2013 AIA Top Honor Award- Acido Dorado and Rosa Muerta
2013 AIA Top Honor Award- Acido Dorado and Rosa Muerta
Video shot by Nathalie Canguilhem and Anthony Vaccarello with Travis Scott, Vittoria Ceretti, Steffy Argelich
Steven Klein shot Karlie Kloss for Vogue
Mert & Marcus shot Mariacarla Boscono, Heidi Klum, and Angela Lindval at Acido Dorado for Roberto Cavalli.
Photographer Mona Kuhn’s book “She Disappeared into Compete Silence” is 104 pages of art photography shot at Acido Dorado over a few summers. Available from Steidl books.
Mariano Vivianco shot Joan Smalls for Harpers Bazaar at Acido Dorado
Michele Laurita shot Celia Becker for Sorbet in Yves Saint Laurent 2017
Camilla Akrans fashion editorial for Harpers Bazaar with Karlina Caune
Melina Matsoukas project at Rosa Muerta with Beyonce and Jay Z
Three Shades of Gold.
We had a year-long dialogue with American artist-turned-architect and punk modernist Robert Stone about his unique approaches and perfect backdrops for the fashion world’s upper crust.
Words: Ger Ger & Julia Koerner / Images: Ger Ger
“At some point during his Vogue shoot, Steven Klein asked me if they could put the tiger in the house. And I was like, ‘Go ahead, but be ready to shoot if it starts tearing everything up. I want that picture.”‘
Robert Stone is one of the most unconventional living artists-turned-architects one can meet today. His projects have been on the cover of Architectural Digest, have been named among the 25 most beautiful houses in the world, and have been part of countless international fashion spreads. The creme de Ia creme of designers like Cavalli and Dior – and most recently Anthony Vaccarello with Saint Laurent SS17 muse Travis Scott – have produced their campaigns in his constructions. We sat down with Stone in his Los Angeles atelier and spent a night at his famed houses Acido Dorado and Rosa Muerta in the California desert. We continued the conversation over a period of 12 months.
“I think one of the most interesting things about our time is that our relationship to nature is totally different than it was in the modernist era. It is not romantic any more. We are at war with nature. I wanted to put something out there that is unmistakably unnatural. It is like if you go on a hike and you find an old aluminum can that is so bleached out by the sun you can barely read the printing- That kind of object says more about our relationship to nature than anything that pretends to be in harmony. I’m not looking for harmony. I’m looking for interesting tension and complexity. I admit that relationship to nature and then let it play out.”
“I was looking for a way to make architecture that felt more meaningful. I’m building houses, I’m not building airports, I’m not building museums. I think they can work just like a really nice song. They can be strange, they can be mysterious, and they can feel like they are yours alone.”
“I don’t design the perimeter for something and then put holes in it. I design intersections of planes and then figure out how to enclose it. It is a modernist approach, but one that I have tried to push much further. The natural state of the building is continuous with that abundant space all around it. The natural state of those houses is open”
“One of the turning points for me was ’90s Miu Miu. Miuccia Prada has a way of using materials and shapes that pointed far beyond architecture’s abstract purity. She wasn’t asking you to shut off the part of your brain that has a memory. She made things that looked entirely new but also brought in connotations and memories. It was more strange because it was vaguely familiar. It was more alive because each piece connected to things beyond itself. It gave me a different understanding of materials than I had learned in the architecture world.”
“At that time, everything could be understood as Prada versus Miu Miu. All the cool architects were wearing Prada Sport- which was the conservative black stuff with the little red tag. But at the same time, Miu Miu had this secret key that unlocked a whole different way of thinking about materials and ideas. So while I was obsessed with Miu Miu, all the architects were wearing black and their little fancy eyeglasses and all of that. I was so out of step. I was tattooed to the point that nobody would hire me and I used to go and sketch in the Miu Miu store until someone would kick me out. They would get uncomfortable because I was looking so carefully. “
“Abstraction is a false fantasy in the architecture world. I don’t want to sound so negative but I have to push back because it is so ubiquitous. My understanding of it comes from the art world: abstraction is like an imaginary contract between the viewer and the object that says we are going to agree to only think about these things as abstract shapes, forms and light. That contract can be valuable, but it isn’t real- It leaves out everything else architecture can be.”
