Apr 9 2024
Design Dispatch
Jeanne Gang makes a case for architectural grafting, the Swiss Riviera permeates Locke’s latest, and texting in lowercase.
“In a world inundated with mass-produced goods, collectible design offers a respite.”


Jeanne Gang Makes a
Case for Architectural Grafting

What’s Happening: The award-winning architect has dedicated decades of her firm’s work toward adaptive reuse, which she likens to horticultural grafting—connecting two separate plants into a thriving new structure—in a new book.

The Download: In her new book, The Art of Architectural Grafting, Jeanne Gang argues that architects must do more than pay lip service when it comes to sustainable design. Instead of flashy, surface-level interventions like adorning building exteriors with green walls, the acclaimed architect and Surface cover star urges her peers to implement more impactful carbon-reducing strategies such as forgoing the demolition of buildings and increasing existing buildings’ intensity of use. To demonstrate, she brings readers into her garden.

“Grafting” is a horticultural practice that involves connecting two separate plants—one old, one new—so they grow and function as one, producing a thriving plant with more useful and desirable qualities. In her book, Gang points to these principles as an example for architecture to follow, using some of her firm’s recent projects as a template. For instance, instead of tearing down the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts’ scattershot, inward-facing buildings, the firm devised a harmonious structure that united the campus and bestowed Little Rock with a cultural landmark. In New York, the long-awaited expansion of the American Museum of Natural History drastically improved poor circulation and wayfinding with a dramatic, cave-like atrium that swoops and bends through five levels of vertical space.

Not all grafting makes for good architecture, though. Gang warns of misguided interventions: Viennese firm Coop Himmelb(l)au’s insect-like Rooftop Remodeling Falkestrasse quite literally resembles a parasite perched within a traditional building. Successful grafting can be felt from within and beyond: she points to Rafael Moneo’s expansion of Madrid’s Prado Museum into the cloister of St. Jerónimo el Real; she praises peers like Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal, who have dedicated their careers to modifying dilapidated structures into affordable housing. Sprinkled throughout the book are original sketches, architectural diagrams, and photographs drawn from decades of Gang’s research into adaptive reuse.

In Their Own Words: “Tabula rasa thinking was once avant-garde, but the climate crisis shows us we need a new way forward,” Gang said in a statement. “With the concept of architectural grafting, I hope to open new pathways for designers to seize the moment and reorient architectural practice—not just out of environmental necessity, but to renew our role as cultural leaders who envision and create a different future. Grafting has enriched my own thinking and practice, and I hope it sparks new conversations and ideas for our field.”

Surface Says: In an industry that often employs technical jargon, Gang’s gardening metaphor is a breath of fresh air.


What Else Is Happening?

Check-Circle_2x Cj Hendry recreates the magic of Las Vegas pool parties with an installation in the desert.
Check-Circle_2x Costs to repair the Eiffel Tower are spiraling, prompting construction workers to strike.
Check-Circle_2x Saudi Arabia drastically scales back its ambition for The Line, Neom’s giant linear city.
Check-Circle_2x According to a new report, Yayoi Kusama was last year’s top-selling contemporary artist.
Check-Circle_2x The cost of a Québec City museum’s Jean-Paul Riopelle pavilion has nearly doubled.

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Seth Parker Woods Performs at a Subversive UPenn Show

Earlier this spring, Barbara Earl Thomas celebrated the opening of “The Illuminated Body” at Penn’s Arthur Ross Gallery. The show sees Thomas work across the mediums of printmaking, painting, and glass to immortalize Black cultural figures and her friends—among them, August Wilson, Seth Parker Woods, and Charles Johnson.

On April 11, Woods, a Grammy-nominated cellist, will further his artistic collaboration with Thomas and perform his album “Difficult Grace” at the university as a special guest of Arthur Ross Gallery. The exhibition and album share thematic links: “The Illuminated Body” showcases strength and hope in identity, and “Difficult Grace” explores a more personal side to these themes through the lens of Woods’ own reflections and the Great Migration.



The Aura of the Swiss Riviera Permeates Locke’s Latest

The European aparthotel Locke has a winning recipe, pairing elevated aesthetics and spacious rooms with energetic social spaces at an approachable price. For the brand’s latest offering, Locke am Platz, it turned to the London-based studio Sella Concept, which put a contemporary sheen on the majesty of the Swiss Riviera with elements of Brutalist architecture.

Located in Zurich’s lakeside Enge neighborhood, the 80-key property is layered in warm red and yellow hues, luxurious materials, and textile art. At Choupette, Cape Town chef Jaco Redelinghuys puts his stamp on the brasserie category, integrating Nordic and Japanese cooking techniques (pickling, fermenting) and locally sourced ingredients into the menu. Take a glance at the hand-painted mural by painter Magdalena Julia Gordon before heading to the sophisticated lounge wrapped in decorative timber for a nightcap.


Benni Allan strives to imbue feelings of poetry and elegance to the wide variety of interiors his London-based firm EBBA Architects takes on, from Miesian-inspired coffeehouses to the scenography for a major photography exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Though his projects are growing more ambitious in scale, a sculptural collection of clean-lined furniture he released with Beton Brut seems to tie everything together, acting as a pure expression of how he approaches architecture’s relationship with making—particularly crafting simple objects with a subtle touch.



Nicole Eisenman: What Happened

When: Until Sept. 22

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

What: The celebrated painter and sculptor is a veteran of the Whitney Biennial as well as a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow. At her first major survey, she employs exuberant and even humorous imagery to address dire themes of economic crisis, far-right populism, and climate emergency.


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Member Spotlight: Buster + Punch

Buster + Punch launched in 2013, creating desirable home fittings that elevated everyday hardware into must-have design pieces. Founder Massimo Buster Minale, an architect and custom motorcycle maker, identified a need for premium finishes and fittings for his own projects, eventually leading to the brand’s creation. A decade later, Buster + Punch’s masterful collections span lighting, furniture, accessories, hardware, and kitchen and bathroom designs.

Surface Says: For Buster + Punch, finishes aren’t an afterthought, they’re everything—and it shows. Just try finding a wider assortment of premium brass light switches, handles, faucets, and fixtures.



Today’s Attractive Distractions

The comic book that featured Superman’s first-ever appearance sells for $6 million.

Typing with capital letters can be viewed as a rite of passage, but holdouts remain.

There aren’t as many 24-hour dining options in America as there once were.

The Instagram-friendly tradition of tea leads cafes to update their spreads.


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