Design Line: Haiti SOFTHOUSE Project

20 Feb

photo courtesy of Haiti SOFTHOUSEgroup, LLC

The Haiti Softhouse project launched a pilot program to create four housing units in Haiti by the summer time. Deutsche Bank has granted $50,000 to mass produce these light, modular homes. They utilize steel frames and durable fabric exteriors, all designed to stand strong against natural disasters, including tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.

TheSOFTHOUSE group is working with The Rural Haiti Project, to secure a location in Jacmel, Haiti, to create the first SOFTHOUSE village. Ultimately, the goal is to transfer design and fabrication expertise to local manufacturers, thus stimulating the Haitian economy, as well as providing a transitional solution. SOFTHOUSE communities buy time to envision long-term rebuilding strategies. As long as people remain displaced from their original homes, there’s powerful potential here. The structures can be mounted directly into the ground with high-strength earth anchors in a variety of soil conditions. Another option is to anchor them onto a prefab concrete base structured from concrete rubble leftover from the earthquake. Both durability and sustainability are of grave importance, since much of the 2010 earthquake’s deadly damage was caused by the weak structures of buildings and homes.

“We are trying to get the pilot off the ground,” said Mr. Rodney Leon, project manager of Haiti SOFTHOUSE. “If we can get them made in the thousands, then they can be manufactured cheaply for a couple thousand dollars each.”

Fort Greene’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) presented project plan mockups of these transitional shelters in the “Le Projet Nouveau” exhibit, which features the work of artists re-imagining Haiti a year after the earthquake.

Re-Imaging Haiti will be at MoCADA through May 8.

A video with Mr. Leon discussing the need for focusing on solutions to the crisis of shelter in Haiti:

Below: The project plan outlines the tools, time, and people power needed. It’s as simple as having the softhouse, 1 adjustable wrench, 2 socket wrenches, a 10-ft ladder and a 6-ft ladder, and four volunteers.



Design Line: Strawser & Smith, Inc.

17 Feb
This is one of my favorite off-the-subway detours in Brooklyn.
Inevitably, when you step inside this showroom, you immediately start envisioning a dream house fitted with strong, sturdy, and beautiful things. Strawser and Smith present an impressive collection of handcrafted pieces reminiscent of  industrial factories  It’s like a mid-century museum, featuring a motley of perfectly proportioned tables and benches constructed of reclaimed wood and steel, 1960s pecan-hued leather armchairs, and delicious collectibles, such as old subway marker signs. The giant industrial relics are re-purposed old factory and machine parts re-fashioned into functional design for home, office, and loft. Cleveland Art, masters of the trade, are worth checking out, especially for you L.A. folk.  Check their website here.

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As you walk into the store, there’s an almost macabre sensation, maybe it’s just anatomical drawings or the vibe of  mid-century medical lamps or the cast aluminum U.S. Navy-commissioned barber chair. There’s also an old school bleacher bench recalling football games in the Midwest

The 1920s wall-sized world and survey maps accent the earthy and steel tones of the furniture.

Note: Between February 9-18, Strawser & Smith will only be open by appointment only!

Don’t forget to look around at the house itself! High ceilings are stationed on earth by roughhewn wooden pillars, and what seems like exposed brick for miles. I love going in when it’s afternoon, beautifully-lit, west-facing, receiving gorgeous afternoon sun.

Tarnished elegance nailed on its head!

All photos courtesy of the Strawser & Smith website. For more information, check their FACEBOOK.



Esperanza Spalding’s Ponta de Areia

15 Feb

Bright new path forward for Best New Artist winner Ezperanza Spalding! Hexes on all the hormonally surplussed tweens hacking into her account to avenge the loser, J. Bieber.  This lady’s here to S-T-A-Y…

new horizons for miss spalding

Ponta de Areia, from the eponymous album, Ezperanza:

Daily Rotation: Sufjan Stevens

15 Feb

photo by Marzuki Stevens


Besides being delicious, Sufjan Stevens’ something of a psychic. His biggest show last year? Arcade Fire, deserved Grammy winner of Album of the Year. Said the man during a Pitchfork Media interview:

Pitchfork: Do you ever go to any big shows at places like Madison Square Garden?

