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Get Up High

First look: Coachella brings shimmering cathedrals, repurposed jets, and AR to the High Desert
The Coachella Arts and Music Festival kicks off this weekend outside Los Angeles, bringing with it a wide-ranging program of colorful, sculptural artworks by a handful of local and international artists. Years past have brought dynamic artworks by designers like Bureau Spectacular, among others. This year's presenters include R&R Studios, a Miami-based duo made up of Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquart. The visual art-, architecture-, and design-focused creatives have brought their star-shaped sculpture, Supernova. This is the duo’s second year exhibiting at Coachella, following the 2016 show. Entertainment design studio NEWSUBSTANCE is making their Coachella debut with Spectra, a seven-story-tall sloped ramp structure clad in transparent orange and yellow panels. Artist Randy Polumbo will bring Lodestar, 35-foot triangular"saucer" made from a repurposed Lockheed Martin Lodestar jet that sits on a trio of 10,000-pound legs. Italian artist Edoardo Tresoldi will grace the High Desert with his Etherea sculpture, a massive mesh-based work that evokes Baroque architecture. El Salvadorian artist Simón Vega is presenting his Palm-3 World Station at the festival, a spherical sculptural work made up of repurposed components. American artist Katie Stout will debut Display This Oasis, an augmented reality-based sculpture "that's grounded in reality" and focuses on processing everyday objects through a special web-based app. Los Angeles-based artist Adam Ferriss brings his Meta & Ditto augmented reality installation to the music festival, another app-based installation that utilizes "manipulated source images, computer code, and algorithms to psychedelic effect." Photographs are not yet available for the two augmented reality-based installations. We will be updating this post throughput the weekend with more images.
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High Desert

Coachella art installations are a riot of color and whimsical forms
The Coachella Arts and Music Festival kicked off this weekend in the desert outside Los Angeles with a bang, debuting a series of cute and colorful, large-scale art installations for concertgoers to revel among. One consisted of a “mirrored lighthouse for immigrants” by Brazilian artist Gustavo Prado. The work is expressed as a tall lighthouse for travelers—pivoting, curved mirrors sit every which way atop a series of metal armatures, reflecting views and sunlight in a multitude of directions. In a statement, Prado explained the structure as “a way to empirically present how the mind turns the continuous interconnectedness of phenomena into separate beings.”
Brooklyn, New York–based studio Chiaozza (pronounced like “wowza”) designed a garden installation consisting of a series of whimsical, desert-inspired plant structures. Like some type of Martian golf course, the stucco-clad, Dr. Seuss-ian masses—tall and knobby, in some cases, bulbous and squat in others—are wrapped in Memphis Group–inspired squiggles and dots and sit atop circular bases made of astroturf. Adam Frezza of Chiaozza explained in a statement that the group wanted “to create a visual bath, something you can explore and get lost in” with their acre-sized installation.
Day ✌️ 📷: @ravivora A post shared by Coachella (@coachella) on
Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous created Crown Ether, an un-occupiable home supported by a series of angular, tree trunk-like pillars. The work, according to Jeyifous, is inspired by the artist’s longstanding interest in the intersection between public architecture and displacement, here symbolized by the tension resulting from the visual accessibility of the structure that cannot actually be occupied.
Come thru 📷: @ari_fararooy A post shared by Coachella (@coachella) on
Lastly, United Kingdom–based artists Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan created a massive installation that works as a visual pun for the phrase “elephant in the room” made up of large masses of faceted, brightly-patterned elephants. The 75-foot tall herd stands in a rough circle, with various exposures of each creation wrapped in a different geometric, colorful pattern. The installations will be on view through April 23.
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Art and architecture highlights from Coachella

2016’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicked off this weekend in typical fashion: hit and under-sung musical acts playing late into the night, torturous sunshine interrupted by shade-giving monumental art. Amid the raucous tumult of teenagers and festival bros were a collection of large artworks commissioned specifically for the festival, running two weekends in a row. The seven monumental works by seven invited artists create interactive structures meant to complement the festival’s musical offerings and run the gamut from dank man caves to an ever-changing array of colorful balloons floating in the wind.

