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Saturday, 27 September 2014

London Design Festival: Open House London 2014

Last weekend I spent the day wondering in and out of complete strangers houses, at the Open House London, an event that ran throughout the weekend of 20-21 September, where houses and buildings such as The Gherkin that are not usually open to the public give us the opportunity to see the work and concepts of today's leading architect's, designers and engineers. I found the day very informative as the designer of the specific project would usually be at the location, there to answer our questions and thoughts. I was initially surprised to learn that this scheme covers most boroughs of London. I only managed to go to 4, the borough of Islington, Camden, Westminster and City of London, there is only so much you can see in a day! Although Open House was active for the whole weekend I did begin to wish I had went the previous day (Saturday) as I browsed through the handbook showing the open days and times of every venue. Saturday appeared to be the most flexible day where everything was open. However saying that I didn't see all the venues that were open on the Sunday, so there was still as many to choose from.

(Sorry about the quality of my pics I took on my phone, you see only I would take out my digital cam without the batteries!)

The first house is located in the borough of Islington on Calabria Road, we had to take of our shoes outside before entering first floor of the Victorian house. The open space design brightened the long living area which followed into the lowered kitchen space via a short concrete staircase. After I walked into the conserved garden and additional eating space I was impressed by the use of exterior materials within the interior (the polished concrete kitchen floor). I also liked how the kitchen bar top level branched outdoors at the same height of the flowerbed. A feature my eyes were glued onto was the lighting installation above the centrepiece cubed counter within the kitchen space. This lighting instalment completely elevated the room as cut out installation with mirrors panelling all four sides as well as the ceiling automatically heightens the room, with the lighting reflecting through the round glass and mirrors creating a warmth within this kitchen and dining area.

The small house also in Islington on Richmond Avenue by german Architect Dyvik Kahlen, is the most confined space I have ever seen as the 14.1m squared house has with everything neatly compact and solo steps leading towards the bedroom which hovers above the kitchen space due to the vaulted ceiling. This was the only house I queued at as I guess many were intrigued to see the transformation of the former flower shop listed Grade II dwelling. Despite this house being self contained the architect has managed to make it spacious buy keeping many details minimal by including the essential living elements only by using pre-fabricated materials such as timber, leather, cedar and felt. I like how this architect managed to use levels to differentiate the different areas, kitchen, living area in such a small space.

A hard working house was one of the most interesting and most difficult houses to find as we walked past the front door of the town house positioned closely next to Grafton newsagents on Grafton Way. The Georgian town house had been renovated by Urban Projects Bureau who went on to create multiple stair cases that runs through living spaces creating a high-density dwelling. The use of natural lighting is put in place effectively in the ceilings of the bathroom spaces on the third floor I was surprise to learn it was a family house as I brushed past the lowered coat hanger and miniature shoes. The roof top terrace that has been created just over a year was my favourite elements of the rebranded house, I admired the fact that it is made invisible from the neighbours. A getaway and escape for the member of the house. The mixture of materials on the roof complimented each other creating a warm interior and outdoor vibe.

We ended the day at the London Design Festival landmark installation at Trafalgar Square, that featured 4 customised wooden house framed pavilions by four British designers/studios. Patternity, Raw-Edges, Studiolise and Jasper Morrision as they bring their own interpretations of the concept 'A Place Called Home' to reality. The landmarked homes are in association with Air bnb. I would encourage others to do Open House (and London Design Festival) in the future. It's a great way to get ideas for your own home or projects. I definitely recommend it to students in design, interior, architecture, engineers as expanding your knowledge on different aspects of your field from materials to spatial layout is never a bad thing. The other great thing is that many of these places listed on the guide are free!


