Mogu Chair

“Looks like something coming from another planet, the shape is endearing and unique, good job” -Dezeen comment

mogu-chair-ma-yansong-sawaya-and-moroni-furniture-milan-design-week_dezeen_hero-1 (1)I am trying hard not to let me aesthetic preference for blobs win out on this one- but you have to admit, from a purely visual perspective, they look very interesting and very unique. The shapes are meant to be clumped together like fungi (muogu is “mushroom” in Chinese) and they do indeed go well together. Originally designed as a prototype for a public art installation, I imagine the benches would make an exciting impact in whatever space they occupy, indoor or outdoor. I do like the idea that the benches are meant to live somewhere between public furniture and sculpture.

mogu-chair-ma-yansong-sawaya-and-moroni-furniture-milan-design-week_dezeen_2364_col_6-852x555Which brings me to its function, as an actual piece of furniture: I am having a harder time imagining where/how to sit on the bench. It would be slippery to sit on, no?

Ma Yansong says that the surfaces of the benches “form an organic landscape that allows people to respond with their bodies and encourage a variety of social interactions…”

I think I would enjoy sitting right in the middle and feeling like I’m in a sea of space fungi-blobs. Fun!!!


New York City Views

In New York, I try not to forget to look up sometimes.
Some pictures from back in the fall.


The birds are always saying something (view from Central Park).


A shining oasis in the financial district (view from Liberty Park).


A sparkling Saturday morning walk in my neighborhood (view from the Bailey Fountain).

Beautiful Beijing

Some snapshots from a short trip to Beijing to visit family.

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It’s a beautiful, chaotic city. This time I got a chance to see more of the old neighborhoods, some of the hidden gems in the city beyond the tourist sites (to be avoided at all costs in the summer, the ones that that trap both people and heat and offer the kitschy souvenirs). The one tourist spot I went to was a short and satisfying trip to the Summer Palace, highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Beijing. The emperor built it near the edge of the city to escape the summer heat, and it has walkways filled with paintings, ponds, and gardens galore. Lots of seniors go in the mornings to exercise, and my aunt tells me it is extra wonderful in the fall.

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I went to the best silk store in the city, the original Beijing shumai restaurant, fully blooming lotus ponds, coffee shops that served more hot water than cold (ice water is bad for your digestion). A highlight was seeing a grove of thin trees that doubled as a strangely beautiful parking lot. Seemed random, considering it was just sitting there right next to a gas station. Like I said, beauty and chaos go hand in hand here.

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I also saw so many beautiful scenes of daily life- dusty back alleyways, somewhat dingy supermarkets, my uncle’s mini-tea ceremony every morning… These are things that I perhaps have seen growing up, but never fully appreciated until now.
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I had a lot to think about when I was there. How I am constantly in flux in between these two cultures, yet how I can somewhat easily fit into both when my parents, for example, cannot. My parents’ story coming to the U.S. and my childhood put into context, resulting in jarring realizations of how hard their lives were. How China is viewed by the rest of the world, and the reality of Chinese people’s lives every day. I struggled to dig deeper to understand the perspective of Chinese people, what they believe in, what they talk about, what they read in the media. The recent economic growth in China has changed people’s lives in so many ways, including the new influx of technology/smartphones, especially wechat.  Mostly I felt like the country is in such a state of constant change and forward motion- maybe everyone is feeling so confused that I’m not doing too badly myself.

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A River Walk in Seoul

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The old Cheonggyecheon stream was originally a stream, then central road, then elevated highway that ran through the center of the city. The restoration project from 2003-2005 was complicated and difficult (as one could imagine), from redirecting traffic from the major highway (!), to restoring bridges in the Han river, to pumping the tons of water to actually fill it up. Compare it to the Big Dig in Boston…

Somehow, Seoul managed to pull it off, and it is one of the most beloved public places in the whole city. Families, couples, friends all go there to stroll along the river walk. When I was there it was filled with holiday lights.

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Knowing what I know now, it’s problematic that the design makes no reference to the environmental consequences of pumping water from the Han river. It could have gone farther in bridging awareness of urban ecology instead of masking the complex engineering that makes it function.  But the value of properties in its vicinity has increased double the amount of other areas in Seoul. It brings people outside and brings them together, where families, couples, seniors, and tourists all mingle in a vibrant public space. And of course, it has brought great joy and pride to its citizens, right in the center of the city.

While I was there, it really struck me that Seoul is very committed to providing comfortable public spaces to its citizens. In small, unexpected places, like the bathrooms of subway stations or inside department stores, there are often sitting areas that are designed to provide a resting place within the busy city.  The 27 bridges that cross the Han river are lit up every night, and there are light shows for major holidays and celebrations. Even the bus system is well-organized and clear (!). I was amazed to see so many resources devoted to the pleasure and convenience of its citizens. It was a special place to visit, and I hope to go back soon.

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