The Tower of Twelve Stories 📷: @robstok + @alliemtaylor

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Takin a break from my normal thing(s) to shoot @coachella ! @goldenvoice @instagram Art = @0super A photo posted by Jeff Frost (@frostjeff) on
Jimenez Lai brings his The Tower of Twelve Stories to Coachella, a 52-foot-tall sectional model made up of a mess of stacked platonic bubbles. Inspired by the Lenoard Cohen song, “Tower of Song,” Lai’s work also takes inspiration from theories on the American skyscraper, from Rem Koolhaas’s notions of its genericism to Louis Sullivan’s prescriptions of classical proportioning for the type. The structure contains embedded lights and glows from within at night. Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea’s Katrina Chairs utilize steel frames clad in plywood to create a sextet of bright yellow lawn chairs topped with stacks of Soviet-era, prefabricated apartment blocks. The monumental work takes its name from the disastrous storm that hit New Orleans in 2005 that gives the work resonant symbolism: it asks in surreal irony if one chair can hold an entire community above water. Phillp L. Smith’s Portals uses mirrored members to create a 85-foot-wide circular room around a large tree. This room is punctuated by fluorescently lit Space and Light era-inspired geometric niche sculptures. A planter containing the tree comes with incorporated seating. Wife and husband team Katrīna Neiburga and Andris Eglītis from Latvia repurpose scrapped wood and other building materials to create their two-storied The Armpit, an homage to the Latvian equivalent of the “man cave.” The installation fetishizes Latvian male’s tendency to crave time alone in the garage and upends a traditionally masculine space by allowing the view to peer into the cave and observe scenes of male solitude and domestic intimacy. Architecture-trained Argentine artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt take inspiration from the Mexican bolero song, ¡Bésame Mucho!, for their silk flower-clad monumental text sculpture of the same name. Coachella-based artists Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, collaborating as The Date Farmers, evoke the Mexican migrant farm worker with their work, Sneaking into the Show, a Chicano Art-inspired totem showcasing a duo of migrant workers and their plow.