Sufjan Stevens: Almost never. I wanted to see Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber because I wanted to see what the high-production thing really looks and feels like. But I think the biggest show I went to last year was Arcade Fire at Madison Square Garden, and there wasn’t really that much production to it. They have enough energy onstage that they don’t really need all that.

And then, he continues, a man after my own heart, paying homage to the master beat maker and body shaker, Mr. David Byrne:

Sufjan Stevens: David Byrne is the foundation on which a lot of us are building our careers because Talking Heads were all about content but without explanation or justification. There’s obviously meaning in a lot of Talking Heads songs, but he wasn’t holding himself accountable, and he let the music, beats, body, and dance explain the songs for him. I think a lot of music– including my show– is based on that now.

Check the full interview here.

Check his videos below:

From the record Illinois:


And the latest electronic wonderland, The Age of Adz:

Brooklyn Bodega #2: Talkin’ Shop w/ Toro Y MOI

6 Apr

Toro Y Moi is the sensational solo project of Chaz Bundick, 23 year-old Columbia, South Carolina native. Classification-wise, his music “belongs” to a genre dubbed Glo-Fi (or Chillwave, as coined by Hipster Runoff, but I rather prefer Glo-Fi, for the sun-kissed warmth and haziness it implies). The genre is known for homegrown sampling, looping, synth layers and electro drumbeats.

Hypnotic compositions display Bundick’s melodic, unassuming voice on his debut record Causers of This(Carpark Records, February 2010). His tastes are multifarious.  He evokes Dilla  (on the tracks “Freak Love’”or “Fax Shadow”) or New Edition (on “Causers of This” or “Low Shoulders”), just as he does Daft Punk or The Specials (“Imprint After”). He listens to 80′s & 90′s pop music as a reference point, and indeed his music embraces classic pop structures. That’s what it is about his sound–he feels familiar, but never-before-heard at the same time. Like you’ve discovered something in a thrift shop, used ‘n worn, timeless ‘n classic, yet completely brand new.

Each track beckons us to create our own blurred images of the past. Backseat of your parents’ car watching the world outside the window. Languid Coney Island afternoon captured on a Super 8 camera. Polaroids, vinyl scratching, nonsensical projector slides, vibin’ with a pretty girl at a dimly lit house party. Lighting firecrackers with your homeboys, as Chaz does in the video for “Talamak” :

Toro y Moi “Talamak” music video from Jon Casey on Vimeo.

After Chaz sent some mp3′s to music blogs, his rendition of Glo-Fi started buzz on notable music sites Pitchfork and Gorilla vs. Bear. And things have taken off for him. He’s signed to Carpark Records for a two-album deal, the second will be released later this year.

The handsome, soft-spoken cool-rider  was chosen as one of Paper Magazine’s “Beautiful People 2010.” He’s on tour (currently with the New Zealand’s Ruby Suns), but was on hiatus after he played a show at Brooklyn Bowl on March 26, where unfortunately, his laptop, passport, and even some clothes were stolen. He’s since replaced his computer and started his tour in the Midwest. Some of the tracks weren’t salvageable, but when asked about it, Chaz says, with that same chill vibe you’ll hear in his music, “I’ve started rewriting.”

In an interview with Nandini Nessa of Brooklyn Bodega, Toro Y Moi  discusses Hiphop, growing up mixed race, and how not to get your stuff jacked in Brooklyn.

BB: What do you want your music to invoke in the listener?

TYM: A sense of space. I want people to feel like its a big sound, but its a personal kind of thing. There’s textures in the sounds, which i appreciate when i listen to headphones or big speakers.

BB: I hear elements of Dilla, some new jack swing–it’s evident you’ve got a love for R&B and Hip Hop. Which Hip Hop artists have influenced your sound?

TYM: A lot of the Stone’s Throw crew.  They’ve been so with it for so long,  before anyone caught onto what they were doing.  When i found out about them they weren’t that huge yet. Dilla, Aloe Blacc…people like that and definitely some current stuff– like Drake.  It’s so hard to not like Drake… (we laugh) Young Money is doing a good job. I listen to a lot of pop music, mostly. Now, i listen to a lot of stuff that came out of the 90′s & 80′s.

