My Design School Grand Finale

If you read my blog regularly, then you’re probably wondering where I’ve been. Well, it’s been a bit crazy finishing up my interior design program, but the great news is that I’m done! So I’m bound and determined to get back to blogging regularly again. And to read a book. And to do some yoga. But definitely the blog!

In case your curious about what exactly I’ve been doing in these all-consuming classes of mine, here I’m sharing my final project in my final class in the program, sort of my design school grand finale. The challenge was to design a conceptual three-story live/work unit inspired by the designs of both an architect and a fashion designer. In my case, I chose two people whose designs I feel compliment each other: Daniel Libeskind (architect) and Prabal Gurung (fashion designer). Here’s a photo of my inspiration board:

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I would not say this is generally the style I gravitate toward in my own daily life but that’s exactly why I was so excited by the pairing of these two artists. What I really like about them both is each of their use of geometric shapes to create battling senses of symmetry and asymmetry, as well as the ways in which each of them use contrast to accentuate their designs. In the case of Daniel Libeskind, I was especially inspired by his combining of the old and the new in some of his projects. Often the shapes he uses in his architecture resemble a crystal or iceberg protruding from an otherwise symmetrical, grounded structure.

All of us in the class were given the same 3-story space to work within, assumed to be one unit in multi-unit building. We were given a program which included requirements like the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, offices, and common areas. After that, we were free to explore our design concepts in whatever way we chose. I knew I would need to add a Libeskind-esque iceberg-like element to the structure, and chose to do this by way of a skylight.
Exterior View

Below are four section-views (imagine cutting an apple in half, top to bottom, and looking at a perfect dissection of the inside). You can see furniture placement, materials, and the arrangement of the rooms within the space. Architecturally, I played a lot with the geometry of the walls. I wanted one cohesive set of geometry to pass through the entire space, which I used as the walls dividing each of the rooms. I wanted a person to be able to walk into the space and fully experience that geometry, not just see it visually. With that, I also wanted the overall space to feel very open, so I created a couple of double-height spaces; one is in the kitchen, which is open to the dining room above, and the other is in the living room which is open to the floor above, and then to the skylight beyond that. Section A color Section B color Section C color Section DThe first floor is essentially the “public” space and contains two offices, a common work/collaboration area, a powder room and the kitchen. The common work area also opens to the patio.
Floor Plan Level 1 The lighting is meant to be both functional and aesthetic, and includes a series of custom fluorescents inspired by Libeskind’s designs inset into the ceiling, as well as down-lights and wall-washers to highlight the entrance and the surrounding geometry on the adjacent walls.RCP Level 1

I chose a combination of geometric and industrial furniture furniture that compliment the style of Gurung’s and Libeskind’s designs while also creating a unique look that felt distinctly mine. On my materials board, I showed these as well as my custom design for desks for the offices. Throughout the design I dropped in elements of copper to brighten the look and feel of the color palette rooted in dark grays, champagnes, and whites. Finishes shown here include the carpet tile used in the private offices, paint colors for the non-sculpted walls, fabric used on the office guest chairs, a representation of the copper elements, and the kitchen cabinets, counter tops, and back splashes.DSCN5412

A rendering shows the entrance to the work-level of the unit. Notice the lighting on the ceiling and the shadows created by lighting on the walls at the entryway.
Render Floor 1

The second floor is the semi-private area, where the occupant would lounge and entertain. There is also a guest room and full guest bathroom on this level. Because I value a separation of work and home life, I designed the location of the kitchen (just below and open to the dining room) to be easily accessed from either the public work area or the semi private area without having to connect them. So if it’s a Saturday and you’re “off duty” you wouldn’t have to go through the office to get to the kitchen, and similarly you can heat up your lunch during the week without having to go “home” to do so. Also there is an additional entrance to this level so you can lock the doors to the office on the weekends and your cocktail guests can arrive directly to the party on the second floor.Floor Plan Level 2 The lighting here has the same goal as on the first floor, using similar fluorescents, down lights, and wall-washers.RCP Level 2

This materials board hightlights both the furnishings chosen for the dining and living areas as well as the typical finishes used throughout the entire three-story unit. You can see images of Libeskinds lighting and furniture design that inspired the lighting and furniture designs throughout the space. All the common area spaces are designed with polished concrete floors, and the sculpted walls are finished with a gray-washed wood finish. (This same wood color is also used for bedroom flooring.) Other finishes shown here include fabric for the custom Libeskind-inspired sofas, sheer drapery fabric, and paint colors for the non-sculpted walls.DSCN5413This rendering highlights the living room area of the second floor, and shows that it is open to above, with a chandelier hanging through the two stories.Render Floor 2Finally, the third floor is the private area consisting of two master suites connected by a landing which overlooks the living room below.
Floor Plan Level 3 Again, the lighting here has the same goals, but also includes bedside sconces and general ceiling lighting in the bedrooms that will be softer and warmer than the typical fluorescent lights used in the more open areas. Since the two-story chandelier would need to hang from the same location as the skylight, There will be a designed series of tension wires, one of which would deliver electricity to the chandelier hanging from the center of the skylight. This provides a practical solution with a designed execution.RCP Level 3

This is my favorite of the three materials boards, and includes bedroom furniture (my favorite is the upholstered leather bed) and fabrics for the bedding and lounge chair. You’ll have to take my word for it, but they are the kind of fabrics you just can’t resist touching! And the bathroom is intended to be high contrast, using black hexagonal floor tiles, a black and metallic geometric wall covering, and white marble on the counter tops and at the wall behind the tub.DSCN5414This rendering shows your view as you have arrived at the top of the stairs on the landing. There is one minimal railing to keep you from stepping off the edge. Clearly there are all sorts of building and safety codes that would not allow this to be built quite like this, but that’s why it’s so important to have an outlet (class) to explore conceptual ideas without restriction.Render Floor 3

In the end I had eight full presentation boards, plus an architectural model made from foam core, chip board, bass wood, and sheets of clear acrylic (below).IMG_0220 IMG_0221 IMG_0222 IMG_0223<big sigh of relief> And there it is! It took many hours of work to complete: finding materials and furniture, sorting out how these crazy shaped walls were going to work, and executing a cohesive presentation with all the documents to clearly express my design. But overall I had a lot of fun working on it!

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

A Morning at The Huntington

I have long been told I should visit the Huntington. It usually comes up when I mention how much I love the Arboretum. This time, I took advantage of a class assignment to visit a museum, grabbed the hubby, and we set out for a leisurely morning. The Huntington is a huge piece of land just outside of the borders of Pasadena, and is home to beautifully maintained botanical gardens, an intriguing book collection in their library, and well rounded art and furniture collections in their art galleries. Because it is such a huge, beautiful place, and because it’s so easy to take tons of beautiful photos there, I’ll just share my favorite spots with you. If you live in or are visiting the LA area, this place is definitely worth a visit. We only spent about 3 hours there, but we easily could have brought a picnic and a book and spent the entire day lounging on their grounds an perusing their galleries.

First, we paid a visit to their Conservatory for Botanical Science, and it was quite a treat. The inside is split into different climates of course, but unlike some of the others I’ve been to, this one had classrooms and information stations throughout where you could learn about different plants and their environments.

DSCN3369 DSCN3328 DSCN3316 DSCN3318 DSCN3320 This pitcher plant is much like ones we saw when we were in Costa Rica a couple years ago. They lure flies and other insects into the pitcher, where they hold a digestive liquid that, well, digests them. DSCN3321Because the conservatory is so geared toward education, and surely there are lots of field trips for kids there, just outside they had created this adorable Children’s Garden. We didn’t stay long out of fear of stepping on a small child (they were running around all over the place, care free!) but I loved the entrance to it. This door reminds me of some doorway Alice might have come across while chasing the White Rabbit.
DSCN3323Child-sized furniture inside this little garden hut made the perfect shady spot for a mid-play snack.
DSCN3326 DSCN3325 I love a good art gallery, and the Scott Galleries on the grounds held a small but fantastic collection of all kinds of art for all eras. The architecture came across quite modern, with plenty of opportunity for natural daylight to spill in through the windows out front as well as through huge skylights installed in every gallery.DSCN3329

