Designs for Living

I was at the Margaret Mead Film Festival a few weeks ago and saw a film called “Ever the Land,” directed by Sarah Grohnert. The film describes the process of building a Living Building, the highest standard for sustainability, for the Te Wharehou o Tūhoe and the Ngāi Tūhoe Maori people of New Zealand. It was designed by the architect Ivan Mercep, who won the project by pitching it with a blank sheet of paper.  

The Living Building Challenge requires that buildings be net zero energy, water and waste. All materials must be sustainably sourced and non-toxic. The final goal is the creation of true ecological sustainabilty. The founder of the Living Building Challenge, Jason F. McLennan, means for green buildings to be not only ecologically sustainable, but also to promote social justice and support cultural heritage. Truly a challenge for those who work in built environment fields, it is a way of looking at and preparing for the future in a positive manner that incorporates preserving and promoting cultures and respecting our earth and it’s bounty. 

The film describes and shows the building process from community meetings, to hiring and training of local workers to the celebration of the building opening with a Tūhoe ceremony. Also interwoven throughout the film are the ongoing negotiations with the Government of New Zealand that resulted culminated in an historic apology and settlement for the Tūhoe last year.  

    

    

Lottie Hedley Photography

 

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Raising the Dead

Yesterday I took a trip to The Cloisters – a part of a The Metropolitan Museum of Art way up in Inwood in gorgeous Fort Tryon Park and along the Hudson River. 
      

One of my favorite paintings is there – The Merode Altarpiece by the Workshop of Robert Campin (or the Master of Flémalle) – one of his assistants was the young Rogier van der Weyden.  I could spend hours taking in each detail of this Annunciation scene packed with symbolism. For example, St. Joseph, in the panel on the right, works in his carpentry shop and has built a mousetrap. The trap  –  an illusion to the Crucifixation and St. Augustine’s analogy of the Cross as the Devil’s mousetrap.

  

And this angel from the north transept portal of the cathedral of Saint-Lazare at Autun. Named for Lazarus – Christ’s friend raised from the dead in a miracle. It is the season of celebrating memories of the dead – Halloween, Dia de los Muertos  – decorations and altars are all around the city.

 

   

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos at El Museo del Barrio.  
 

How will you celebrate the holiday or honor your dead?

I leave you with “Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath
I have done it again.   

One year in every ten   

I manage it——
A sort of walking miracle, my skin   

Bright as a Nazi lampshade,   

My right foot
A paperweight,

My face a featureless, fine   

Jew linen.
Peel off the napkin   

O my enemy.   

Do I terrify?——
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?   

The sour breath

Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh

The grave cave ate will be   

At home on me
And I a smiling woman.   

I am only thirty.

And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.   

What a trash

To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.   

The peanut-crunching crowd   

Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot——

The big strip tease.   

Gentlemen, ladies
These are my hands   

My knees.

I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.   

The first time it happened I was ten.   

It was an accident.
The second time I meant

To last it out and not come back at all.   

I rocked shut
As a seashell.

They had to call and call

And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Dying

Is an art, like everything else.   

I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.   

I do it so it feels real.

I guess you could say I’ve a call.
It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.

It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.   

It’s the theatrical
Comeback in broad day

To the same place, the same face, the same brute   

Amused shout:
‘A miracle!’

That knocks me out.   

There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   

For the hearing of my heart——

It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge   

For a word or a touch   

Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   

So, so, Herr Doktor.   

So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,

I am your valuable,   

The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.   

I turn and burn.

Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
Ash, ash—

You poke and stir.

Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——
A cake of soap,   

A wedding ring,   

A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer   

Beware

Beware.
Out of the ash

I rise with my red hair   

And I eat men like air.
Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

Lions and griffins and bees

I’ve been seeing animals all around the city – live ones certainly, but of course many representations of beasts in art, architecture and store windows. Though I love visits to the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo, there is always the tension between the excitement of seeing the animals up close and the realization of how compromised their lives are in captivity. I know zoological foundations do much to help the wild cousins of the creatures on display, but I can’t help but feel sorrow for the animals in the zoo enclosures. 

Upper East Side lions – there are so many in all the boroughs guarding  people’s homes!

  

  

Not a lion but a young snow leopard at the Central Park Zoo.

  

Griffins are all over the city too – this one in The Metropolitan Museum of Art is from a bronze cauldron. Judging from the griffin’s size the cauldron itself must have been enormous! Many of these, including this one, were from Olympia at the sanctuary dedicated to Zeus. It certainly makes sense that the king of the gods would merit a super sized one. According to Herodotus, a cauldron created for King Kroisos of Lydia could hold 2,700 gallons.

