The Shaolin Flying Monks Theatre.

Photography is by Ansis Starks.

Photography is by Ansis Starks.

This is one of those things you really wish you could see in person!

Monks perform levitation over a huge wind tunnel at this amphitheatre, which was designed by Latvian studio Mailītis Architects for a mountain range in central China. The Shaolin Flying Monks Theatre stands on a slope covered in cypress trees on Songshan Mountain – a mountain range in Henan Province.

The mountains are home to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shaolin Monastery, which is also considered to be the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and Kung-Fu martial arts.

Tasked with creating an amphitheatre to host weekly shows where local monks as well as the general public can try flying, Riga-based Mailītis Architects wanted to create a building that respects its natural surroundings.

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Click all the images for full size! There’s much more at Dezeen.

Dictator Chic.

Trump l’oeil: the atrium of Trump Towers.

Trump l’oeil: the atrium of Trump Towers.

Peter York has a fascinating essay over at Politico, about the shared aesthetics of dictators. Florid, overblown, excessive, and so on. Within this rather limited aesthetic, York identifies 10 defining dictator chic rules obeyed by most dictators, and he wrote a book about Dictator Chic. Just a bit here:

After my book Dictator Style came out, friends and editors would call me to alert me to the latest tranche of pictures to be released: unverified photos of Robert Mugabe’s plutocratic-looking house in Zimbabwe, the sacked Qadhafi compound in Tripoli and the Yanukovych palace in Kiev. Each time, I felt as if I could predict every last chair cover and golden heroic beast. Come on, I’d think, surprise me!

Then, in late 2015, I came across a set of pictures with no identifying text. They appeared to show a gigantic apartment in what looked, from the windows, very much like New York. But I know Manhattan and its sophisticated style pretty well, and at first glance, you would think the place didn’t belong to an American but to a Russian oligarch, or possibly a Saudi prince with a second home in the United States. There were overscaled rooms, and obviously incorrect-looking historical detailing and proportions. The home had lots of gilded French furniture and the strange impersonal look of a hotel lobby, with chairs and sofas placed uncomfortably far from one another. There were masses of gold; there were the usual huge chandeliers, branded relics of famous sportsmen like Muhammad Ali, and mushroom-colored marble floors. There was relatively little in the way of paintings, but otherwise, the place reeked of dictator chic.

As it turned out, this familiar yet unfamiliar apartment—a familiar style to me by then, but in an unlikely location—belonged to Donald Trump, who by then was running for president. This was the penthouse of the potential leader of the free world. The design work, I have since learned, was started by the late Angelo Donghia, a decorator better known for a chic Manhattan look. But the substantive current design had been done by one Henry Conversano, who designed extensively—and perhaps unsurprisingly—for casinos. No matter how you looked at it, the main thing this apartment said was, “I am tremendously rich and unthinkably powerful.” This was the visual language of public, not private, space. It was the language of the Eastern European and Middle Eastern nouveau riche.

Why does all of this matter? Domestic interiors reveal how people want to be seen. But they also reveal something about the owners’ inner lives, their cultural reference points and how they relate to other people.

Head over to Politico for the full article, recommended!

Load Bearing Felt.

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I find all of this to be wildly attractive, it’s so Geigeresque.

A group of MAarch students from the Bartlett School of Architecture have devised a method of turning felt into load-bearing structures that they hope to build into an fabric pavilion.
The Flextiles project focused on developing a design system using a composite of felt fibres and expandable foam for reinforcement.

Students Noura Mheid, Hameda Janahi, Minzi Jin, Zoukai Huo found inspiration in the traditional craft of felt-making as well as the differential growth patterns found in nature – which is what gives their finished structures their distinctive, seaweed-like curls.

After exploring the load-bearing potential of these structures by crafting them into chairs they could sit on, they finished the project by presenting a fabric wall unit. The unit forms one side of what they hope they can one day extend into a full pavilion.

Their process stands in contrast to most current fabric architecture, which usually features soft fabric attached to a support structure. The Flextiles structures can be soft in some places and hard in others, transitioning smoothly from one to the other.

“Unlike traditional uses of fabric in construction, this technology introduces a new perspective on how to integrate structure into a soft material such as fabric and go beyond the typical disintegration between the draping of fabric onto a completely segregated support,” Mheid told Dezeen.

You can read and see more at Dezeen.

The Walled Off Hotel.

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The Walled Off hotel may sound utilitarian, even bleak. Its owner says it has “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, while its 10 rooms get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day.

But, nestled against the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, the West Bank’s answer to the Waldorf offers travellers something more elusive than any luxury destination.

The lodging in Bethlehem is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, British street artist Banksy.

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From the disconcertingly lavish presidential suite where water splashes from a bullet-strafed watertank into the hot tub, to the bunk-beds in the budget room scavenged from an abandoned army barracks, the hotel is playful and strongly political.

All the rooms look out on to the concrete slabs of the wall and some have views over it to pill boxes and an Israeli settlement – illegal under international law – on the hillside beyond.

“Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool,” said Banksy in a statement. The artist, who fiercely guards his anonymity, first came to Bethlehem more than a decade ago, leaving a series of paintings on the barrier that have become a tourist destination in their own right.

Since then, the town’s pilgrim and sightseeing-based economy has been ravaged by ever-tighter Israeli controls on travel between Israel and the Palestinian territories, so the new hotel is expected to provide a welcome boost in jobs and visitor numbers.

Banksy’s reputation is likely to keep all rooms fully booked, but he wants guests to leave with more than just a selfie. “(It’s) a three-storey cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking,” he added in the statement.

The hotel opens to guests on 20 March, with bookings via the website.

You can read much more here, and the photo gallery is here. I hope it’s a great success, in every sense.

Archiatric.

This is truly stunning work, deeply affecting, and cuts right to the core. Click over to see much more, and in detail!

Italian illustrator Federico Babina has turned his attention from movies stars and fairy tale characters to the deep emotions felt by those experiencing mental illness. In his new series Archiatric, Babina’s architectural illustrations demonstrate a deep understanding and empathy for sufferers of psychological disorders.

Through 16 drawings, Babina gives visual representation to some of the mental illnesses that affect millions daily. “I don’t want to put a romantic aura around the discomfort and suffering of mental illness,” Babina explains, “but rather to make a reflection on the prejudices and negative stigmas with which the pathologies of the mind are often observed.”

With simple lines and a clear message, the artist quietly and elegantly explores different disorders. Each, placed in a solitary house that could symbolize our mental environments, is delivered with dignity and understanding.

To accompany the work, Babina created a short video with music by composer Elisabet Raspall. As the melody moves, so does each image, animating into its chosen illness. The result is a touching, and sobering, look at mental illness.

Federico Babina: Website | Instagram | Society6

Via My Modern Met.

Oh. So. Cool.

I want one!

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Made for Ikea’s Space10, this is the Growroom, specifically made for cities, it can grow a communities worth of food and herbs. I’m not urban, but I still want one. The best news? Space10 and architects Sine Lindholm and Mads-Ulrik Husum have open sourced this, so anyone can make one.

You can see the specs at two places: one, two.