“I have always been much more interested in fashion and photography than in empty architecture. I want the houses to be portrayed in the way bodies connect to them and the way people bring poetic ideas to them- not just as empty abstract sculptures. So it is almost natural that it is also a perfect stage for fashion. Architecture is only part of the equation. Movements of a tiger can complete it as much as the life anyone brings to it.”
“Growing up in Palm Springs felt more Larry Clark than Julius Shulman. It was about actually living in these modernist houses, using them and sometimes destroying them. “
“There is this strange historical overlay between skateboarding and the decline of modernism. In the ’80s, they didn’t put transitions in pools anymore: they built pools square and you can’t skate them. So we would search for pools by looking at the architecture. You would know from the street that a mid-century modernist house was going to have a rounded pool in the backyard. So, I was looking at modernism before I knew anything about architecture. I saw it lived in, used, and abandoned. I think it gave me a more complicated understanding of how the modernist project overlaid with real life. “
“I learned that you have to let in some negatives to make things more interesting. There has to be some awkwardness to re-define beauty for our time. So, not everything is positive in my work. It’s not just about “nice”. The two-way mirrors, for example, come from this idea of engaging in a dialogue with the corruption of late-modernism, the part where it got dark, corporate, like us, like our world. I mean, simplistic mid-century nostalgia is boring, but I love the end of the sixties where the ideals started to turn on us and got interesting.”
“If all my roofs cave in and my houses burn down, they still are going to look really good. I’m designing architecture that I want to look good in ruins.”
“Am i a dreamer?-All the time. It is like air for me, it is like the water for the fish.”
Here is the text –
ALL THAT GLITTERS- Robert Stone conjures a golden mirage in the high-desert landscape of Joshua Tree
by Mayer Rus
Forget midcentury modern. Forget deconstructivism, expressionism and all the other convenient “isms” that have traditionally been applied to the discussion of architecture. Robert Stone is far more interested in the stories buildings tell, the personal and cultural iconography they manifest and, yes, even the feelings they evoke. “I’m proposing something a little more demanding than a new aesthetic. I’m not saying, ‘This shape is cool’ or ‘Stacked boxes are in, and slanty walls are out.’ I’m asking people to think about how architecture works and what makes it meaningful,” says the LA-based Stone.
Acido Dorado is a trippy place. With its gold-mirrored ceiling and walls, heart-shape concrete-block cutout and gilded cage of twisted metal rods strung with wrought-iron flowers, the house seems an alien-albeit strangely congruous-presence in the parched high-desert panorama of Joshua Tree. Think Guns N’ Roses and Lost in Space…or 2001: A Cocaine Odyssey…or Zeus visiting desert Danae in a shower of gold. Think golden showers.
In fact, think whatever comes to mind. Stone eschews fixed meanings and revels in multiple interpretations and gut reactions. “Architecture should support what people bring to it,” he insists. “My work asks viewers to look inward. I’m telling people that they already get it-they just need to be open to it.” Acido Dorado-“golden acid” in Spanish-is Stone’s second rental house in the Coachella Valley, a short distance from Rosa Muerta, his black-shrouded groovy-Gucci-goth fantasy. The architect gave these seriously alluring follies Spanish names both as an earnest nod to the pervasive Latino culture of Southern California and a tongue-in-cheek riff on the common practice among developers of using foreign names to ennoble their often shabby properties with a gloss of romance and mystery.
When pressed to describe the physical form of Acido Dorado and the materials he employed, Stone instead weaves a tapestry of personal inspirations: military hardware, burned-out houses, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, preppy, BMX, Versace fall 2009, Gordon Matta-Clark, Ed Ruscha, Hedi Slimane, lowriders, sandstorms, macrame, drugs, roadside death shrines, classic desert modernism, evil corporate modernism, Robert Smithson’s Mirror Displacements, Robert Morris’ brutal minimalism and empty pools.
“Everyone has their own obsessions. I admit mine and try to incorporate them into my architecture rather than dressing them up in abstract language,” Stone says.
While many architects disparage fashion as a frivolous discipline lacking the gravitas of the heroic builder, Stone celebrates couture without apology. “I think that capturing a moment in time and transforming it into something profound is the hardest thing to do. Fashion designers talk about their work as a personal response to the world around them. Down the road, we see some of the things they create as era-defining,” he avers. “Architecture is a person’s life-a lens that opens up new possibilities. And yet architects aren’t trained to trust their gut.”