DSCN3342The galleries really attempted to harken to the eras in which most of the art was created, all this by way of paint color choices.
DSCN3331 DSCN3350 My favorite gallery was the contemporary art gallery (although that came as no surprise to my husband, since I’m always amazed at the skill and vision that goes into abstract and contemporary art.) I was pleased to come across a couple of recognizable Andy Warhol pieces.DSCN3333 Also, I had never seen this Robert Rauschenberg painting before. I’ve long been a fan of his. (Give me a Rauschenberg, Johns, or Rothko, and I’ll be occupied for hours.) DSCN3334 And then just around the corner, we came across this room, the center dominated by beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright furniture.DSCN3349 Not to mention the surrounding pieces, like this Tiffany lamp….DSCN3347 …and this Stickley side table. When I think of Stickley furniture, I think of bulky, chunky, mission style wood and leather chairs. But this table was so delicate, almost a little Art Nouveau.DSCN3346 In yet another room, I found on display this Charles Honore Lannuier card table, which I’m pretty sure I used in a project once, designing a spec room in the American Classical Revival style.DSCN3358And I just thought this chair was interesting, designed by Samuel Gregg.
DSCN3363 They also have an entire gallery devoted to Greene & Greene, designers from the Arts & Crafts movement, but there were no photos allowed inside. I’m disappointed I can’t share it with you here, but hopefully that gives you another reason to visit the Huntington yourself. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Gamble House in Pasadena, designed by the Greene brothers. I’ve been there 3 times, and it never gets old.DSCN3365 After walking through their daylit sculpture gallery, we walked around the side of the building, through these ionic columns…DSCN3370… and past this gorgeous, inviting green field…
DSCN3375 DSCN3376 …into the Huntington’s rose garden. It was beautiful! They have created a number of different paths and series of trellises to walk through and smell the roses.DSCN3381 DSCN3382 DSCN3383 DSCN3390 I thought these were an interesting idea to file away: concrete formed to look like trees, bark and all. Great for vines to grow on.DSCN3393 DSCN3391 DSCN3396 I think one of the biggest surprises we came across was how elaborate and perfectly manicured their Japanese Garden is! It felt almost otherworldly being there, and so peaceful.DSCN3398 DSCN3400 DSCN3404 And just up the way, there was also a Chinese Garden.DSCN3407

The courtyard that welcomed us in boasted beautiful stonework.DSCN3412 DSCN3411 All of the structures in this garden surrounded a large pond, and there were plenty of spots all around where you could sit, rest, and watch the fish.DSCN3410 DSCN3415 DSCN3418 DSCN3421 I had to stop to look at these bonsai trees. (Yes, bonsai is a Japanese art form, but it originated in China, where it was called penjing… ‘learn something new every day.)DSCN3424 DSCN3425 After wondering around the grounds some more, we ended our meandering in the library exhibits, where they seemed to be focusing on sciences of all kinds. There were some incredible, and very old illustrations throughout, and we had a lot of fun looking over them.DSCN3442 DSCN3443 DSCN3445 DSCN3446 And in a little nod to my Lighting Design class, I couldn’t resist snapping a couple photos of these awesome old light bulbs.DSCN3447 DSCN3448 DSCN3449

Would you be most excited about the gardens, the art galleries, or the library?

Markets of Istanbul

One of my favorite things to do in Istanbul was to peruse the markets. Whether we were shopping or just walking through, it was wonderful to see so many varieties of foods, spices, teas, and handmade goods. I was constantly tempted to stock up on all sorts of things I never would have had enough room for in my suitcase!

The first one we came across, and maybe my favorite, wasn’t even really an official market. We were wandering around trying to find our way to the Suleymaniye Mosque and ended up strolling through an area of town that seemed relatively untouched by tourists.Istanbul097

All along either side of the narrow road were tables set out with local fruits and veggies for sale, all for a very reasonable price.Istanbul091 The colors of the veggies were so vibrant! Istanbul090 Istanbul089 Istanbul088 I’d never seen so much garlic in one place as this little set-up.Istanbul086 Dried fruits and spices smelled so delicious as we walked by!Istanbul082 Istanbul081 The next day, on our way to the Blue Mosque and Basilica Cistern, we found ourselves walking through the middle of the Spice Bazaar. We passed through here quite a few times during our stay in Istanbul, since it just happened to be right in between our apartment and a lot of the sites we visited. Istanbul283

Sure, there were lots and lots of spices around every corner, but it was also easy to find turkish candies and sweets, and rows upon rows of beautiful teas.Istanbul276 Istanbul279 Istanbul275 Istanbul287

How about this beautiful raw honey comb!Istanbul273

Not only foods, in the Spice Bazaar there we plenty of vendors selling dishware, linens, and scarves. Admittedly some of them seemed intended to draw in tourists, but there were still lots of wonderful treasures to be found.Istanbul281All the beautiful spices and teas made the whole bazaar so colorful!Istanbul284We made sure to stop by Istanbul’s famous Grand Bazaar, which is much more geared toward Turkish goods, like linens, scarfs, ceramics, tapestries, and rugs. The Grand Bazaar is one of the biggest covered markets in the world, and has been around since the 1400’s.Istanbul435

Sadly we were mistaken about what time was closing time, so we got there just as most of the vendors were closing shop. But with the sheer number of vendors that had shops there (somewhere around 3,000), you can imagine how crowded it must be during the day! On the plus side, with the lack of crowds, we were able to take some time to look at the architecture and decorative details of the place.Istanbul437

It was a huge space! Each hallway seemed to go on forever, and all of the arched corridors were beautifully painted. Istanbul443 Istanbul441 Istanbul450Istanbul447 Istanbul444 Of all the markets we came across, I think my favorites were the unexpected vendors that set up shop on carts, sometimes pushing their way into crowds in search for business. Even though much of the city seems to be built of stone, these markets provided delightful bursts of color throughout Istanbul.

