegal and frowned upon by society and the law, yet at the same time being revered by magazines, featured in movies and television shows and in some efforts – compensated for if your work gets to the right people. Once again, public art and expression is being limited to a specific space or setting to where it can be deemed “acceptable” for profit.
Every once in a while on TV I see a commercial for Corolla where the advertising hook is that “Style never goes out of style”. This commercial contains various highlights of different decades and time periods where a particular style of fashion, dance, art and music are at the forefront – with a Toyota Corolla in the background. The whole time I’m thinking: “What the hell does a Toyota Corolla have to do with Soul Train, Graffiti, Break-dancing and Grunge Music?” These artistic expressions once casted out as “symbols of a deteriorating society” and delegated to “urban” youth are now being used as tools for corporate gain. It’s a cheesy attempt to make the system look youthful and hip as to say; “Hey you! Look! We’re cool just like you! We like all the stuff you like! We’re creative and expressive too! Now give us your money!” I’m not hating on the artists involved (I know the graffiti artist – DUEL- whose work was featured in that commercial) because if you’re an artist you’re still a human being at the end of the day. You need to survive and thrive as much as the next person does, so getting paid for what you love to do is never a bad thing. However, I believe that when corporations capitalize off of what society deems as “unacceptable” and “wrong” – people are sent the wrong message.
5 Pointz got buffed yesterday and the graffiti artist in me wanted to scream, shout and rage at the system. Then I woke up today and the adult that I am realized that the system will never allow artists to truly express themselves unless a profit is attached to their creations. It sounds silly, but that realization almost helped heal those wounds of yesterday’s whitewashing. For the best piece of artistic expression for me would be for them to knock down 5 Pointz, build their luxury condos and for a huge “For Lease” sign to be posted on the side of its walls.       -Joshua Stevenson
PS I had written a short post about 5 Pointz for a Beirut -based blog, NTSC (Never The Same city) in 2011: