The Daring 25: Design Masters

Produced with  Architectural Digest

Cadillac is passionate about innovations that drive us forward, so we partnered with five Conde Nast publications to discover individuals who use their talents to do the same. We asked the editors of Vanity Fair, Wired, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit and GQ who they found most daring in 2016.

The Daring 25 are innovators, creators and pioneers who are trailblazing in their fields. These impressive individuals and companies stand out in the industries of entertainment, technology, design, food, and style, and represent the best of those who challenge the status quo.

These five creators push the limits of possibility with unique and empowering design.

 

ONE: JORIS LAARMAN

DESIGNER/MARRYING TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN TO CREATE EXTRAORDINARY FUNCTIONAL ART AND SCULPTURE 

Joris Laarman’s design ideas are always pushing the limits of possibility. Take an installation concept to celebrate the Guggenheim Museum’s 50th anniversary in 2009. “The idea was to have a swarm of flying paper planes [in the middle of the museum],” he says, “And when they were out of batteries, it would return to the charging hub and then fly out again.”

Sadly, technology at the time wasn’t advanced enough to propel dozens of mechanical birds around the New York cultural hub—drones, now as mass-produced as Tonka trucks, weren’t yet popular. Laarman shelved the idea. “Things like that happen,” he says. Nevertheless, “We put a lot of energy in finding out if things can work or not.”

As such, Laarman’s approach to creating art is to also create the technology to produce it. The Dutch artist, 36, operates out of an experimental lab in Amsterdam he runs with his wife and business partner, Anita. The two have revolutionized the design world by using custom 3-D printing technology to create innovative art installations, furniture, and structures. He’s made tables that resemble cumulus clouds, metal radiators that bend and coil like ivy, and chairs that can be assembled like a puzzle via a set of printable 3-D pieces.

 

 

“I always think if my work will be relevant 100 years from now.””
Joris Laarman

His most audacious project to date is on deck: In 2017, Laarman will construct a functional pedestrian bridge across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in Amsterdam using four custom-built freestanding 3-D printing robots. If he succeeds, it will be the largest 3-D printed functional structure ever built entirely by machine, and it will change the game of industrial construction exponentially.

For Laarman, there is freedom in creating the means as well as the creative end product. “Artists have a certain technique and stick with it,” says Laarman. “We don’t have a standard technique that we use, we just figure out new technology to make sculpture work that somehow makes sense.”

One example is the aluminum Bone chair he constructed in 2006, where the outcome was “organic in shape, and more efficient.” The 3-D printed chair, generated with the help of a software program that mimics the growth of bones and trees, was inspired by the manner in which bones grow thickest in places where the most stress is applied, thinnest where pressure is least present. Indeed, the chair’s base resembles a mass of assorted bones.

 

Laarman's endeavors will open a huge door in the design industry.

Laarman views a bridge the same way as a chair—“you can read the state of what a society is capable of.” To that end, he and his team launched a dedicated company toward the 3-D bridge project, MX3D, which develops robotic manufacturing tools that print large-scale metal objects. The robots will print a metal structure in midair without any assistance from humans. Once finished, the 3-D printed bridge will be a full-scale transitway that will allow pedestrians to walk over water for decades. The endeavor will open a huge door in design—if a bridge can be printed and constructed by robots, the technology could be used to erect machine-made buildings and other large structures.

Laarman says, “I always think if my work will be relevant 100 years from now.” Given that his bridge could serve generations of Dutch citizens, it seems the artist is poised to earn his own place in the history books.

TWO: THEASTER GATES

ARTIST/ REHABILITATING ABANDONED PROPERTIES IN CHICAGO INTO THE CITY’S NEW ARTS DESTINATIONS

Sometimes it takes the eye of an artist to recognize the beauty and value in things that have been cast off, neglected, forgotten. And sometimes it takes a multi-hyphenate visionary like Theaster Gates—a sculptor, curator, educator, activist, urban planner, and entrepreneurial developer—whose work on Chicago’s South Side has blown up notions of what an artist today can be, while offering a model for revitalizing blighted neighborhoods everywhere.