Istanbul117What is your favorite find from a bazaar or market?

This Week I Loved…

Reliving our visit to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.Istanbul611 A new bedside reading nook for my husband. (PS. This is an awesome, low budget, small space solution for a bedside table!)booknook Dinner and drinks with the girls at The York on York in Highland Park.york A delicious blueberry pie and dinner with friends.pie A visit with my ASID chapter to the Sirtaj boutique hotel in Beverly Hills.sirtajThe chandelier tree in Silverlake. (Yes, literally a tree full of chandeliers!)
chandelier tree This monster zucchini from our garden!

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And these adorable stray kittens in Istanbul.Istanbul291

Hagia Sophia: A Treasure in Istanbul

It took us a couple days before finally getting to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but oh! what an amazing place! In a way, I guess I’m glad we did this on our last full day in the city, because if we had seen it first it might have made everything that came after it seem less exciting. The Hagia Sophia as it stands now was built in the year 537, but it’s the third structure to stand in that location. (The first two were burned to the ground in riots.) Built as a Greek Orthodox church, it was converted into a mosque during Ottoman rule in 1453. Now it is officially a museum. A slew of restoration projects over many years have once again revealed some of the Christian imagery that was painted or plastered over when it became a mosque, but living in the same space still are the names of prophets written in Arabic calligraphy. (It strikes me as an important message in today’s world for evidence of these two faiths to live side-by-side like this under one roof.) The sanctuary inside is enormous, beautifully constructed of marble and stone, with seemingly no surface untouched by decorative details like painted patterns or incredible mosaic frescos made with gold tiles. Certainly pictures could not fully do this place justice!

Istanbul510 Upon entering, we were greeted by a set of these rather imposing looking doors. They actually predate the current structure, and are too tall for the doorway they are in so they are built into the floor and cannot be closed.Istanbul512 Immediately, the pattern and detail begins in the first hallway.Istanbul515 At the end of this entrance hallway we saw our first mocaic, a scene of Emporer Justinian gifting the Hagia Sophia to the Christ Child. Istanbul517On the interior dorrs, you can still see markings where the cross was removed and replaced instead with this arrow-like symbol often seen in the Muslim faith.
Istanbul520 Sometimes it was difficult to discern which details were painted and which were mosaic, because of the attention paid to detail in the design.Istanbul522The first time you step into the sanctuary, it’s admittedly a little overwhelming! The space is several stories tall, the dome gilt with gold leaf. The flowers in the four corners around the dome were revealed in a recent restoration project to be covering images of angels from the days when it was a church. You can see the face of one that was recovered in the lower left-hand flower. (In the Muslim religion, no pictorial depictions are allowed, which is why the preferred decoration in mosques has more to do with pattern and calligraphy. All images in the sanctuary were covered over with paint and/or plaster when it was converted to a mosque.)
Istanbul523Incredible amounts of beautiful marble can be found all over, on walls, floors, columns, you name it. Much of it had been imported from Egypt at the time the Hagia Sophia was built, and some marble types were rare even then.
Istanbul530 Each column is topped with some of the finest carvings I’ve ever seen. It all seems so finely detailed, and perfectly executed. Istanbul531 Istanbul536 This tile mosaic of the Madonna and Christ Child had been covered with plaster before the restoration projects began. Istanbul546 All of the corridors have high ceilings and low-hanging chandeliers, which used to be candle-lit and needed to be close to the ground so they could be reached easily. And while the more modern lighting throughout the entire building was certainly helpful, there was plenty of natural lighting flooding in through large windows and skylights.Istanbul550 Istanbul551 In order to get up t the second level of the sanctuary, we used a dark, undecorated corridor and system of ramps, which were apparently used during construction for pushing, dragging, or rolling materials to the upper levels.Istanbul554 Istanbul590 The sheer size of the space was even more apparent from above, where we could see how small the people below seemed. Istanbul561 Sadly in the years before the Hagia Sophia had proper protection as a museum, people would take the little tiles that made up the mosaics as souvenirs, so many of the frescos are missing the tiles that could be easily reached. Now of course there are security personnel to make sure no one gets too close to these. Istanbul562 But look at the incredible detail! Rosey cheeks, the shading of the beard, the folds in the clothing. Unbelievable! This is as detailed as any painting by one of the masters, but  this is made of tiles. We took our time browsing and taking in all of the mosaics on the second level. Istanbul564 Istanbul574 Istanbul578On the second level, we found this pattern, which we didn’t seem to come across on the ground level. It’s much darker than a lot of what we saw elsewhere.Istanbul570 Also, it was a treat being so much closer to the details on the ceiling of the sanctuary. (And there’s that previously hidden angel again!)Istanbul572 Istanbul589 We even found this little corridor of Iznik tiles, a signature of Turkey.Istanbul591 Back down on the ground level we snapped a few more pictures of this incredible space. Istanbul600 Towering marble columns were on all sides.Istanbul601 Istanbul606 Istanbul616

