Can a Building Ever Be as Sexy as a Pair of Louboutins ?

Christian Louboutin opens his first ever UK retrospective today at the Design Museum in London. Although his global success and contribution to fashion is indubitable, it is his inspiring creative process that the retrospective focuses on. Deyan Sudjic, the museum’s director, describes him as “a consummate craftsman with an extraordinary eye for detail. A creative force of nature”.

At yesterday’s press conference, Louboutin explained that one of the difficulties of the exhibition was that the shoes were necessarily seen as objects rather than being viewed worn. Louboutin said that his designs start from a sketch but they are “never complete until the moment of seeing them on someone’s foot”. Nevertheless, his designs are so sexy and have become so iconic that they don’t even have to be worn to be “complete”. In our fetishistic culture, where images frequently substitute reality, a photo of a pair of Louboutins can be as sexy as someone wearing the red soled shoes.

Louboutin’s designs are indeed too sexy to have to serve a function or be practical but what about contemporary architectural designs, which must almost dogmatically follow function, can they ever be sexy? Can the design term “sexy”, which is so often used by architecture academics mainly to grab their audience’s attention, ever be accurately used for buildings?

Sexiness is ultimately related to gender and for a building to be sexy it must incorporate an abstract notion of gender. Traditionally female buildings are thought of as excessively decorated and curvy, whereas male buildings are more minimal and angular. Yet buildings that can clearly be attributed a gender are rarely sexy -it is too farfetched to suggest that the Gherkin is sexy even though it has a huge phallic shape.

Good examples of contemporary architecture that arouse our senses tend not have an apparent gender and that is the exact reason why architecture can be flashy, seductive and exiting to the senses but not sexy per se…

image via: businessinsider

image via: fasionextras

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Putting the Room on the Woman

image via: decobook

It is widely accepted that architecture and fashion are interrelated in numerous ways. Fashion designers such as Issae Miyaki, Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto have been inspired by architecture and created avant-garde collections, which challenged the ideas of fashion, femininity and beauty. Their “architectural” collections are masculine and minimalist as they are usually lacking any decorative elements. Their unconventionality is primarily attributed to the form and structure of the clothes.

Contrary, Mary Katrantzou’s colourful collections are fundamentally defined by her graphics, which are digitally printed onto the fabrics. She uses trompe l’oeil effects that make parts of her prints look very realistic. The way that everyday objects such as a lampshade or a typewriter are juxtaposed with abstract shapes, unveils a sense of order and a well hidden symmetry, which could be attributed to Katrantzou’s architectural academic background.

Katrantzou has been inspired by images of old issues of the Architectural Digest and the World of Interiors magazines. Her visually spectacular collections do not challenge the ideas of femininity and beauty. Katrantzou challenges content and context. She has created dresses that have prints of room interiors, imposing the context on her clothes. As Katrantzou says, she wishes “to put the room on the woman rather than the woman in the room”.

Her collections point towards what architecture should be more occupied with: provoking its content and context. Hopefully architects will be inspired by this fashion designer and challenge content and context as playfully as Katrantzou does.

image via: exshoesme

image via: exshoesme

image via: exshoesme

image via: fivefivefabulous

The Architecture of Cupcakes

image via: mikeroweworks

Ever since that Sex and the City scene aired, where Carrie and Miranda were having a cupcake outside Magnolia’s Bakery in New York, the cupcake trend has become so big that it has established a whole industry. Interestingly, cupcakes do not owe their massive popularity to the way they taste, which is exactly the same as a piece of cake. Ultimately, the cupcakes’ success is due to their architecture.

Cupcakes are the culinary equivalent of very photogenic contemporary buildings, whose design is defined solely by their flashy façades. Eye catching objects whose content is irrelevant as their purpose is solely to create an impulsive impression. A cupcake’s wrapping hides the actual cake that is its mundane looking foundation, leaving only its flamboyant frosting to be visible. What’s underneath does not matter, nor does the relationship between the top and bottom. Furthermore, the cake-frosting ratio is non proportional, making cupcakes a bit impractical to eat. Form is definitely over function.

Although a cupcake’s original context was a suburban house party for children, it is no coincidence that the cupcake craze started in New York and it developed primarily in urban areas. The frequently non-intimate scale of a metropolis contradicts that of a cupcake, whose scale indicates that it is personal and not for sharing. A cupcake is individualistic and comforting; you can have your cake and eat it too.

Moreover, the trend started to take off around the same time that the economy started to fall. Big splurges were substituted with little indulgences and the cupcake is one filled with nostalgia. Quite appropriately, the world’s first cupcake ATM was recently built in California; instead of money it directly delivers a little piece of culinary indulgence, briefly taking us back to our childhood, when everything seemed less complicated, innocent and in technicolour…

Carrie and Miranda having a cupcake outsite Magnolia’s Bakery in NY

Cupcakes for architects. Image via: TheCakingGirl

The Anatomy of a Cupcake. Image via: thesweetestoccasion
Image via: thesweetestoccasion

Constructing a Cupcake. Image via: architette

image via: archinect

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