At its heart is a five-acre lake that, like all of Woltz’s interventions, is as practical as it is beautiful, in this case capturing and filtering rainwater for irrigation. The glades are ringed by an elliptical path, which serves as an orienting device. “If you’re on the ellipse and the path is curving slightly,” Woltz says, “you know you’re on one of the long sides. If the curve is quite sharp, you know you’re at one of the ends. I think,” Woltz adds, “that when you know where you are, your spirit can open up to the natural setting more readily.”

Houstonians aren’t the only ones returning to this once forlorn swath of greenery. “The park is so alive with insects and birds calling out at night,” says Woltz, “that friends are sending me recordings.”

One to Watch: Designer Kim Mupangilaï unearths her roots in a bold foray into furniture

Kim Mupangilaï at home in Brooklyn with some of her new furniture pieces and vintage carved-wood sculptures.

Photo: Gabriel Flores

“They’re meant to look like they’re dancing,” says Kim Mupangilaï, reflecting on the eight works in her inaugural solo show at Manhattan’s Superhouse gallery this past summer. Unveiled in a vitrine-like space on the second floor of a Chinatown mall, her furnishings do have an uncanny, anthropomorphic energy. A sinuous bench wears a swingy, banana-fiber skirt; an armoire seems to stomp its heeled foot; and a groovy floor lamp sports a shade modeled after a precolonial Congolese hairstyle. Their surreal silhouettes might recall the work of Antoni Gaudí, Philippe Hiquily, or Joan Miró, made at a time when many creatives mined colonial Africa for inspiration. But Mupangilaï’s pieces, which she describes as “cross-cultural self-portraits,” chart new territory, mixing the visual references handed down from her Congolese father with the woodworking techniques she learned from her Belgian maternal grandfather.

Mupangilaï’s parents themselves met salsa dancing in Antwerp, where they later raised their daughter. Mupangilaï studied design and interior architecture in Belgium before moving to New York in 2018, where she got her start designing private residences and hospitality hot spots like Ponyboy bar in Brooklyn. During the pandemic, as she took a deeper look at her biracial heritage, she turned her attention to conceptualizing furniture. Paging through African history books, she became fixated on the sculptural shapes of currency tokens—objects like bracelets, cooking utensils, or weapons that were used for trade or to commemorate life events. Versions of them soon filled her sketchbooks. “I felt like I was creating a new language,” she says of the forms, which she twisted, morphed, and merged, like building blocks, into furnishings. The swooping profile of a daybed, for instance, mimics a throwing knife. The armoire was inspired by a warrior’s shield.

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