After one last look up in the sanctuary…Istanbul611…and one last look at the beautiful ceiling patterns in the corridors…Istanbul602 Istanbul603 …we got a glimpse at the few remaining artifacts from the previous structure that this Hagia Sophia had replaced. This was all that was left after it burned down, but it is so important to acknowledge this as part of the history of this place. Istanbul619What do you think of all the detail in this nearly millenium-old place?

Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul surprisingly turned out to be one of our favorite sites we visited. It might have been in part because we really had no idea what to expect. It’s such an ancient place and just feels like it is a part of a significant history (which it is). Built when it was still Constantinople, the Romans built this cistern (among many others) to hold the city’s water. This is the largest of all the cisterns they built. Constructed in the year 476, this was by far the oldest place I have ever been (until we visited Cappadocia, that is… but more on that later!).

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The entire place is just a sea of columns. Of course they are now lit for better viewing for tourists, and they keep the water level very low. But just imagine: all this for what is essentially just a water tank!

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The cistern served a very specific function, and there is no disguising the engineering that went into it. But perhaps the most surprising element of design is that all three styles of columns (doric, ionic, and corinthian) exist here in harmony. Why, you may ask? Well, apparently the Romans were recycling, pulling unused columns from all over and just popping them in here to hold up this underground structure. Istanbul368 Istanbul372

Because the Basilica Cistern is now a museum, they’ve installed boardwalk-like walkways throughout, so you can wander all around. They offer a very affordable portable audio tour, which admittedly we shared but found very insightful!
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Among the plethora of columns there is exactly one of these, decorated with evil eye symbols which ward off evil and persons with nefarious intentions.Istanbul376

Even more interesting recycled elements include two Medusa heads. Their purpose was simply to prop up the columns they lie under, but since the myth was that if you look her in the eyes you will turn to stone they were sure to position her on either her side of upside down as a remedy to the possibility that she may do you in.
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We took our time walking through this incredible place, and even though it was dark and damp there was something quite special about being there. Maybe it has to do with the extraordinary contrast of that depth of history in comparison to the very short history of the buildings and artifacts here in the U.S. Istanbul389

But regardless of what made it feel so special, I loved staring down the rows and rows of ancient columns into the darkness imagining what it must have looked like when it was new all those many centuries ago.

Istanbul397What is the oldest historical site you have visited? What did you love about it?

One Day in Sunny San Diego

Over the weekend, I headed down to San Diego for a quick weekend with a friend. It had been a couple of years since I last ventured down there, and in the past it was always for something specific: a wedding, the San Diego Zoo, etc. So I was very pleased to discover how much more there is to see there. Now I’m anxious to get down there again to explore some more! So today I’m sharing what my friend and I did with exactly one full day in San Diego.

We started the day with an authentic California breakfast at The Mission, near the Hillcrest area of town. We ate, chatted, loaded up on caffeine, and then headed out to see some sights.

