We are our stories, our collective dreamings — nor are we alone, as our modernist, isolationist culture of self-destructive madness would like us to believe. Our imaginings, the thought forms we send out as a species, do matter — on a level that may not be physically perceivable, but it nonetheless exists. Thought is power, we are power, we are what we dream. We dream-create social structures, ways of living, interacting, expressing.
Structure, not content, determines how energy will flow, where it will be directed, what new forms and structures it will create. Hierarchical structures, no matter what principles they espouse, will breed new hierarchical structures that embody ‘power-over’ not ‘power-from-within’. [..]
Culture is a set of stories we tell each other again and again. These stories have shapes. The shapes of the stories — not the characters, the setting, the details — shape our expectations and our actions.
— Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark
One of the first things that struck me about Montréal when I first moved here were the spiral staircases. Winding, weaving, twisting upon themselves, these iron or wood stairways are treacherous in winter and yet add an element of elegance and fantasy to the city’s streets, while allowing for a greater density of residential occupation. In her bilingual book, Québec, I love you/Je t’aime, illustrator Miyuki Tanobe recounts her delight at seeing a wedding party with a young bride and groom joyfully ascending the graceful curve of a staircase.
This local architectural creature is superimposed on another spiral formation — that of DNA, often called the “blueprint for life;” in reality, it is the only fundamental ‘species’ that exists. More over, DNA’s incredible ability to store information has recently been noted by science (700 terabytes in a single gram at last count).
In this piece, the city’s celebrated spiral staircases are re-imagined as strands of transforming, intertwined DNA, marching into some evolutionary event horizon, accentuated by the intelligent gaze of the eyes lining the railing, floating like a jellyfish manifold churning in the vast ocean of time.
Unseen and microscopic, this part of the fungi organism spreads as a branching network underground, making up what could be the largest organism in the world, according to mycologist Paul Stamets in his book Mycelium Running.
Another digital collage, part of a page done for a ‘zine I put together for Expozine 2011. You can see the rest of the PDF here.
Named after my mother-in-law’s initial reaction (“Oh! It’s an anemone!”), this illustration depicts a girl whose dress is indistinct from the body of a jellyfish, while her hair transforms into a school of fish. No, it’s not a mutant — this drawing is inspired by my fascination with patterns and the ever-changing flows that exist in nature, of which humans are neither above nor outside of. We are wholly a part of nature’s miraculous continuum.
Print available on Etsy.
Inspired by a quote from one of my books on Ayurveda, the ancient system of Indian medicine, nutrition and well-being:
Evolution is the manifestation of latent potentials… another way of saying this is that consciousness exists in all forms of life. It is the very basis of creation, the power of evolution. Life, creation and evolution are the stages in the unfoldment of consciousness. There is nothing in existence that is unfeeling, nothing that is profane or unspiritual, nothing without a unique value in the cosmos. Life is relational, interdependent, interconnective, a system of mutual nourishment and care, not only physically, but also psychologically and spiritually. [..]
The hummingbird is seen as a symbol of resurrection, beauty and magic. Set against a mandala or wheel design of bursting colours, a bird-creature dressed in white has her feet immersed in a pool of water (a symbol for the subconscious), while geometric lines of energy seem to emanate from its depths.
A drawing with pencil crayon, inspired by the Shipibo of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. The patterns in the background — nurturing by the waters of the unconscious — are adapted by Shipibo designs, which are inextricably linked to sound.
What if we could paint music?
From Ayahuasca: Communion with the Infinite:
One of the challenges for the Western mind is to acknowledge the relationship between the Shipibo designs and music. For the Shipibo can “listen” to a song or chant by looking at the designs, and inversely paint a pattern by listening to a song or music.
Visual musings on the mathematical and existential matter of infinity: like love, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Table of diagrams on right from Don Hatch’s amazing website on tessellations and other sundries.
Schlafli and Wythoff symbols, enough equations to boondoggle the mind. Wikipedia entry on uniform tilings on the hyperbolic plane:
There are an infinite number of uniform tilings on the hyperbolic plane based on the (p q r) where 1/p + 1/q + 1/r < 1, where p,q,r are each orders of reflection symmetry at three points of the fundamental domain triangle – the symmetry group is a hyperbolic triangle group.
