Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Henna Guitar

Henna has decorated young women’s bodies in social and holiday celebrations since "the late Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean". Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Zoroastrians, among others, all celebrated marriages by adorning the bride, and often the groom, with henna.

I stumbled across this Henna decorated guitar on Flickr which took my breath away. Perhaps seeing it in photos and not live in front of my eyes helped a lot in avoiding the nasty smell of Henna which I can't understand how women can stand it. However, the beautiful floral pattern very delicately cover up the edges of this wonderful musical instrument in a graceful manner that would block the smell waves from entering your brain and focus on the visual and maybe the audio aspects of the instrument. Check out the artist's website and Flickr account for more pictures.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Tracing Shadows

Here is a very interesting art display by American photographer Michael Neff called "The Chalk Series". The following is the artist's discription of his work...

These images capture the quiet, empty world of night, when parking lots lay fallow, when meters are allowed to rest and sidewalks can breathe. In tracing the fugitive contours of shadows cast by the patient lights of the night, I draw the attention of the nighttime passerby and reveal what the night holds. In this way I am sharing the night city with its daytime inhabitants and making visible something that is normally hidden. I photograph these drawings because, rendered in chalk, they themselves are fugitive and may only last until they are hosed down in the morning. I want to draw attention to what is likely overlooked, or perhaps so familiar that it is essentially invisible.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

One Thousand and One Dreams

Note: This post contains nudity and may not be safe for work, if you are easily offended and/or under 18 please avoid looking at the following pictures.

Married couple Moroccan artist Yasmina Alaoui and Chilean photographer Marco Guerra have created this captivating series called "one thousand and one dreams". Inspired by the legendary tales of A Thousand and One Nights, the photographic series combines nude photography with delicate ink drawings, otherwise known in other cultures as henna.

Here the human body form is treated as a medium for complex geometrical and floral decorations. In some artworks these decorations would gradually disappear to the background. In other works, the decorated bodies stand out in contrast with the plain black background, a method which effectively emphasizes the shadows created by the sensual curves of the human body.

From what I read about the series I am not sure if the bodies were actually painted and then photographed or if they were photographed first and then digitally painted. Either way, the end result is mesmerising and can only evoke a strong feeling of admiration.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A cool gadget

I found this cute design by JVC revealed in the 2008 Tokyo Designer's Week. Its called Kirikabu speakers, which are made of renewable materials, can be assembled into different shapes and even grow a tiny bonsai tree on it.

More info here and here

Thursday, 13 November 2008

A Special Fountain

This is an amazing fountain in Japan, according to the title of the video found in YouTube. The best part starts at 1:48. Watch the entire video though, I find it very relaxing, especially with the nice water rhythm the different shapes create.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The pink and blue project

According to a recent study by scientists at Newcastle University, the difference in colour preferences between men and women has biological and not cultural roots. It goes back to ancient times when women were primarily involved in gathering fruit and vegetables, while men were involved in hunting. Fruits and vegetables are edible when they are ripe, and this often means when they are bright hued, generally red or green. Blue, on the other hand, is a direct reference to blue sky, the sign of good weather and therefore auspicious for gathering food and water. The information collected by researchers shows that males prefer colours in the blue-yellow range, while females instinctively go to the red-green hues, and especially pink.
“The Pink and Blue Project” is achieved by JeongMee Yoon on a different context yet could very well be a visual guide to the research. Children are photographed in their rooms, surrounded by their clothes, toys and accessories with their faces lost in a maniacally orderly multiplicity of objects.

Text and pics from Zoom magazine.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Boom Town

This is the Dubai sandwich: at the bottom, cheap and exploited Asian labour; in the middle, white northern professional services, plus tourist hunger for glamour in the sun and, increasingly, a de-monopolised western market system; at the top, enormous quantities of invested oil money, combined with fearsome social and political control and a drive to establish another model of what modern Arabia might mean in the post-9/11 world. That is the intriguing question: can Dubai do what Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or almost anywhere else in the Arab world you might like to mention, have failed to do? Is Dubai, in fact, the fulcrum of the future global trading and financial system? Is it, in embryo, what London was to the 19th century and Manhattan to the 20th? Not the modern centre of the Arab world but, more than that, the Arab centre of the modern world.