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We spent the first half of our day wandering around Balboa Park. Balboa Park is a huge park that is home to all sorts of museums, including San Diego’s history and science museums, and of course the famous San Diego Zoo. I had been here before many years ago, but somehow had completely missed all the amazing Spanish-influenced architecture in the park.SanDiego010

There were buildings like this theater everywhere! There was so much incredible stone-carved ornamentation around every corner.SanDiego001

And the vegetation surrounding all the buildings made me feel like we were in a much more tropical location than California.SanDiego004 SanDiego006 SanDiego009

This dome reminds me a lot of the Los Angeles Public Library‘s dome, whose design was inspired by the tilework in Istanbul. SanDiego031

This pedestrian bridge will take you straight out to the Hillcrest area, which would be the perfect place to take a lunch break while you’re wandering around Balboa Park.SanDiego033

In one of the buildings on the Balboa Park campus, we came across San Diego’s Cactus and Succulent Society having a sale. Curious, we popped in to take a quick look. It seems like Balboa Park lends itself to events like this all the time and around every corner.succulents SanDiego011

My favorite building was this botanical garden.SanDiego016 SanDiego014

It was beautiful inside, and the wood structure overhead meant that it was basically open-air. It was humid here of course, from all the moisture of the plants and water used to keep them growing strong, but the half-shade-half-sunshine inside was lovely.

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They had a great collection of orchids growing there, and it seemed like the perfect environment for them! I’m hoping my orchid will look like these one day.SanDiego019

Quite healthy veuns fly traps were growing in one corner of the gardens as well.SanDiego025

The whole place felt private and magical, and everything there was growing quite healthily.SanDiego028

When we had tired ourselves out at Balboa Park, we headed to Coronado Island to check out Hotel Del Coronado. Another place I am ashamed to have not seen earlier, this was a real treat.
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The hotel was built in 1888, and I was absolutely in love with the authentic interior. SanDiego044 SanDiego043

I’m pretty sure this was a smoking lounge at some point in the hotel’s history. Can’t you just picture a bunch of men in the earlier 1900’s sitting here with cigars and brandy snifters?SanDiego046 SanDiego047

The beach side of the hotel was just magical.SanDiego054

I feel like you can just picture a scene from the past where happy beach goers hang over the balconies in the beach linens.SanDiego055

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We took a short stroll down the walkway between the beach and the hotel, and found a row of these private beach houses (also part of the hotel). I would love to rent one of these for a long weekend with friends or family!SanDiego057

It was beautiful beach weather all day, and hundreds of people were nearby to enjoy it.SanDiego059

After a stroll around the hotel and a delicious cocktail, we headed into the main stretch of the island where there is a delightful strip of restaurants and boutiques. Dinner was at Leroy’s, and the food was delicious! I wanted to try too many things, so instead of a meal I opted for a couple appetizers. My favorite was the ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms.dinner_1

But the chorizo stuffed calamari was pretty delicious too.dinner_2

We did a little shopping in a couple of the boutiques, and discovered Will Leather Goods. The boutique was called The Attic and had just had a trunk show. I have to say I am now in love with their line of vintage and leather bags. (I have since thoroughly perused their website!)willleather

We moved on to a one night stay in the Marriott Marquis and Marina, where the view from our window was this. Beautiful!

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That night, just a short walk through the marina lead us to listen to the San Diego Symphony’s “Music of the Bee Gees” concert. We caught the last few songs. This kind of thing seemed to be going on in several places around the city that night.SanDiego073

And better yet, it was followed up by fireworks over the marina!! Since I didn’t end up seeing fireworks for the Fourth of July this year, this made up for it.SanDiego080

We closed our whirlwind tour of San Diego with cocktails by the fire pits at the Marriott. It was a lovely, relaxing way to end the evening. This little taste of San Diego has definitely inspired me to spend a longer weekend down there sometime soon!SanDiego086Have you been to San Diego? What’s your favorite thing to do there, or what would you most like to see if you were to visit?

Architecture of Abu Dhabi and Dubai

One of the things I was most excited about when planning our trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai was the chance to see, in person, some incredible architecture that I’d only previously heard about in books or on the web. Because the area is so new, and so rapidly developing, there is a tremendous amount of innovative, almost futuristic looking design on their skylines. Some of the skyscrapers will make you feel like you’re living in a science fiction movie. By contrast, there’s also an effort to create full-experience environments in some other cases. Those buildings seem to emphasize opulence, sometimes boast a specific theme, and have a bit of the feeling of Las Vegas or Disneyland. Going from one to the other can seem a little disjointed at times, but it’s all an important part of the look of the cities.

In Abu Dhabi, there was a recurring style element of buildings that almost looked like sliced sausages, with the roof sitting at an extreme angle. We saw this all over the city.

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Of course there’s the surreal environment I talked about last week created at the Grand Mosque. This design was the result of a combined effort by architects and designers from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

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We also stopped by Ferrari World to take a look at that architectural feat. It’s an indoor theme park (so imagine a structure big enough to house Disneyland), home of the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Designed by Benoy Architects, the scope of the structure is hard to describe. There’s no easy way from the ground to get a good view of the entire building, but from the pictures I’ve seen of it from above, it doesn’t look real! The design of the building and it’s entryway were quite modern and futuristic feeling. And very smartly, the architects included a light funnel to bring daylight into the center of the structure.