For the past decade, Gates, who was raised in Chicago, has been acquiring properties in the city’s Grand Crossing area, rehabilitating them, and, as he has put it, trying to “wake the buildings up using culture.” As his initiatives continued to expand, in 2012 he created the Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit that now oversees a collection of 32 mixed-income residences known as the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative along with several cultural buildings, the most ambitious of which is the Stony Island Arts Bank. Gates bought the abandoned 1923 bank for just a dollar four years ago and reopened it last fall as a hybrid gallery, library, archive, and community center. With a robust program of exhibitions, performances, talks, and artist residencies, Gates hopes Stony Island Arts Bank will serve as “a laboratory for the next generation of black artists and culture-interested people,” as well as “a platform to showcase future leaders—be they painters, educators, scholars, or curators.”

Rebuild is now funded by a variety of sources, but early on, the enterprising Gates financed his real estate ventures through the sale of his sculptures and installations, which have been exhibited around the world and are now highly sought after by collectors and museums. Often incorporating found objects and materials repurposed from his renovations, Gates’s artworks resonate with history and collective memory: Framed strips of old fire hoses invoke civil rights protests of the 1960s, for example, while shoeshine chairs crafted from scrap wood allude to black labor, racial division, and economic disparity. For his current exhibition at the Prada Foundation in Milan (through September 25), he reconstructed the stocked displays from a shuttered South Side hardware store—a symbol of the mostly vanished mom-and-pop shops that were once part of the neighborhood’s lifeblood.

 

“Beautiful things can happen anywhere.”
Theaster Gates

Trained as a ceramist, Gates frequently uses pottery in his sculptures, including a series where he covered earthenware vessels with gritty materials like tar and asphalt roofing membrane (his father was a roofer). He was also deeply involved with a Baptist choir growing up, and that influence can be seen in the works he devises for his gospel band, the Black Monks of Mississippi, whose performances are a beguiling mash-up of black spirituals and Buddhist chants.

While Gates doesn’t shy away from provocative gestures—he has referred to himself as a hustler and has spoken openly about leveraging the robust market for his work—ultimately, everything he does is about engagement, enrichment, and renewal. Unlike some artists, he doesn’t merely shine a spotlight on social issues—he is interested in enacting real change. It’s why he places such importance on hiring people from the local community and why residents in the Dorchester housing are invited to weekly coffee, tea, and chat gatherings to have a dialogue about what’s working and what isn’t. As Gates emphasized in a TED talk last year, the long-term success of Rebuild’s efforts is contingent upon staying “connected to folk on the ground.”

Eventually, Gates envisions linking several dozen Rebuild properties with a corridor of green spaces. And when Barack Obama’s presidential library is built nearby (Gates, who is on the project’s advisory committee, once performed at a birthday celebration for the president with the Monks), it promises to be another game changer for the neighborhood. While there’s still work to be done, Gates has been vindicated in his dogged belief that “beautiful things can happen anywhere.”

THREE: PHILIPPA PRICE

MULTIMEDIA ARTIST/ADDS ELECTRIFYING DIMENSIONS TO TOP MUSICIANS’ STAGE AND VIDEO PERFORMANCES 

When Rihanna performed at the Brit Awards in London earlier this year, she sashayed onto a darkened stage, her all-white outfit illuminated by trippy pink-and-blue lines and grids that nearly rendered her a fluttering two-dimensional abstraction. Throughout the brief set, Rihanna—who was joined by SZA for “Consideration” and by Drake for “Work”—was immersed in an ever-shifting environment of mesmerizing color and pattern that lent the performance a cool, futuristic edge. It was an eye-popping display, conceived by Philippa Price, a Los Angeles–based multimedia artist and designer who has masterminded videos, album art, and stage-set animations for top musicians such as Pharrell, Brooke Candy, Grimes, Alicia Keys, and Banks. And at 27, she’s just getting started.

The Rihanna performance, inside The O2 arena, was Price’s biggest gig so far. “The stage was something like 60 feet by 80 feet—I had 10 projectors and a huge screen,” she says. “At that scale, there’s only so much you can imagine on your laptop, and everything I’d made, when I first tested it after arriving, completely didn’t work. I had to redo it all in one day.” Yes, it was stressful, Price concedes, but, she adds, “My best work often comes from mistakes that I didn’t anticipate.”

Price’s creative path—which she describes as “kind of wiggly”—began at New York’s Parsons School of Design, where she occasionally made “zero-dollar-budget music videos for friends” while pursuing a major in integrated design. “It was self-directed, so I got to mix different fields,” she says. “My parents used to joke about how I was so confused, but I love exploring any medium to express myself.”

After graduation, Price worked briefly at the architecture and design firm Commune, and she cofounded the fashion brand Guns Germs $teal with Smiley Stevens. That business is now on hold, but it led directly to the work Price is doing now. “The clothing brand is what took me to the music industry, because a lot of our success came from being picked up by musicians, rappers, and artists who I’ve started working with in other ways,” she explains.

 

“My best work often comes from mistakes that I didn’t anticipate.”
Philippa Price

With minimal technical skills, Price jumped headfirst into making music videos, drawing on inspirations ranging from science fiction and works by the 1960s radical architecture collective Superstudio to the surreal landscapes of Salvador Dalí and Carl Jung’s theories of archetypes. From the outset, she has devised all of her own digital effects. “My first video was for Pharrell, and they asked if I knew how to animate. I didn’t, but I said I did,” she recounts. “So I taught myself how to do it over a weekend.” Her moxie paid off. Though the resulting video, for the 2014 song “Lost Queen,” was never officially released, it landed her a job designing visuals for Pharrell’s next tour.

“For me, it’s about never getting comfortable,” says Price. “I love doing things that I don’t know how to do.”

Having just completed two videos for singer Banks, Price is working on visuals for the R&B singer’s forthcoming album and tour. Also simmering are a virtual reality project with dancer and choreographer Nina McNeely, and a collaboration with Price’s younger sister, Natasha, a chef. The siblings are hashing out concepts for experiential dinners that Price says would pair “Natasha’s cooking—which is very primal, animal on a fire—and my design and lighting and projections.”

Further down the road, Price says she definitely wants to “do an opera or ballet or something with dance.” She notes that videos, if they’re fortunate enough not to get lost amid the crush of online content, are fixed and infinitely replayable experiences that anyone can access, whereas live performances are more singular—as she puts it, “you’re creating a moment in time.”

When Price is asked—as she frequently is—where she sees herself going, her response is simple: “I just see myself going. I don’t want to put a boundary on it.”

FOUR: ALAN FAENA

REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER/ TRANSFORMING ONCE DESOLATE NEIGHBORHOODS INTO PRIME CULTURAL CENTERS

Alan Faena had no intention of coming to Miami. The Argentinian-born real estate developer spent many prosperous years in his home country, first as a fashion designer, later as the impresario behind one of Buenos Aires’s most transformational real estate projects, the Faena Center. “I never thought in my life I would come to Miami,” Faena says. “I was successful in my country.”

That is, until Faena’s billionaire business partner Len Blavatnik invited him for a visit. “He took me to the city center, and I Ioved it,” Faena says. That visit sparked Faena’s latest venture: the Faena Miami, a $1.2 billion Mid-Beach complex encompassing residential dwellings, hotels, arts centers, and retail space. It’s less a development than it is a city within a city—it’s been officially designated as its own Miami “district,” transforming a once desolate six-block stretch of Collins Avenue into one of Miami’s most desired neighborhoods.

Reflecting on the serendipity behind the move, Faena shrugs. “You need to be open,” he says. Openness has been a hallmark of his career. Though Faena dresses exclusively in all white, in the early ’90s he produced a colorful clothing line, Via Vai. “When I started in fashion, the dictatorship in Argentina had just finished. Everything was ready for change. I started creating clothes for my generation that didn’t exist before. People started dressing in color and with hope, and I think that was always about taking risks.”

 

“I thought, ‘If I had a building where I can have fashion, food, art, culture, sexiness, that would be a project I would be interested in.’ ”
Alan Faena

After fashion, Faena retired to the coast of Uruguay, taking up gardening from his beach house. It was then he started to think about beautifying Buenos Aires, which had suffered under an economic downturn. In 2000, Faena looked toward an area of underdeveloped waterfront that was in dire need of transformation. “I would think of how I could evolve fashion into something else,” he says. “I thought, ‘If I had a building where I can have fashion, food, art, culture, sexiness, that would be a project I would be interested in.’ I could take the feeling that people had when they came to my house and create that feeling for many more people.”

He conceptualized a large-scale hotel, residential complex, and arts center with Blavatnik and of-the-moment architect Philippe Starck. The $300 million project made the area Buenos Aires’s most valuable real estate. “We created one of the most culturally sophisticated districts in a place that didn’t have streetlights,” Faena says.

