Click on photos to enlarge.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Woodstock, New York

Woodstock: a symbol of a bygone era...two bygone eras, actually.
Today, when someone mentions Woodstock, most people immediately bring to mind the famous (or infamous) Woodstock Music Festival held August 15-18, 1969. There are several peculiarities involved with this historic landmark event. If all the people who claim to have been there actually had been there, then it would probably still be going on, or at least they would still be trying to get there, or leave there yet today. Of course, after almost fifty years, a lot of them would be dead by now. To say that Woodstock was peculiar might be an understatement; ill-fated might be more accurate. First of all, despite the name, the Woodstock Music Festival was not held in (or even near) Woodstock, New York. The city fathers, when they learned the size of the crowds they would be dealing with quickly decided they wanted nothing to do with it. So, the organizers leased a farm some forty miles south of Woodstock near the tiny town of Wallkill, New York (also forty miles closer to New York City).
Chasing down a venue--(1.) Woodstock. (2.) Wallkill. (3.) Bethel, New York.
Tickets were $18 in advance,
$24 at the gate. ($120 and $150
 in today's money.) In fact,
admission was mostly free.
Fine, except that the same thing happened again. Wallkill said, "NO WAY...go away." But by then it was too late. Several acts had already been signed, the publicity had gone out, advanced tickets had been sold by the tens of thousands--186,000, to be exact(eventually around 400,000 showed up). The rock music happening had to happen. As a last ditch effort, the organizers moved about fifty miles west to another tiny town called Bethel, New York. Had that town known what they were getting into, they too probably would have "pulled the plug." In any case, given the confusion as to the venue, baby-booming hippies were prowling the narrow backroads of Ulster and Sullivan counties just trying to find the location well after the 24-7 three-day concert (later extended to four days) was well under way. Then the organizers' worst nightmare began--rain--often a deluge, and with it came mud, traffic jams, nude group-and-grope bathing, food, water, and toilet shortages, drug overdoses, and probably the greatest rock music concert in the history of rock music concerts.
They planned for 25,000. 400,000 showed up.
Although Woodstock didn't take place at Woodstock, the history of both communities can be sharply divided into two periods--Pre-Woodstock and Post-Woodstock. Despite the fact that the concert didn't take place there, insofar as Woodstock's baby-boomer tourists are concerned it might just as well have. The hippie era image lives on wherever there's a dollar to be made. Today Woodstock is a mixture of low-brow gift (souvenir) shops, flea markets, book stores, tie-dyed clothing stores, art galleries, theaters, country restaurants, inns, and hotels all referencing the three rainy days in August when a great rock concert was supposed to have happened there...but didn't.
Old hippies never die, they just keep getting "hippier."
The so-called "Woodstock Music and Art Fair" was not the first time the arts had come calling at this quiet little farming community. Less than five miles from the river, Woodstock had played host to numerous Hudson River School painters during the 1800s. Then in 1902, the Arts and Crafts Movement came to Woodstock with the arrival of Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, Bolton Brown and Hervey White. Together they formed the Byrdcliffe Colony less than a mile northwest of Woodstock. Then in 1906, L. Birge Harrison and others founded the Summer School of the Art Students League of New York in the area, primarily to encourage and teach landscape painting. Since that time, Woodstock has been considered an active artists colony. From 1915 through 1931, Hervey White's Maverick Art Colony held the Maverick Festivals, when hundreds of liberal artists gathered each summer for music, art, theater and drunken orgies in the woods. These have featured folk and rock acts like Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield, Dave van Ronk and Van Morrison, who were all identified with Woodstock's reputation as a summer arts colony. The Sound-Outs inspired the original Woodstock Festival's organizers to plan their concert at the Winston Farm in Saugerties. We all know how that turned out.
Hudson River School, Circa 1850, Ashokan Reservoir
The Byrdcliffe art colony is one of the nation's oldest Arts & Crafts colonies. It brought the first artists to Woodstock to teach and produce furniture, metal works, ceramics, weaving and established Woodstock's first painting school. Byrdcliffe forever changed the cultural landscape of the town of Woodstock. In 1916, the utopian philosopher and poet, Hervey White, built a "music chapel" in the woods. This became the home of the Maverick music festival, the longest-running summer chamber music festival in the country. It's still held annually. The town is also the home to the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM), founded in 1919 by John F. Carlson, Frank Swift Chase, Andrew Dasburg, Carl Eric Lindin, and Henry Lee McFee. The WAAM Permanent Collection features work by important American artists associated with the region, including Milton Avery, George Bellows, Arnold Blanch, Doris Lee, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Paul Meltsner, and many others. The Art Students League of New York's summer school was in Woodstock from 1906 until 1922, and again after World War II, from 1947 until 1979. The Woodstock School of Art has been operating since 1980.

Original Woodstock School of Art, built in the 1930s with
WPA labor. It was used by the Woodstock branch of
New York's Art Students League until 1979.

Styles change, as do the seasons, but the scenery remains the same.

Today's Woodstock School of Art (painting under the Pines).


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Paintings I Haven't Done Yet--Water

Copyright, Jim Lane
Hues of Canoes, Croatia, 2013
No painter can really call themselves an artist who has not learned to "handle" water. Painting water is far more than blue paint with some degree of modulating texture intended to give it movement. The source photo, Hues of Canoes (above) has only tiny "snippets" of very light blue highlights on what is, for the most part, one or two subtle shades of olive green. The highlights do little more than indicate the current of the stream. Water is reflective, sometimes almost, but not quite, to the same degree as a mirror in the same position. It reflects the predominant hues in the environment plus the occasion up-side-down images of whatever my be near it, in it, or resting on it (as with the subtle, rust-tinted reflection of the red canoe).

Copyright, Jim Lane
Swimmers on the Rocks, 2013 along the Aegean coast not far
from Dubrovnik.
That's not to say water is never blue, nor should never be blue (notice the greenish tints toward the foreground). Actually most water is painted with one or more bluish pigments. I'm fond of cerulean used with pthalo or Prussian blues. I detest cobalt blue. I seldom see it in nature, and it is too intense for most uses. However, it goes without saying that in nature, as in art, there are blues, and then there are blues. Anyone painting water has to be quite sensitive as to both intensity and the relative warmth or coolness of their blues. Blue is naturally cool, almost the epitome of cool...even cold. But it takes little, to derive a warm blue, often quite common in skies and thus, the waters beneath them. Notice that, like the sky, the water's tint varies toward lighter shades as it nears the horizon. That's the result of aerial perspective. During daytime hours, water may not always be blue, but air above it most often is.

Copyright, Jim Lane
The Marina, near Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, 2015.
Other than perhaps the time of day, nothing effects the rendering of water more than weather conditions. Above, the water is virtually the same hue, though shaded only somewhat darker as the stormy sky above. I won't say an artist should never adjust the sky for the sake of a "prettier" shade of blue in his water, (a photo editing computer program can help in this regard) but keep in mind, any such attempt is one of the "trickier" adjustments a painter can make in that the sky coloration also effects virtually everything else in the painting in ways only the most color sensitive painter's eye will notice. Whites items are especially prone to reflecting such changes.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Dubrovnik Marina
Now, compare the deep blues of the Dubrovnik Marina (above) with those of foggy San Francisco. Shades of gray do still come into play near the boats but the shaded sides of the white boats come across as rather "dead" without a subtle bluish tint. In the case of more Expressionist renderings, the bluish tints on the boats and elsewhere can become anything but subtle. The painter of water must also learn to handle the distorted reflection of that which is in the water. Besides providing a realistic, or at least naturalistic quality to the scene, such reflections can often be more interesting for the viewer than the boats themselves.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Slooping Around, off the Baja coast, 2016
The image above and that below dramatically demonstrate the differences between a warm blue (above) and the much more drab, cooler blue (below) of the vessel near the famous Baja rocky landmark. In the upper photo, the blues tend slightly toward green while those seen in the photo below take on a purplish shade, in both cases, all the result of the influence of the sky above. Be careful not to overplay reflections in the water. In both these photos they are practically non-existant. Never exaggerate or add reflections unless "documented" in your resource photo or personal observation.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Cabo San Lucas on the Mexican Riviera, 2016
As the ninth group in this series, like the others, these photos are available free of charge for use by painters as source material for their own work on an individual basis. Simply e-mail me with a request to do so at and indicate which photo you would like to use as well as your full name (no nicknames) and geographical location. If you have a website, include the URL; and please, when finished, e-mail me a photo of your painting. These images are not for publication as photos (except on a royalty basis) nor are they in the public domain.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Blue? What blue? We don't need no stinkin' blue!
A private garden in the Azores.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Title Fight

The knockout, Leslie Parke
I've long been a proponent of the view that art should be fun, especially insofar as teaching it and learning about it is concerned. In the past, that has traditionally been thought of as doing art--exploring new concepts, new media, new styles, new techniques, etc. And FUNdamentally that is, and always has been, true. However, there's lots more to art than simply creating art. Whether we consciously think about it or not, there's the whole idea of enjoying art--our own and that of others. I mean, the creative process takes only a matter of hours...perhaps spread over a day or two or a few, or in the case of motion pictures, several months. But regardless of the time span, the best art is, figuratively speaking, eternal. Thus, except for various types of performance art, far more time and effort is spent in enjoying the creation than is in creating it. Today, we're all about having fun with art after its creation.