#goldenhour 📷: @erubes1

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  Lastly, Robert Bose’s Balloon Chain utilizes variously colored balloons strung together with attached LED lights to create a responsive amorphous sculpture that billows along with the hot desert winds.  
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Eavesdrop> ‘Chella Yo Self: Jimenez Lai excited about Coachella this summer
L.A. designer Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular recently discovered that he would be designing one of the large installations at Southern California music festival Coachella this summer. Announcing the exciting news on Facebook, he said “I want to kiss the earth Kevin Costner–style. I’m now able to say I’ve been on the same poster as Ice Cube, LCD Soundsystem, and Guns N Roses.”
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Desert X to bring the art fair circuit to Coachella Valley
File under “X.” A new happening is coming to California’s high desert. Slated to open in February 2017, Desert X is “three-month site-specific international contemporary art exhibition,” aka, an arid art event timed to align with Palm Spring’s Modernism Week as well as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Writer and curator Neville Wakefield, known for curating site-specific works, will serve as inaugural artistic director. It’s promised that his knack for engaging alternative spaces will be on view as artists install in non-traditional spaces—one might expect landscape interventions a la High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree—as well as more conventional settings such as the Palm Springs Art Museum, a late modern design by architect E. Stewart Williams and A. Quincy Jones’ midcentury Sunnylands Center & Gardens, renovated by Frederick Fisher and Partners in 2012. “The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul,” noted Wakefield. He sets a high bar for the commissioned art works, asking that they simultaneously reflect the ideals and politics of the contemporary art world and respond to the desert context. The press release suggests that the pieces will “amplify and cast a gimlet eye on the geographies, ethnic/social and historical/geologic layers that exist in the southern California desert, while also looking to major movements in contemporary art world-wide.” The exact hows and whos of Desert X remain a vast and unknowable mystery, to borrow the evocative language of the press materials. “The landscape of harsh desert, high mountains, lush golf courses and a vanishing sea, holds a rich history and maintains mythical proportions in the narrative of the American West—one that includes ancient Indian tribes, prospectors, pioneers, and cowboys,” explained Susan Davis, Desert X founder and board president. “We see Desert X as unique in shining a spotlight on the rich preexisting architectural, natural and cultural legacies of the area, while offering the public a way to explore, activate and interrogate current, timely and historic issues through contemporary, creative practices.” However, Desert X’s board is well connected to the regional, national, and international arts organizations, including major arts institutions, such as Whitney Museum of American Art, the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy, the New Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Serpentine Galleries, and Creative Time. The truth is out there: Wakefield will share his vision and plans for the inaugural exhibition on January 29, 2016 as part of the Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2016.
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“Breaking New Ground” Competition Tackles Affordable Housing in the Coachella Valley
Architectural competitions with substantial cash prizes tend to focus on monuments, museums, and other high-brow concerns. Such is not the case for Breaking New Ground: Designing Affordable Housing for the Coachella Valley Workforce. Sponsored by The California Endowment, a Los Angeles–based private health organization, Breaking New Ground targets the gap between the people who come to the Eastern Coachella Valley to play and those who keep its $4 billion agriculture and tourism industries running. Home to resort communities including Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage, the Eastern Coachella Valley lacks affordable housing for the permanent and seasonal workers who harvest its crops and staff the local service industry. With annual salaries of just $15,000–$30,000, workers and their families are forced to live on the streets, in cars, or in one of more than 100 unpermitted mobile home parks, without access to adequate heat, hot water, sanitation, or ventilation. Breaking New Ground will offer a total of $350,000 in unrestricted awards, including prizes for four finalists in each of the Open and Student categories. The jury will evaluate submissions based not just on physical design, but also on their economic, social, and regulatory aspects, such as: market feasibility, the provision of integrated social services, and proposed policy changes. The competition will be based on an existing 9.4-acre vacant site, selected by the County of Riverside for competition purposes only. Though Breaking New Ground is a design and ideas competition, “The California Endowment does intend to fund a project inspired by the competition entries,” said Colin Drukker of PlaceWorks, the competition’s lead project coordinator. “Winning entries will not be guaranteed a chance to participate in a potential construction project, but they will obviously have an advantage in any subsequent RFP.” The competition begins October 21, with online registration open sooner. The first round will conclude December 19, at which point the jury will select four winners from the Student category as well as four finalists from the Open Category. The second round, to begin January 22, will conclude with live presentations and a celebration March 30–31. (All dates are subject to change until registration opens.)
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Slideshow> Organic Architecture Catches Fire in Coachella Valley
Southern California critic Alan Hess tells us more about Ken Kellogg’s GG’s Island Restaurant (formerly the Chart House), which was ravaged by fire on Tuesday morning. The extent of the damage and the potential for repair have not yet been determined. Palm Springs may be best known for sleek steel and glass Modern architecture, but the 1978 Chart House by San Diego architect Ken Kellogg (one of a series he designed for the restaurant chain) makes it impossible to ignore the fact that Organic Modernism is just as much a part of the Coachella Valley heritage. Set along Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, Chart House's low-slung, serpentine shape hugs the contours of a small, rocky butte. Outside, it's the image of protective desert shelter: the taut vaulted roof stretches down, like the fabric of an umbrella or the shell of a crab, almost to touch the landscape berms rising to meet it. Inside, however, the heavy timber columns, curving glu-lam roof ribs, and rubble stone walls wind their way through the restaurant like a well-designed forest. They create layers of space, naturally lighted by a skylight curving along the spine, with an appealing complexity. Kellogg's fifty-five year career, including residences, churches, and commercial and institutional buildings, continues to show the vitality of organic design. [Photo credits: Keith Daly / Flickr, Michael Smith / Flickr, Desert Sun screenshot, KESQ screenshot.]
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The Coachella Crane
Ever since Woodstock, music festivals have morphed into celebrations of eclectic hedonism and of course, all types of artistic expression. Indio, California's Coachella, which starts tomorrow, is no exception.  In addition to three days of music, the festival offers dozens of art installations. This year the most prominent, right at the festival's entrance, is called Ascension, The Crane. It's just that: a giant white crane made of modular aluminum tubes and a mesh fabric called Textilene. It measures 45-feet-tall with a 150-foot wingspan, and the big bird's multi-colored LED lighting is powered by two adjacent photovoltaic stations that also serve as benches and canopies. The 35,000 pound crane, which was put together on site (all of its components fit into a single shipping container), was designed by Crimson Collective,  a group of socially-oriented designers led by LA visionary Behn Samareh. The group works to "bridge the gap between art and architecture," through interactive installations. Check out a fantastic video detailing the construction here. It should be noted that the crane is a symbol of grace, wisdom and peace. This explains why all origami seems to be crane-based, including, apparently, gargantuan origami.
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Bridging the Gap

