Grafik180: CityArt by Publique Living

Grafik180: CityArt by Publique Living

By Aaron Britt
Over the recent holidays I was out for a ramble here in San Francisco and happened into the shop ATYS. There I saw a handful of excellent prints from SF–based design firm Publique Living. The series, called Grafik 180 CityArt, is by the firm's principal, Lian Ng. In an effort to share what I was so happy to learn about, I decided to put a few questions to him.
How did this series of prints start, and can we expect to see more of them?

Jeanne Gang, of the firm Studio Gang, gets the Publique treatment here as her newly-completed Aqua Tower in Chicago is represented by it's undulating facade. At 82 floors, it's the tallest skyscraper ever designed by a woman.

This series of artwork started in 2007 was inspired by the distinctive architectural element of buildings around the world. Whether it’s a pattern or shape that distinguishes these buildings, it is the first layer of visual iconic recognition. The cities in which these buildings reside are called out by their airport code instead of their names, creating another layer of graphic distinction. The codes also function as a beacon of destination, proclaiming the cities' association with inspiring architecture.

There are now 28 in the series with more to come. I don't think there's a limit as to how many of these prints we’ll do as there are many more inspiring buildings popping up constantly. I'm working on a few at the moment and will reveal them once they are ready. There are two of us working on the designs separately, each taking on a building we like.

The other designer is Jean Orlebeke. She designed the AVN, BOS, CDG, FRA, IAD (Swiss), JFK, LAX (Metro), MIA, ORD (Marina) and SFO (deYoung). I designed the rest.

Mansilla + Tuñón's Auditorium (Spain) in Leon here.

Why did you choose to identify each city by its airport code?

Storey Hall at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne is one of my favorites of the series. Ashton Raggatt McDougall have done a number of influential buildings around Melbourne, including this one.

The cities are identified by their airport codes because that's the visual code for the port of entry for anyone flying into that city; it's also a standardized three-letter code that has been established. Some of the buildings featured are not in a major city with a recognizable airport code, so the main airport for that destination is used instead of a smaller airport, i.e. FRA—that building is in Biberach—but the main port of entry is Frankfurt. NRT is not even in Tokyo, but in Chiba, and the building is in Tama City, Tokyo. There's no airport in Tokyo itself.

Another Chicago staple, perhaps the icon that the Aqua Tower will become, is Bertrand Goldberg's Marina Tower.

How did you decide on which buildings to choose for each city? In many cases you've opted for known buildings, but hardly icons of their cities.

Flashy LA style is represented here by the Metro Hollywood Transit Village by Kanner Architects.

Some buildings are iconic to the cities they represent—like the Marina Towers in Chicago, while others are a bit more obscure. The idea is to bring people's attention to those buildings or their architectural patterns, to create a sense of discovery of those hidden gems.

PTW Architects and Arup collaborated on Beijing's National Aquatic Center, a hit at the recent Olympics.

Each architectural graphic is a kind of abstraction, whether it leaps off of the color, or texture, or form. How did you decide what your point of departure would be for each building?

Local hero Stanley Saitowitz + Natoma Architects did the parking structure at UCSF here in San Francisco. Not an icon of Golden Gate caliber, but a distinctive choice to represent a largely Victorian city.

It's about looking at buildings with fresh eyes, finding an element to create a pattern or an arresting visual. There's really no set elements from a building that is used for the visual—some are from the skin, some from the ceiling and some from the internal walls.

ICN is Seoul's airport code, even if the airport is in Incheon. Here Publique Living lionized the Loop House by NL Archiects and YO2.

Have you been to each of the buildings for which you made posters?

Here we get a spiraling view of Toyo Ito and Arup's Serpentine Gallery in London.

Not all of them, but I would love to!

The Cor Building in Miami by Chad Oppenheim is defined by it's groovy circular perforations on the facade.

You must sell loads of them online? Are they in many brick-and-mortar shops?

I love the nearly baroque details of this poster depicting Buckminster Fuller's Epcot's Spaceship Earch in Orlando, Florida.

They are sold online as well as in a few stores. ATYS in San Francisco and Style Garage in Toronto carry the widest selection.

Seattlites undoubtedly will want to bask in the golden glow of their public library even when they've returned all their books. Rem Koolhaas's building is done real justice by Publique Living's print.

Miami's Chad Oppenheim is clearly rather popular with Publique Living, as they've also rendered his Hard Rock Hotel Residences in Las Vegas.

Here is Frank O. Gehry's Lou Ruvo Alzheimer Institute in Las Vegas.

The Japanese firm Sanaa's work is so good the Fins might just jump in. Here's is their New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

I love the abstracted arches of Toyo Ito's Tama Art University Library outside Tokyo.

Certainly Jennifer Luce's tastiest building is the delicious Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego. Dwell pal Christopher Puzio did the metal screen out front, rendered here by Publique Living.

Lest we leave out the architectural darlings Herzog and de Meuron, Publique Living have taken up one of San Francisco's wonderful new buildings, the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

The lovely, fractal facade of UNStuidio's Agora Theater in Lelystad makes for one of the more sumptuous of this series of prints.

Rem Koolhaas's Los Angeles County Museum of Art was the inspiration for this poster.

One of the better new buildings in Washington DC is architect Steven Holl's residence at the Embassy of Switzerland. I used to live three blocks from there and loved watching it go up. A subsequent visit has earned it a spot as one of my favorite buildings in the city.

Dig the pixelated madness of Jean Nouvel's Torre Agbar tower in Barcelona.

Get way chilled out with UNESCO's Meditation Space in Paris by Tadao Ando on your wall.

Another Washingtonian landmark, though one significantly more reviled than the Swiss embassy residence, is seen here: HUD Plaza by Martha Schwartz Inc.

Have a slice of Upper Crust Pizza by Office dA Inc. What, you wanted Fenway?

This one is an abstraction of the Fort School by Chris Lee Architecture + Urbanism and Contemporary Urban India in Mumbai.

Wild colors on Sauerbruch Hutton's Biberach Reasearch Laboratory in Frankfurn, Germany.

The forms look nearly avian in Windshape in Lacoste, France by nArchitects.


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