This past fall, Dong-Ping Wong of Food took over a storefront near his firm’s Chinatown office to launch a radical pop-up educational and hangout space he called Office Hours. Along with workshops and other programming, Wong led an audio livestream, Food Radio, where he invited over 50 guests—artists, architects, designers, musicians publishers, and more—for nearly 40 conversations. Now, all the broadcasts have been archived and are ready to be listened to anytime on Food’s website. Office Hours’ mission from the get-go was about inclusion, education, and action across race, class, and age facilitated by an open door policy, workshops throughout the day, and Food designers going out to round up local kids and teens at the library. Hardly recorded in a isolated soundproof room, the Food Radio conversations took place in the back of the pop-up's narrow storefront space, and during the broadcasts you can hear Wong and his guests chatting with people coming in and out who might’ve come to say hi or listen live, or just to see what this new space on the street was all about. By bringing together a broad swath of architects, curators, politicians, and others, Wong wanted to show people, especially younger generations, that making a career out of creative work was possible and to highlight the experiences of creative people who local children might identify with. As New York state assembly member Yuh-Line Niou told Wong, she believes it's necessary to “tell young people not to self-select out,” that just because they haven’t seen people of their background—children of immigrants, people of color, people of various class origins—yet in fields that they might find interesting, or this is “the first time they’re seeing it,” that it remains possible for them to follow these paths, and, perhaps more importantly, make their own. Many of these guests really got their starts by daring to do something that no one else had done, Wong explained. “We've seen a lot of our guests using a lack of familiar model as a springboard to do something totally unique," Wong said. "Sometimes you just have to make stuff when nobody asked you to.” The expansive and radical proposition of Food is to make new possibilities for others. While all of the conversations were original and informative, some standouts include those with architects Toshiko Mori and Tei Carpenter of Agency—Agency, mother and daughter (though with their own, separate firms), for their first family interview; creative director Heron Preston, who has collaborated with Kanye West (Wong has, too) and Virgil Abloh; SO-IL co-founder and principal Jing Liu; Oana Stanescu, who ran Family with Wong; and Christopher Leong and Dominic Leong of Leong Leong. Many of the conversations were both seriously casual and casually serious, much like the whole project. Mori and Carpenter, for example, explored a range of topics: what they did that week; how they each got their start; how to learn from one another as architects across generations; how they’re approaching their careers differently; being Asian women in the field; the responsibility of architects to engage and communicate across disciplinary and political lines; the field’s need for a “diversification of moral practice;" and that perennially impossible problem many of us face: knowing when to say no. Since Office Hours has gone off the street and there’s no chance to drop in any more, these recordings offer an opportunity to connect, listen, and share across disciplines, time, and geography and are an imperative intervention to shift the conversation on architectural practice and, simply, remind everyone to believe in their own power and creative drive.
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Following another recent Twitter spree and a series of problematic, rambling public interviews, multidisciplinary artist and designer Kanye West has announced the creation of a new architecture arm called “Yeezy Home” that will seek to expand West’s creative output to include architectural and urban design. In a late-night tweet, the Hidden Hills, California-based rapper solicited the talent of aspiring designers, calling for “architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better.” https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/993221454740185088?s=21 West’s cryptic tweet comes just over a week after the controversial creative visited the Southern California Institute of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) Spring Show, a showcase of the school’s spring semester work. The visit prompted a tweet from Kanye highlighting the work of M.Arch I student Ashley Morgan Hastings and her desalination-focused project. Following the visit, West tweeted out praise for the student: https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/990734224670867456?s=21 West has a long history of associating himself and collaborating with architects and designers, including a 2012 collaboration with Dutch architects OMA for the design of the 7 Screen Pavilion project, a pyramid-shaped projection room used to screen West’s Cruel Summer film at the Cannes Film Festival. Amid an earlier tweetstorm two weeks ago, West unveiled Axel Vervoordt-designed the interiors for the mausoleum-like Hidden Hills home shared with wife Kim Kardashian. The top-secret designs follow previous collaborations with New York City-based Family and London, England-based architect John Pawson. After proclaiming his “obligation to show people new ideas” following West’s renewed support for Donald Trump in a recent song, Kanye’s latest foray into design seems to be more involved, however. CityLab reports that the rapper recently purchased a 300-acre property in Los Angeles that West intends on developing himself. In a wide-ranging interview with Charlemagne Tha God, West hints at his future plans, saying, “Yeah, we’re going to develop cities.”
Meet the architect behind Kanye West's 50-foot volcano, Los Angeles mansion, and design-savvy baby-proofing
Ironically, there are few surer ways to emerge from obscurity than to be hired by Kanye West. For Romanian architect Oana Stanescu, who designed a 50-foot stage-prop volcano for the rapper’s Yeezus tour, it meant finding a way to reconcile pop culture with utilitarian design. Stanescu and her partner Dong Ping-Wong, of New York–based design firm Family, recently completed the Hong Kong flagship store of Off White, a high-end streetwear brand founded by Virgil Abloh, West’s creative director. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Stanescu declined to reveal what other Yeezus-related projects are forthcoming, but she was reportedly hired to baby-proof and redesign the 9,000 square-foot, faux-French-Italian Los Angeles mansion the rapper shares with wife Kim Kardashian and daughter North West. As one of the designers behind the Kickstarter-backed +Pool project, which seeks to install a floating pool in the East River, Stanescu is persistently, if inadvertently, in the public eye. When queried about her name being dropped by the gossip tabloids after she designed West’s volcano, she pragmatically told the New York Times, “Design is at its best when it’s collaborative. I’m interested in pushing the boundaries of what architecture can do.” West made an appearance at +Pool’s Fall Swim Benefit in at Jane’s Carousel in Dumbo to support Stanescu’s project, set to be the world’s first water-filtering pool when it opens in 2017. The plus-shaped pool can reportedly clean 500,000 gallons or river water per day. Meanwhile, Stanescu has been photographed accompanying West on architectural field trips to seek inspiration for his pared-down Paris home, where she is adding a baby room. But she is not the only top designer West has consorted with—the rapper has also consulted household names Dirand, Vervoordt and Tristan Auer, neglecting an unspoken competitive code of conduct in the design world. “Right now Kanye is just sponging things up, observing how these people work,” Stanescu told W magazine. The architect first met West when he hired Rem Koolhaas’ Office of Metropolitan Architecture, where Stanescu used to work, to design a viewing pavilion for his short film Cruel Summer at the Cannes Film Festival 2012.
For nearly a decade now, New Yorkers have been turning their focus on revitalizing the city's waterfront, a trend that has only grown in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. WXY Architecture’s East River Blueway and Bloomberg’s Vision 2020 are two examples of initiatives that seek to build sustainable, accessible, and engaging shorelines for the city. But with summer approaching and the days heating up, what city dwellers may want most from their estuaries is a cool, clean dip. Brooklyn-based design firms Family Architects and PlayLab hope to make that dream possible, but they still need $250,000 to get started. In two weeks, the group will launch a campaign to create a smaller mock-up of +Pool, the floating, plus sign–shaped pool that could land in the East River by May 2015. The mock-up will test the pool's innovative filtration system that cleans water directly from the river to make it safe enough to swim in. The system would use a three-level filtration system within the pool's walls, which filters the river water, making for a pleasant and healthy immersion. The design of the 9,000-square-foot facility combines an Olympic-length lap pool, kids pool, sports pool, and lounge pool, opening the water park up to all levels of swimmers. +Pool previously raised over $40,000 on Kickstarter and has attracted support from engineering firm Arup, local politicians, and the architectural community. Stay tuned for your chance to dip into your wallet for a dip in the pool!