Read more here

Friday, 31 October 2008


Here is my new favorite book, which made me immediately go and buy a dozen of calligraphy for dummies-like books to learn the fundamentals of this amazing art of calligraphy. The book talks mainly about the subject that I once touched upon in the last post of my calligraphy series.

Published by Gestalten and edited by Ben Wittner and Sascha Thoma of eps51 and Nicolas Bourquin of onlab, the book contains excellent examples of the "globalization of graphic design" which allowed for merging different cultures into a new graphic blend. Besides the wonderful pictures that you can look at for hours before going to bed, there is this impressive font that you get for free if you buy the book. The new font is called Talib OldStyle, an English type that is based on Arabic alphabetical visual characteristics. The font belongs to the Talib Type group of fonts developed by eps51. Here are few examples for you viewing pleasure.

Check this out for an interesting interview with the people behind the book.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Formula Zero

The LA Auto Show's Design Challege this year have witnessed some amazing entries from Audi, BMW, Mazda, Toyota, as well as other manufacturers. But Mercedes have came up with this amazing concept that could be the begining of a really interesting sporting event, which they call Formula Zero.

The main goal is not simply to finish first as in most other motorsports, but with how energy efficient the winner is. Each team would be allocated the same amount of stored energy and it is left to the teams and drivers to manage the variables to win the race. The winner, therefore, is determined by total elapsed time combined with the energy efficiency factor.

The Formula Zero Racer is loaded with technology designed to extract the maximum thrust from the electric hub motors, aero-efficient solar skin and high-tech rigid sail... Incorporating luxury racing with the thrill of Formula One, the track dynamics of the bobsled or luge, and the grace and efficiency of yacht racing.

More info here and here.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Twists and Turns

A while ago I went on about the building business being a team sport. Now I saw this incredible building and those thoughts came straight back to me.

This is the UNIQA Tower in Vienna, designed by Austrian architect Heinz Neumann and completed at 2004. It sits on a canal and creates a physical link between the city's old and new sections. According to the architect, “the building shoots up spiritedly, emotionally, opening out and almost playfully. Its shape absorbs the impetus of the UNIQA logo and transforms it into architecture, with interior and exterior openness dominating.” Its a good looking building when it was finished but it wasn't as incredible as it is today.

What makes the tower amazing is the LED light installation which transformed the tower into a landmark in Vienna thanks to its interactive facade. Completed 2 years later, the installation is designed by lighting designers Licht Kunst Licht, installed by LED display manufacturer Barco, with German digital artists Mader Stublic Wiermann working on the artistic animation.

The facade's double skin allowed for the placement of the LED modules that receive electronic data on the structural grid, creating interplay between the architectural and technical elements of the facade. Thus, the building is not a giant electronic billboard like the ones you see in Manhattan or Las Vegas; it is a "constantly modulating architectural form." First, the electronic data corresponds to the architectural structure of the tower, but then it twists and turns repeatedly to detach itself from the concrete shape of the building introducing new virtual layers that dynamically interweave with each other.

Here is a cool video on YouTube and here you can find more colorful images.

For more info check out this and this.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Wanted... Red tiles on a glass facade !?!

Found this amazing photo while browsing flickr and tried to look up the building for ages without any luck at all. Someone said in the comments that it might be a "Bank in Aviguda Diagonal in Barcelona" but that doesn't lead to anything. Does anyone out there know what’s the name of this cool building?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Edge of Arabia

Edge of Arabia is an exhibition organized by Offscreen Education Programme and located at SOAS Brunei Gallery, University of London. Its supposed to "shed new light on the largely unknown contemporary art culture of Saudi Arabia". The main theme of the exhibition is "the complex and diverse identities of 21st century life in the Middle East". An interesting exhibition that is definetly worth visiting. As an architect, there is one particular piece that really stood out for me, and that is a tiny brochure that contained the art works of Mohammed Farea, who happens to be an architect too.

Perhaps what appealed to me is the colorful architectural presence in his work. The stylized buildings may be inspired by the traditional buildings of Najd region in Saudi Arabia, yet ever since I saw these works I couldn’t stop thinking about this book that I casually browsed once about the region of Asir. The vernacular architecture of Asir is mesmerizing in its wonderful and colorful frescoes that decorate the mud brick houses, which are also echoed in the bright colors of men's clothing, giving them the nickname of "flowered men". So I decided to go back to the library and scan few photos to add them to my collection. The book, "Impressions of Arabia" by Thierry Mauger, is a photographic demonstration of the region's architecture, frescoes and lifestyles of the people which are influenced by each other.

What makes the vernacular architecture of Asir so special is that while in other regions of the peninsula decorations are carried out mainly inside the house; here the decorations are spread throughout the entire house, inside and out, appearing on the facade too. The beauty in all this to me lies in "the division of labor which is determined by competence and gender". Men would be responsible for the hard labor of building the houses, and women are responsible for the more delicate task of decorating the house. Thus, the frescoes are not seen as works of art only but as a reflection of the skills and personalities of the women of the house. In these fresco decorations, women found a way to express their "domain" in a masculine culture that requires women to withdraw from the public eye. So it comes as no surprise to know that this is a skill that requires apprenticeship and is passed from mother to daughter, just as masonry is passed from father to son.

Bare mud and multicolored fresco, a typical facade of Bilad Qahtan, Sinhan.

The colorful frescoes carry on from the facade to the interior stairs.

The majlis is the most special room in the house and thus most decorated one as well.

Fresco creation requires team work as shown by this mother and her 2 daughters.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


My obsession with mashrabiyas and anything with the slightest relevence to them is clearly evident in the number of posts published here on this blog about the subject. The latest addition is this installation called Portrait by designers Fredrikson Stallard at Somerset House in London. To me it carries a striking resemblance to the Dairy House located (ironically) in a town called Somerset in the UK.

The structure is constructed out of steel and represents wood grain. Light is introduced to the structure in a wonderful way that creates positive and negative spaces during day and night, an interplay that defines the external characteristics of mashrabiyas as well. In daylight the steel sections that represent the wood grain are the dominant feature. At night, however, the spaces in between will glow in a remarkable yellow illumination, representing the colors of the champagne brand that the installation is created for, Veuve Clicquot.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Why is Islam scary?

I am not sure if this is even a word, but is Europe afraid of being "Islamicized" again? The Muslim world was successful once in controlling a major part of the Iberian Peninsula for more than 7 centuries, which have left a fundamental presence on what is now known as Spain. That being said, this was only possible after long years of wars and battles. Today, however, "Islamicization" is re-emerging in a different way. Islam is spreading throughout Europe by the integration of Muslim immigrants in European countries for generations now. Their participation in the economical and even political development paved the way for Islam to become an accepted part of the European culture.

Now these are rough figures taken from Wikipedia, but with around 1 million Muslims in Spain, 1 million in Italy, another 1 and half million in the UK, 3 million in Germany and almost 6 million in France, some non-Muslims will naturally get scared. And if the numbers themselves are not enough, the government aid and protection for the Muslim minorities in many European countries is ringing alarm bells all of Europe.

Perhaps the latest sign of this is the approval of building Germany's largest mosque in Cologne. Situated 2 miles away from Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic Church in Europe maybe even the world and a UNESCO world heritage site, the amazing mosque is designed by architect Paul Böhm whose specialty is church design. When asked whether he is personally religious, the architect answered:
Religious, yes, but I am not a practicing believer. And I am also not a Muslim. I am often faced with this question. Yet, you don't have to be a criminal to build a prison or be sick to build a hospital! Instead, what is important is the art of empathizing with the needs of those who will later use the building being designed.

The opposition that the mosque is facing is incredible. Some people are seeing it as a threat since it may become a symbol of power while others see it as a positive sign of integration. Personally I don't see a big deal in building a mosque, especially when it is so elegantly designed. But again I am biased.

More info can be found here

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Recycling ideas

Here are some recycling ideas which like many others have caught my attention:

1- Cardboard boxes
Created by French architects 0-S as temporary installation at Hotel Saint-Côme in Montpellier in Southern France, its an extruded portico of boxes with playful holes that allow light in and views out.