In 2013, Faena—who likes to call himself a storyteller rather than a real estate developer—set his sights on Miami. He recruited a roster of creative thinkers such as the director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin, to help transform the old Saxony Hotel into the glamorous Faena Hotel. “Baz understands theater and script. He’s not like a designer focused on creating something cool and nice,” Faena says. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was tapped to develop a retail space, Faena Bazaar and Faena Forum, and Foster + Partners designed Faena House, an 18-story, 47-residence condominium.

 

Faena calls himself a storyteller rather than a real estate developer.

Since its unveiling during Miami’s Art Basel in December, the Faena Hotel has drawn a cosmopolitan crowd, deep-pocketed real estate investors, and rave reviews from the travel and design set. The Faena House is completely sold out, and one of the penthouses has already made history: It was bought by hedge fund exec Kenneth Griffin for a whopping $60 million, the most expensive condo ever sold in Miami. (The Faena Bazaar and Faena Forum will open later this year.) But Faena claims his work doesn’t just benefit the superrich. “We make the people of these cities, from taxi drivers to children walking to school, have a better life,” says Faena. “Creating this kind of change in the community and getting these big minds together creates a beautiful place.”

Despite his extraordinary success, Faena says he’s not particularly interested in legacy. “I don’t have another plan for another city at the moment,” he says. “I would be happy to be a gardener again. Why not? I don’t believe that when you have success, you have to retain it. It’s good to do it, and renounce it, and see what happens.” Of course, that could change next time Blavatnik takes him on a trip.

FIVE: PAULA WALLACE 

EDUCATOR/FOUNDED A SMALL SOUTHERN ARTS COLLEGE THAT’S NOW AN INTERNATIONAL ART AND DESIGN INSTITUTION 

o one can ever accuse Paula Wallace of thinking small. At 29 years old—and seven months pregnant with her first daughter—she left her job as an elementary school teacher to found a college from scratch. “That was pretty daring, looking back on it now,” Wallace, the president and cofounder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), says. In SCAD’s first year, it registered 71 students.

Nearly 40 years later, the arts college has expanded even beyond Wallace’s initial expectations. Today, SCAD is the largest, most comprehensive art and design university in the United States, with nearly 45,000 students and locations in both Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia; international campuses in Hong Kong and Lacoste, France; as well as an eLearning program for students around the globe.

“Going from zero to the first 71 students was a monumental achievement in and of itself, and now having 45,000 students and alumnae across the globe—I never would have imagined that. Never,” she says.

When Wallace decided to launch SCAD, she was primarily focused on funneling the experience she was creating for elementary school students through the arts and making it a possibility for higher education. “When I looked at my students, I wondered, what would their experience be when they went to university?” she says. Her biggest concern was giving them the opportunity to turn their talent or interest in the arts into a vocation and not just an avocation after graduation.

She offers the same advice to her students, or anyone else looking to take a leap of faith, that she herself employed decades ago: “Embrace the outsider status. If you think that it’s unlikely, I think the ‘unlikely’ likelihood is what you should think about. To have something different to offer is very important today.”

 

“Embrace the outsider status...to have something different to offer is very important today.”
Paula Wallace

Wallace credits her parents as her inspiration and for part of SCAD’s success, as they helped initially fund the institution. “It was a daring thing on their part because they really devoted their retirement savings to SCAD. They jumped in, they volunteered, and they became the surrogate grandparents to numbers and numbers of students,” Wallace says.

She is constantly inspired by those who select to attend SCAD, like the 2016 excelsus laureate Carlos Delgado from the Atlanta campus. “He was the first Cuban national student to come to SCAD and he enrolled when he was 50 years old. … Coming from a country where there hadn’t been much contact with the outside world, he was brave and excelled,” she says.

Wallace has shared more of her personal world in her memoir, The Bee and the Acorn, which was released in June. The book doesn’t just discuss her own journey, but SCAD’s as well.

“It means a lot to so many people who have worked so hard at SCAD to just have a record of it. People think of SCAD in almost a mythological way, that it’s so unlikely it would start in this small, little seaport town of Savannah, Georgia, that’s very quaint and charming but hadn’t been known before as the liveliest place for the arts or young people,” Wallace says. “Now it has all these entrepreneurs and artists and designers starting their own businesses.”

share:
More From This Series
Meet The Daring 25

Read about the rest of The Daring 25 nominees and how they are driving the world forward.

related articles
Experience Cadillac
The Cadillac CT6: Agility and Indulgence
Culture
Cadillac XT5 Daring Pursuits: Bryan Blue and Stephen Kenn
Experience Cadillac
Easton LaChappelle | Don’t You Dare
top