Let me weave you a tale, or tell you a yarn, about the Beijing "Bird's Nest"

    To my post on the woven nature of the Beijing National Stadium "Bird's Nest,"

    reader Pam Farrell wrote
    I too was wondering what the birds nest building reminded me of...then I thought about a Martin Puryear woven wood sculpture. Couldn't find an appropriate example, but I'm satisfied with that association.
    I'm satisfied with that too. Very satisfied. The way only art can satisfy me. And I did find an appropriate example (or three) of Puryear's work to make the case

    "Old Mole" (1985)

    "Thicket" (1990)

    Martin Puryear is one of my favorite living sculptors. I'm not always sure why. I like the mystery in his forms. The anthropomorphism that has been handmade into something greater, through abstraction. The spiritual power when he passes traditional arts and folk traditions and wisdom of Africa and other lands through his being and through his hands and into his work. His political/historical power can punch, as in the soaring "Ladder for Booker T. Washington." I love it set against the concrete walls in Tadao Ando's Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. With elegance and earthiness Puryear turns craft work into deep art.

    A handmade work in our industrialized society is born with mojo.

    When I spent a day a few months ago with the architects of the "Bird's Nest," Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, they spoke of that. They hail from Switzerland. A land with centuries-long traditions of hand work. That led to the famous Swiss craftsmanship of timepieces. But they said that today, little is made by hand in Switzerland. They spoke of a recent trip to Kenya where they saw some craftsmanship, but a dwindling amount. And then, I'm just remembering now, Herzog mentioned India and China. He said they may end up as the last places on earth where things are still made by hand.

    Which makes me wonder if their "Bird's Nest" stadium is an homage to the hand-made. It does look beautifully woven, crafted- like a Martin Puryear.

    What symbolizes craft more than

    a ball of yarn? Look like the photo at the top?

    Herzog and de Meuron attempted a similar blending in their lower Manhattan condo building at 40 Bond Street, this time, street art (graffiti) into architecture

    There it's much less effective. The manic energy sinks it, as does the dated feel of graffiti as inspiration in New York City.

    You could say the "Bird's Nest" reminds you of

    a rubber band ball. Sure. But those are so tightly wound. It's politically important that the "Bird's Nest" is a more open, porous form. The stadium in Beijing speaks of "unraveling the truth." And for such a large building, the openings make it seem less oppressive. That's an important statement. As is the exterior with its lines in all directions to say "There are many paths."

    One last Martin Puryear

    I like how he creates space, architecturally. It's womb-like, with mystery and meaning in it. The "Bird's Nest" also achieves this. And its form is enough like a whale to keep us looking at it in a satisfied way until we can figure it out its meaning. The "Bird's Nest" too can look like a tail fin, reentering the ocean.

    What Puryear has created gives off an animate power and yet would also be a carcass, or is it the ribbed infrastructure of a ship? It's a rot, a ruin. The "Bird's Nest" shows a melt-down tendency too. Do you see the romantic ruins of Piranesi in it?

    A crumbling of the old order.

    Martin Puryear uses wood in so many different ways that he renews its possibilities as artistic material. Herzog and de Meuron are doing the same for steel.

    We once again see the relationship of architecture and sculpture. Many public buildings today get criticized for being too sculptural. In Beijing, Herzog and de Meuron get the balance between architecture, sculpture, craft and message just right.


    Thank you Pat for the inspiration! Anyone else have associations with the "Bird's Nest?"

    Photos of Martin Puryear's work by Richard Barnes/Museum of Modern Art

    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2008/08/
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What Would Leonardo say?

    In today's world I often wonder, as I'm sure you do, "What would Leonardo say?" It may be when I watch a movie over the internet; or watch a Boeing 747 take off, or when I hold the beautiful iPhone. But never when I played with Well someone has finally put Lite-Brite and Leonardo da Vinci together, to make a

    "Lite-Brite Last Supper."

    More than five feet tall and ten feet long. Is this really the world's largest Lite-Brite? "The creator" used 124,418 colored pegs. And now he wants to sell? Bidding starts at just $1.00. You may get lucky.Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2008/08/
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Form Follows Fascists

    I know the

    looks like a

    which can symbolize rebirth (the egg), freedom (flight) and a place to nurture new "movements."

    But I've been trying to figure out what the Beijing "Bird's Nest" stadium really reminds me of. It's interesting for its porosity, its irregularity, its non-Euclidean geometry. It recalls the work of artists who enclosed space in a similar way.

    Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

    "Wrapped bottle" is from 2001-2007. "Wrapped Snoopy House" is from 2004. And "Wrapped Paintings" is from 1969.

