Why Surfing Is the Hobby You Didn’t Know You Needed​

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Why Surfing Is the Hobby You Didn't Know You Needed

December 18, 2018

When people are drawn to the ocean, it’s typically to the edge where water meets the shore. Most ocean lovers are actually beach lovers, enamored by the border zone between the solid and liquid worlds — waves tossing themselves onto sandy expanses, seagulls cawing and calling as they wheel in the air, sunlight glinting off the water. For some reason, gazing at that flat expanse of water is fulfilling in a way that staring at the flats of Kansas can never be.

The lure of the ocean is indescribable, and for many it’s enough to merely approach its shores. Even standing neck deep in the water, it’s comforting to realize the shore is close at hand. But others long for a more intimate interaction with the sea. Wave riding is one of the simplest forms of recreation. With as little as a swimsuit and a board, you can catch a wave standing up, kneeling or lying prone. The simplicity is part of the attraction. There’s not a lot of gear to contend with; it’s just you and the wave, period.

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Body surfing is arguably the most basic and harmonious interaction we can engage in with a force of nature. Stand-up surfing is “The Sport of Kings” for reasons both historical, per the ancient Hawaiian royalty, and visceral, because that’s how you feel when you’re up and riding. “Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world,” —the Beach Boys weren’t lying. 

To surf is to be engaged with your environment. Whether it’s your first time out or you’ve been surfing for years, when you are in the water you are aware of your surroundings. It’s an invigorating sensation to feel the surge of water, the salt on your skin, to shake the water from your hair. 

To surf is to return to the rawest element of nature; to dance delicately upon the power of the sea. Motion, sound, the feel of water sliding through your toes, the glare of the sun … birds, fish, constant movement – watching, waiting. You banter with your friends, your kids, your spouse, whoever’s in the water with you, all the while keeping your eye on what’s coming. Then the right bump appears on the horizon and it’s time to fly. Carving turns on top of moving water is an adrenaline rush. Finding yourself wrapped in that water, being propelled by the wave’s own intensity, is like nothing else.

For many sports-minded individuals, surfing holds a special place, partly because the highs are so elusive. The surfing experience is incredibly dependent on the vagaries of swell direction and strength, wind, crowds, beach contours — the list goes on. For all of the variables to come together in the right combination is something rare and wonderful. And yet it happens. And it keeps happening.

As special as surfing is, period, it’s exponentially better with someone else. Not only is it safer to surf with friends or family (always a good idea to have someone in the water who will notice if you’re not there) but when you catch that wave and take a ride, it’s good to have an audience who understands what you just did and how it felt. And if you feel compelled to brag, well, that’s good, too. 

Big waves get all the press — those perfect tubes of turquoise water, the famous competitors who so often ride them. But the truth is, even the little ones are worth paddling out to meet. And, especially for beginners, the rush of riding a knee-high wave can be a mind-blowing experience. It only takes one ride to get hooked. 

There’s a reason they say a bad day surfing is better than a good day doing anything else. They say it because it’s true. Inspirato destinations are ideally situated in some of the prime surf spots all the world over.

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Though surfing was invented in Hawaii, surf culture came directly out of Southern California. There are a variety of breaks ranging from beginner to advanced within 30 minutes of Newport Coast. Water temperatures in the summer range from mid-60s to mid-70s; in the winter they drop to mid-50s to mid-60s.

Blackie’s, on the north side of Newport Pier, is great for beginners. It’s named for Blackie’s Bar, which has been there for ages. It’s generally a very forgiving wave, so it’s not only softer but also there’s a long window in which to catch it. It’s a popular spot for longboarders, too, both beginning and advanced. 

Trestles requires a 15-minute hike from the car, so it’s a bit of a commitment for boardtoting surfers. There’s a river that becomes an estuary, and it’s one of the few places on the Southern California coast that is not surrounded by a lot of development. Thanks to the cobblestone reef, it’s a classic break for advanced surfers with clean, solid waves. Several pro contests are held at Trestles, which, because of the hike, is sometimes less crowded than other spots. 

San Onofre is a state park that draws longboarders attracted to its consistent, mellow waves. Like many surf spots, there’s a wave called Old Man’s. Recently, locals have begun referring to it as Old Woman’s, as female surfers are almost beginning to outnumber male. 

Surrounded by jungle, Punta de Mita is known for rights — meaning waves that break to the surfer’s right. Rights are best for regular footers, or those who surf with their left foot in front. Various peaks jut along the rock reef, which stretches for miles and miles down the coast. Because of the various resorts on the coastline, it may be easier to hire a guide and boat to take you to some solid, less-crowded waves. Water temperatures are in the 80s year-round.

Punta Burros draws both locals and visitors. With peaks for both shortboarders and longboarders, it’s also one of the easier breaks to access. The waves are better at high tide.  Sayulita is 25 miles to the north, and is an excellent beginner spot with primarily beach breaks. It’s a draw for longboarders and shortboarders, and seems made-to-order for goofy footers, or people who surf with their right foot forward. Sayulita feels like a traditional Mexican town with lots of old buildings, churches and history. It’s quaint with a relaxed vibe, and a fun destination for surfers and non-surfers alike. 

The Cove and El Faro at Punta Mita Point are found in the southernmost bay. Though you can walk there in about 40 minutes, it’s easiest to hire a ponga. It’s a consistent break, but is better before the off-shore winds kick in. Los Cabos is at the southern end of Baja California. It has several world-famous point breaks, as well as a variety of beach breaks. It’s a special place with secluded beaches balanced by abundant nightlife. Water temperatures fluctuate from the 70s to the 80s year round.

The south-facing East Cape is designed for the adventurous soul, but is best in the summer months during south-swell season. The area lies just past the town of San Juan del Cabo, on the Sea of Cortez, and seems almost mystical. The desert runs right to the shore, and is both beautiful and uncrowded.

The West Cape, which is just northwest of Cabo San Lucas, has surf year round. With both beach and reef breaks, it has several consistent waves. In addition to breaks that can be accessed on foot, there are several breaks that can be accessed via sea kayak.

Todos Santos on the Pacific side is not just a fun surf spot, but it’s a draw in its own right. A funky art community, Todos Santos is loaded with galleries, artist studios and artists. It’s about an hour’s drive from Cabo San Lucas.

Poker Player Antonio Esfandiari Explains the Magic of Las Vegas

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Poker Player Antonio Esfandiari Explains the Magic of Las Vegas

November 28, 2018

Taiko drummers in feathered headdresses from Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère pound colossal drums so loudly the Amazon Room at Las Vegas’ Rio hotel vibrates. One of poker’s most charismatic players, Antonio Esfandiari, half dances and half skips in. He has paid $1 million to play in the richest poker tournament ever, The Big One for One Drop, which is raising funds for water development globally. Forty-eight players entered—eight are at the final table. Esfandiari is one of the eight.

ESPN’s Kara Scott pulls Esfandiari aside for a quick interview. “A million dollars to play in a poker tournament is insane,” says Esfandiari. “To be at the final table is really a dream come true.” A dream because one of the eight people at the final table will win poker’s largest prize ever: $18.3 million. Then Scott asks: “If you win…?” Esfandiari breaks in: “I have to correct you. There’s no ‘if ’— there’s ‘when’—so I’ll let you rephrase the question if you like.”

“When you win,” Scott obliges. “When I win,” Esfandiari says with conviction, “I’m just going to take care of my family, travel a little bit more and take it easy.”

That was 2012. When Esfandiari, intensely focused and brashly confident, fulfilled his own prophecy and won The Big One for One Drop, his father Bejan and brother Pasha rushed to embrace him. As confetti rained down from the rafters, Esfandiari gave his dad the $350,000 Richard Mille platinum bracelet that was part of the winner’s prize. Friends, including many pro poker players, hoisted the barefoot champion onto their shoulders as the crowd cheered.

That was the moment Esfandiari became the King of Las Vegas. He was already a celebrity in his adopted town, but winning poker’s richest prize made him Vegas’ poker superstar. Which is somewhat ironic because Esfandiari didn’t plan on living in Sin City. Or even the United States.

“I grew up in Iran in the 1980s in a time of war,” he says. Two months after he was born the Shah was overthrown and the country became an Islamic republic; before
his first birthday more than 50 Americans were taken hostage in Iran and held for more than a year.

During the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, “my dad told me that when the planes would come my little brother and I would say, ‘Bomb, bomb, bomb’ and then we’d go look
for place to hide. One time a building four or five houses away was blown up. I thought: that could have been our house. I was 6 years old—it was pretty scary. That’s when my dad decided to get us out.”

