The Allure of Portland

Portland

I’d love to move to Portland. There’s a thriving creative scene, great places to eat and drink; what more could you ask for? Last week Kyle and I travelled to Portland for a few days to meet up with friends. It’s astounding how many people I’ve come to know over the last 5 years. I’ve featured many of their work here on the site, and in some cases, I’ve even been able to work with them. What’s even more amazing is that they all know each other. Granted, Portland is a rather small town. You could walk across downtown in about 15 minutes. But there’s a sort of kinship between the creatives in Portland, a glue that keeps them connected.

In places like Los Angeles or New York I often feel like there’s an unhealthy sense of rivalry. That in order to survive you may need to keep someone else down. In Portland it’s the exact opposite. If one person is doing something new and creative it only fuels others to work harder and to better themselves. To speak plainly I’m envious. How I wish that Los Angeles had such a tight knit group of people to call each other a creative family. But due to L.A.’s unfortunate geography I don’t see that happening soon.

Add to that the fact that there’s a beautiful looking restaurant on every corner. Creativity doesn’t end at art or design, it’s just as apparent in the food and beverages of the city. I was in town for three days, had three amazing dinners and more cups of coffee than I should have. It seems as though the cities occupants have a desire to make Portland the best it can possibly be, so they’re constantly gentrifying The City of Roses.

All that said, I don’t think I could ever move to Portland. While visiting it rained, it hailed, it poured. It was sunny as well, but I’d call the weather bipolar at best. As I write this in Los Angeles it’s 75 degrees out, sunny, and just plain gorgeous. When I moved to Los Angeles 7 years ago I was fleeing the rainy weather of Sacramento’s soggy winters and I haven’t looked back since. When it comes down to it’s simply a matter of preference. For all the positives of Portland, the weather is the one thing I could never learn to love. Thankfully for me a visit is only a two hour plane ride away.

Bobby Solomon

November 26, 2012 / By

An Italian Library That Floats on the Water

Andrea Maffei Arata Isozaki Maranello library

Andrea Maffei Arata Isozaki Maranello library

Andrea Maffei Arata Isozaki Maranello library

On the site of a former industrial warehouse, Andrea Maffei Architects (along with Arata Isozaki) have realized a new public library filled with light and bound by an undulating curtain wall. Before construction ever began, Maffei and Isozaki beat out 150 other teams for the opportunity to realize a new library for the city of Maranello, Italy. In their solution, a solid wall surrounds the perimeter of the site, and the plan looks not unlike someone has drawn a cloud or amoeba in a box. The library, itself, has a bright interior bound by curving glass walls. Between this glass wall and the solid site wall, a shallow pool of water surrounds most of the project, giving the impression of a serene interior. It doesn’t hurt that the interior of the project is mostly white.

Maybe I’m biased in how I read libraries, but the architects seem to be trying to establish a particular relationship between the sky and the ground. One that most buildings dont. From libraries conceived for patrons with their heads in the clouds, to libraries that avoid the ground or simply resemble the outline of a cloud, it seems that when you want to read, a good many architects think the first thing you have to do is leave the ground. In older libraries and art museums, this separation was much more monumental, with a giant wall of steps leading away from the street and into a kind of knowledge vault. But these are all smaller projects built in a time when information exchange has lost hierarchy and the modes of exchange are less clearly defined. Now, it somehow makes sense for all these different proposals to engage their surroundings the ways they do. It somehow makes sense for moats to appear in projects without irony.

Alex Dent

November 26, 2012 / By

Kaws Manages To Float Into The Mainstream

KAWS Thanksgiving Parade Float

KAWS Thanksgiving Parade Float

For the last 85 years the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has ushered in Thanksgiving, a menagerie of some of the most beloved characters from pop culture. As you can see from this list there’s been a wide variety of characters yet non quite like that of Kaws’ Companion. Thanks to the folks at the Blue Sky Gallery they’ve begun introducing characters from contemporary artists like Takashi Murakami and Jeff Koons.

It seems so funny to see someone like Kaws having a float in the parade, but I think it’s a positive step forward for people like us. I’d seen some talk of “Kaws is selling out” chatter on my Twitter which I thought was odd. A guy like Kaws has built his entire career on making art his own way, which for the most part was illegal. Yet when he does something legitimately then we drag him down? I personally believe we should champion any artist or designer who has the chance to be successful. If we can’t stand together then we’re bound to fail alone.

Bobby Solomon

November 26, 2012 / By

‘RRRRRRRROLL_GIF’ – Beautiful and surreal gifs from Japan

I think it’s fair to agree that the internet unanimously loves GIFs. They’re pretty amazing, right! In fact, just last week the Oxford English Dictionary officially named ‘GIF’ (the verb, not the noun) as America’s Word of the Year. I guess in a year that’s included commercial GIFs, Presidential GIFs and Gangnam Style, the humble GIF may indeed be worthy of this title.

One group of GIF-makers who love to make original content are rrrrrrrroll. Since April of this year they’ve been creating a wonderfully surreal collection of moving images which they share through their Tumblr page RRRRRRRROLL_GIF every week. I couldn’t find out that much more about them but over on Colossal, Christopher Jobson informs me that the site is run by an anonymous collective made up of five photographers and artists. If you’re on Tumblr make sure you follow their blog – their work is beautiful!

