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August 29, 2014

Patents: The Zipper

Unzip the Kink with Collage Artist Trey Wright

“My favorite zippered item is a pair of black leather boots—they’re a bit too 70s porno style for day wear, but I love the loud, screeching sound the industrial zippers make,” says Texan visual artist Trey Wright who created today’s pop serenade to the almighty zipper. Whether you’re looking to conceal, reveal, or quite simply, seal, the zipper has been an undeniably practical, and sometimes decorative, part of our everyday for over a century. Patented on August 29, 1893 by American inventor Whitcomb L. Judson, the “clasp locker” was the precursor to the modern zipper, which made its first appearance in 1913, when Swedish engineer Gideon Sundback, improved upon the original design. Then in 1934, Japan’s Tadao Yoshida launched YKK to become a billionaire fastening-magnate, all from the dependable zip. “I wanted to capture the ease of a zipper,” says Wright, who also discovered its musical charms while on set. “The sound of the zipper and the act of zipping something can be quite entertaining, sexy and funny.”

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Boxing Clever

Beijing Architect Naihan Li Deconstructs Her Shapeshifting Furniture

Reappropriating blonde wooden boxes, Naihan Li forms The Crates, a collection of modish, foldable furniture. Inspired by her own transient lifestyle, and by the millions of workers who migrate around China each year, Li’s outwardly simple containers fold open to reveal hidden wardrobes, bookshelves, beds and dressers. She questions the concept of dwelling while accommodating the requirements of a modern, mobile world. “All my creations are designed to improve the life I’m living right now,” says Li. “To do that you need to understand what life is about. It’s a process.”  Based in Caochangdi, an artist village that counts Ai Weiwei and curator Beatrice Leanza as tenants, Li is a Beijing local, but attended the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. All these diverse influences have come to inform her work––which she describes as being the meeting point of art, design and architecture––and this range has allowed her to participate in a slew of prestigious projects, from designing the Royal Kitchen restaurant inside Beijing’s Forbidden City to exhibiting at Milan Design Week in both 2010 and 2011. Her next series, I Am a Monument, rescales well-known structures down to the size of domestic furniture, turning the Pentagon into a bed and the Palm House at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden into a terrarium. Li recounts visiting Chinese art collectors’ houses and finding them full of gargantuan sculptures. For her, the impulse to possess a colossal object—in this case, a building—is “very Chinese.” Li however, doesn’t subscribe to the ‘bigger is better’ mantra. Of her molded candles shaped like tall buildings that form a part of the series, she remarks: “It’s intriguing to see them burn.”

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Beatrice Galilee: Attention To Detail

An Excursion Through the Portuguese Capital by the Lisbon Architecture Triennale Curator

“It has modernism and brutalism, and perfect concrete everywhere you look,” says Beatrice Galilee of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, one of the atypical Mediterranean structures included in today’s guided portrait of Lisbon. Captured by Belgian fashion photographer Quentin de Briey, the series explores Galilee's architectural selections, taking in buildings usually closed to the public. Following her curatorial role at the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale in South Korea, which was directed by artist Ai Weiwei and architect Seung H-Sang, Galilee has curated a dynamic program for the Triennale that opened earlier this month. With a goal to broaden the definition of architecture, she has enlisted fellow curators Mariana Pestana, Liam Young and Dani Admiss, and included work from installation artist Bart Hess and digital studio Marshmallow Laser Feast, alongside Italian design institution Fabrica. “We’ve chosen installations for each venue relative to their history,” explains Galilee. “The different lives of every building explored through new work.”

The Lisbon Architecture Triennale runs through December 15.

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