Once a painting or other work of art is finished (or during the process of finishing it) the artist needs to settle upon a title. I mean that in the broad sense as it applies to the viewer, rather than it necessarily being a visceral need of the artist. In any case, the "title fight" begins. This altercation takes place inside the artist's mind, often I think, simply to keep someone else from choosing a lesser title. Take it from a painter who has engaged in this cerebral conflict hundreds of times, the "title fight," while seemingly little too clever, is very much an apt description of the thought process involved. It's a free-for-all pitting various elements of the artist intellect against one another. In one corner of the ring is the esoteric, in another is the literal, in a third corner there resides the clever, and in another the laughably silly. (Since it has corners, why do they call a boxing venue a "ring"?)
Sometimes the famous image is altered to fit the meme.
Very well, but how does this become "fun"? I'm sure by now everyone has heard of the term, "meme" (rhymes with team). It has a long, boring, literary history dating back to, Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene, but in its most popular Internet manifestation, the meme is a new title to an old image. Or it may be an old title to a new image...or maybe neither one...a new title to a new image. In it's purest form, it juxtaposes the familiar with the unfamiliar in some humorous or ironic manner. Some famous paintings, such as Michelangelo's Creation of Adam (above), are just begging for a meme. The same is true of Leonardo's Last Supper, or Monet's landmark, art for art's sake Luncheon on the Grass (below). Paintings, such as Whistler's Mother, have acquire memes more lasting than their original, artist chosen, title (Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1). Obviously the esoteric element in Whistler's mind won that title fight.
My meme. What would you suggest?
Okay, I think you get the idea. I've put together a collection of famous paintings along with their artists and the titles chosen by them to forever denote their work. See if you can come up with a clever (and hopefully funny) new title for each one. This is just a fun game, there's no need to send me what you come up with, though I would enjoy seeing a few of your best ones. If you like, send them to: as jpg attachments. Oh, and try to keep them clean, or at least in reasonably good taste.

The Art Critic, 1958, Norman Rockwell
 Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1598-99, Caravaggio
The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Salvador Dali
The Battle of Anghiari (copy), 1505 , Leonardo da Vinci
Women in the garden, 1866, Claude Monet
Family of Saltimbanques, 1905, Pablo Picasso
 The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, 1632, Rembrandt van Rijn
The Kiss, 1889, Auguste Rodin
Skull with a Burning Cigarette, 1885-86, Vincent van Gogh
And finally, one of my own; can you come up with a better title?

Copyright, Jim Lane
Mademoiselle, 1971, Jim Lane


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What NOT to Do in an Art Museum

Yesterday I began a series on some of the smaller art museums around the United States. Virtually every city has one or two. Most are showcases for local art history, or perhaps a single local artist of some renown, and most are relatively minor in importance (as well they should be). But just as important as which museum you should visit is what you should NOT do when you get there. Some of these "no-no" tips are not intended necessarily as hard and fast rules (though a few are) designed to take all the fun out of your dive into fine art. They are intended to enhance your visit, just as the rule, "Don't inhale the water," makes a visit to the public swimming pool much more enjoyable.
1.) Don't skip doing your homework. This rule applies to any public attraction you might visit, but it's especially applicable to art museums. Know what to expect, what not to miss, strengths, weaknesses, hours, ticket prices, and where to find the restrooms on each floor. Those are the bare minimum. Beyond that, dig into art styles, periods, content, artists, and media in which you are especially interested. Familiarize yourself with a map of the place. I've never visited an art museum yet in which I didn't get lost at some point.
2.) Don't rush. Very few art museums, even those in my series of smaller such institutions, can be adequately covered in less than two hours. Most suggest three to four hours, with the largest, such as the Met in New York, or the Getty in L.A., being all-day affairs. Of course, just as in the Bible, the length of the "day" is open to definition depending upon your age, attention span, and physical stamina.