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In the more residential parts of Abu Dhabi, we came across a different kind of design style altogether. These buildings were much more modest, and seemed to embrace the desert and Middle Eastern cultures and traditions much more than the competitive skyscraper designs.

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I loved these bridges, which combined so many different shapes; they were geometric but also somehow organic at the same time. They were always a really interesting view on the water.

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Next to a museum we spent some time in, we also stopped to take a look at the UAE Pavilion. Designed by Foster and Partners for the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair, the entire structure was reassembled in Abu Dhabi and is now used as an international art museum. Unfortunately it was closed the day we went, so I didn’t get to see the inside. (Side note: Right nearby they are working on building a Louvre and a Guggenheim museums, which promise to be spectacular!)

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Our friends who live in Abu Dhabi have an apartment high up in one of this cluster of buildings. They are new skyscrapers, built within the past couple of years, and definitely seem to fit with the efforts to build now with future design in mind.

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But then they have a view of Emirates Palace, which is just about as opposite as you can get. Emirates palace has a bit of the pretend-world feeling that Las Vegas tends to have.

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Dubai sometimes took that Vegas-like pretend world to another level. We took a stroll through Atlantis, a huge, over the top, themed resort that made me feel like I could be in the king’s castle in The Little Mermaid. No corner was left untouched by the ocean theme. They even had a very impressive aquarium.

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The Dubai Mall also had an amazing aquarium, sharks and all. And outside of the mall was a dancing water fountain, designed by the same people that designed the water fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

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Dubai’s reputation in architecture is a bit more well-known, largely because of two buildings. One is the Burj Al Arab, designed by architect Tom Wright. Built to look like a sail, it is currently the fourth tallest building in the world. It’s a high end luxury hotel and sits on a manmade island, connected to the mainland by one bridge.

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And the other is, of course, the Burj Khalifa, by architect Adrian Smith. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It’s hard to mentally process just how incredibly enormous this building is. It only starts to become clear when you realize just how much taller it is than any other building that surrounds it. It is so tall in comparison that it gives the impression of being the only building in the sky. To put the sheer height of this incredible structure into perspective, there is a new project I heard about recently in Los Angeles to build the city’s tallest building, which will sit 78 stories high. The Burj Khalifa has 163 floors, and you would be able to see the curvature of the earth from the top. Aside from the extreme height of it, it is a beautiful building. It really seems like this perfect precious gem among all that surrounds it. This was my favorite building we saw, and having drinks on the 124th floor was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Only since I’ve been home have I begun to realize how rare of an opportunity that was.

Dubai106 Dubai125 Dubai141 Dubai152 Dubai165What do you think of the architecture in the UAE? Do you like the style?

Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque

While in Abu Dhabi, we took some time to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi’s grand mosque. This was the first mosque I had been to, and quite an extravagant one for me to make my introduction with. (This mosque is worlds away from the seemingly ancient mosques we visited in Istanbul the following week.) As I mentioned earlier this week, Sheikh Zayed was the president of the Emirates and the beloved leader who was responsible for the oil lease arrangement that ensured the wealth of their country and its natives. This enormous structure is a striking symbol of both that extreme wealth and of their dedication to the Muslim religion.

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This mosque is the source of the daily prayer for the entire city. Unlike the centuries-old mosques of Istanbul, which seemed to almost compete for your attention, in Abu Dhabi the call to prayer is broadcast out to all of the surrounding mosques in one unified declaration.

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The outside of the mosque features pools of water meant to shows the mosque’s own reflection when lit up at night.

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The floors and columns throughout are climbing with vines of inlaid stone floral designs. An incredible variety of stones  were used for these designs, and they are the most colorful ornamentation on the grounds.

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Gold leaf is also used in detailing and on columns, highlighting the opulence of all the materials used.

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When you first walk into the lobby area, before entering the courtyard, you immediately begin to get a sense of the scale of this enormous place, with high ceilings and the even higher inset undersides of the domes. Each dome is ornamented like lace, and each seems to be of a different design than the last.

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A little bit of a precursor to our trip to Istanbul, there were also a couple walls of Iznik tile designs. We would be seeing lots and lots of this in Turkey!

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Even the ablution room (where worshipers go to wash their hands and feet before prayer) is an incredible place, built almost entirely of green marble.

