Traditional Andean Design Finds New Life in Architectural Details

Colors, Design & Designers, Random Beauty

The city of El Alto in Bolivia, high up in the Andes, is the country’s second largest city and right next to the third largest one, La Paz. Something that El Alto beats its richer neighbor in is unique eye candy right on the building facades.

That’s because an architect, Freddy Mamani Silvestre, is slowly working bright colors into El Alto’s red-brick and concrete scenery.

Wikipedia Mamani Cholet1

via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Information on Silvestre seems scant in English. A member of the indigenous Aymara, he apparently started working on buildings as a bricklayer. There’s a feature on El Alto in The New York Times in 2013 and in The Washington Post in 2014. He’s referred to in a 2014 BBC News article on president Evo Morales. The Architectural Association, Inc., still has their exhibition info Salones de Eventos from 2015 available online. I also found two articles via the German Wikipedia entry for Silvestri: one in The Architectural Review and the other in Quartz, both from 2015. The best bet at the moment might be the 2017 book El Alto by Silvestre and Peter Granser. For Spanish readers there’s more, including the 2014 book La arquitectura de Freddy Mamani Silvestre.

Quartz Mamani Salon Montecarlo

Salón Montecarlo by Alfredo Zeballos / The Architecture of Freddy Mamani Silvestre. Via Quartz.

Silvestri draws on traditional shapes and colors in his designs. Some of the detailing reminds me of jugend (I believe the phrase art deco is used in the U.S. instead), but Silvestri’s work is clearly not derivative of it.

If the exteriors seem colorful and detailed, just wait until you see the interiors!

Wow! His style has been described as Neo-Andean, new Andean, space-ship architecture or, plainly, kitch. However you may want to describe it, the word colorful will have to be there!

Found via Colossal.

Cross-posted from Co-Geeking.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

On the Visual Design of Birnin Zana, Wakanda’s Capitol

Design & Designers, Geek out!, Movies & TV

All the “best of 2018” movie lists I’ve seen remind of how much I loved Black Panther. So, I’m stealing an early start to the Martin Luther King Day weekend and reading about the design of Wakanda’s capitol city.

It’s called Birnin Zana and nicknamed the Golden City, although neither name appears in the movie. The Birnin Zana we see on the screen is the creation of the movie’s production designer, Hannah Beachler.

In a CityLab interview with Nicole Flatow, Beachler recounts her starting point:

“You know what’s keeping us together: the connectivity of people, not the connectivity of users. We’re not users; we’re people, but we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re users,” she said. “So I took all of that, and I just chucked it out of Wakanda, because the people were the most important thing about it, and we’re forgetting it. And I think that’s why people responded to Wakanda on this massive level: people.”

CityLab Marvel Studios Wakandan Street View

Marvel Studios; via CityLab.

The first impression of Birnin Zana is of course the skyscrapers, but if you look closely, there is water and ample greenery, too. The skyscrapers don’t seem to block the light too badly either.

Wired Marvel Studios City from Above

Marvel Studios; via Wired.

And if you really look, you can see greenery both in and on the buildings.

fxguide Marvel Studios Royal Landing Pad

Marvel Studios; via fxguide.

Vanity Fair Marvel Studios City Concept

Marvel Studios; via Vanity Fair.

Ahh! Nice.

Many of the building shapes hark back to traditional African aesthetics; also the surface detailing is rich and striking. In an interview with Collider, Beachler talks about the influences for her work:

“I started poking around and looking at really modern architects who have designed in Africa, all over Africa, east and west Africa. And someone who I really fell in love with was Zaha Hadid, who has passed away, but she is one of the foremost architects. So I started looking at her. Her architecture is very voluptuous and very flowing, very organic. So I thought this would be good. And the more I started digging into Senegal and Nigeria and finding things, while not necessarily futuristic-looking, very modern in their sensibilities as far as the way they’re putting together their elements and the colors that they use. I was struck by that. So I took a lot of that in. And a lot of it does come from Nigeria. I think in Kenya, Uganda, Johannesburg was another one, where no matter where you go, you really do see that they’re always keeping in mind the tradition.”

Los Angeles Times Marvel Studios City Concept Low-Built Area

Film Frame / Marvel Studios; via Los Angeles Times.

Collider Marvel Studios Wakanda City Concept

Marvel Studios; via Collider.

Beachler also created a 500-page “Wakanda Bible” for the actors to study, including the history of Golden City and names for all the buildings. The records hall held special meaning for her:

“Because [Wakanda residents] know everything about their past”—a privilege that real-world African Americans don’t have—“and [that] will never go away again in this city.