3.) Don't go alone. That has little or nothing to do with your own personal safety, but everything to do with how much you're going to enjoy the experience. Even if your art interests different radically, each of you will learn from the other. Guys, all things considered, an art museum is a pretty cheap date. And if you already know something about art, or have done your homework as suggested earlier, it's a good way to impress your date. However, if you have romance in mind, don't forget that there probably more security cameras per square foot in an art museum than anywhere short of N.S.A.

4.) Don't EVER take preschool kids to an art museum. That may sound like heresy coming from an artists who has spent most of his life trying to broaden the knowledge and appeal of art to young people; but it's actually the voice of experience. Think about it. Even the brightest child will likely remember no more than ten percent of what he or she sees and hears at an art museum. Others might not even remember the experience at all. The key word in that advice is "preschool." Such kids have at attention span often measured in seconds, and an intellectual appetite for art lasting barely a half-hour. From that point they become rambunctious and difficult to manage. And believe me, in an art museum, as nowhere else, they MUST be managed. The result is that preschool kids in an art museum will ruin the art experience for everyone else in the group. It's simply not worth the effort given how little such children are apt to gain from trekking through an art museum. Moreover, most large cities have museums especially designed for children--by all mean, visit them often.

5.) Don't take a guided tour. This comes with some qualifiers--unless you have very limited time or very limited knowledge of art. I suppose I might qualify that a bit more by adding "unless you enjoy being herded about like cattle." None of those qualifiers apply to me, so I'm what you might call the independent sort, enjoying an "art high" simply not attainable apart from an art museum's polished hardwood floors and austere walls.

Resting Shepherd Boy, 1818,
John Gibson
6.) Don't forget to rest. Unless you have the physical stamina of a high school quarterback, two hours on your feet, moving from room to room, no matter how famous, how great, how interesting the art work, is more than most people can take comfortably. The key is to enjoy the art sitting down, even if it means finding a centralized seat in every gallery (or bringing your own as with a seated walker), then simply pivoting around to each wall for several minutes to contemplate its content. Many people like to choose a favorite work and just sit before it, drinking it in, so to speak. Staggering forth tiredly from room to room, hour after hour is dangerous in an art museum--you might bump into something valuable.

7.) Don't try to see it all. I suppose in some of the smaller museums, that might be physically possible, but the really big ones--forget it. You have to make choices. The oriental or the occidental? Ancient or contemporary? Folk art or conceptual? Portraits or landscapes? Of course none of those choices are necessarily exclusionary, but time and stamina are limitations that consistently have to be faced as one enters an art museum.

8.) Don't skip the gift shop. (as if you could). My own weakness in this regard is books, despite the fact they are heavy when packed away in luggage, and seldom read cover to cover once I get them home (I tend to use them as reference works). They're my way of taking a small part of the museum home with me when I leave. Also, as another tip, most art museum features picture postcards of their proudest holdings. In effect, they serve much the same purpose as unread books, and they're a hell of a lot lighter and cheaper.

9.) Don't ignore the security people. Ask questions. Anyone who is employed by the art museum is fair game, from the custodians on up. However you might be surprised at how knowledgeable the museum guards are as to the works they watch, not to mention how willing many of them are in displaying what they know. Obey them. Respect them. Talk to them. Their jobs may seem rather empty and boring, but you'd be surprised at some of the stories they tell--especially the older personnel--who are also likely to be more trusting and forthcoming with art information than younger individuals.

10. Don't expect to buy camera batteries. I don't think I've ever encountered an art museum gift shop which sells them. By the same token, I've yet to visit an art museum in which my little digital camera didn't run out of power. There are two solutions to this (1.) bring an extra set, or (2.) don't take pictures in the first place. Better yet some combination of the two. The urge to take pictures of what you see in an art museum (for me at least) is nearly overwhelming. Yet very, very, seldom do I come back with anything usable here or even worth keeping. Usually the lighting conditions, security shields, or placement on the wall are so bad you might get the idea museum curators deliberately plot to make amateur photography a futile endeavor. If you must take photos, limit yourself to the museum's sculpture holdings or the museum architecture itself (be sure to shoot the title labels for each item). And even when shooting sculpture, take as much notice of the background as the subject itself (avoid light sources or clutter--human or otherwise).

That's about it, ten things NOT to do at an art museum. more, I almost forgot:


Don't touch anything!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Today it occurred to me that, though I've written about quite a number of major art museums the world over (there's even a whole chapter on them in my book, Art THINK, available at right), there exists a tremendous number of smaller art museums which I and others have often missed. So, I decided I'd create a list and a little guide to seeing and enjoying some of them. Well, the list ran well past the magic "top ten" number and even devoting just one inadequate paragraph to each one I didn't look forward to writing such a long discourse in a single day. So, I've decided to begin yet another "series" of items, each dealing with just one of these more modest (as compared to New York's Met) local art treasures. And for now, I'll limit them to those in the U.S., where most of my readers reside.
Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence, 1794, and The Blue Boy,
by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1770, hang together at the Huntington.

