Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Chelsea Flower Show: Clone wars & that '50s vibe

The winning designs of the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show have been announced, and Dan Pearson's preternaturally natural recreation of a slice of woodland at Chatsworth (above, from the UK's Telegraph)  has won Best in Show. Another microplot of meticulously contrived virtual reality,  James Bassen's Perfumer's Garden in Grasse (below), was awarded a gold medal.

Both gardens are stunning recreations, kudos to both design teams for jaw-droppingly flawless execution,  especially Bassen, whose garden is particularly lyrical. But the thought occurs, Should one really call them gardens? They seem more like extraordinary clones, the Dolly the sheep of garden design. They also remind one of the current hyper-realist waxwork fixation in contemporary art, exemplified by artists such as the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, who fashions remarkably lifelike wax effigies of historical figures and then photographs them in "portraits" (below, HRH Princess Diana, in wax).

One frankly designed garden, an elegant chessboard based on de Stijl geometries by Marcus Burnett, may not have been particularly innovative but it was so expertly balanced and flawlessly executed that it also won a gold medal.

Unsurprisingly, with our current hipster-driven fixation upon elevating nostalgia for days of future past into a cultural obsession, a number of winning designs seem to have come straight from the well-thumbed pages of that postwar horticultural bible, America's Garden Book, specifically the chapter on contemporary garden design from the iconic 1958 edition. Bush-Brown's Eisenhower-era masterpiece encapsulated the heady design moment when America discovered pebble-encrusted concrete pavers, the Southwest, and redwood plank.

Below, gold-medal winning gardens by Harry and David Rich, Adam Frost, and Chris Beardshaw.

For complete coverage, we'd highly recommend a visit to the website of the UK's Telegraph, which has devoted an entire section to the Chelsea Flower Show.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chinoiserie notecards in World of Interiors

In the better-late-than-never department, we would be remiss if we didn't note the March issue of World of Interiors, which featured Aglae Auersperg's watercolors of her family's Chinese pavilion in the gardens at Vlašim, a Bohemian estate in the modern-day Czech Republic. The pavilion (above) has been impeccably restored and the watercolors are atmospheric and charming, and the issue was, as usual, intriguing, informative and visually stunning.

The issue's Inspiration page featured our boxed Tea House silhouette notecards and one of our folding cards reproducing our watercolor of the Pagoda at Rheinsberg, which once stood an extensive eighteenth-century folly garden created by Prince Heinrich of Prussia, brother of Frederick the Great.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Renovating a website today

For those of you who manage your own websites, you know that overhauling them is a massive undertaking, and often requires you to rebuild the site from the ground up. We've just endured such a two-month-long process, which was the most thorough and extensive rebuild we've ever undertaken (actually every new renovation takes that title, truth be told), and are delighted first that the project isat long lastfinished, and that the new, expanded AW.com is purring along pretty much just as we envisioned it. We invite you to take a look and take it for a spin, and tell us what you think.

We'll spare you the gory details, but the take-away from the experience, from someone who actually coded the first incarnaton of architecturalwatercolors.com in html back in the day, is that web design and coding have become as complicated and arcane as tensor calculus. Complicated, not complex, and comparable to Russian nesting dolls, with software nested in software, esthetically modded by themes, refined by plugins and apps and mapped across your server in a staggeringly vast tree of files residing in literally hundreds of folders. A mighty oak of php!

Wordpress includes: indeed it does!

One untoward result: all those hordes of code kiddies have been diligently polishing and elaborating all things php until it often requires a week of sleuthing to discover how to change a precoded line of text on what you naively thought was your own website to a phrase that suits you.

Yes, that sort of complexity is the main drawback of the maturation of the web, but the result of the ongoing coding frenzy is that you can do some pretty amazing things with a webpage todayyou can have parallax effects, fullscreen video headers, carrousel image galleries... Just about any sort of bell or whistle you can imagine, and someone's got a plugin that will enable it. In fact, you can do so much with webpages today that the pendulum has swung and there is now an outright rebellion against all those bells and whistles (ironically, driven by the very same web-centric cadre creating them) and clean, minimalist web design is all the rage.

We've always been strong believers in clean, minimalist web design and were never fond of yesteryear's obsessions with shiny-glass buttons and later faux brushed aluminum, design trends which always seemed to us patently absurd. So we welcome the embrace of minimalism and simplicity, and the underlying acknowledgement that a webpage is indeed just that, with text and graphics frankly expressed.