Mosaic Artist Jeffrey Bale

Jeffrey Bale is one of my gardening heroes and this video is, in my opinion, mandatory viewing. Bale’s artistic medium is the pebble mosaic and he’s taken his craft to levels not seen since the ancients. Bale spends three months every year traveling the world and searching for inspiration for his work. His astonishingly beautiful and insightful blog chronicles his travels and work.

Bale captures what I think is missing in a lot of contemporary art and landscape design, a sense of the transcendent and the search for what philosopher Charles Taylor calls “fullness”. Our gardens and cities could benefit from many more spaces like the labyrinth portrayed in this short mini-doc. Best of all, in the video, Bale demonstrates how he makes his mosaics. Bale has no trade secrets. He wants us all to participate in creating a more beautiful world.

Working Big: A Teacher’s Guide to Environmental Sculpture

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Let me tell you how on-board I am with any children’s DIY project book that begins with pictures of Robert Smithson’s monumental land art.

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Working Big: A Teacher’s Guide to Environmental Sculpture resonates with me due to many childhood trips to the LA County Art Museum at the height of the minimalism art era. Working Big applies some of the art notions of that period to group activities for kids using cardboard, plastic bags and junk. The result is visually striking projects reminiscent of Smithson and the Ant Farm.

If only the NIMBYs around the Silver Lake Reservoir would let us do this:

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Damn the nanny state!

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You can download a copy for free, along with a lot of other amazing and outré 1970s publications here.

075 Visionary Architect Glen Howard Small

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Flying House from the Biomorphic Biosphere

Our guest this week is architect Glen Small. If you’re not familiar with his work I’d really recommend taking a look at some of his amazing buildings, drawings and models while you listen to this podcast–you can see them on his blog which is Small at Large and at glenhowardsmallarchitect.com. Glen was one of the founders of the architecture school SCI-Arc and is probably best known for his visionary Biomorphic Biosphere Megastructure, which we talk about during the podcast as well many other projects and buildings such as the Downtown Troposphere and the Green Machine.

Green Machine 1977-1980

Green Machine 1977-1980

He was also the subject of a documentary by his daughter Lucia Small, My Father the Genius. During the conversation we discuss the state of “green” architecture, Small’s large proposals as well as his buildings in Nicaragua and much more.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Take a class with architect Glen Small

Image source: Small at Large

Visionary architect Glen Small doesn’t need a computer. He can take a bunch of scrap paper, cardboard and some glue and make amazing models. He’s also of the last generation of architects who know their way with pen, paper and watercolors.

Small was one of the early proponents of a style of architecture informed by natural forms and environmental concerns. He was one of the founding members of the architectural school SCI-Arc. And I’m hoping to have him on the podcast soon.

If you’re in the Southern California area you have a great opportunity to take an inexpensive, hands-on architectural modeling class with him at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree, CA.

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How to Design and Fabricate Homestead Projects

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I’m a horrible designer. My music degree (I have a master’s degree in un-listenable noise from UC San Diego), did not prepare me for the rigorous design and fabrication needs required for our two books and this blog. But, over the years, I’ve bugged our art, design and architecture friends for advice. Luckily, I’m also married to a talented artist (also with a UCSD degree–go Tritons!) who can provide 24 hour emergency art and art history advice.

I’ll use the process of putting together my Vegetable Prison as a way of showing what I’ve leaned from my brainy, art-damaged friends:

Go to lots of art shows, museums, take classes, go to furniture stores and watch strange movies
One of the things I love about living in a big city is the opportunity to experience lots of high and low culture. I drew on those experiences when it came time to come up with a cage for the veggies. Due to my fascination with out-of-favor 80’s postmodernism, I remembered Robert Venturi’s Franklin Court from an architectural history class I took as an undergrad:

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Impressed that I remembered a small detail from a slide show in a class I took 30 years ago, I Googled Franklin Court and showed it to Kelly. She countered with Wonder Woman’s airplane:

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I counter-riposted with the set from Lars Von Trier’s difficult Dogville, which takes place entirely on this bare-bones set:

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A trip to a high end furniture store yielded a contemporary example of this “outline” or “ghost” strategy, in this case a fire log holder:

Sketchiness
With these ideas in mind I proceeded to the next step: doodling. As tempting as it is to dive straight into Sketchup, it’s best to draw stuff out on paper first, otherwise you risk letting that 3d modeling program turn you into a “tool of the tool.” I’m not great at sketching things on paper but you don’t have to be a great artist to get some ideas down. And that’s the point. With paper and pencil you can draw lots of ideas out quickly.

For learning how to draw there is no better book than Drawing From on Right Side of the Brain. Once you go through that you’re ready for a fun book I’m currently making my way through called Sketching for Architecture + Interior Design.

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Modeling
Lastly it’s time to get those ideas in the free version of the 3d program Sketchup. You can learn Sketchup in an evening or two and it has really helped separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to my many bad ideas. With Sketchup you can rotate the object and really see if it works aesthetically. You can even place it in a photo and see it it works in context. It’s also cut down on waste as well as those “I forgot something” trips back to the hardware store. Once the object is rendered I can easily determine how much lumber and hardware I need.

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Where do you get your ideas both good and bad?