In Hatch’s diagrams on the right, you can see the various tessellations (as depicted on a Poincaré disk surface) transform as different values are inputted — up to infinity in the bottom right corner.
Print available on Etsy.
A tweaked photo-collage created with Photoshop.
Another ink illustration in the “Know Hope” series and inspired by my urban explorations of Montréal. At the intersection of Villeneuve and Avenue du Parc stand two carpet stores facing each other (one has since gone out of business — though Parc Avenue has no less than half a dozen of carpet stores within these few blocks). Sumptuous carpets hang tall in their grand windows, and in the imaginings of my mind’s eye I saw the carpets burst free, transforming into Escher-like tessellations.
Print available on Etsy.
This is a tri-fold design competition poster done for a proposed project located at 47-50 West Street in downtown New York City, showing site plan, floor plans, building section, facade rendering, window details and elevations.
(with Fox & Fowle Architects)
Another fanciful ink illustration for Spacing Montréal, and part of the “Know Hope” series. Inspired by a bike ride down one of the myriad laneways found in Montréal’s Mile End neighbourhood, where quaint structures can be found (see image below left), I encountered a shortened door — seemingly made for people of gnomish proportions — and fronted none too coincedentally by a spray-painted sign (below right).
Print available on Etsy.
Pen & ink illustration for urban living blog Spacing Montréal:
The ubiquitous mansard roofs* of Montréal have always fascinated me. From the monumental to the ordinary vernacular, these distinctive roofs inspired by the once-popular Second Empire** style give the built surface a tactile depth to the multi-layered character of the city. Some stand rotting on dilapidated corners, now only silent witnesses to better times. On other streets they are painted in proud colours, basking in the rosy light of another setting sun, somehow opening onto other dimensions of imaginations about the city.
Created in Adobe Photoshop and meant to be read as one long strip, “Metamorph” depicts the birth, life and death of the fictional Jessica Papillon, told in digital comics style.
In the summer of 2009, I attended a treehouse-building workshop held by Treehouse Workshop, a Seattle-based company that builds gorgeous treehouses, run by Peter Nelson and partners. The workshop was held at Finnriver Farm, where over the course of the weekend participants learned the basics of selecting trees, design and structural considerations, which tools to use, and using ropes, harnesses and other gear to climb up and down trees and to rig components necessary for the building process.
Turning a ho-hum balcony into a little oasis of blooming green (or at least starting to!) one July weekend in 2009. For this one-day workshop / permaculture blitz, we made self-watering containers, transplanted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, one banana and herbs, made a climbing wall, and started a rainwater collection system, made out of recycled election boards (before we got rained in.)
Check out this video of the rainwater harvester in action.
This was a project partnership with Architecture For Humanity and the Pitchandikulam Bio-Resource Centre of Auroville, India, for a community building for three local Women’s Self-Help Groups (WSHGs), located in Nadukuppam Village, Tamil Nadu, India.
A design competition entry for a new landmark building on Beijing’s Financial Street. By creating a transparent skin of glazing hung on a dynamic framework, the activities of the building during both day and night take place within the play of these two material elements.
(with Bregman + Hamann Architects)
A high-end, high-tech second residence for a family of five, renovated out of an existing cedar shingle house situated in the East Hamptons, New York. Use of salvaged and eco-friendly materials (30% slag concrete foundation, recycled gypsum board, FSC-certified wood, bio-based insulation, energy-efficient glass) and non-toxic finishes. Closed-loop geothermal wells utilize the earth’s stable “heat bank” to heat and cool the house.
A sustainably-designed mixed-use residential & commercial development at the corner of Lexington and East 86th Street in New York City, with units ranging from two- to five-bedrooms. The façade is conceived as a “living” surface, with sliding shades reflecting changing patterns of use throughout the day.
Situated on the Grand Canal of Venice, Italy, the façade of The Peggy Guggenheim Museum re-conceived as occupiable bridge that visually and spatially connects the water to the museum’s roof and sculpture gardens, and incorporates the urban fabric and view of Venice and its famous Canal as part of the museum’s exhibit.