If Stone sounds skeptical about traditional architectural education and discourse, it’s because he is. Rather than taking the established path of internship and enslavement in a professional office, followed by the opening of an independent practice and the requisite hat-in-hand courting of clients to build a portfolio, he decided simply to go to the desert and make architecture-with his own two hands. “I appreciate the directness of building by hand,” he says, “whether it be digging ditches or fashioning metal roses. The DIY thing raises the stakes. If I’m going to take three years and put in my own money, then I have to ask myself, What is it going to be?’
This, of course, begs the question, Exactly what is it? Manifesto? Pleasure dome? Provocation? Stone believes it’s all of these things, plus whatever anybody else decides to bring to the glossy, mirror-topped table.
Cover of the 25 most beautiful houses in the world issue!
A Machine for Dreaming In by Greg Goldin
The environs of Palm Springs, California, can cause architects to abandon structural rigor in favor of insouciant fantasy- picture the buxom assassins Bambi and Thumper pouncing on James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever, under a daisy-wheel John Lautner dome. Now drive half an hour north to the wind-whipped high desert of Joshua Tree, and the fantasy becomes an acid trip. Imagine a golden house, both sharply angular and wildly ornamented, and what you’ve got is Acido Dorado. Built by Robert Stone, a desert native, it’s swankily modern yet suggestively operatic, with 900 gold-painted iron roses, 1,200 mirrored tiles, and a concrete screen with a heart-shape cutout. Mad Men, meet the Ring des Nibelungen.
“Architects see composition and space. Designers see surfaces and textures. I see all of that and more, like cultural connections such as roadside death shrines made out of flowers and Mercedes-Benz parts,” Stone adds. And business opportunities. Acido Dorado is Robert Stone Design’s second Joshua Tree house for Stone’s own vacation-rentaI initiative, Pretty Vacant Properties. Each house begins with its name. Rosa Muerta, his first one, is a dark homage to punks partying in burned-out houses in the 1980’s. At Acido Dorado, those two words are neatly stenciled in white block letters on one of the sloped concrete-block walls that serves as a bulwark against the Mojave Desert’s sandstorms and searing sunlight. Besides being an unabashed reference to an acid trip, a desert rite of passage, Acido Dorado is a send-up of the names chosen to lend cheesy real-estate developments a romantic grandeur. There’s also the literaI meaning of dorado. Inside and out, the house is awash in three shades of gold automotive paint. The sensibility is lowrider.
A single story with a rocky hill rising behind, the structure is surrounded by elaborate steel grilles interrupted by a concrete-block screen. Most of the actual exterior is composed of sliding doors in the gold-coated glass found on anonymous office buildings. Opening these doors creates a pavilion under a flat canopy. It’s held aloft on nine pencil-thin poles of polished stainless steel partially wrapped in gold-glitter vinyl, the kind that BMX riders use on their handlebars. Though the reference is almost comically sexual, ifs undermined by the way the shiny steel disappears into the sandy earth.
Alternate interpretations and optical illusions abound. At first, the gold color overwhelms. After the eyes adjust, it becomes just another shade of the surrounding desert. Much depends on the sliding grilles and doors as well. When they’re closed, the house becomes a solid glittering object.
When they’re open, the line between indoors and out doesn’t just blur. It inverts. Since the floor is sunken nearly 4 feet below grade, and 12-inch mirrored squares cover a large portion of the ceiling and the huge overhangs, the desert becomes a bodily presence hovering above.
The flowers on the grilles have a split personality, too. Obviously, they are phony-metallic gold roses appear in dreams, not nature. But welding wedding-cake decorations onto a strict grid, as Stone did with his own torch, “somehow, irrationally, conveys life,” he says. “In the same way that fashion is not afraid of exploring high and low, neither am I. Something that looks tacky today can look Gucci tomorrow if done right. And after that, who knows? Maybe it will look tacky again.” Of the 10 butterflies welded onto the grilles, amid the roses, one is situated perfectly on the building’s center axis. Stone is wrestling with the ghost of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Modernism exemplified, the floor plan is a 1,400-square-foot rectangle divided into two squares: an all-in-one living area, dining area, and kitchen and a pair of bedrooms. The latter two rooms, in turn, are twin rectangles sparsely decorated with platform beds and mirrored built-ins. Of course, to butterfly is to split something symmetrically in two. The literaI and the figurative converge.
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