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The entire structure is constructed of white marble. Between the marble and the bright, hot sun, when you enter into the courtyard you feel like you might be in a glowing white dream world.

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There is an incredible amount of detail carved into the marble, again in the form of these beautiful, lace-like vines.

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Each dome is topped with a crescent moon, an important symbol for Islam.

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The lobby at the entrance to the prayer room boasted a different kind of design. Almost a combination of the inlaid stones and the carved white marble, these flowery vines used the same tremendous variety of stones but were embossed rather than inlaid.

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The chandeliers throughout use Swarovski crystals, including this one in the lobby, and were surrounded by even more elaborate ornamentation.

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You are greeted by more gilt gold as you enter the prayer room.

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The grand mosque’s prayer room is large enough to house 40,000 worshipers at a time.

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Upon entering the room, the first thing you will notice is the giant Swarovski crystal chandelier, estimated to be the third largest chandelier in the world. It’s also surrounded by a tremendous amount of beautiful ornamentation, some carved and some inlaid.

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It seems that little goes untouched by ornamentation here. Inlaid mother of pearl, carved marble, and gilt gold details can be seen throughout.

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Not even the wood elements, like the carts that hold copies of the Quran for worshipers or the wood panels that line the room, are free of this incredible detail and craftsmanship.

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The wall opposite of the entrance is not only peppered with the names of the profits (written in Arabic), but the detail around them glows from daylight being subtly let in from the outside through the vine-like designs.

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The carpet that lines the floor in the prayer room is the world’s largest carpet, handmade by more than a thousand people. It is one piece that covers the entire floor, and is even made to perfectly fit around the flower-petal column bases.

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The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is otherworldly, a sight I am so glad we took time to experience while we were there. A product of architects and designers from around the world, the craftsmanship is impeccable and the use of materials and ornamentation seems to be of another era altogether. It’s hard to imagine this was just recently built (in 2004). It’s such an integral part of the Abu Dhabi horizon, it seems that it should have been there forever.

What are your thoughts on the ornamentation and inlay?

Frank Lloyd Wright is Awesome

As you may know, I’m taking a class on sustainable design right now, and as such I have a paper to write in the next couple weeks! It will be on Frank Lloyd Wright, what he called “organic” design, and the ways in which it resulted in passive design. Ok, so what if I just wanted to use it as an excuse to pour over Wright’s designs for the next couple weeks. Well I won’t bore you now with the details of the paper, but I will share with you a few awesome Frank Lloyd Wright designs that I’ll be ogling over in the coming weeks.

Taliesen West

Located in Scottsdale, AZ, Taliesen West was Wright’s winter home and today it remains the winter home of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Being in the desert, there are a ton of passive design elements to keep up with the extreme temperatures. It is also a great example of how to condition a building to rely as much as possible on the available sunlight to light a room. I went on a tour through here about a year and a half ago, and the tour is well worth a trip to see it.

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The first built of the two Taliesens, this one is located in Spring Green Wisconsin. It also houses the school of architecture students in the remaining season. In it’s history, the house has actually been destroyed by fire and rebuilt not once, but twice within Frank Lloyd Wright’s lifetime!

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Built into the rocks of Sedona, AZ, this is a fantastic example of what Wright’s idea of “organic design” meant aesthetically. This place is just as remarkable inside as it is from the outside. Yes, those are all windows you see, and yes the view from inside is pretty amazing!

The Guggenheim New York

This is a fantastic space for modern art. If you haven’t been here before, the spiral you see on the outside of the building is reflected within as well, gradually taking you up and up through the museum as you look at all the wonderful art exhibited on the way up.

Hollyhock House

Located here in Los Angeles (I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been to see it yet), Wright built this entire house out of poured molded concrete. Oh, and if you’ve seen the Rocketeer, you’ve seen the inside… it was the home of that dastardly Neville Sinclair (played by Timothy Dalton).

Gordon House

This was one of Wright’s many Usonian homes, designed for American families of “widely varying means” with his organic design philosophy, honoring the land on which they were built. This one is located in Silverton, OR.

Fallingwater

I hate to play favorites, but this is the one I am most dying to see in person! Doesn’t it just seem magical? It was built for the Kaufmann family in the 1930’s in Mill Run, PA, on top of a naturally occurring waterfall. What  a way to live in the woods, eh?

There are so many more incredible creations from Wright’s prolific career, and there is a plethora of information on each of them, so consider this a teaser.

Tell me, have you ever been to any of Frank Lloyd Wrights architectural creations? What were your thoughts?