Philip Kennedy

November 21, 2012 / By

In the Tree Canopy; in the Middle of the City

JAJA Architects APS Daegu Goasan Public Library Competition

JAJA Architects APS Daegu Goasan Public Library Competition

This week, folks in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving. The holiday is a time of reflection and appreciation, but most of us aren’t any good at that, so we’re doing what we do best: eating copious amounts of food and then shopping ourselves into misery and debt. This week, I thought I would share recent examples of buildings devoted to the decidedly loftier goals of education and civic engagement: libraries.

These are images of the competition entry by Danish firm JAJA Architects for a public library in Daegu, Korea.  Although the firm did not win first prize (instead, they placed a respectable third) their entry still reads as an amazing place to relax and spend the day studying. The firm’s website features a slide show walking through diagrammatic design decisions, explaining the project through a logical series of drawings and renderings. The urban setting of the library surprised me because much of the material used to represent the project focuses on the relationship of reading spaces to the trees outside. Being able to achieve this kind of sylvan study space in an urban environment would be stunning.

JAJA Architects APS Daegu Goasan Public Library Competition

The project is also refreshingly straight forward and neatly organized. In architecture school, it took me an embarrassingly long time to be able to distinguish daylight and sunlight.  In the context of a library, daylight is pleasant and desirable, but direct sunlight is damaging and annoying. The massing of this project addresses the daylight dilemma, with each story of the project growing larger to shade the books below from direct sunlight. The only sad thing about the project is that it will never see the light of day.

Alex Dent

November 21, 2012 / By

The Build Up: Episode 2

The Build Up: Episode 2

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Click Here To Download Episode 2

As promised, the second episode of The Build Up. We’re taking this two week schedule pretty seriously as it puts a fire under Jon’s and my ass to make sure we’ve got some cool ideas to speak about. As with the last episode the conversation is both casual and the topics varied, so prepare for an entertaining blend of thoughts, criticisms and ideas. On a technical note we’re still looking into putting the podcast onto iTunes so try to be patient. In the meantime you can listen here on the page or download the mp3 if you’re retro like that.

Our second episode is about a lot of things:

• Stanley Kubrick exhibit at LACMA
• The function of museums
• Good Icelandic beer
• How amazing Thanksgiving is
• Good people in Portland
• The best football ad ever?
• The Hobbit posters are lame
• Good typography skills are necessary
• Jon’s new candle line Arlo Jacob
• The absurdness of that tiny Instagram projector
• Gimmicky products
• The importance of good customer service
• Brands using social media
• Jon’s obsession with shoe videos
• Good music from Lost in the Trees, Jon Brion, The Magnetic Fields, and The Avalanches

Feel free to leave us feedback by hitting is up at @thefoxisblack and @jonsetzen, or you can find The Fox Is Black on Facebook.

Bobby Solomon

November 19, 2012 / By

Beckmann-N’Thépé Build a Library from Muddy Cement

Beckmann-N'Thépé Marne-la-Valle

Beckmann-N'Thépé Marne-la-Valle

Beckmann-N'Thépé Marne-la-Valle

This week, folks in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving. The holiday is a time of reflection and appreciation, but most of us aren’t any good at that, so we’re doing what we do best: eating copious amounts of food and then shopping ourselves into misery and debt. This week, I thought I would share recent examples of buildings devoted to the decidedly loftier goals of education and civic engagement: libraries.

Built by Beckmann-N’Thépé, this is the library for the French University Marne-la-Vallée. The massive and muddy-looking concrete volume hovers above an area called the High House Farm, and you can see what appears to be a fragment of a moat near an entrance to the the library. Although the project is very real, the architects describe the project in terms more akin to fantasy than concrete, saying: “Between naturalism and terror, the Marne-la-Vallée Library puts us in touch with our dreams– active, joyous, sometimes disturbing, comforting, but always salutary.” Another word I’ve seen floating around to describe the project is convivial, which I will try to casually work into conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table between spoonfuls of mashed potatoes.

The only interior photos I can find show the winding, powder blue stairs. Any other insights into the quality of the interior space will have to be gleaned from renderings and plans.  A description that accompanies the renderings says that “calm and whiteness prevail” on the interior of the project, but what that might look like is as murky as the moat underneath the reading room. It’s a strange project, experimental in a way that, to me, resembles a monolith excavated from the site below. For now, students at Marne-la-Vallée are left to climb the blue stairs into the reading room and enjoy the calm whiteness that remains a fog for the rest of us stuck outside.

Alex Dent

November 19, 2012 / By

Pendleton Ward’s New Animated Show ‘Bravest Warriors’

Pendleton Ward's New Animated Show 'Bravest Warriors'

Pendleton Ward's New Animated Show 'Bravest Warriors'

Pendleton Ward's New Animated Show 'Bravest Warriors'

The always entertaining Pendelton Ward, who you know from Adventure Time, is back with a new show called Bravest Warriors.

Bravest Warriors follows four teenaged heroes-for-hire as they warp through the universe to save adorable aliens and their worlds using the power of their emotions. Chris, Beth, Wallow, and Danny negotiate the most fragile laws of space-time—emotion—where every decision could lead to broken dreams and crushed hearts. There’s intergalactic battles for attention and affection; love that spans space, time, and reason; and proof that adventure takes on many, often weird, forms.

Though there’s only two episodes so far it’s looking really promising. The first episode features a bunch of time wackiness because of the “Fartsparkle effect”. Of course. The second episode features an Emotion Lord who makes the universe go crazy. Cashews in your mouth! I’m pretty excited to see how the show goes, so far so good.

Thanks to Ward Jenkins for bringing this to my attention.

Bobby Solomon

November 19, 2012 / By

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