Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Architect Artist: Meet Alice Franklin

Meet Alice Franklin, architect, artist, meditator, creator of beautiful things. Alice explores the fascinating intersection of precision and passion. Alice is largely unknown and I have been a fan of her work for many years.

Shape, color, and surprise are all elements that she uses in her designs. That is probably why I like her work so much. I am especially fond of the three dimensional pieces that draw you into a unique world.

I interviewed Alice Franklin last week to learn more about her inspirations and her work. 

Q - How would you describe your creative work?

I think of my work as an attempt to describe energy and nature. The patterns are a description of the movement and flow of energies as elements interact in the piece and with the viewer. Most people can relate to these patterns as mandalas which can induce a meditative quality for the viewer, but they aren’t confined to a flat surface since I am always interested in structure. I experience and see energy in space and I try to create that experience for others. My other creative work is usually done in fiber and is functional and recycled. The structure of the design, honoring the integrity of the material, and providing an option of uses are what interest me.

Q - What is your background/formal training?

I have an undergraduate and masters graduate degree in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. In addition, I have over 25 years of experience in Taoist/Buddhist meditation practice and learning.

Q -  What are the biggest influences on your work?

For design, my first big influence was a professor who taught me well how to respect and understand the nature of whatever material I am handling. This professor was a design teacher, not so much an architecture professor, so what I learned was how to design, whatever the program, whatever the scale or materials. After that, my biggest influence is my spiritual Teacher. A path of self-discovery is always an influence on an artist.

Q.  Who are your three favorite artists at the moment and why?

My favorite artist these past few years is Lee Bontecou. She was a prominent artist in NYC from the late 50’s to around 1970. She was part of the group whose work was shown regularly at Leo Castelli gallery. For 25 years or so, she retreated to her farm in rural Pennsylvania and worked on her own without the influence or knowledge of the “art world.” She had a major retrospective in 2003 which is when I first came to know her work. I am inspired both by her story, her faith in herself and her work, as well as the work itself.

Recently, I was blown away by Theo Jansen who is a Dutch artist who creates Strandbeests from plastic pipe. These “living” beasts walk on the beach, propelled by the wind to kick up sand to help preserve the beaches and dunes in Holland. They are so magical. The integration of a need-- the ecology-- the design and the art are so amazing to me.

I also love Mike and Doug Starn who built the bamboo structure on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Big Bambu. They have a huge warehouse studio somewhere along the Hudson River Valley. They have created other bamboo structures and filmed the evolution of the construction. I was so impressed with the Big Bambu-- not just as a structure, but as a group building project, as an organic form and by the use of the materials.

Q -  What are your three favorite buildings in the world and why?

I can’t think of favorite buildings. I have always loved the work of Antonio Gaudi, and I think my favorite building just for the experience of it is the Getty Museum. Richard Meier isn’t a favorite, but the setting, the approach, the details, and the relationship with the landscape make this building a wonderful experience.

My favorite buildings these days tend to include some clever use of alternative energy/sustainability, or clever use of materials and construction, often hand built. My area of focus in school in the early 70’s was alternative energy, and I truly thought my expertise would be in demand when I went out to the work force. Sadly, we were too far ahead and it has taken 30+ years for these ideas to be discussed again. I always cheer when I see something new and interesting.

Q.  What are a few of your favorite things?

I love nesting things, and I love tiny things. I love my iPad. I love interesting clothing design-- clever use of the fabric, the joinery, and other details.

Q - What is your philosophy of life in 12 words or less?

Philosophy of life? Kidding?
I am here to cultivate my self in order to transcend the self.

Q -  Where can we find you on the web?   

I try not to be on the web. Before my website, you could google me and come up with nothing. I loved that. But now I have my website:

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