Esfandiari, now 36, says he didn’t know much about
the U.S. before coming to live near relatives in San Jose, Calif. He just knew it was “this big wonderful place that you only dreamt of, so I felt very fortunate and lucky.” Enterprising from a young age, he became a paperboy
 at age 9, and though he didn’t speak English well when
 he arrived, the student quickly mastered
the language. But his first year in San Jose wasn’t easy: “Third grade was really tough for me. There I am, a Middle Eastern kid, and Iran wasn’t exactly the USA’s favorite country. I got picked on more than my fair share.”

Making things harder: His mother returned to Iran shortly after the family arrived in the U.S., so Esfandiari was raised mainly by his father Bejan who worked incessantly. “I didn’t have a very happy childhood,” Antonio recalls, “but I made the best of it.”

He focused his energy on helping his family. “At 11, I was a newspaper salesman over the phone for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was a little office with a bunch of telemarketers. I was No. 1 in the area—I crushed it. When they found out I was 11, they let me work under my mother’s name to keep my job.”

In his late teens, Esfandiari took up magic. “As soon as I did a couple of tricks, all of a sudden I went from being the most unpopular kid to a very popular kid. Magic helped me feel like The Guy,” he says. Esfandiari’s given first name is Amir, but he changed it then because “Antonio the Magician” sounded better. He practiced relentlessly and says he wanted to be the next David Copperfield—until he discovered poker at age 20. By the time he was 22, he says he was making “pretty good money” playing the game.

A couple of years after he started playing, Esfandiari asked his father to come to a casino and watch. “That day I was so on point: I told him what people had before they flipped their cards over. I was right 90 percent of the time. And my dad—I will never forget—he was sitting behind me and he said, ‘Son, how in the world do you know what they have?’ I don’t know how I know, I told him—it’s just a process. I can sense when someone is strong or weak or lying or honest. It comes pretty natural to me.”

Esfandiari says his father looked over at him and said, “I believe—you have my support.” This meant the world to Antonio. “My dad is my hero, so it was really important when he said he’d support me.”

By 2004, Esfandiari says he was “hungry, very hungry, to make a name for myself.” He’d finished as high as third in
a World Poker Tour tournament but had never won one. “I knew that (to gain recognition) in poker you had to win a major tournament.” Playing poker the night before the L.A. Poker Classic, he’d lost $30,000, about half his bankroll, but that didn’t stop him from playing the next day. “It just felt like my time. I outplayed and outlasted and outhustled hundreds of players. And I won it,” he says. At the time, he was the youngest player, 25, to win a WPT event.

Esfandiari drove home, “I didn’t want him (his father) to hear about my victory from anyone but me. I showed up at his doorstep just after dawn with a backpack filled with $1.4 million—cash! ‘Dad, there’s something I really need to tell you,’ ” Esfandiari told his dad when Bejan groggily answered the door and squinted into the rising sun. “I could sense he was worried. I really like to mess with people. I just showed him the backpack. Then I opened it and said, “Dad, I won.”

He looked down in shock and said, “What did you win?” “This big tournament in L.A.”
“How much did you win?”
“Over a million bucks.”

“I wish I would have filmed it—he almost melted,” Esfandiari says. “He almost fell to the ground in shock he was so happy. He laughed, he cried, he hugged me. It took time for reality to sink
in. But when he looked back down and saw my bag stuffed with packets of hundred-dollar bills, he got it. He believed, and he knew that finally our family’s American dream was coming true.”

After winning this tournament, Esfandiari found himself traveling from his home in San Jose to Las Vegas “all the time,” he says. “I never wanted to live [in Vegas], but I bought a home here to not spend so much money living in the Bellagio, and I ended up moving here. It just kind of happened that way.”

With his black-rimmed glasses, slender physique and casual style, Esfandiari has GQ panache—he’s not a grizzled, hard-drinking, cigar-chomping poker player. “Despite his outward suave, gamblin’ man appearance, in some ways I see Antonio as the antithesis of Las Vegas,” says World Series of Poker broadcaster Lon McEachern. “To the people he knows, Antonio is warm, caring, genuine, vulnerable and a family man.” Bejan is frequently on the rail at poker events, cheering on his son. And when Antonio goes out to celebrate, he insists dad come clubbing with him and his friends.
World Poker Tour broadcaster Mike Sexton, who was there for Esfandiari’s 2004 win, says Esfandiari now treats success differently than in his youthful years. “He was a very Vegas guy early in his career. He was partying in every club in town every night. He got the best tables, and they would welcome him with open arms. He was single, having a big time, living a big life.”

In a post last February on the poker website Bluff Europe, Esfandiari shared his joy: “On January 7th at 8:01 am, I became a father of a beautiful son. It was a moment that truly cannot be explained, only experienced. I am shocked and transformed, and my life has changed forever. The arrival of a child into my world has given birth to an everlasting love, a nurturing love that has weaved itself into the fabric of my being. It happened instantly, and watching my child enter this world was nothing short of a true miracle.” He also recently married but asked the magazine to refrain from sharing further details about his family life.

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Though he never planned on settling in Las Vegas, Esfandiari has come to appreciate its allures beyond gambling. Not that he doesn’t gamble at home: when not traveling the world for tournaments, he can sometimes be found at Aria or Bellagio. “Those are the only two poker rooms where you can really find a big game with a buy-in of more than $10,000,” he says. He also plays at the Rio when it hosts the annual World Series of Poker Tour, between late- May and early-July. Esfandiari is a self-described foodie and appreciates that he can find innovative cuisine, from noodle bowls to Wagyu filet mignon, at almost any hour. For the latter, he goes to Jean Georges Steakhouse at the Aria. For Italian, it’s Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare at Wynn.

“But really, my favorite places are off Strip. There’s a Japanese grill place called Raku that I think is the best restaurant in the world,” he says. “I am a huge ramen guy—I love soup. I go to Jinya for late-night soup, super good. And there’s a sushi place that’s dynamite called Kabuto.” Though Esfandiari doesn’t go out nearly as often as he once did, his go-to club is the Marquee at the Cosmopolitan, with its indigo-lighted dance floor and sleek design.

And, after years of neglect, downtown Vegas is showing signs of life, Esfandiari says. “There’s a really cool little restaurant called Eat, and there are some speakeasy bars downtown; it’s got a little bit of a London vibe going.” Just
a couple of miles north of the Strip, downtown was once
the heart of Vegas. Remnants of its old hotels remain at the downtown Neon Museum, where, among other relics, you can see the sign for Binion’s Horseshoe, where the World Series of Poker was held from its debut in 1970 until 2004.

Though Esfandiari is not a typical Vegas guy, he and Sin City share “a devil-may-care attitude,” says McEachern. “No matter where he goes, Vegas goes with him. Whether it be his slick, quaffed Rat Pack look, his ability to be the center of the party, or his drop-of-the-hat tendency to accept a bet on just about anything, he is one of those rare people whom everyone knows when he is in the room—and everyone wants to be noticed by him.”

For the past couple of years, Esfandiari has joined McEachern in the broadcast booth for WSOP’s Main Event final table. “He has treated me like a friend from the first moment we met and continues to do so,” McEachern said. “He’s always on time, ready to go. Antonio will use his ‘cold read’ on those in a hand, and more often than not, give us a pretty darn good read on the cards they hold. It’s impossible to be spot-on 100 percent of the time, but he’s right enough to drop the jaws of us neophytes around him and those watching on ESPN.”

Esfandiari now has earned more than $26 million in sanctioned tournaments, according to the poker magazine Bluff, and who knows how much more in cash games. “He wants to be best at anything he does,” Bejan said.

Despite his success, Esfandiari remains down-to-earth. “Antonio is just so good with the people,” says Sexton, the WPT broadcaster. “There are very few players who are really fan favorites, and he’s in that elite group. He takes photos with them, he laughs with them, he jokes with them, and he gets along with them.” In 2013 Esfandiari traveled to Central America to meet people benefiting from the water projects the One Drop tournament helped. “I was very touched by this trip. I will never forget those families,” he says.

Esfandiari realizes how lucky he is to be playing a game he’s so passionate about, and to be making a good living from it. “Antonio is one of those guys who gets it,” Sexton says. He’s fortunate to have found his calling, and Vegas is lucky this one-time magician has made this city of illusion his home.

Why Jake Burton Says Vermont is Snowboarding’s Spiritual Birthplace

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Why Jake Burton Says Vermont is Snowboarding's Spiritual Birthplace

November 26, 2018

Jake Burton Carpenter once said Stratton Mountain Resort, its 3,875-foot summit lording over southern Vermont, had probably done more for snowboarding than any other mountain on the planet. Still, in the mid-1970s—when he was an early 20-something freshly escaped from Manhattan’s corporate culture— testing prototypes of snowboards he made in a barn in nearby Londonderry, Carpenter had to sneak onto the mountain in the dark after lifts had closed. “Jake would take each new design up after the lifts closed and hike up Suntanner, which is one of our central runs, to test his boards,” said Myra Foster, Stratton’s director of PR for more than 25 years.

Eventually the resort, which has a 2,003-vertical foot drop, agreed to allow Carpenter to ride his creations during the day. “When he became confident that he or anybody else would be able to turn and stop on a snowboard, he came to our director of operations and said, ‘We’d love to be able to ride these on the mountain.’” Stratton’s answer was, “Why not?” “He seemed to be on to something exciting,” Foster said. “We wanted to be a part of it. We were one of the first resorts in the country to allow snowboarding.”

Stratton was right. Burton, who early on decided his middle name “Burton” made for a better brand name than his last “Carpenter,” was on to something. Forty years later, five different snowboarding disciplines, from half pipe to snowboard cross and freestyle, are Olympic sports. Burton Snowboards, which Burton still owns with his wife Donna, is estimated to be worth more than $100 million (privately held companies don’t have to disclose financials) and employs more than 900 people around the world. Half of everything snowboarding-related sold—from clothing to boots, bags, bindings and boards—bears the Burton name.

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While Burton has stores around the world, its world headquarters remain
in Vermont. Not in the barn—which belonged to Stratton’s ski school director—where Burton first toiled
over prototypes, but on a campus for roughly 400 employees that includes an 84,000-square-foot prototyping facility, a flagship store and a 68,000-square-foot office complex.

Walking into the lobby of the office complex, you’re greeted by a timeline display of wall-mounted snowboards dating back to the company’s founding in 1977 and a simple message: “You need to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.”

It’s an important reminder for Burton as the brand closes in
on its 40th anniversary. Sliding down mountains sideways on a snowboard may still be a relatively young sport, and progression and innovation are still the name of the game, but four decades of dominance in the industry is also cause for celebrating some deep roots.

Burton would be the first to tell you he didn’t invent snowboarding. He skied as a kid and got his first taste of carving slopes sideways when he was 14, on something called a Snurfer. A rudimentary precursor to the modern snowboard, Snurfers were patented by Sherman Poppen in 1966. Among the many historic items in the Burton collection on display
in the flagship store are a pair of even more rudimentary snowboards patented even earlier—in 1939 by the Bunker Sno-Surf Company.

Despite Bunker and Poppen, it is Burton’s name that has become synonymous with snowboarding. After he first got hooked on the experience of surfing on snow, the self-identified “loser shop class kid” experimented with different materials, shapes and manufacturing processes, trying to figure out how to make snowboarding even more fun. And he’s been at it—“it” being making the sport fun—ever since.

Though Burton, 61, is a New Yorker by birth, briefly went to college in Colorado (he graduated from NYU) and has lived abroad, the Burton Snowboards story is pure Vermont. The first official board he launched his brand with in 1977—after spending a few years making hundreds of prototypes in that Londonderry barn—was dubbed the Burton Backhill, “BB1.” It’s at the beginning of the headquarters’ timeline wall and is also prominently featured in a small museum gallery of the Burton archives that is open to the public by appointment. A limited-edition model based on the company’s early boards, the Throwback, sold out in 2015 and is in wider release this season. After nearly 40 years of innovation, its popularity proves there’s still plenty of fun to be had in stripped-down simplicity, even as the company leads the charge in technical and technological innovation elsewhere in its line.

“Since day one, we’ve charged ahead to innovate and give as much back to snowboarding as we’ve gotten out of it,” reads the manifesto summarizing the company’s goals Burton wrote himself. “We answer to no one but snowboarders, and support everything we do with the quality and service that shops and riders have grown to expect.”

In 1978, after the success of the Backhill, Burton moved the business out of the barn and set up a more proper shop in Manchester, 20-some miles west. In 1992 the company moved again, this time to the Burlington campus it still calls home. Although Burton is sold worldwide and is expanding into new markets like China—according to Bloomberg Business, as much as 10 percent of Burton’s business will be in China by the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing—the company’s home will never be anywhere but Vermont. Nearly all of the company’s first-hand testing with its research and development team still happens on the nearby slopes of Stowe. While Burton and his employees want the company to be profitable, they spend less time thinking about market share and growth strategies than they do thinking about the soul of snowboarding—how to define it, nurture it, protect it.

“Progression on the mountain and innovation really go hand in hand,” said Burton archivist Todd Kohlman while leading a tour of the company archives and the company’s Craig Kelly Prototype Facility. The latter is named after a former, long- time sponsored rider and collaborator who died in 2003
in an avalanche outside Revelstoke, British Columbia. To employees, the prototype facility is simply “Craig’s” and it’s where tomorrow’s designs are born. “Jake always says the riders are in the driver’s seat,” Kohlman said. “They’re the ones directing the way snowboarding will go. They tell us what they need from us in order to do what they want to do.”

Inside Craig ’s, next to a small museum display honoring the first 30-odd years of Burton Snowboards history, Kohlman took us past a crew making boards marking
the 20-year anniversary of rider Terje Håkonsen’s iconic 1995 signature board. The new boards are built with contemporary specs, but the Sprocking Cat design is vintage. Norweigen Håkonsen, who picked up the nickname Sprocking Cat because he always lands on his feet, signed with Burton in 1989, when he was only 15, and has worked with the company, designing boards ever since.

“The boards we’re making right now were designed by Terje, using the trickiest materials and the newest shapes, with
just a nod to the history,” said Chris Doyle, Burton’s head of Prototyping R&D, as he waited for a rapid 3D prototyping machine to mock up a new helmet shape, while a high-tech CNC router in another room shaved and shaped ultra-thin milled wood cores into precise dimensions for a new whimsical-looking asymmetrical board design.

The bulk of Burton’s manufacturing has moved overseas, both to China and Austria, but Craig’s remains the heart and soul of the company. It’s here where all of the new products get their beginning, where special projects like Terje’s anniversary board are produced, and where personal boards for team riders like Olympic gold medalists Shaun White and Kelly Clark are made to spec.

Next up on the facility’s docket are custom boards that team riders like White, Mark McMorris, Clark, Danny Davis and Enni Rukajarvi will use in upcoming competitions. Each rider collaborates and consults throughout the design and production process for their board(s).

Prominently displayed on a wall inside Craig’s is another recently completed project, the very first signature deck designed by and for Jake himself. It’s named “The Stone Hut” after a favorite, 80-year-old backcountry hut of Burton’s near the top of Stowe Mountain Resort’s Mt. Mansfield. Its design is meant for powder and the deck features artwork from Burton’s favorite Jimi Hendrix album “Valleys of Neptune.”

Craig’s is a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for snowboarders. Burton likes to think Kelly would approve. “Craig was an engineer at heart,” Burton said shortly after the center opened in 2010. “It was what made our relationship tick once he got involved with Burton. He was so into board design, and he brought us so far. It seemed only appropriate we would name this place after him. I mean, I owe so much
to that guy for teaching me to listen to riders and just what
he did himself, pushing our board designs. There’s no other name that should be on the door than his.”

On the day I visited, racks of a limited-run tribute model snowboard marking the 25th anniversary of Kelly’s first signature Burton board greeted us. Kelly was one of the sport’s first superstars and one of its most engaging personalities, winning some of the first major snowboarding contests as he led the movement towards freestyle progression with an ear- to-ear grin pasted across his face. Burton was his board.

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But after winning four consecutive World Champion titles (1986–1989) and three consecutive US Open titles (1987–1989), Kelly walked away from competition to pursue big-mountain freeriding and backcountry snowboarding. Common today, such riding was revolutionary at the time. Some of Kelly’s other sponsors balked at this shift. Not only did Burton continue backing him, but they also allowed Kelly to design the gear that would make this new type of riding more fun.

The building, which is available for tours by appointment, is symbolically protected by avalanche fences above the front entrance. Tour groups go into each of the prototyping rooms, but cameras are banned in most of them. During my visit, the engineering team was putting a new boot design to the test in a robotic torture device so classified we were asked to not even describe it here. Other trade secrets, like the process for creating Burton’s trademarked “Channel” binding attachment system, are even more heavily protected.

“I’m a company guy, obviously, but I can honestly say we build the best snowboards and snowboard equipment in the world,” said Doyle. “I respect all of our competitors but I can respectfully say that we’re still the best. Jake is a true believer that last year’s trophies don’t pay this year’s bills,” Doyle said. “He really doesn’t have a whole lot of time for nostalgia and sitting on one’s laurels. This is snowboarding, after all: the whole thing moves very quickly, and you have to stay with it. So when you come in here, what you’re seeing is the future being made.”