The portrait is by
Alexandre Cabanel 1882.
Henry Edwards Huntington was an American railroad tycoon and collector of art and rare books. Born in Oneonta, New York, in 1850, Huntington settled in Los Angeles, where he owned the Pacific Electric Railway as well as substantial real estate interests. In addition to being a businessman and art collector, Hunt-ington was a major booster for Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Arabella Yarrington "Belle" Huntington (right) was his second wife, and before that the second wife of his uncle, the American railway tycoon and industrialist, Collis P. Huntington. She was once known as the richest woman in America. Even more than her second husband, she was the driving force behind the art collection that is today housed in their former mansion the Huntington Library, located in San Marino, California (north-eastern L.A.) It's where you would go to see Thomas Gainsborough's iconic The Blue Boy or Thomas Lawrence's Pinkie (above). They hang in the same room (below) but not side by side.
The main portrait gallery at the Huntington with The Blue Boy
given the central place of honor. Pinkie hangs off to the left.
The Huntington is actually three museums in one. For artists, there's the European Collection consisting of 18th and 19th century paintings which include The Blue Boy and Pinkie, but also a Madonna and Child by Rogier van der Weyden. Mrs. Huntington was also a supporter of American artists such as Mary Cassatt and her 1897 Breakfast in Bed (below) as well as works by Edward Hopper, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol.

Breakfast in Bed, 1897, Mary Cassatt

The Gutenberg Bible, 1455,the first
book printed using movable type.
For the more literary, there's the Huntington Library with it's centerpiece, one of eleven vellum copies of the Guten-berg Bible known to exist (left) along with over 400,000 rare books, and more than a mil-lion photographs, prints, and other ephemera. Highlights include the Ellesmere manu-script of Chaucer dating from around 1410, as well as letters and manuscripts by George Washington, Thomas Jeffer-son, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. It is the only library in the world with the first two quartos of Hamlet; along side the manuscript of Benjamin Franklin's autobio-graphy. Next to that are first editions and manuscripts from authors such as Jack London, Alexander Pope, Mark Twain, William Blake, and William Wordsworth.

Insider Tip: Make reservations for a spot at the Rose Garden
Tea Room, where you can marvel at three acres of roses
and enjoy finger sandwiches, scones, and a fresh pot of tea.
And finally, if you can broaden the definition of "museum" a little, the third major Huntington asset is it's botanical gardens--a Japanese Garden, a Chinese Garden, and a desert Garden (above). Inside the museum we catch a glimpse of Gilded Era tastes and extravagant opulence as designed by southern California architect, Myron Hunt, in a Mediterranean Revival style. The building dates from the 1920s.

Judging from the length of the grand staircase,
it must rise above a "long storey."


Sunday, October 23, 2016

WOW Architecture

WOW is when you look at an example and your first reactions becomes,
"What is it?" In this case it's the robotic bartenders aboard the MS Harmony of the Seas. Those are liquor bottles hanging from the ceiling
by the way.
How do I define "WOW" architecture? It's any structure designed for human occupancy that makes you say, "WOW!", of course. I don't know who coined the concept known today as the "WOW factor." I don't know when, either. Maybe it's been around for years; but Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) has latched onto it in the advertising of their newer and newer cruise ships, and made the most of it. You might call it the ultimate superlative; and in advertising, perhaps a dangerous move unless the product and the human experience in using it lives up to such a high standard. In RCCL's case, it does. As one who has sailed on two out of three of the company's largest vessels, they tend to make every other cruise ship a rather "ho-hum" experience (the opposite of WOW, I guess). The robotic bartenders (top) aboard RCCL's new Harmony of the Seas (though technically not architecture) are just one example of RCCL's WOW factor. The ship is loaded with such innovative design features.
WOW is not always dependent on size. About the only thing this
houseboat has in common with RCCL's behemoth's is its fresh,
daring disregard for what a houseboat should look like.

