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A visit to Porcelanosa

Newsletter | Jul/Aug 2022

Volume 50:4
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In this issue:
Editor's Note - Mui Ho
Visit Porcelanosa - Suzan Swarbacker

Editor's Note

by Mui Ho    |    Share #1564

We can be more relaxed about Covid today, but it is still necessary to be vigilant about big crowds. It is good that many of us are starting to travel a little more and visiting friends and families. My first trip out of Berkeley since Covid began almost three years ago was to San Diego. My main purpose was to visit the newly renovated Mingei International Museum situated in Balboa Park designed by Jennifer Luce. The addition enlarged the new museum to 55,000 square feet and the construction cost $49.5 million. If you are not familiar with San Diego, Balboa Park is the equivalent to our Golden Gate Park in SF but more centrally located and with more cultural activities. There are 15 major museums, several performing art venues and beautiful gardens. The famous San Diego Zoo is in this area.

Mingei means "art of the people" in Japanese and the Mingei Museum is one of the few folk art museums in this country. What inspired me most in the renovation was the process between the architect and the members of the Museum as described by the Museum Director, Jessica Janson. There was continuous dialogue between the architect, the board, staff and members of the museum to address the needs of the museum and how it should serve the public. The architect also worked with artists on how best to exhibit their works. The use of new materials and the use of artist's work incorporated in the new renovation was impressive. Wood tables and chairs by world renown Japanese artist George Nakashima, benches by artists, the acoustic panel made of wool felt behind the bar by Dutch artist Claudy Jongstra. Architecturally, the museum is clean and modern. Natural light was brought into the museum by glazing previously blind wall arches thus still keeping the integrity of the Colonial Spanish building. Most importantly, the ground floor was turned into a public restaurant-shop space easily accessible to the many visitors to the other more restricted museums in the park.

Mingei exhibition space and library

Balboa Park

Balboa Park was the site of the 1915 Panama California Exposition, and, unlike San Francisco which tore down most of its similarly exotic Panama Pacific Exposition (both celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal), the Balboa Park buildings have remained to house numerous museums and performance spaces. The park is also the home of the world famous zoo.

The new Mingei Museum in addition to the many venues of Balboa Park might be a good trip if you have not visited San Diego recently.

A different kind of inspiration

by Sandhya Sood    |    Share #1565

As architects, if we were to categorize those people that we collectively serve, based on cultural, socio-economical, physical or racial attributes, they would likely fall into the broad category of “mainstream”. With so much upheaval in our world today, we often try to hold on to the course of our careers rather than rock the boat while taking on a different kind of challenge. Such as designing for people that appear different from us or those that exist, metaphorically, on the periphery of society, inhabiting the urban edge, far away from vibrant public spaces. The poor, disabled, refugees, women finding their voice, immigrants, disadvantaged people of color and many such “other” that can only dream about inclusive and equitable cities. While the discourse on how to address this injustice has been triggered in many industries, it behooves us as architects and design professionals to embrace and seek opportunities that level the playing field, so to speak.

My Aunt’s disability from polio seemed to inspire me as a student of architecture in India. I designed a piece of furniture for our shared room; seats that brought guests to her eyelevel with storage accessible from the floor as she walked on her four limbs, dragging her right foot with her right hand. I was filled with so much empathy that this human emotion led me to figure out design solutions to ease her movement. A few years later, a poor man asked me to design a house for his growing family in a neighboring village since he could not afford to live in my city of privilege -Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh. I knew that climate responsive design based on principles of vernacular architecture could lead me to an appropriate built form. Considering the high cost of electricity, a simple design of a courtyard dwelling to mitigate tropical heat while infusing daylight in winter, incorporated a shaded verandah for his playful children.