    But Christo has been sending us packages like this since the late 1950's. Since soon after he fled his native part of the world- communist Eastern Europe.

    "Bird's Nest" architects from Switzerland Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron worked with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on their stadium, not with Christo.

    Ai Weiwei is famously critical of the Chinese government. He told the Guardian,
    We must bid farewell to autocracy. Whatever shape it takes, whatever justification it gives, authoritarian government always ends up trampling on equality, denying justice and stealing happiness and laughter from the people.
    I like his use of the word "shape." The "shape" inside the wrapping? The truth is wrapped?

    Back to Christo. He grew up in autocratic Bulgaria. He was born in 1935, the Red Army occupied his homeland in 1944. They changed it from an fascist ideological regime to a Stalinist communist one. In 1957 Christo escaped eastern Europe.

    Is his art partly about the Communist state "wrapping" the truth? Covering up the true social conditions? He doesn't deny this.

    At the Beijing stadium, does seeing the "wrapping" in such a physical form, and beautiful, which means that what's inside might be beautiful too, does this architectural statement make us more desirous of unwrapping? Of getting at a truth, (or at beauty)?

    In this way Weiwei and the architects could be fomenting social change. No wonder Ai Weiwei said he wouldn't attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and Herzog and de Meuron were in some ways not credited enough, shoved under the rug by the authorities. (Again, truth hidden?)

    Reminds me also of Winston Churchill's "Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

    The walls are porous. The truth will leak out

    and in.

    Even the pavement around the stadium is not a single entity, but is divided into pieces. Individualism. As each of the steel rods supporting this great structure is valuable, and unique. Like the words in a good poem. Like the citizens in a free society.

    To end then, more good words from Ai Weiwei
    ... The "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, which I helped to conceive, is designed to embody the Olympic spirit of "fair competition". It tells people that freedom is possible but needs fairness, courage and strength.


    I'll ask Ai Weiwei about this when I talk with him on September 17.

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2008/08/
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Before Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch

Can anybody beat Beijing? Is the US ready to compete for the 2016 Olympic Games?

    What's the difference between






    Ambition? Vision? Economics? Arrogance? The amalgamated power of the society behind it? If you think it's all of the above, read this.

    I write about it in the Huffington Post. You're welcome to comment.

    These pictures show you the difference. Symbols matter. So does ease of movement. So do first impressions and entries into cities and cultures.


    Images in order:

    a. Beijing "Bird's Nest" stadium
    b. Proposed stadium for Chicago, for the Olympics 2016 bid
    a. Magnetic levitation train between Shanghai and its airport
    b. Blue Line train between O'Hare and Chicago
    a. New terminal at Beijing airport
    b. new terminal at Chicago Midway airport


    More from me on China here.Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2008/08/
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Cool School in L.A.

    Couldn't figure out what the new Coop Himmelb(l)au high school still under construction

    reminded me of.

    Besides all the too cool for school stuff, such as
    "The tower relates to the immediate context of downtown Los Angeles and the other cultural institutions within.... A spiral in the form of a #9 which revolves around the tower completes the sculpture and is an expression of the dynamic development of our society."

    But what does it really remind me of? I couldn't remember, until I saw one here

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2008/08/
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Hello Beautiful LA!

    New horizons. On the day I arrived

    I went inside three beautiful homes designed by John Lautner.

    Each a glorious rhythm.

    Each a free-flowing rhapsody on its site

    in episodes of contrasting tones.

    Their effects float musically through space and the landscape.

    Peering through the glass, seeing my self reflected, and my hopes, I dreamt of many things.

    But I was not with a real estate agent, not looking to buy. No, the houses were open for a day, for a fee, in conjunction with the fine exhibition at the Hammer Museum: "Between Earth and Heaven - The Architecture of John Lautner."

    The installation at the Hammer works well. Putting the models and drawing at about waist height, with the cases in white, also makes you feel like you're floating.

    And I love the see-through models placed in front of large photos or even videos. You look through the models, as an occupant would, to see the gorgeous views of the natural world.

    Of course, nothing is like actually going inside a John Lautner, and you have three more chances. The Hammer and the Getty Research Institute are also sponsoring a symposium on Lautner, on September 19. You'll find other events too, such as Lautner and film, this being LA.

    The natural materials and the immateriality, the site and the light, the theoretical geometries and the nature bursting in to John Lautner's houses does place one somewhere between Heaven and Earth. And if you're not from here, it's a different kind of heaven. Very soft.

    Much to contemplate

    Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2008/08/
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