BB: Do you rap?

TYM: No, I never really tried to rap–

BBTrey Songz or Tupac?

TYM: I would definitely sound more like Trey Songz than Tupac. I’m not that big a guy…

BB: How tall are you?

TYM: 5’7″

BB: Me too.

[We laugh]

BB: Currently you’re in Columbia, South Carolina. Despite the [post-Brooklyn Bowl computer theft], any plans on moving to Brooklyn after your lease runs out in August?

TYM: I have friends in cool places, and I don’t know where I want to go . West Coast or East Coast–I’m definitely more keen on the East Coast.  Probably gonna be some major city, or some college town. Nothing too random. New York, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles.

BB: How have your folks influenced you? Do they like your music?

TYM: Yeah, they do. I turned my mom on to some music blogs, and she posted something that Hipster Runoff had posted on her MySpace, and I was like, I didn’t even send you that! My dad was from a small black town in Virginia, and we’d always go back there, have soul food Sunday dinner.  At my mom’s house we’d have Filipino style dinner, lumpia, siopao. When you’re Asian–this isn’t so PC–you can go the “white way”, or the “black way.” You always get picked on in school when you’re brown and you like “white people music.” People are so closed-minded about that kind of stuff, but people that try to go both ways are the ones that break the stereotypes.

BB: Your next album with Carpark records is slated for release later this year. What can you tell us about the tracks on this record? How’s it different from Causers of This?

TYM: Definitely going be more live instruments. Some of the songs i was working on were from samples on the old computer. I’ve started rewriting since I lost a good amount of stuff. I saved a lot of the sessions, the recording sessions.  I had the most recent files backed up.

BB: What’re you gonna do to prevent more of a stuff getting jacked on your next trip to Brooklyn?

TYM: Never put your stuff in a Volkswagen Golf, ’cause you can break into those cars really easy by just rigging the windows down with a crowbar.  And I’m going to keep the stuff locked in the trunk.

BB: You mentioned in an interview at SXSW: Your vices are chocolate & girls. What kind of chocolate and what kind of girls?

TYM: I like um…all girls. Let’s see…chocolate, definitely dark chocolate 50% or higher, almonds sometimes. Girls, hm, I dunno. ( laughs) They’re all good.

CHECK OUT TORO Y MOI (Opening for Caribou) IN BROOKLYN ON MAY 7 @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg.

Brooklyn Bodega #1: Little Dragon Performance Review

29 Mar

Hi Bright Liners,

I’ve started writing articles for Brooklyn Bodega, a website devoted to exploring Hiphop, art, culture, politics, as well as curating the annual Brooklyn Hiphop Festival. There’s so many forces in the conversation.  I’d like to bring to the table the  influences different genres of indie music have on Hiphop, interviews with artists and thinkers and creators who can incite dialog and shifts in the status quo.

Whew. For now, here’s a start. Little Dragon performed at The Music Hall of Williamsburg and Mercury Lounge last week, and I wrote a performance review for Brooklyn Bodega:

And check out Little Dragon’s video for “Swimming” off their new album Machine Dreams. Yukimi Nagano’s father, Yusuke Nagano created the vid!

photo courtesy of Matthew Drazin,

Daily Rotation(s): Toro y Moi

11 Mar

Not quite done with the lo-fi Daily Rotations for today’s installment. It’s this here warm spell in NYC. It’s a love jones I won’t name yet.

It’s Toro y Moi.

Musician Chaz Bundick’s project, by way of South Carolina-

Toro y Moi’s chill wave grooves are all about atmosphere, good times, kickin’ it, Spring Awakening, and shedding layers for smoother skin.

He’ll grace the Brooklyn Bowl stage with New Zealand psychedelic indie rockers The Ruby Suns on March 26th, 2010. Tickets are $5! Pretty voices, cheap tickets.

The video for “Blessa”:

and the boys playing with rockets in the video for “Talamak”: