Capturing culture

2009
spaces #4

Zoe Chen and Justin Guariglia, New York (USA)

This brick building’s rich and varied past is a reflection of the evolution of its surroundings – what is now the hip neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It began life as a spice mill in 1875, when the area was known for its condiment and household-product manufacturers. In the 1980s, the defunct factory was co-opted by artists, who were drawn to the neighborhood’s affordable rents, large loft spaces and proximity to Manhattan. Though it was converted into condominiums in 2006, it is still home to creative types like photographer Justin Guariglia and his wife, artist Zoe Chen, who share this 200 square meters (656 square foot) space with their newborn son, Dashiell. Guariglia, who was born and raised in New Jersey, met Chen in 2003 while on assignment in Tokyo, where she was then working for the famed Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. (Chen, who is originally from Taiwan, was the first foreign designer Miyake ever hired). Shortly thereafter, the two began collaborating on various projects, and in 2006, they moved to Brooklyn to prepare for the exhibition and publication of their first major project, “Shaolin: Temple of Zen,” which examines the closed society of monks living in China’s Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Zen Buddhism and Kung Fu. The couple’s interest in Asian culture is evident in the objects that fill their apartment. The kimono displayed in the bedroom, for instance, was acquired in Kyoto. “I picked it up on the same assignment on which I picked up my wife,” Guariglia laughs. The wooden bench below the bedroom window was bought in Shanghai while he was researching his 2008 book Planet Shanghai. The USM Haller furniture, Guariglia says, fits with the couple’s practical nature and roaming lifestyle. “I bought USM knowing that if I needed to move back to Tokyo or to Shanghai next year, I could have them disassembled and reconfigured to a different space in another country.”

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