Carl Laubin, a British-American architect turned full-time painter, has dedicated the last three decades of his professional career to the painting of architectural capricci, bucolic landscapes and portraiture. An architectural capriccio encompasses the imagined assembly of buildings across fantastic landscapes. Laubin’s choice of subject matter jumps between historical periods. What seemed chronological at first: Andrea Palladio, followed by Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, jumped to Neo-Classicists Claude-Nicholas Ledoux, Charles Cockerell, and Leo von Klenze, then to Edwin Lutyens, with Post-Modernist John Outram and Leon Krier thrown into the mix. Currently, Laubin is working on a capriccio of John Nash’s work. On average, these capricci require one-and-a-half to three years to complete, depending on how prolific the subject was, with time split evenly between the drawing and painting periods. Although the bulk of Laubin’s capricci focus on the work of historic designers, he has produced paintings that combine a multitude of contemporary architects. A Classical Perspective comprises architectural pieces designed by the winners of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture’s Richard H. Driehaus Prize. Beginning with the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in the foreground, the oil painting collages notable works by Robert A.M Stern, Demetri Porphyrios, Michael Graves, Abed-Wahed El-Wakil and Quinlan Terry, to name a few. Educated at Cornell University, Laubin describes his early painting as “a second, secretive life,” one conducted outside of Cornell’s then-rigid modernist education. Laubin graduated from Cornell with a B.A of Architecture in 1973, and subsequently decamped to England to join Douglas Stephen and Partners, Architects and Civic Designers (1973-1983) and later Jeremy Dixon/BDP (1984-1986). While working as an architect, Laubin painted in secret, waking at dawn to hone his craft before going to work. Seeing as how the production of capricci is a centuries-long tradition, Laubin cites a number of artists as influencing his style. To Laubin, Piranesi “was and remains an example of how to be liberated from the constraints of reality in creating an imagined world in a drawing or painting, and even how to be liberated from the constraints of drawing itself.” Canaletto’s grand paintings of Venice and London are firmly behind Laubin’s composition of urban scenes populated with bustling denizens. In his fantastical characteristics, the phantasmagoric visions of Joseph Gandy are plainly evident. While Laubin insists that there is no clear methodology to his process of creating a capriccio, he has a general approach to each project. The first step is the steady amassing of information on the subject matter. This initial creative moment includes the reading of primary and secondary sources, visiting individual sites, and sketching as much of the architect’s canon as possible. Subsequently, each sketch is collaged and re-collaged until a suitable format is found, representative of an architect’s professional timeline as well as the general hierarchy of their work. In creating the landscapes for his capricci, Laubin follows a recipe for a classical landscape given to him by postmodern architect John Outram. In Outram’s view, one always crossed a river or a bridge into a classical painting, and then ascended through various levels of civilization from cave dwellers, through agrarian societies, to urban areas, and finally places of worship at the highest point. In tandem with this formula, Laubin draws upon the landscapes surrounding individual sites and fuses them into the overarching collage of elements.
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After nearly twenty years, the Longaberger Company, makers of wooden baskets, will be moving out of its trademark Longaberger "Medium Market Basket" shaped building in Newark, Ohio. Designed by the Longaberger Company, with NBBJ as architects of record, the corporate headquarters sits just about 40 miles north of Columbus. At 160 times larger than the basket it is based on, the seven-story building has 180,000 square feet of office. Longaberger will be moving its workers to its nearby manufacturing facility in Frazeysburg, OH. The Big Basket, as it is referred to, is an example of novelty, or programmatic architecture. Though built in the 1990s, examples of novelty buildings stretch back more than 100 years, and include the Tail o’the Pup hot dog stand in Los Angeles and Lucy the Elephant in Somers, New York. Another example is the Big Duck of Flanders, New York, made infamous by Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s theories on the “duck,” describing buildings which combine their function with their shape as a symbol of that function. As such, ducks and duck eggs are sold in the Big Duck. As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, the basket company has a back tax debt of $570,000. If that amount is not eventually paid, the county could repossess the property and sell it in a sheriff’s auction. The starting bid would be set at the tax amount plus court costs. At around $600,000, that would make the building possibly the most expensive picnic basket ever sold, but an excellent bargain for an office building.
If there was ever a perfect curatorial pairing, Alain de Botton made it when he selected artist Grayson Perry to work with English architects Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT). Architecturally speaking, their so-called House for Essex is a “built story”—a shrine to an Essex woman named Julie who led a life as a rock chick and later a social worker, along the way marrying twice and finding happiness before being tragically killed by a curry delivery moped. https://youtu.be/qQ1hbD28KDY The dynamic duo of Perry and FAT's Charles Holland collaborated for almost four years on the artwork and its integration into building form. Perry wrote a long poem about Julie and her life, and how her second husband, Rob, promised to build a Taj Mahal for her if she were to die before him. This is that shrine to her life. Perry had the dream of making a secular shrine, and he first started by sketching his visions of the precious, small temple-like house. “My first ideas looked a bit Hobbity, or like something from Game of Thrones: ramshackle with lots of turrets.” FAT helped make his design, well, less "Hobbity," and incorporate the narrative imagery of Julie’s life and death into the building. They decided on green and white tiles, hand crafted for the building, each of which has an iconographic reference to Julie’s life. While practically every surface is adorned with some of FAT’s most intense detailing, there is a subtle touch that allows the more ordinary features to shine through as a spatial enactment of the narrative. Arched clerestory windows are carved out of a richly painted ceiling; their curved voids contrast, Aalto-like, with the surface of the ceiling. Mustard- and ketchup-colored built-in furnishings are detailed with a level of precision that only FAT could make work without going way over the top. The proportions of the telescoping volumes make the outside like a Russian nesting doll, but inside, the interiors are intensely proportioned to keep up with the visual narrative. The cozy, cathedral-like main space soars above, giving way to a chandelier made from the moped that killed Julie. The bedroom features a 15-foot high tapestry by Perry that looks over visitors, and, depending on one’s own reading, gives approval, disapproval, a cheeky glance, jealous yearning, comforting presence, or complete indifference. Every aspect of the home is meant to have multiple layers meaning, like all of FAT’s projects. This one just takes the notion a step further than other projects. The house is the sixth installation of de Botton’s Living Architecture program, “a social enterprise…dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of world-class architecture. It has produced outstanding houses such as MVRDV’s Balancing Barn and the Room for London, a boat by David Kohn and artist Fiona Banner, with Artangel that sits on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall and gives stunning views of central London. The building is the last project for FAT, which disbanded in 2013. The House for Essex has had wide-ranging coverage in the UK, including an hour-long special on Channel 4, which got good reviews. More information is available at the Guardian. Perry also gave an interactive tour of the house here, and it is a must-watch.