I'm not here to talk about maritime architecture, only the WOW factor. RCCL's Oasis Class ships are simply the most convenient examples and the only ones with which I've had any personal contact. In terms of architecture (floating or otherwise) WOW has a fairly short "shelf life" in today's world. At one time, the United States virtually "owned" the WOW factor, even before anyone actually thought up the concept. Today, the WOW factor involving our one-time architectural eye-poppers has pretty much worn thin--St. Louis' Gateway Arch, for example. Today, most such architecture is situated in places like China, the United Arab Emirates, and various European countries. Designing and building WOW architecture takes three elements all coming together at once--daring designers, excess cash, and an optimistic attitude on the part of the people paying the cash so that architects can flamboyantly "strut their stuff." All three of these are conspicuously lacking in the U.S. today.

Ribbon Chapel, Hiroshi Nakamura, Hiroshima, Japan
Andy Cao’s Silk Lantern
Japanese garden shelter.
The WOW concept is not limited simply to appearances, though that is often the major factor, as seen in Hiroshi Nakamura's Ribbon Chapel (above), Hiroshima, Japan. As architects adaptation of new building materials often frees the mind of past preconceptions, allowing the WOW factor to bloom in quite modest projects such as Andy Cao's Silk Lantern Japanese garden shelter (right). And sometimes, quite apart from appearances, the simple concept imbued within the structure is enough to make one say "WOW!" as seen in the Flower Tower (below), in Paris. Completed in 2004 by architect, Christian de Portzamparc, his environmentally friendly structure looks like nothing so much as a carefully manicured boxwood hedge. Yet, overlying it's reinforced concrete skeleton, is a skin-like mass of living, breathing floral plant-life serving to beautify as well as purify--a WOW concept if there ever was one.

Paris' Flower Tower (2004) by architect, Christian de Portzamparc
Although WOW architecture is primarily a sculptural approach to the exterior of the building, never is the WOW as powerful as when it moves to smaller spaces inside, reflecting an overall design unity. Of course, inasmuch as architecture today often stops at the front door, allowing the Interior designer to take over from there, it's hard to know where one profession ends and the other begins. True WOW, however is when the two designers work seamlessly together, or are, in fact, a single individual, an architect equally at home inside his building as on the outside. The Golf House in Costa Esmeralda, Argentina (so called simply because it overlooks a golf course), was designed by Luciano Kruk Architects. The client wanted something that required little maintenance. What he got was a geometric structure with three floors, defined by three pure reinforced concrete boxes with large glass walls (windows don't do them justice). Surface textures reflect the rough lumber used to form the concrete. In some cases, the forms remain, adding a warm touch to the unfinished concrete. Incidentally, Frank Lloyd Wright, as far back as 1937, co-opted the WOW factor in his Fallingwater through the daring use (for its time) of reinforced concrete.

When the interior and exterior blend together
seamlessly, the results are often WOW! 
In the examples below, its likely the architect and the interior designer were not one and the same, but simply fed off one another's creative inspiration. Such an intimate design relationship may actually be better than if they were one person. Each brings to the table different design sensibilities, talents, and knowledge, coupled with a will to compromise as to costs and practical considerations when the need arises. Many architectural design firms today, though they operate from separate departments, employ architects as well as engineers and interior (sometimes called environmental) designers. Some level of WOW is often the end result.

When once stairways were a minor inconvenience, today they
often constitute a major role in creating the WOW factor.
Once upon a time bedrooms were intended mostly for those in an
unconscious state. Waking up in one of these environments might
take a few moments to separate dreams from reality.
(The lower bedroom is underwater.)
Originally I stated that ready cash and a positive attitude were as much a prerequisite for WOW as the work of a daring, talented designer. That's never more the case than when such architecture mounts into the hundreds of millions or billions of (name your favorite currency). Departing from traditional design and engineering practices requires an overcoming of both physics and government rules and regulations (often imposed for very good reasons of health and safety)--Dubai's high-rise fires, for example. Materiel tests have to be conducted when new construction materials become available and/or cost efficient, or when traditional materials are used in an innovative manner. Likewise there is a traditional bias involving the public and public officials against that which is seen as WOW radical. The WOW architect thus has to "sell" the project three times, to the client, to the public, and to those whose job it is to protect the public. In the process, the WOW luster can easily be dulled. That's also why you find so much WOW architecture in countries with authoritarian regimes, which (for better or worse) can more easily cut through these obstacles.

Thomas-Heatherwick, Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore, Indonesia.
Dubai Towers, The Lagoons
in Dubai, UAE, Thompson,
Ventulett, Stainback
Associates, Architects,
57 floors, height, 1800 feet
(550 meters)
Wave skyscraper,
Gold Coast, Australia