Phillip K. Smith III illuminates abandoned historic Detroit sky bridge
This past month, architect-turned-artist Phillip K. Smith III revived the 100-foot-long walkway that links two of Detroit’s most celebrated skyscrapers with a dynamic light installation. Wedged between the Guardian Building and One Woodward Avenue, the suspended passageway was built in the 1970s to allow employees of the American Natural Resources Company and Michigan Consolidated Gas Company to pass freely between the two office buildings without interference from inner-city traffic and congestion. When one of the companies relocated in the 1990s, however, the bulky walkway was abandoned. Fortunately, the sky bridge has now been revitalized with a permanent installation by the California designer known for his extravagant, light-based, and Coachella-esque works of art. Phillip K. Smith III has completely transformed the neglected passageway into a vibrant, floating bar of light that electrifies the streets of downtown Detroit. “Detroit Skybridge is another example of how underutilized spaces can be reimagined for the benefit of the public,” said the owner of Library Street Collective, the art organization that conceptualized the project. “Phillip’s use of light and color, along with his understanding of architecture and scale, makes this a compelling project for the city.” Smith drew inspiration from the geometric white concrete of Minoru Yamasaki’s 1962 One Woodward building and the variegated interior of the 1929 Guardian Building. His design, which is composed of shifting tones and moving planes of light, has added a pop of color and a renewed interest to the historic city’s constantly evolving skyline. “By day, the Skybridge will continue to be seen as its historic self within the architecture and massing of Downtown. But by night, it will become a beacon for the beauty, creativity, and innovation of Detroit,” said Smith. “I am interested in creating experiences that tap into ‘universal beauty’—experiences that make us step away from our pattern, our life, our work, our errands, and allow us to see sublime beauty shifting and changing before our eyes.”
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Growing Up

With a newfound interest in housing, Bureau Spectacular’s aesthetic-driven practice matures
“We’re kind of new around here,” Joanna Grant, partner at Los Angeles–based Bureau Spectacular explained while taking a coffee break on a desolate sidewalk outside the shabby three-story commercial building that houses the firm’s recently relocated offices. “We got priced out of Downtown,” she said, before motioning toward the structure, which is currently occupied on the ground floor by a security door company that has strung up its various prototypes—drop-down metal doors, accordion style–security grilles—along the brick building’s thickly painted facade. The ecstatic setting is well-suited for the firm, where on the uppermost level, Grant and Bureau Spectacular founder Jimenez Lai helm an already storied practice that is hard at work tinkering away on a collection of new and evocative works that span the full spectrum of practice– “from spoons to cities,” Lai later explained, echoing a famous line by Italian architect Ernesto Rogers. Though the firm has been in existence for nearly 10 years—first as a solo project by Lai and starting in 2016 with Grant as a partner (Grant originally joined the office in 2013)—and has achieved worldwide renown for its eye-catching formalism and genre-shattering typological amalgamations, current projects under development—accessory dwelling units, social housing schemes, private residences—have the potential to reshape the image of the firm wholesale. As the designers pivot from fuzzy worlds, architecturally inspired comic books, and super-scaled installations toward built work, furniture and product lines, and gallery exhibitions, a chief question is on the table: Is Bureau Spectacular growing up? Palm Desert House Joshua Tree, California The office is also working toward several housing experiments, including still-under-wraps social housing schemes and a custom home for a client located in Joshua Tree, California. The radical private home is a love child of Le Corbusier’s “five points of architecture,” Philip Johnson’s Glass house, and the suburban tract home. The project features specifically calibrated window hoods that point the home’s eyes away from an unfriendly neighbor and hints at some of the formal and symbolic forays Bureau Spectacular might soon take in its work. Pool Party Long Island City, New York Building off of Tower of 12 Stories, Bureau Spectacular’s proposal for the 2017 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program envisions a collection of ready-made swimming pools raised above the museum courtyard and filled with circulating water to create a “lightweight framework safe for five thousand drunk people” to enjoy. Designed in collaboration with Matthew Melnyk of Nous Engineering, the pools are orchestrated to shade partygoers via evaporative cooling and are designed to utilize minimal materials for maximum aesthetic result. A metal scaffolding supports the oddly-shaped pools, creating an installation inspired in equal parts by Cedric Price, Kisho Kurokawa, John Hejduk, and Yona Friedman. Tower of 12 Stories Coachella, California Lai, who is “approaching 40” and finds himself caught between the freewheeling days of his cartoon-addled youth and new potential endeavors in social housing, is perhaps most popularly known in the non-architecture world for the firm’s 52-foot-tall, piloti-supported Coachella installation from 2016, A Tower of Twelve Stories. According to Lai, the all-white stack of funny shapes is meant to represent a sectional model through a fictitious apartment building and is inspired in part by the no-space theories of Rem Koolhaas. The steel-supported and plywood-wrapped installation is designed as “a tower without typical plans, but rather specific rooms with specific geometries” and was lit up in a sea of ever-changing colors when installed in the High Desert two years ago. Snuggle Los Angeles “We’re still young architects; we’re just less immature now,” Grant clarifies when the question of Bureau Spectacular’s age comes up. As the practice has matured, however, many of the defining characteristics of its earliest works have remained, including the approach of considering design at the intimate scale of the human body. Grant and Lai have various product lines in the works, including a roughly seven-foot-long body pillow designed by Grant that can be twisted into knots around the body or looped around one’s neck like a scarf. The scarf is currently under production and was recently for sale at the THIS X THAT Pop-Up at MOCA Geffen Contemporary in L.A. Backyard Urbanism Los Angeles A common thread throughout Bureau Spectacular’s work involves imbuing orgiastic fun into everyday typologies, a notion the team applied to a recent Los Angeles County–sponsored ideas competition for accessory dwelling units (ADU) called YES to ADU. Bureau Spectacular received an honorable mention award for the contest with the firm’s Backyard Urbanism project that proposes more or less to collectivize neighborhood backyards with multifunctional ADUs that each perform beneficial neighborhood services like providing shared swimming pools or acting as large-scale receivers for satellite television signals.
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Collect 'Em All