“I felt that way because I never knew my history. I didn’t know my ancestry, I didn’t know how far back it went …That was truly the most important thing to me. I don’t have that, but I could give it here in this fantastical world.”

I wish we got to see it, but I don’t think we do. (If you’ve spotted the records hall, let me know!)

Anyway; gorgeous through and through, isn’t it?

Now, I’m a city girl and have been almost my entire life. However, my concept of a city is different: all urban areas back home are typically so roomily built I’ve heard that if we were to follow some particular EU directive the whole country of Finland wouldn’t have a single city. (No idea whether that’s true, though.) Add my introversion to the difference in our respective urban population densities, and I suspect I would need a lot of alonetime were it possible for me to visit the Golden City.

Other than that, I LOVE everything we see: Color! Fantastic public transit (maglev trains, streetcars), but with people and their needs (and not cars) clearly at the focus. Traditional crafts and art that live very comfortably next to high-tech. Street vendors of almost every stripe – especially the food vendors make my mouth water every time I see them.

I do wish we could have a real-world Wakanda, for many reasons, the fabulous design being just one.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Finnish Folk Hop Ensemble Tuuletar Lends Wings to Game of Thrones Ad

Arts & Crafts, Movies & TV, Thumbs Up

Alku (‘Beginning’), a piece by the Finnish vocal folk hop ensemble Tuuletar, appears in a Game of Thrones commercial. The band’s website says,

“’Alku’, the opening track from Tuuletar’s debut album “tules maas vedes taivaal” has been sold for the use of one of the most popular tv-series in the whole world, HBO’s Game of Thrones. The song will be heard in the season 7 DVD and Blue-Ray [sic] commercial, which will be broadcasted worldwide. The deal was made together with Finnish record label Bafe’s Factory and ThinkSync Music from London.”

The ThinkSync news page on the sale links to a German-language DVD / Blu-Ray trailer for GoT season 7 on YouTube with Alku in the background:

GAME OF THRONES Staffel 7 – Trailer #2 Deutsch HD German (2017) by Warner Bros. DE

Tuuletar mashes up a cappella, beatboxing and Finnish folk music and poetry into a unique combination. Their debut album, Tules maas vedes taivaal (‘On Fire and Earth, in Water and Sky‘), won the prestigious Emma Award (the Finnish version of a Grammy) for the best ethno album of the year in 2016.

Tuuletar IMG_0510-1024x683

Tuuletar.

Vocalists Venla Ilona Blom, Sini Koskelainen, Johanna Kyykoski and Piia Säilynoja make up Tuuletar. More videos at YouTube or Tuuletar website.

Congrats, Tuuletar! I first blogged about the band two years ago just before they released their debut record, and am absolutely delighted to see them doing so well. And Alku is so amazing it gives me chills – always a sign of greatness!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Food for Thought: Smartphones and Creativity

Inspiration

On Open Culture, Ayun Halliday writes about smartphones and creativity, extensively quoting cartoonist and educator Lynda Barry.

Flickr Nicolas Nova Smartphone Rituals

Smartphone Rituals by Nicolas Nova on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Here’s one of Barry’s thoughts that especially struck me:

“The phone gives us a lot but it takes away three key elements of discovery: loneliness, uncertainty and boredom. Those have always been where creative ideas come from.”

– Lynda Barry

I’m still mulling over the quote, but I seem to be leaning towards disagreeing. People who are inclined to doodle, people-watch, nap, let their thoughts wander, knit, read or whatnot will continue to do so even with smartphones. Not to mention that it’s perfectly possible to be bored with your smartphone and all the access it gives. Boredom, I find, isn’t dependent on having access to x, y or z; it’s more a matter of what doesn’t inspire you at any given moment. Nor are smartphones a cure-all against loneliness or uncertainty.

Smartphones are undoubtedly a tool, and equally unboubtedly they can be a distraction. My tentative hypothesis is that as the newest and perhaps most exciting devices in the history of human tool use, we haven’t collectively learned to balance their benefits and disadvantages yet.

Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier for those struggling to resist the siren song of instant and interminable access.

Handtufted OOAK Rugs That Look Like Landscape

Arts & Crafts, Design & Designers, Thumbs Up

Artist Alexandra Kehayoglou from Buenos Aires handtufts one-of-a-kind wool rugs that evoke landscapes with outdoor surfaces like water, snow and sand, or fluffy plant textures like grasses, moss and trees.

