An Index of Landscapes by Frederick Law Olmsted

Photo: Clemens Kois, courtesy of the artist and Salon 94 Design © Gloria Kisch Estate, courtesy of NYRA, Cazottes Clement/EyeEm/Getty Images, courtesy of LEGO

Every two weeks, I will collect and share the objects, the designers, the news and the events to know.

Photo: Brian Bumby/Getty Images

It was Frederick Law Olmsted 200th anniversary Wednesday. The conservative, journalist, and grandfather of American landscape architecture gave the country some of its most beloved public spaces. For Olmsted, a public park represented the belief that everyone should have access to fresh air, nature and recreation. He has spent his life greening cities across the country, a job that his son and protected suite. While spaces like Central Park, Prospect Park and the Emerald Necklace in Boston are some of his best-known projects, there are dozens more to discover. In honor of its bicentenary, the Cultural Landscape Foundation has set up a online guide and interactive map of 320 Olmsted projects in the United States. It is a satisfying and invaluable collection.

Photo: Courtesy of NYRA

After 9/11, the redevelopment of the World Trade Center was supposed to become the symbol of a stronger and better New York, but above all it became a bastion of luxury shopping and an obligatory stopover for tourists. Looking at the last unbuilt site, the architecture collective Citygroup and community group Coalition for a 100% affordable 5WTC called for ideas on what a tower made up entirely of affordable housing might look like. They invited the architects to insert their own design into a rendering that KPF made for its own skyscraper on the site. “This project is not final, we want to mobilize the architects and show a completely different program”, specifies Violette de la Selle, founding member of Citygroup.

The results are here, published in the New York Architecture Reviewof the current issue and on view in Citygroup’s project space in Chinatown. Ideas include a modular design with a work-to-own financing model that would allow the people who built the tower to live there, and a communal high-rise with shared apartments and vegetable gardens on every fourth floor. A couple of designers proposed to turn the site, which was bought with taxpayers’ money, into a public green space. These are heart-pounding provocations, given that the city can’t seem to stop building offices despite a 20% vacancy rate, while apartment rents rise and only one of 593 affordable housing lottery applications is accepted. “Our request is not to implement any of these designs; it’s to say that these 40 designs prove that there is a desire for new ways of thinking, says Todd Fine, member of the Affordable 5WTC coalition. The designers will present their concepts at a public forum at the Clemente Center on May 7 at 6 p.m. The exhibition is open until June 10.

Photo: Clemens Kois; Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94 Design © Gloria Kisch Estate.

The late sculptor Gloria Kisch chose working metal for its mystical qualities and sought to create “a symbiosis between primitive and futuristic form” in its jewel-like bells and chairs that could look like anthropomorphic or totemic. Towards the end of her life, she began making huge flower sculptures – some were four feet wide – which had to be mounted on a wall. For Kisch, the ephemeral of flowers was a metaphor for life; his sculptures were an attempt to render their full immortality. Many of these works are exhibited at “Gloria Kisch: As Above, So Is Below” at the Salon 94 gallery at 1 Freeman Alley until June.

Clockwise from left: Photo: Courtesy of LEGOPhoto: Courtesy of LEGOPhoto: Courtesy of LEGO

From above: Photo: Courtesy of LEGOPhoto: Courtesy of LEGOPhoto: Courtesy of LEGO

Speaking of flowers, Lego has just introduced two new kits for its Botanical collection of building block sets – and these are the most difficult: orchids and delicious. They are beautiful and you know exactly when to water them: never.

Photo: Cazottes Clément EyeEm/Getty Images

It had a lofty run, but after 50 years the Nakagin Capsule Tower – architect Kisho Kurokawa’s Metabolist modular micro-apartment building – is currently being dismantled. Tokyo Tower rose as a symbol of modernity and resilience amid the wreckage of Japan during World War II. “I belong to the fourth generation, whose origin point is the defeat and destruction of war,” Kurokawa wrote in a 1977 manifesto. He and his cohort called themselves “metabolists” because they believed that buildings should be designed as organisms capable of growing and evolving. Unfortunately, this never happened to Nakagin Tower, as the capsules deteriorated and were never replaced, with many units remaining empty in its later years. I came across the Instagram account @Nakagin_Capsule_Tower, which offers a rich archive of its history: images of individual apartmentsthe dinners that took place there, editorial photo shoots, press and book covers, as well as details about “single battle“every capsule has rain and leaks. The tower has been extensively documented over the years, but this feels like a much more intimate scrapbook of the building’s private and public life.

Photo: Courtesy of Bungalow

the Westbeth Artists Colony – located in the former Bell Labs complex on West and Bethune streets – was established in 1970 to provide affordable housing and studios for practicing artists. It is one of the most successful housing experiments in the city, despite disputes among residents, some illegal conversions, and severe damage from Hurricane Sandy that left it short of money. Rents are still low, waiting lists are extremely long, and no one ever leaves. (As a result, it became a natural retirement community.) But she remains faithful to her mission: to support artists. In the complex’s ground floor gallery, Westbeth hosts Bungalow, a traveling curatorial project, which has installed a design exhibition featuring works by contemporary artists and former Westbeth residents. Among the stars, a collection of furniture from the Egyptian studio Don Tanani in collaboration with Lina Alorabi. For the show, they created an extra-long version of their Ouroboros bench, a blue-tinted carved oak piece reminiscent of the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its tail, representing the cycle of life. Until May 27.

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