“One of the most important ideas in traditional Korean architecture and art is the aesthetic of emptiness — practicing the beauty of the void,” Nina Cho explains to me over the phone from her studio in Detroit, where she recently set up camp after graduating from Cranbrook. “In painting, the unpainted portion is as important as the portion that was painted; it’s about respecting the emptiness as much as the object.” Cho should know; she was born in the States but grew up in Seoul, and as a child she would often visit traditional Korean architecture sites. But little did she know the impact those visits would have on her future career.
Since it was renovated in the early 2000s and restored to its original 1952 condition, Apartment 50 in Le Corbusier's famous Cité Radieuse housing complex in Marseilles, France, has played host to a rotating cast of designers — Jasper Morrison in 2008 followed by the Bouroullecs, Konstantin Grcic, and, perhaps most successfully, Pierre Charpin. But a group of Swiss design students may have just completed our favorite intervention yet.
We here at Sight Unseen consider ourselves to be relatively worldly — I say this literally as Monica touches down in Norway — but if there's one place that's proved a holy grail for the both of us, it's Japan. We've never had the opportunity nor the funds to go, despite being relatively obsessed with the idea of both shopping and scouting there. So when two of our most visually attuned friends offered to provide us with a diary of sorts during their recent trip there, we jumped at the chance: Philadelphia-based partners-in-crime Andy Rementer and Margherita Urbani (whom many of you likely know from their collaborations in Apartamento magazine) were recently in Tokyo for two weeks.
When we first met Brooklyn artist Alex P. White, it was in his role as a co-conspirator with interior designer Kelly Behun, with whom he'd created one of the most genius furniture collections in recent memory. But we've since gotten to know him as much, much more — as an interior designer and artist in his own right (whose playful project names include Playshroom and Wytchbytchru); as a designer whose latest furniture collection will debut in two weeks at Sight Unseen OFFSITE; and as the proprietor of a wonderfully specific Instagram feed, where we first stumbled upon this book in his rather extensive printed archive. When we asked him to write about Underground Interiors for our recurring From the Library column, we had no idea we'd get such a fun, deeply personal romp through its pages. If you're into conversation pits, wall-to-ceiling carpeting, elephant side tables, geometric travertine, or tubular steel, we suggest you read on in full.
Anyone familiar with the work of Los Angeles ceramicist Ben Medansky would be surprised to learn that, when he was a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, his work was actually colorful, spanning the full spectrum of glaze hues. But after he graduated and went to work for a succession of other artists — among them the Haas brothers, who hired him to set up and run their in-house ceramics shop, and Peter Shire, for whom he spent a sweaty summer splatter-painting dishware — he decided he needed to find his own signature style, so he abandoned color entirely upon setting up his own studio in 2012 and started by focusing exclusively on form. The strong, graphic shapes he’s been creating since, all in earthy orange stoneware peeking out from under a speckled-white glaze, have become instantly recognizable in the contemporary ceramics scene.
On this site, we don't tend to feature exhibitions once they've already closed, but this one retains one of the most incredible visual archives we've seen to date, a record of objects that were as beautifully displayed as they were constructed. Ben Peterson's "Nebraska," which was on view at San Francisco's Ratio 3 gallery from January 17 to February 28, featured a series of architectural ceramic sculptures by the Oakland-based artist, painted in different, natural hues to erase traces of their clay past and to resemble something more like weathered and patinated concrete. Almost Brutalist in form, the sculptures were installed on site-specific pastel plinths, an extreme juxtaposition that somehow seemed just right.
