The Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel in Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai has become a destination for ex pats and travelers from around the world who seek business and travel opportunities. It is exotic, water based, lavish and historical. The city offers a wide range of activities which are reflected in the microcosm of this hotel. Burj or, in Arabic, tower, is shaped like a cylindrical sail on an artificial island which is 250 km offshore Jumeriah Beach. Burj Al Arab stands 1,035 feet and is considered the only 7 star hotel property in the world. It has 201 suites which start at the price tag of $1,500 a night. The higher floors and penthouse, the size of a large home, cost considerably more. A fully designed bi level abode has a big TV screen, gold plated baths, jacuzzi, workspace, top sea view, fully stocked bar, personal butler and items such as; Hermes perfume and bath items. There is a helipad which brings the guests who fly in and the pad is used for professional tennis. One can ride across the bridge and The Burj will send a Rolls Royce for door to door service. Concierges provide top notch service for travelers, heads of state and royals. The view of the Arabian Sea with a top floor pool and observation deck is a spectacular place to relax and soak up the sun, socialize and watch the resort’s water sports from which guests can access below. There is a 26th floor Skyview Bar which lends to the nautical aura. The lobby has two aquariums, in addition, the Al Mahara Restaurant (Arabic for oyster) has a huge semicircular underground aquarium filled with plant and aquatic species. There are seven other restaurants; a tea room, French Mediterranean cuisine and Arabic food. Upscale boutiques, more private and exclusive than the malls, the spa, beach and water amenities, echo a high end experience. The entrance to the lobby is spectacular and visitors look up at the inside tower filled with vibrant colors, spaces of metallic color, gold plated and gold leaf decor, bold columns and hanging motifs, Swarovski crystals sway amongst ground level with plush velvet sofas. The suites mimic Moorish and modern influences. Whether one is a Quatari Sheik, a billionaire business person or a couple celebrating their honeymoon, it is property which should not be missed when visiting the UAE. The Burj was completed in 1999 and since its inception, the city state has grown and developed into a playground and work space.
The Tarot Garden/Giardino dei Tarocchi
The Tarot Garden or, in Italian: Giardino Dei Tarocchi, is a whimsical sculpture exhibition which is located in Tuscany near Pescia Fiorentina. The garden is modeled after Antonio Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona. Those familiar with Gaudi know he has a brand of architecture which is modern, creative, colorful and playful. Barcelona is inspired by Gaudi’s works and the cathedral which is still in progression.
The Tarot Garden is the mastermind of French-American artist; Niki de Saint Phalle. It is quite unique and I came across the images on Instagram. It might be a secret garden to those outside the European radar. De Saint Phalle has collaborated with many artists who have engraved their names into work. It is like an amusement park, but it is a land of symbolic sculpture. It seems part child like and part adult. It took 20 years to develop and opened in 1988. De Saint Phalle lived in The Sphinx while working on the project. Spend a few hours seeing the colorful ceramic mosaic painted creations with mirrored pieces on reinforced concrete. The materials which have been used to build these 22 elaborate creations. Sculpture themes are; The Sphinx, The Golden Skelton, The Hanging Man (death theme), The Priestess, The Castle, The Devil, The Moon, The Oracle and The Hermit. I do not fully understand the mythology, religious, mysticism, predictions, space, time or deeper interpretive meanings, but one can read the website in more detail and watch videos. The collection is based on tarot cards and combines imagery and nature in a dream like state. The creative designers put thought into the color, shapes, textures, materials, placement, design , philosophy and detailed subjects. One wanders through the garden maze and leaves, feeling as if they have escaped the world of time and place.
Danish Influence: Supermodel Helena Christensen’s Dreams
Helena Christensen is a 90’s supermodel. She has worked in high end international runway, editorial and is a well recognized presence for the apparel industry. Christensen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and won the 1986 Miss World title. A picture does not seem to do her justice with her olive skin, dark hair, bedroom green eyes, chameleon look and perfectly toned body… one might think they are seeing the Danish version of Wonder Woman. Her mother is Peruvian and her father, Danish. Thus, a combination of dark sensuality and lighter Danish features. Christensen rose to popularity in the late 80’s and 90’s as one of the models coined a supermodel. She worked along fashion supermodel colleagues: Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and Stephanie Seymour. Aside from sauntering down the Versace, Chanel and Cavalli catwalks, gracing magazine covers from Vogue to i-D and posing for countless ads, she has been a fixture of pop culture. She dated lead singer of INXS, Micheal Hutchence, and starred in the erotic beach music video for Chris Issak’s pop love song; Wicked Game. The romantic black and white music montage was photographed by fashion photographer, Herb Ritts. The song is played in David Lynch’s noir film; Wild at Heart. She had a long term relationship with actor, Norman Reedus, and they have a son, Mingus.