Thursday, 18 September 2014

An open letter to the Mayor of New York

The coldest mode of transport I've ever experienced

Dear Mr De Blasio

I'm from the UK and recently visited New York City, I was impressed by many aspects of it, in fact i thoroughly enjoyed it however, there was something that I not only found disturbing but I also did not understand it and that was the Subway. Not the subway system (although that also is not the most friendly) or lack of subways that go by each hour but the state of the subways themselves as if thousands of people do not use it on a daily and regular basis. It is beyond filthy. Forget not having cushion seating, I suppose the high air con temperatures make up for that, but the subway platforms look as if they have never been touched since the day they were created. I vividly remember avoiding any sort of eye contact with the platform ceilings as I did not want to know about the vile mould I would be confronted by. The smell below was another matter, if it didn't smell of urine it smelt of something else if not worse!

The lack of consistency in simple things such as sign posting inside the subway was also very frustrating whilst travelling. We had to search for the sign which charts all the stops on the line as that sense of reassurance that you are on the correct train is not guaranteed to be on every train as you know. I remember asking a fellow New Yorker on the subway why the subways are 'the way it is' (not the standard they should be in 2014) and he said "Well you know, it was built in the 70's". Because something was created 40 so years ago can't be refurbished? (The London Underground was built 151 years ago in 1863, it is still clean and easy to use with constant sign posting on every tube. VIA Rail in Canada was established in 1978 and is apparently very user friendly. - The cute old man's comment on the subway being built in the 1970's is irrelevant. They actually began in 1904 according to my sources). Regardless of their age that is no excuse for it's current conditions. Honestly, I did not feel at ease whilst on one. I don't mean to sound like a wingebag but if we were not on the wrong train (due to the lack of signs) then there would usually be another issue of some sort like the Antarctica room temperature in subway.
Earlier I praised the high temperature of air con within the subway, but the contrast when you enter/exit to the humid heat on many of the platforms were overwhelming. Why can't we have a satisfying  medium? Do you know that regular interchanges between significantly different room tempuratures as a side effect can have adverse effects on the human body?

 I think if you go on public transport elsewhere in another country you will find out, if you did not already know that the NY subway is not at the best standard it could be at this day and age. The point I am trying to make without rambling is that New York is a great city known for its tourist appeal and attractions like The Empire State and Times Square, but the dirty subways can seriously have an impact on the experience (not in a good way). Why not show the same pride for New York through the subways we travel on to get to some of these iconic venues?

Yours Sincerely,

Miss Yasmin MJ

Saturday, 13 September 2014

NYC: New York, New York!

I spent the last week of summer with two other friends in the concrete jungle they call New York! I try not to believe the hype about countries or places I have never visited before but this trip was truly incredible. The first day involved a lot of walking through and around many blocks as we were eager to see what the city had to offer. It was also important we stayed hydrated as the climate was ranging everyday between 20 and 30 degrees. New York is a state on the north eastern region of the United States, the prestigious city is made up of five boroughs Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. We stayed in a lovely apartment in Brooklyn, thanks to Air bnb, which is a useful platform to use when looking for accommodation anywhere, as the prices are varied depending on what you are looking for. The subway was our main mode for transport. As for the subway I will leave that to another post, its was the most convenient and economical method of transport but I wouldn't say it was the easiest or cleanest in comparison to what we were used to (The London Underground - seriously I will never complain about TFL again! Now that I have experience the subway, NY).

More about the city, it was interesting to compare the different boroughs we visited such as Brooklyn,Washington Heights, Bushwick, Manhattan, they all had similarities to one another but the differences were also evident in the people for example in appearance and the pace of movement amongst people would differ from slower or faster depending where we were. One of the first venues we went to was at Paper Box in Brooklyn where we got an insight into the unsigned musical talent in the US as a number of artists performed at this intimate gig. Which was really chilled, to be honest I like anywhere that doesn't require me to wear heels. I was initially worried what the night life would be like, or more the idea in my head of how it could have been which was us ending up in 'touristy clubs' with painful head banging music. But to our luck we met a group of fun New Yorker's who were our guides to the real hot spots, which made the experience much more exciting and fulfilling in the sense that I felt as if I experienced the real New York and not the image painted of NY.  I would say we had a equal balance as we were pretty much tourists in the day and New Yorker's at night.

 I've never really been a fan of American food, there is something about it that tastes different (different in a not so good way) even the vegetables, well in comparison to the meat and veg we eat here (UK). But on that note, New York has a wide varied in culture and food, so as long as you are willing to spend extra dollar on food, you will have no problem finding something. My favourite restaurant we ate at was a Thai restaurant at East Village called Klong, it was amazing! If you are a sea food lover the - Seafood pei noodle special is very good as well as generous! The 1st September was Labour Day, which is a West Indian American day where they celebrate their pride and culture (similar to the UK's Notting Hill Carnival) there was so much choice for food on this day especially as the carnival celebrations was on our door step, as the locals prepared BBQ's and food stalls. I still remember how good the pineapple sticky rice was from this day we ate silently enjoying every bite.

The people I encountered in New York were friendly and willing to help when we got lost (which happened the majority of the time). I'm grateful for meeting a lot of the people I did meet during my time in NY as many of them had a portfolio career of some sort (more than one job, but in different fields) and were continuing with their passions outside of work hours such as painting, jewellery making and fashion designing etc. which was inspiring. It reminded the importance of perseverance and how to utilise your passions to achieve what you eventually want.

From seeing our pal Libby (The statue of Liberty), to art exhibitions, shopping and even doing a quick photo shoot for the iconic NYC boutique Patricia Field. I feel as if we really made the most of the time we had, but NY is a big place so I would definitely love to go again someday! I have included summary of photos of the trip. Enjoy!

Brooklyn Bridge

Times Square

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn baby!

Ground Zero - 9/11 memorial

Wall feature inside Thai Restaurant, Klong - East Village

The view from the Empire Estate Building


Saturday, 6 September 2014

BBC Proms: Late Night with Paloma Faith 05.09.2014

Friday night was different from my usual Fridays, as a friend and myself spontaneously decided to spent our Friday evening in the Royal Albert Hall at the BBC Proms with Paloma Faith and Guy Barker for one night only, as you do. I'm still trying to decide what my highlight of the night was, the whole show or the fact it only costs £5!? This was the first proms I had ever attended, Friday's show was the 65th show production of the BBC Proms 2014 which runs annually throughout the British summertime. On the day of each performance in the famous hall, 1,400 tickets are available to claim in the Standing arena or Gallery seating for just £5 aka 'Day Promming'. This does mean arriving at the venue at least two hours before hand in order to queue for your space inside. As much as I dislike queueing this was worthwhile and the queue itself could have been worse. The time flew by, especially when you got talking to others who were also "day promming". Once you were given a numbered ticket we were able to leave the queue (however there was a curfew of only 30 minutes out of the queue, not that they were overly strict about it). The evening itself was an experience to remember, as the audience members appreciate the sound of the 42 piece Orchestra alongside composer Guy Barker and Brit award nominated singer/songwriter Paloma Faith.

Before Paloma graced the stage in a dazzling white fitted stone embellished dress, UV Collective entered the the stage smartly and attractively dressed in monochrome attire, Prom style. As the spokesman welcomed them and the musicians soon after welcoming Guy Barker before Faith's backing singers smoothly made their presence known, as the three girls gently jived to the beat of the orchestra's intro. Paloma sang the songs from her most recent and highly acclaimed album ' A perfect Contradiction' including a few of her previous hits and even performed a melody of legendary Jazz songs that inspire the singer, including the most magnificent duet I have ever witnessed with soul singer Ty Taylor as they belted Etta James's 'I'd rather go blind'. Paloma opened the show with the upbeat tune 'Mouth to mouth' followed by 'Take me' and my favourite song on the album ' Only Love Can Hurt Like This' written by Dianne Warren. Everyone was sooner or later on their feet dancing the night away . What is certain is that was the best £5 I have spent in a while and probably the only fiver I will ever get the opportunity to enjoy a night of quality music with.The truth is no need I say no more, as the whole show was recorded for BBC4. You can also watch it on BBC iplayer and be a judge for yourself!

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