If you'd happened to wander into L.A.'s Barnsdall Art Park in the middle of the night last Friday, you might have assumed there were concert tickets, or some newfangled iPhone model, about to go on sale the next morning: even into the wee hours, a line of people three hours long snaked all around the property. Amazingly enough, though, the massive crowd had turned out not to buy something but to experience the re-opening of Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark 1921 Hollyhock House, which we overheard certain over-caffeinated line-goers describe as "super hyped." Built in 1921 in the so-called California Romanza style, the theater and home turned museum had been closed to the public for more than three years for restoration, and the city was celebrating the unveiling of its face-lift by giving the public continuous free access for 24 hours. We figured the best way to mark the occasion was to send a photographer to shoot the house after dark, a task we entrusted to the up-and-coming L.A. photographer Gaea Woods.
Though we have a particular fondness for so many of the designers we've featured or worked with in the five years since Sight Unseen began, Huy Bui might be the only one who can lay claim to being both one of our favorite designers and the co-founder of one of our favorite New York restaurants. As the founder of Plant-In City — or what he calls architectural terrariums for "the 21st century" — Bui was one of the inaugural exhibitors at our Sight Unseen OFFSITE showcase last year. And as the designer and co-founder of the Lower East Side Vietnamese eatery An Choi, Bui's provided the backdrop for many a late-night design date. So when Freunde von Freunden reached out with the opportunity to co-publish a story on Bui's Brooklyn apartment and studio — complete with cameos by the designer's sweet dog Loopy, one of the more popular attractions at OFFSITE last year — we jumped at the chance.
If you’re a longtime reader of this site, you know that we are, above all, sunshine-seeking people who happen to be inextricably linked to New York and its fickle seasons. Normally we leap at the chance to hightail it off the East Coast anytime between November and April, in search of beaches, pools, palm trees, and vitamin D. But somehow, while Monica and the rest of the design world headed to Miami at the beginning of December, I found myself saying yes to a week in Finland, home of 30-degree temperatures and 3PM sunsets. When I arrived, no fewer than three people delighted in telling me that the previous month in Finland had seen only 15 hours of sunshine.
Utah-based artist Daniel Everett has a BFA in photography from Brigham Young and a master’s from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But it may have been what happened between his two degrees that had the biggest impact on Everett’s career. “I’d done an internship as part of my undergraduate degree with Edward Burtynsky, and after I finished my undergrad, I traveled with him for just over a year,” Everett remembers. “If you know his work, Burtynsky photographs, like, manmade manipulations of the landscape: the largest open-pit copper mine, or the largest oil field. We were always traveling to some superlative location — the biggest, the widest, the greatest — and I got really interested in the in-between places that we passed through: the nondescript, transitory spaces like subway systems, airports, parking garages, and hotels. Spaces that are meant to be legible regardless of the language, and where the aesthetics are governed by function.”
There's nothing we love better than when our very talented, creative friends introduce us to their very talented, creative friends, and this week didn't disappoint: In our inboxes arrived the most beautiful submission from Mary Gaudin, a New Zealand photographer living in Montpellier, France, who was introduced to us through Brian Ferry, one of Sight Unseen's contributors and a wonderful photographer in his own right. Gaudin recently published a book on modernist New Zealand homes in collaboration Matthew Arnold of Sons & Co called Down the Long Driveway, You'll See It; the title is a quote from one of the book's subjects, upon giving directions to his home. The book documents 14 homes built between 1950 and 1974, and it's a revelation not only for the beautiful way in which it's photographed but for the peek it gives into New Zealand's architectural history.
Until about six months ago, there was only one Munari we idolized: Bruno, one of our favorite 20th century designers and design theorists. (If you haven't read Design As Art, we suggest you hop to it!) But then, one fateful day this past spring, we were wandering aimlessly around the internet when we stumbled on what is perhaps the biggest editorial coup we've scored in years, and thus began our love affair with Cleto Munari — the Italian designer, who as far as we can tell is unrelated to Bruno, commissioned a dream-team of architects like Ettore Sottsass and Peter Eisenman in the early '80s to create a jewelry collection for his eponymous company, and the project had almost no coverage anywhere on the web. We immediately snapped up a copy of the incredible out-of-print book that documented it, which we're excerpting just a small portion of here.