Flash forward a decade, Helena Christensen models and looks amazing at 50, but she channels her creative side too. A passion for photography, fashion, architecture, design and film enable her to use these skills for alternative business venues. Her lingerie design creations became the initialed brand H.C.. Helena is co founder and creative director for Nylon Magazine. Nylon, an avant garde publication, shows a style and creativity of photographic fashion spreads which rival the larger media outlets. Christensen is creative director for high end perfumery; Strangelove. The new perfume house is modern and focuses on interesting fragrance notes: oud, amber, chocolate and jasmine. The sizes vary from a pocket spray to 50 ml and larger, prices range from $200 to $800. This is an exclusive fragrance brand and has not yet become a household name. The scents are packaged in black lacquer boxes and the four bottles have names; Silence of the Seas, Dead Night, Melt My Heart and Lost in Flowers. Christensen’s latest endeavor, NYC studio, Staerk and Christensen. Camilla Staerk, a fellow Dane, was a textile and fabric major in London and is now a photographer and artist. Staerk’s style and eye for the camera is a perfect match for partner, Helena, the model and photographer. Together, they work on photography, films, architecture and fashion. The studio focuses on collaborations, projects, merchandising and exhibitions. The decor is Scandinavian with a gothic, romantic and noir aura and features mythological images. The website Staerk and Christensen, along with social media, profiles samples and pictures of their work and vision. Photography from the current resort collection is filled with pictures online of Helena and Camilla modeling. Their bathing suit line consists of alluring suits which are styled in a design called the wave. It is a black suit with the middle of the garment open with a wave pattern, another suit is the rope. There are variations of black swim apparel and beach or pool coverups. One can even purchase a turban to go with these ensembles. A golden sandal follows in the shape of a swallow bird which is often used in their designs since the swallow is a native breed in Denmark. Gold earrings with flower filaments and golden wide rimmed sunglasses also echo the swallow’s shadow and shape. The bird has become a signature of the company. Of course, vacation clothing is a major piece of the collection. Currently, 30 % of the store’s sale proceeds are going to City Meals which provide 250,000 prepared meals for those homebound and affected by COVID19. The sizzling summer 2020 resort collection was photographed for a campaign at The Dorado Resort, A Ritz Carlton Reserve. Helena Christensen, Camilla Staerk, Maye Musk and Brooke Shields modeled the bathing suits, outfits and accessories with a background focus on Puerto Rican geography, the beaches and a carefree colorful lifestyle. A percentage of sales profits go to help victims of Hurricane Maria, causes are as relevant as fashion. Christensen travels in order to help refugees and displaced people. To lighten the mood, Helena Christensen recently walked around NYC in a 1991 silver Thierry Muglar bikini which she had saved in her closet. Barring many stares, she summed it up as being typical of the oddities which occur in NYC and her ideology of a body is a body. Much of Camilla Staerk and Helena Christensen’s brainstorming takes place in upstate NY, even though they both live in downtown NYC, Nolita and The West Village, respectively.
A big architecture project is the prefabricated design of a modular chic cabin style home. It resembles the hull of an upside down Viking vessel and has a curved black lacquer roof which angles the shape of a swallow. It is primarily designed in metal and persimmon black and grey woods. There are two master bedrooms and one other bedroom with a plan for a spa and gym, the team has named it the pavilions. The pair has received help with design consultation and mentorship from Robbie Antonio. Antonio is a real estate developer who has worked with 13 Pritzker Prize architects/starchitects such as; Jean Nouvel, I. M. Pei and Zaha Hadid. Robbie Antonio engages and collaborates with fashion designers; Armani for Armani Casa, Missoni Home and Versace, bringing contemporary “dressing” to the buildings. Antonio has done real estate work in his birthplace of Manila. He has worked for the family real estate company, Century, in the Philippines. Robbie’s work highlights modern residences and beachfront architecture. One well known residence; The Trump Manila Towers. Robbie Antonio came to NYC, ten years ago, and started Antonio Development. His new architectural brand is Revolutionary Precast. Some Filipino citizens have been in awe and or criticized his lavish Manila residence, monikered, Stealth. Robbie Antonio is an avid art collector with works from artists such as; Julian Schnabel. In addition to Robbie Antonio’s guidance with prefabrication, Staerk and Christensen have been influenced by Daniel Stile’s architecture which uses a combination of wood and metal. Architect, Christian de Portzemparc, gravitates towards glass structures and open spaces, elements Staerk and Christensen embody in their homes. The success of the prefabricated homes, remains to be seen. Yet, the design work and architectural conception is impressive and unique.
Helena and Camilla have been avid photographers and were involved, in 2014, with Copenhagen Fashion Week, an exhibition and a photography competition in Denmark. The images are stark, sensual, frequently black and white images and they often use their own images in the works. The entrance to film consists of projects the studio has done in collaboration with Waris, Sean Penn, Salman Rushdie, Trentmoller/Fritz and female singer, Chrysta Bell. The National Arts Club has been of assistance to the studio. The film, “In My Dream Last Night”, is an artist collaboration of a universe displaying sight and sound. It illustrates darkness and light as well as themes of love, eroticism, solitude and personal dreams and thoughts. A noir romance genre, it focuses on physical movement and emotional impact. “In My Dream Last Night” is filmed by Christian Larsen and James Demetri with production by Milk and Velem. “Nightsong” is a short film with Sean Penn. Snapshots of the rebel actor are caught on tape, showing a rugged demeanor. “Waris” is a solo performance, featuring, Waris Ahluwalia. Waris is an artist, actor, in Wes Andersen’s movie; The Darleejing Limited. In NYC, he entered fashion as the first Sikh GAP model, collaborated with Illesteva eyewear and was chosen for the best dressed list by Vanity Fair US. Waris made it as a fashion designer and he developed the House of Waris. He was born in Amritsar, a Punjab region of India and immigrated to Brooklyn. He focuses his trend setting designs on ancient kingdoms in Rome and Rasjathan, these locations used to make crests for royal families. His style was picked up by Maxfield’s of LA because they admired Ahluwhalia’s diamond rings. A new enterprise, he started the company, Waris Botanicals. The consumer can make healthy mixed drinks from plant science or adaptogenic blends, no alcohol mixology is required. In the film of black and white images, he rides solo along the beach on horseback while wearing a turban headpiece. It has an artistic fashion theme with highlights from Indian Sikh culture. The film clips move fast, maybe connoting speed or an escape from reality. “Waris” depicts arduous terrain and movement, sending an interpretative message of possible solitude in the desert, strength, self reliance, athletic prowess and fearlessness by a male figure. Helena Christensen has moved in high powered fashion circles and now we can watch her rise as a super artistic and creative talent.