Give the Gift of Design

Angelina Jolie took Brad Pitt to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, one of America’s architectural masterpieces, giving him the perfect gift for his birthday this December.

Pitt had wanted to experience the space in this unique home over the waterfall ever since he took an architectural history course in college. As an undergrad architecture student at University of Santo Tomas in 1995, I also marveled at the architecture of one of America’s greatest architects of the 20th Century, Frank Lloyd Wright. Fast-forward five years later, I graduated from his school called Taliesin with a Master of Architecture degree as the first one from the Philippines.

Architecture allows people to experience the design of spaces both inside and outside. It is this celebration of space that made even Brad Pitt fall for the Fallingwater when he experienced the building in person and heard the cascading waters inside this house, making it beyond anything that he could have imagined. Architects design for the built and natural environment. This is a huge responsibility as it involves both humans and nature. That being said, we have great influence in changing the world.

I recently caught up with a fellow “designer” who “wants to change the world” and had a candid conversation about this manifesto. The perpetual innovator Karim Rashid and star of reality-TV show “Made in USA” has designed for an impressive array of clients from Alessi to Georg Jensen, Umbra to Prada, Miyake to Method (the everyday stuff you see at all Target Stores in the USA) putting 2,000 objects into production. This Egyptian New York designer is radically changing the aesthetics of product design and the very nature of the consumer culture.

LL: This area (Tempe, AZ) is somewhat of a “Frank Lloyd Wright territory”. Are you familiar with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright or the master himself?

KR: You know I was brought up with so much “reading” and “learning” about Frank Lloyd Wright. I think he was a fascinating man, really. Eccentric, he did such powerful work. I had a huge retrospective at the Price Tower. And I designed an object---it’s called the Blobjectory. It’s a 25-feet long sculpture that’s there at the museum, you should see it. Go to my website: www.karimrashid.com

If Frank Lloyd Wright is Organic, Karim sees the future of architecture in “Technorganic” terms. His Blobjectory site-specific installation at the Price Tower Arts Center Museum is a “marriage of organic and pure geometry of technology and materials. Soft, friendly organic forms communicate tactility and express a strong visual comfort and pleasure.”

Karim Rashid recently gave a lecture for Collins College at The Harkins Valley Art Theatre on Mill, describing Mill Avenue as “the most romantic street I have ever seen. I think I’m going to fall in love here”.

His art blurs the boundaries between design, architecture, and sculpture. “I thought it was fantastic and some of the things that he described in terms of his process---it reveals so much overlap with the art world. This mutual process has very good artistry too…really inspiring, it gets to the bones of your spirit” divulges senior curator Marilu Knode of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona. His book “I Want to Change the World” reveals a revolution of the visual standards of minimalist design with his fresh, colorful, sinuous, and sensual objects. This is a refreshing change to the seemingly mundane objects we use everyday as inhabitants of this world.

LL: Have you gotten the chance to visit Taliesin West? (Taliesin West is the winter home studio of Frank Lloyd Wright set in the Sonoran Deserts of Arizona.)

KR: No, net yet. One day…

LL: I may have to take you there then…

(Both Laugh)

So taking cue from Angelina Jolie’s gift-giving prowess, as an architect, I will be thinking of ways to give the gift of design that may impact a change in the world to make a person’s life better. This holiday season, have you thought of gifts that will make a change in your loved one’s life?
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Architecture brings people together


Upon the recommendation of my sister, I watched the movie "The Lakehouse" starring Keannu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. I have to admit, this is a chick-flick, but I was more attracted to the architecture in the movie than the movie itself. They had an architectural walking tour of Chicago, the characters have 3 architects in it, they quoted architectural jargons and names that made me feel connected. In the photo at the top, this scene brought back memories of my years in school.

But the moral of the story is that two people were brought together by this unique architectural piece---The Lakehouse. True architecture does that to you---you experience it, rather than see it.
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Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry


For the third time, I visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Each time I see this building the experience of the dramatic spaces overwhelm me. There are no straight lines in this building. One has got to be inside the building to experience the celebration of space. Pictures don't do justice. Although the building photographs well.

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Audio Book review by Business World newspaper, May 19, 2006


I would like to share this impartial review of Josefa Cagoco of my recently-launched audio book, "FRANKly Speaking:It's the WRIGHT Way," which, has just completely sold out its initial inventory with Amazon.com in the USA.

As a personal comment, after reading her review, I felt that she highlighted both the good and not-so-good aspects of the audio book, resulting in a more down-to-earth and believable review that is unbiased which the potential listeners of the audio book might find helpful.
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Frank Gehry on FILM


My favorite architect Frank Gehry releases his documentary "Sketches of Frank Gehry" this month.


Here's a funny clip from the Simpsons show about Mr. Gehry:


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Hayden Library Closed @ 7pm

I went to the library this evening to do some more reading---I thought today is the last day of the normal schedule, ya know, it being open 24 hours. But to my disappointment, it was closed at 7pm.

Arizona hit the 3-digit temperature trademark today. I was driving at 3pm and it was 101 degrees Fahrenheit outside! Time to turn on my AC which will probabaly get turned off sometime in November of this year.
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Considering Design Envelopes

Last April, I visited my home country the Philippines after nearly seven years since the last time I was there. As I walked outside the doors of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, looking to my left and right, seeing what looked seemingly familiar in a now unfamiliar territory, I felt the hot humid air as it hit my face.
It made me reflect on how spaces affect air movement and influences comfort levels. While reading the MEEB book (an architectural jargon of the Mechanical Electrical Equipment for Buildings by Stein), it gave me insight on how a building's envelope, or form, if you will, is directly related to the climate of a country or a particular place. Some people have the misconception that they can just easily buy floor plans for a house or school, and then use that plan to build the same structure in another place. This is contrary to what sustainability professes. Take for example the climate of the Philippines. It is a tropical country known for having hot and humid climate. In this type of natural environment, there is great desire to increase fresh air circulating within a space so as to avoid the "sick building syndrome" that is so prevalent in most structures in Manila.
I look at the traditional "bahay kubo", an indigenous house and trademark of rural areas in the Philippines. The form is based on an open frame. It has steep roof slopes to shed off rain water during the rainy season. It's floor level is raised on stilts, to serve as protection from earth moisture and environmental elements/wild animals, while at the same time, allows air to pass over and under the slots in between its bamboo flooring. This form to me, is ideal in this natural environment.
Building forms like a half-sphere resembling an igloo is more suited to cold climates like the United States. The reason this form works well in cold climates such as Alaska is because the compact form filters light and heat and blocks off wind---not necessarily the case for the Philippine climate. Spaces need wind breezes so the hot air can move around and raise comfort levels for its inhabitants.
People attempting to be builders need to look "into" things instead of "at", as what my hero Frank Lloyd Wright would say. We need to know what produced those forms, and question why are they shaped the way they are.
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