Site Visit / Oliver Ranch

The starting point for the Oliver Ranch tour

The starting point for the Oliver Ranch tour

It’s no secret we love art, but what you may not know is that we especially love installation art. Earlier this year we had the privilege of visiting Oliver Ranch in Sonoma County, located about a 1.5 hour drive north of San Francisco (sans traffic).

Steve Oliver of the Oliver and Company construction firm and former president of the board at SFMOMA commissioned the first piece for his ranch in 1985. Since then, the stunning 100-acre property has seen 17 more installations built. Fun fact: Oliver Ranch was the first site-specific sculpture park of its kind preceding the more well-known Storm King Art Center in New York.

Now for a few of our favorite installations from the tour:

Roger Berry’s  Darwin  made of corten steel, and a feat of engineering

Roger Berry’s Darwin made of corten steel, and a feat of engineering

Terry Allen’s  humannature , a pair of delightful bronze sculptures

Terry Allen’s humannature, a pair of delightful bronze sculptures

Robert Stackhouse’s  Russion River Bones  replicates the land below

Robert Stackhouse’s Russion River Bones replicates the land below

Ann Hamilton’s cast concrete performance tower, our personal favorite

Ann Hamilton’s cast concrete performance tower, our personal favorite

We were lucky to have Mr. Oliver as our tour guide who shared the crazy stories and feats of engineering behind the art, including being investigated by the CIA! You can sign up for your own tour whose proceeds go directly to the non-profit organizations sponsoring the tour.

What are some of your favorite site-specific art installations? Share with us in the comments below!

All photography by Christine Lin.

Site Visit / Hanna House or Hexagons on Steroids

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Despite being an interior designer, I still get most of my inspiration from architecture, and I'm most impressed with designers who excel at both architecture and interiors. The prolific Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is probably considered the ultimate architect/interior designer as he custom designed all of his interiors and furnishings in addition to the architecture. Recently, his Hanna House located in Stanford, CA, was reopened to visitors, and I took a Saturday morning last month to take a tour.

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Designed in 1936 for Stanford Professor Paul Hanna, this was Wright’s first experiment with the honeycomb shape. There are zero right angles in this home - even the custom furniture and fireplaces follow the hexagon design! This also meant that the construction back in the first half of the 20th century had to be insanely accurate - one skewed angle, and the whole pattern is off. All the floors are made of concrete, and at the time, Wright wanted to install radiant heating into the floors, but the clients declined due to concerns about maintenance. Another design detail that was way beyond Wright’s time is the speakers located throughout the entire home that are hidden behind fabric panels - you don't even notice them.

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Both cement and hex tiles are having a heyday right now, but why not combine the two? My favorite source for cement hex tiles is local designer favorite Cle´ Tile, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. These tiles will develop a gorgeous patina over time and are a great way to add color to a small space. The Hanna House is probably too much hex and concrete for most people, but a kitchen or bath floor might be the perfect amount. 

 

 

Site Visit / George Nakashima Studio

The Arts Building at the George Nakashima Studios in New Hope, PA

The Arts Building at the George Nakashima Studios in New Hope, PA

The first George Nakashima (1905-1990) piece I ever laid eyes on was a beautiful one-of-a-kind bench. This was about 15 years ago in some long forgotten museum, but the image of the bench has stayed with me since. Nakashima’s method of highlighting the natural beauty of wood and embracing its imperfections has influenced several generations of furniture designers. The “natural edge” wood tables you commonly see today are a part of his legacy.

Born in Spokane, Washington, Nakashima studied architecture at the University of Washington and MIT. He traveled to France, North Africa, and Japan for several years, and began making furniture for the first time in 1937 for a dormitory project in India. He returned to the United States in 1940, and was interned in 1942 during the Second World War. It was here where he apprenticed with a Japanese carpenter, learned traditional Japanese techniques, and honed his craft.

In 1943, Nakashima was released from the internment camp and moved to New Hope, PA to work on a farm. Eventually he saved enough money to buy land nearby, build a house and studio, and start his renowned workshop, which is now run by his daughter Mira. I recently visited his workshop in Pennsylvania to gain an inspiring look into his world.

It requires a genuine fight to produce one well designed object of relatively permanent value. 
— George Nakashima
A collection of Nakashima furniture

A collection of Nakashima furniture

A peek into the Chair Shop

A peek into the Chair Shop

Inside the Arts Building, an art gallery space on the grounds

Inside the Arts Building, an art gallery space on the grounds

A sitting area in the Arts Building

A sitting area in the Arts Building

Site Visit / Louis Kahn's Salk Institute

The money shot.

The money shot.

I first heard about Louis Kahn back in 2000, my first year of architecture school. Soon after, he became one of my favorite architects for his use of concrete and wood and the monumentality and sculpture-like quality of his designs. Sixteen years later, I finally made the pilgrimage to his famous Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. 

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies was established in the 1960s by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. The complex of research buildings is punctuated by multiple 40'x25' light wells that extend to the basement level to bring natural light into the labs. Lining the travertine plaza are offices for the researchers, all with views of the Pacific Ocean. Louis Kahn asked famous Mexican architect Luis Barragan for his input on the plaza, and Barragan told him to add "not one plant or flower, but a single water feature" instead. 

You can book architecture tours through the Salk Institute website. If you can't make it to La Jolla, CA anytime soon, I took plenty of photographs for you to enjoy:

A grove of trees outside the complex of research buildings.

A grove of trees outside the complex of research buildings.

Corridor for the research labs.

Corridor for the research labs.

Detail shot of the elegant water drainage.

Detail shot of the elegant water drainage.

Kahn played with a lot of geometric shapes throughout the buildings.

Kahn played with a lot of geometric shapes throughout the buildings.

Symmetry is a theme.

Symmetry is a theme.

Teak was left untreated to weather with age and the elements.

Teak was left untreated to weather with age and the elements.

Flanking the plaza.

Flanking the plaza.

More recently replaced teak can be seen on the building to the left.

More recently replaced teak can be seen on the building to the left.

The water feature in the plaza ends in a beautiful aqua lap pool.

The water feature in the plaza ends in a beautiful aqua lap pool.

Window detail.

Window detail.

The beautiful stairwells.

The beautiful stairwells.

More research labs with the light wells to the right.

More research labs with the light wells to the right.

Below the pool is a waterfall and lounge area facing the Pacific Ocean.

Below the pool is a waterfall and lounge area facing the Pacific Ocean.

Love the sculptural quality of the geometric seating.

Love the sculptural quality of the geometric seating.

All photos by Christine Lin.