“Here’s how I like to look at it: every board being put together is the potential energy for so much fun. Where is that board going to go? Who is it going to take to the top of a podium or somewhere amazing? You can feel that energy when you come through here. We’re not given total carte blanche, but we do have the freedom to try things and to do some weird stuff. We can prototype everything, and it allows us to play in a bunch of different directions. I’m pretty much ruined for working anywhere else.”

Whether a snowboard, boot or jacket, Burton products have one thing in common: the words “Burlington, Vermont.” It’s key to the brand’s DNA. “When I think of Vermont, I think of quality,” Kohlman said. “And when you’re talking about Burton, you’re talking about Vermont: that’s at the core. Jake and Donna are proud Vermonters, and Vermont is really proud of Burton and our culture. It’s a special place, and it ties in heavily to both our history and our future.” And it’s where Burton has always loved to ride.

“I’ve heard him say he’ll ride all over the world, but some
of his best days are still at Stowe,” Kohlman said. “There’s something about your home mountain and your special spots. On any given day at Stowe you could run into Jake out there, trudging up on a splitboard with his dogs in tow, or out testing our latest prototypes, or just riding with Donna and their sons [George, 25, Taylor, 22 and Timi, 19].”

Stowe Mountain Resort is the closest resort to Burton HQ, and Jake and Donna have a home there. “You’d find Jake on the Bruce Trail,” said Doyle. “It’s an old backcountry trail, 
a great, long, fun run. It’s un-groomed, and to get out at the bottom you have to pole out along the cross-country trails, which sends the skiers into fits of apoplexy—we’ve learned to stay out of the groomed cross-country tracks! You better have your board waxed.”

In 2011, Burton was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It is now cured, but last March, just after the Burton US Open in Vail, Colorado, he was diagnosed with Miller Fisher Syndrome, an extremely rare type of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that results in the body’s immune system attacking the nerves.
It temporarily paralyzed him. He was on full life support for two months at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, but is now back at home in Vermont focusing on physical therapy. Burton spokeswoman Abby Young said he’s expected to make a full recovery, but it’s been a trying year.

“What he’s done for the sport, his heart and soul, his enthusiasm, his overall drive, his hands-on approach—you see that in how he beat cancer and how he’s fighting this Miller Fisher Syndrome, too,” said Shawn Johnson, Burton’s global development manager. “When he comes through he always asks, ‘What’s hot today? What are you working on?’ That’s where his heart is, and he’s always receptive to new ideas.”

“It’s always been Jake’s passion to develop snowboarding, 
to keep making it better and better so we can get to wherever we’re heading, and to me that’s the heart of what this company is about,” Kohlman said. “The past is awesome and it’s worth celebrating, but Jake is always focused on ‘What’s next?’ ‘How can we make this better?’ It’s the future he’s interested in.”

Nantucket’s Most Loved Coastal Activity

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Nantucket's Most Loved Coastal Activity

November 6, 2018

In the summer the prevailing winds blow across coastal Massachusetts and Cape Cod from the southwest. The gentle morning sea breeze often builds throughout the day into a stiff wind that wafts across the exposed crescent that is the island of Nantucket. The Wampanoag were the first to ride these winds and settle Nantucket, the “far away land” in their language. European explorers used these winds to sail past the island in the 17th century, and the great whaling ships that once chased sperm whales across the globe called Nantucket harbor their home port. While this glacial remnant that juts out of the ocean 30 miles south of Hyannis is now known for its sandy beaches and stunning vacation homes, sailing—more than anything—defines the Nantucket way of life.

When spending time on the island, it is impossible not to feel the urge to hop aboard a boat and hoist the mainsail. The best place to get a sailing lesson or send the kids to sailing school is Nantucket Community Sailing, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching and providing sailing opportunities. Once you learn how to sail, the waters around the island open up to a whole new world.

Oddly enough, Herman Melville had not set foot on Nantucket before writing Moby Dick in 1851. But he knew the history of the infamous whaling ship the Essex from Nantucket, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in the South Pacific. And his book, hailed by some as the Great American Novel, foisted both sailing and the island of Nantucket into the national consciousness.

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Nantucket was the hub of America’s whaling fleet from 1715 until the eventual demise of commercial whaling 150 years later. (The last whaler reportedly left the harbor in 1869.) At its peak in the mid-19th century, 72 whaling ships listed Nantucket as their home port. The ships had three masts that hoisted square-rigged sails; three-dozen crewmembers would board and set sail from the island on expeditions that lasted as long as three years. That’s quite the contrast from the fleet of recreational day sailors that flit about the harbor or swing with the tide on moorings today.