  
And bees – I love bumblebees and try to grow flowers that will entice them to my terrace. I found this fellow in a The Conservatory Garden in Central  Park.

  
And then this large fellow on Fifth Avenue in the Gucci window.

   
 

Not sure those are the types of flowers that would attract him, but as he’s holding a handbag he’d be hard pressed to gather pollen right now in any case!

A Room of One’s Own

It’s been a long time since I read Virginia Woolfe – probably time to dip into her writings again.

Below are images of my favorite period room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If only it was my own room. I adore the soft blue that is so calming mixed with the playful floral motifs and the golden accents framing every panel. The alcove seems the perfect place to read and contemplate and with a small desk on the opposite side for writing. A perfect tiny world!

   
  

This tiny but precious paneling lined boudoir walls were created for Louis-Marie-Augustin, fifth duc d’Aumont (1709 – 1782). The room was in an unfinished townhouse he rented in 1776 that was constructed for the builder Louis-François Trouard (1729 – 1794 ) and designed by Jacques-Ange Gabriel (1698 – 1782) standing in what is now the place de la Concorde in Paris. The interior design was the work of the architect Pierre- Adrien Pâris. Only six years later the hôtel was purchased by François-Félix-Dorothée des Balbes de Berton, comte de Crillon (1748 – 1820) remaining in their family until the early 20th century.

And speaking of hotels, but not the private townhouse type in Paris, this weekend I am staying at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee for my step-sister’s wedding here. Gorgeous painted ceilings and very ornate furnishings throughout the older portion of hotel. Be sure to visit even if just for a look if you’re in downtown Milwaukee.

     

The Rise of Maya Civilization

Last weekend the 8th Annual Tulane Maya Symposium and Workshop was held in New Orleans. Sponsored by the Middle American Research Institute, the yearly gathering is smaller than a major conference and a real chance for scholars to hear about the recent research of their colleagues and meet up and coming graduate students from institutions throughout the country, but many from the Louisiana, Florida and Texas area. 

Normand Hammond, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at Boston University, presented his research from the site of Cuello, Belize.  The site was inhabited from 1200 BC through the end of the Late Preclassic. He showed evidence from the Middle Preclassic of residential structures and a sweatbath grouped around a courtyard and persistent renovation programs for more than 500 years until they were finally buried beneath a later ceremonial structure. Floral and faunal evidence shows a community with a maize based diet and some root crop agriculture as well as hunting and puppy farming for additional protein sources. All the dogs were raised to the same age, just less than a year, and then butchered for food. There was trade in exotic goods and suggestions of  ranked society. That a community with such a small population (perhaps a little over 100 households and 600-700 people) should be this developed in the first half of the first millennium BC shows that much more work should be done to discover Middle Preclassic evidence at other sites which may have been destroyed or buried by later building programs. I’ll have to add Prof. Hammond’s “Cuello: An Early Maya Community”

Figurine from Cuello

Historic Inns and Estates of Moultonborough

I attended a tour sponsored by the Moultonborough Heritage Commission and the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance on Sunday, August 8, 2010. This was the first major event sponsored by the Moultonborough Heritage Commission (which is only a little over 1-year-old) and was organized by Cristina Ashjian, an art and architectural historian. She gave a flawless lecture explaining the  history of five properties on Moultonborough Neck and Long Island. There was a crowd of almost 300 at the Geneva  Point Center for the lecture before we dispersed for tours of the inns and estates. The gorgeous weather and antique cars some attendees brought made for a perfect Sunday afternoon.

The tour included the properties pictured below as well as an estate barn that originally housed both horses and cattle called Windermere on Long Island and the former Roxmount Poultry Farm (1890 – 1896), later converted to the Winnipesaukee Inn (1907 -1919) and now part of the Geneva Point Center.The Kona Farm was designed as a gentleman's country estate.

The Kona Farm was recently listed on the NH Register of Historic Places while the Swallow Boathouse, also a part of the estate, has been on the National Register since 1980.

The Long Island Inn (1874), a boarding house dating from the earliest period of tourism in Moultonborough  was added to the NH state Register of Historic Places in 2010.

It’s inspiring to see such dedication and public interest in historic preservation in the Lakes Region and I’m looking forward to my next trip north to do some more exploration at other historic properties.