Alexandra Kehayoglou nieve-laguna-pasto

Nieve Laguna Pasto. Alexandra Kehayoglou.

Some of the rugs are meant as multi-surface coverings (wall to floor), or work as chair covers.

Alexandra Kehayoglou refugio-web

Refugio para unos días felices. Alexandra Kehayoglou.

Alexandra Kehayoglou silla-web

Silla para atravesar el invierno. Alexandra Kehayoglou.

Wow. Wow! See more on her website or Instagram.

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Discoveries: Tuuletar Folk Hop Ensemble

Arts & Crafts, Thumbs Up

The Finnish folk hop ensemble Tuuletar has almost entirely taken over my playlist this month! They mash up a cappella, beatboxing and Finnish folk music and poetry into a unique combination. Some of the elements they incorporate even sound like yoik to me.

Tuuletar Promokuva1_WEB

Tuuletar

At first I was baffled, not really being a fan of beatboxing, but the songs tend sneak up on you and before you notice, they stick around. Some of my new favorites are linked below.

In 2014, they made a go to be the Finnish representative in the Eurovision Song Contest with the song Ruhtinaan tyttäret, made in collaboration with the Swedish producer Fredrik Arvidsson:

Ruhtinaan tyttäret (AUDIO) – Tuuletar feat. Fredrik Arvidsson via Tuuletar Vocalensemble

A 2014 live performance with audience participation at restaurant Kahvilla in Tampere, Finland:

Tuuletar – Tuu-kerää – LIVE Ravintola Kahvilla (25/7/2014) via Sini Koskelainen

Another live performance from the same year, this one at Klubb Ankaret in Göteborg, Sweden:

Pohjan Neito – Tuuletar – LIVE at Klubb Ankaret (22/10/2014) via Tuuletar Vocalensemble

Such innovative work – and you can tell they’re having fun themselves. 🙂 Tuuletar is about to release their first full album, expected in May 2016. I definitely need to remember this group!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.

Creativity Is: Soundweaving

Design & Designers, Fabrics & Materials

Soundweaving is an interdisciplinary, integrative and experimental art project by Zsanett Szirmay. She took traditional cross-stitching patterns used in Hungarian folk embroidery and transformed them into tape-like punch cards which in turn were played by a comb music player. (Follow the link to listen to samples.)

From the project Introduction:

“Soundweaving equally stimulates all senses, and calls for interaction. … It belongs to the analogue and digital realms at the same time as the handmade embroidery is translated into laser cut patterns. At the same time, the visual world is presented in audio, or rather the graphic aspect of music gets a role in developing the tunes.”

Sound-Weaving-by-Zsanett-Sziarmay_dezeen_SQ01

Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács. Photo by Sándor Fövényi; via Dezeen.

Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács. Photo by Sándor Fövényi; via Dezeen.

Szirmay was inspired by punch cards used in weaving machines to program patterns and in some musical instruments to produce music. She describes the roots of the project in an interview like this:

“I used to do folk dancing and wore traditional Hungarian embroidered clothes… Contemplating and taking it a step further, I was curious to find out what cross-stitched patterns might sound like.”

“The principles of [musical] composition are similar to textile design. Both areas use the prime form, inversion, retrograde and retrograde inversion… I played with these transformations in the creation of the punchcards with the help of musician and composer Bálint Tárkány-Kovács as co-producer.”

The punch card patterns themselves look like this:

Szirmay Punch Card Collage

Melodies 1, 2, 3 and 4 by Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács; collage by Eppu Jensen.

For exhibiting her project, Szirmay reproduced lace-like cross-stitch patterns on huge laser-cut sheets and surrounded the music boxes with these sheets and some original works of traditional embroidery.

Sound-Weaving-by-Zsanett-Sziarmay_dezeen_468_4

Zsanett Szirmay and Bálint Tárkány-Kovács. Photo by Sándor Fövényi; via Dezeen.

(Additional reporting from Dezeen magazine and Colossal; both have multiple images of the project.)

I find the embroidery-to-music aspect of the project fascinating. Also, as a textile history nerd with some knowledge of traditional Finnish patterns and techniques, simply looking at traditional handcrafts in a completely new light interests me.

The hanging laser-cut sheets are the most impressive aspect of the project for me, though. The combination of traditional patterns with a modern production method works seamlessly, and reproducing several individual motifs on each sheet keeps the whole interesting. Despite the huge size, there is enough transparency to let some light through. In fact, you could model room dividers after them. Love it!

Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.