2- Plastic bottles
Built by American artist Jasmine Zimmerman to raise awareness of the alarming problem of plastic waste, this open-roofed greenhouse will be exhibited in empty lots, rooftops, parks, and vacant buildings to help spread the word.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Rubber House

This Kaaba-like building is the University of Sheffield's new music studio designed by Carey Jones architects and delivered by Jefferson Sheard Architects.

The studio is enveloped in black rubber, the first of its kind in the UK, as a reflection of its acoustic requirements. The 450sqm building is 3 stories in height, rubber sheets are stretched and fixed over the top 2 levels then decorated with stainless-steel studs creating a quilt effect.

More info can be found here

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Sunday, 28 September 2008

NYC skyline additions

Here are two recent additions to New York City's skyline:

Herzog & de Meuron residential tower on 56 Leonard Street...

and OMA (Rem Koolhaas)residential tower on 23 East 22nd Street.

Personally, H&dM's tower looks more interesting, yet OMA's has a better relationship to the main street, at least that what the renderings show.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Sunday, 14 September 2008


One of the famous Banksy's graffiti, which the people of Bristol voted to keep.

Another typical satirical Banksy's graffiti, or as he likes to call "outdoors art".

An anonymous artist, or a glorified vandal according to city councils that have to clean up after this guy. Either way, Banksy is a British graffiti artist whose identity and biographical details are uncertain. Yet his "interventions" has left a mark on the underground world of many cities, which are documented and exhibited in many galleries that are visited by the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Banksy's work is mostly satirical pieces of art on topics such as politics, culture, and ethics, presented in a distinctive stenciling technique combined with some catchy graffiti writings.

A excellent idea that Microsoft can use against Mac, to strike back at their stupid "Mac vs PC" campain.

More info here

Friday, 12 September 2008

Art for Palestine

This is another picture that I discovered among my unsorted downloaded images. I tried to retrace my steps to remember where I saved this picture from with no positive result. Anyway I thought I might as well post it here as it is a great symbolic piece that pretty much sums up the situation that our Palestinian brothers are in.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008


As I was browsing the 2008 Monaco Yacht Show Top 10 Concepts, I came across this striking project by BMT Nigel Gee called Véloce, a 130-meter pentamaran concept developed for high speed application and aimed at the large yacht market. Unlike the 40-m Signature Series by Norman Foster, the appeal of this concept to me is that it maintains its maritime characteristics albeit with an unconventional approach.

In an interview in Super Yacht World magazine, Foster said, "I wanted people to go WOW when they see this yacht, not just acknowledge it as something pretty." However, my reaction to the design was not a "wow", it may have been something more like a "hmmm". I mean it is unique but the design with its balconies, staircases, grills across the entire side walls, the arch form of the boat is very building-like, and perhaps it looks like it longs to be part of the land rather than the sea. The Véloce on the other hand simply look much more comfortable in the middle of the ocean than parked in the marina. Something that yacht enthusiasts, I imagine, would appreciate more.

More info here and here

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Indian Pink

This may be a bit too girly for my taste... still I have to admit that this is one clever and catchy ad campaign by Hermes. This particular shot stood out for me... the pink huge high heel shoe, the colorful flowers and the gigantic painted nails create this playful contrast against the hard wrinkled gray skin. But more importantly is the way the elephant's leg is bent... it looks to me so feminine that surely there is no way this is a male elephant.

More can be found here.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Ground Zero: Little People in the City

A new form of street art by "Slinkachu", consisting of tiny hand-painted miniature installed in all sorts of public spaces, mirroring our own lives. Although they might look to some as the musings of 5 to 10 year old kids, these street art installations are photographed in different scales, uncovering the city landscape in unexpected ways, depicting the general feeling of being alone in a large city. Scale here is the key factor in which both installation and photography of the artwork manipulates our perception to reveal this hidden micro-world and to evoke our feelings and senses.

A new book entitled "Little People in the City" has been published documenting these experiments, which is now on my to-buy list. Here are some photos of an installation for the Nuart event at the Rogaland Kunstmuseum in Stavanger, Norway, which again shows a great way of playing and experimenting with scale.