Monday, July 21, 2008

In the House

Emily and I have both been working a lot and/or had family in town, and haven't had a chance lately to get out and walk around the city together—so it was really nice to kick off the weekend with a leisurely brunch at Jones (always uncrowded in the summer) and some quick art and design appreciation for as long as we could handle cutting the 100º concrete.

On the way from the subway to Jones we stopped by Posteritati, one of the best purveyors of vintage movie posters in the city. They have a searchable online database. Go nuts here.

Next on the agenda was a trip to the venerable Madame Paulette, the best cleaner and tailor in the city, at least if you take the Met's word for it (Paulette handles all that stuff for the Costume Institute).

The cost is a little prohibitive for day-to-day stuff, but if you ever need some serious cleaning or tailoring, that's the spot. You know when a vinyl-covered bench in a bar gets torn, and they fix it with electrical tape, but then the tape gets gross and they remove it—and then there's that sticky black stuff on the vinyl? Madame Paulette had to be called into action because Emily got that on a cream-colored skirt Thursday night.

After that we slouched toward MoMA for the pre-fab preview. It was so hot out, I couldn't believe it. On the way we checked out this installation of big painted bronze figures (including Hello, Kitty) by Tom Sachs, in the courtyard of Lever House. They all have fountains coming out of their eyes.

Here's a photo by Genevieve Hanson of Sachs sitting on one of his works in progress, from a recent article in The New York Times.

Lever House is a really beautiful building, I want to spend some more time there. More about that later.

Then it was on to MoMA for the new show, Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. Definitely check out the website, there's a ton of information, video, and more pictures there.

The exhibition is in two parts, with renderings, models, and material studies on the sixth floor, and actual pre-fab houses set up in the empty lot between 53rd and 54th streets. To me it seemed like there were some notable exclusions, but in terms of being a cross-section of the most cutting-edge/avant-garde developments in the history and future of pre-fab, it was a great show.

This little metal house was pretty amazing. I can't see spending much time inside it, but the amount of functionality they fit into a tiny space is crazy. There's a bed, a table that seats four and doubles as a desk, a kitchen, and a bathroom—and a little deck with room enough for a few chairs. The whole thing is solar powered.

I liked this one the most. The main thing that interests me about pre-fab houses is the idea of getting the most usability/livability out of the least amount of space possible. There are of course many other interesting things about pre-fabrication, but that's just what I'm into—I guess it appeals to the organizational freak in me. This house is aesthetically attractive, highly functional, and relatively small—but not so small that it would feel cramped. In the picture below you can see there's a stairway leading up to a roof deck. It would be pretty sweet to have a place like this in the San Juans or the North Cascades.

One last point though. Obviously the focus of a show at the MoMA should not be How to Make Pre-Fab Attractive to Mainstream America, and that's not even necessarily the focus of architects working on these types of houses. Regardless, relating the work to my own potential needs, I came away with a feeling that overall there's still a lot to be done toward making pre-fab houses relaxing and comfortable as real homes. Any casual reader of this run-on sentence of a blog knows I am a huge proponent of minimal, modern design—but at what point do you feel like you're living in an office? Fairly subtle moves with color and material would go a long way toward finding a balance between design and real human experience.

Seriously though, I just made all that stuff up, I don't really know what I'm talking about.

The show is up through October 20th. Go check it out and tell me what you think.

After MoMA, we went home, cranked the air conditioner and watched Superbad on Starz in a prone position. Then we drank some micheladas and BBQ'd in the backyard. There were tons of fireflies and our burgers and wieners were delicious, The End.

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