In the late 1990’s I immigrated to the US to pursue a Master of Architecture degree at the College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley. The academically rich program was not particularly directed at teaching design concerning the poor or disabled, although social and cultural factors were evaluated through seminars. Perhaps this was a pedagogical gap in most design schools at the time, although it is being addressed with course offerings on global poverty and designing for justice. Regardless, as creative and experienced thinkers we have many design tools to bridge this apparent paucity. We can hone our skills further to positively impact communities that would benefit from our vision, compassion and power to influence stake holders and impact the built environment. Once the “other” is seen as deserving of delightful design, inspiration could expand our mind to think of sustainable solutions that cater to all people. In my architecture practice, Accent Architecture+Design at Berkeley, I am working towards broadening my client base while diversifying project types, including some pro bono work.

Westerbeke Ranch is such an invigorating place for our annual retreat. Watching the sunlight dance on the pool’s rippling blue water, ruffled by the lazy air settling on the lush garden is mesmerizing. The sumptuous food satiates our bellies and the vibrant conversation tickles our brain cells. While we might seek inspiration from this breathtaking setting, all we need is a catalyst to precipitate that human endeavor which lies very much within each of us.

Art Quilt Retreat Project 2022

by Ann Wright    |    Share #1569

“An art quilt is an original exploration of a concept or idea rather than the handing down of a “pattern”. It experiments with textile manipulation, color, texture and/or a diversity of mixed media. An Art Quilt often pushes quilt world boundaries. An Art Quilt should consist predominately of fiber or a fiber-like material with one or multiple layers which are held together with stitches or piercing of the layers.”

This is how the Art Quilt Association members define art quilts. Their competition entries rules and judging are based on this definition. There is a wide range of how this definition is interpreted: in themes; materials, colors, and techniques. The internet has a wealth of examples, under art quilts, collage quilts, and quilt / fabric embellishment. Quilting Arts Magazine, Studio Art Quilts Association and Art Quilt Association have archived shows.

Since the retreat art project is limited in time and is mostly an informal way of adding creativity to our visiting and “catching-up”, the retreat art project will be limited to making small, embellished quilt wall hangings. Below is a summary of the activity
Activity Summary:

We will be making a small art quilt wall hanging about 10-16 inches square or rectangular. We will start with a “canvas” of quilted fabric -- 3 layered fabric sandwich of a front and back fabric, with a batting layer between -- then embellish it with stitchery, embroidery, added fusible appliqued fabrics, ribbons, trims, beads, buttons and other small found objects. Quotes and writing can also be incorporated into the design. Each “canvas” will include a method of hanging the artwork such as sleeves or tabs.

The ”canvasses” to be provided will include blank fabric, themed fabric and some quilt blocks. Themed fabric will include nature, landscapes, sunsets, sea life, birds, animals, butterflies etc. Quilt blocks will be traditional and some faded out to recede as a background. From this variety, everybody will choose a canvas that inspires them. Embellishing materials will be provided but if an artist has a theme in mind, they are welcome to bring objects to support that theme such as shell for a beach theme.
Here are some examples of art quilts:

Visit Porcelanosa

by Suzan Swarbacker    |    Share #1566

On May 26th the OWADP was hosted, in person, by Porcelanosa in San Francisco.  Jiane Du arranged for us to meet Maria Giuliani, the area manager for Porcelanosa. She was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and interested in the OWADP.

The wonderful showroom was filled with lovely examples of Porcelanosa's porcelain material, plumbing accessories, and edging options,  Even better, the Reps covering the various areas of the Bay Area were there to answer any and all questions.  We learned that as of May 26 there were 62 fully loaded containers stuck in the Oakland port awaiting off-loading!  This means that companies like Porcelanosa are now using Houston's port and freighting material across the Western U.S. to save time. The lead times have dropped from 16 weeks to 10 weeks, still a long time by our standards.  We designers have gotten used to quick-ship products.  It is humbling.
Porcelanosa catered a lovely meal while we learned that Porcelanosa carries large tiles, slabs, and even LVT.  The slabs are cheaper than Corian.  A surprise to most of us. 
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