LACMA acquires multimedia works by L.A.–based designers
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) recently announced a new crop of museum acquisitions that includes a variety of multimedia works by several Los Angeles–area architects and designers. Included in the set of new acquisitions, according to LACMA Unframed, is a neon lamp designed by Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular. The so-called Scribble lamp is an outgrowth of the firm’s Tower of Twelve Stories installation at the 2016 Coachella music festival. The fixture is made up of a singular light tube that has been bent and folded to look like a bit of “neon gibberish” drawn by Lai. The circular light is designed so that it touches down at four points, relying on similar structural principles as those explored in the Coachella tower. Other examples of Lai’s work are also featured in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Architect Jenny Wu’s Catena necklace, a work designed in Autodesk Maya, made from stainless steel-infiltrated with bronze, and fabricated using binder jet 3D-printing, was also chosen for LACMA’s permanent collection. Wu is a principal and co-founder of architecture firm Oyler Wu Collaborative and is also the creative force behind the 3-D-printed jewelry outfit LACE that fabricated the Catena necklace. Wu’s work with LACE began in 2014 as an offshoot stemming from a one-off production and has grown in the years since into a full line of 3-D-printed works meant to act as “architecture on the body,” according to the architect. The signature LACE Collection utilizes advanced 3-D-printing techniques like selective laser sintering and wax pattern 3-D-printing to create intricate works in nylon, steel, and precious metals. Describing the highlighted jewelry line, Wu explained that LACE was a continuation of the “experimentation in fabrication, material research, and design innovation” that drives her architectural work. Wu added, “I think this just propels us to keep pushing what we do, whether it’s [designing] an installation, a building, or a piece of jewelry.” Oyler Wu also has work featured in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Art. Architect Elena Manferdini’s recent project titled Building Portraits has also been acquired by LACMA. The multimedia project is an exploration of the digital weaving of architectural elements. The museum is collecting two groups of works associated with a multi-part project, including a set of two physical models, five drawings, a silk scarf, and a rug. For the project, Manferdini utilized digital weaving technologies to create graphic geometric prints that were then converted into the various textile forms and ultimately extrapolated into building facades. Explaining the project via email, Manferdini said, “The pieces acquired by the museum delineate my work’s progression from scripted drawings to textiles to building facades. It is a snapshot of my process of creation and the way in which certain ideas and techniques come to fruition in the field of design and architecture.” The architect added, “Being part of this collection gives to the work the exposure through time to a larger audience and can have tremendous value for research.” LACMA also acquired works by sculptor Ben Medansky, L.A. arts collective The Machine Project, sculptor Adam Silverman, artist David Wiseman, artists the Haas Brothers, and graphic designer Ed Fella.