Nantucket took to its present-day incarnation as a vacation oasis not long after those whaling ships faded into history, with visitors flocking to the island for the same reason as the original settlers—rugged yet picturesque beauty and a large protected harbor.

The island is actually part of a glacial moraine, formed at the forward edge of the Laurentide Ice Sheet that retreated at the end of the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago. It left behind a 50-square-mile chunk of land in the shape of a crescent moon off the coast of Cape Cod. Melville described it in Moby Dick as an “elbow of sand,” but that’s not exactly right. Parts of the island’s sandy shoreline are still littered with boulders and rocks from the leftover glacial till. Much of the island rises up from the beaches in the form of vast bluffs that provide high vantage points for gazing far across the surrounding waters. The opening to Nantucket Harbor sits in the middle of the crescent, facing north into Nantucket Sound and across to the Cape. There is always at least a little wind. 

“Nantucket Sound is just a glorious sailing location,” says Diana Brown, the chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. “There are steady breezes every day and the water is clear.” Founded in 1994, Nantucket Community Sailing is dedicated to teaching sailing and making it accessible to people who live in or visit Nantucket. It offers weekly classes for children in season, all taught by instructors certified by US Sailing. Adults and kids alike can sign up for private lessons. “Our primary focus is children,” says Brown. “But we work with sailors from age 5 to 95.”

Youth classes range from absolute beginner all the way up to advanced racing level, and adults can sign up for private lessons at all skill levels. There’s also a woman’s sailing clinic and an adult racing program. Last year, the organization provided sailing opportunities to more than 1,000 kids and 2,000 adults over the season, which lasts mid-June through August, with rentals available through mid-September.

For rentals and lessons, head to Jetties Sailing Center, where Community Sailing keeps its boats. It’s on the beach just off Bathing Beach Road, about a mile from downtown and the docks for the ferries from Oak Bluff and Hyannis. Prospective sailors can rent or take lessons in small one- to two-person boats such as Sunfish and Lasers or larger Rhodes or Marshall Cats or take a trip with a captain aboard a J/105.

All of Jetties Sailing Center’s introductory sailing lessons, as well as rentals, stay inside the protected waters of the harbor. From the center, you can sail past the historic Brant Point Lighthouse, first established as an aid to navigation in 1746. The interior harbor offers protected water where first-timers can learn basic skills such as how to set and trim a sail so that it works to move the boat no matter the wind direction, how to tack and jibe, control the centerboard and how to come about, which is how you change direction. A lesson aboard the 35-foot J/105 can involve leaving the harbor and exploring the waters surrounding Nantucket. And there is no better way to see the island than from the deck of a boat.

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Heading west along the shoreline leads to the smaller Madaket Harbor, which is more exposed to the elements but offers the best view of Nantucket’s sunset. Sailing farther west and to the north provides the best opportunity to see the privately owned summer community on Tuckernuck Island, or sail beyond to the neighboring Muskeget Island to view the largest population of grey seals in the United States. (Don’t try to swim near them; it’s illegal to get within 150 feet of one, and seals attract sharks.) An article from the Cape Cod Times described the seal-viewing experience this way, “On a foggy day you can smell the island before you can actually see it.” But the chance to see roughly 3,000 seals in the wild is worth the olfactory assault.

Heading north and east outside of the harbor entrance leads to the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, a pristine stretch of grassy sand dunes and marshes that juts north into the ocean, protected at its tip by the Great Point Light, built in 1785 to guide sailors in from Cape Cod. As Ezra G. Perry wrote in his 1898 book A Trip Around Cape Cod, “The long-drawn sandy shores of Great Point are among the first land of the real island sighted on the trip across,” from the Cape. This is another place to watch seals flopping on and off the beaches into the surf, as well as several species of migratory shore birds like American oystercatchers, piping plovers or snowy egrets.

The south shore of Nantucket is exposed to the whims of the Atlantic Ocean, and subject to much larger seas. (It holds great surfing spots, if you want to try that.) But on calm days sailors can cruise along the sandy beaches and observe the famous Nantucket summerhouses perched atop the bluffs.

Sailors with serious experience can venture about 20 miles offshore to the whale feeding grounds, where it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the massive humpback and finback whales that pass through these waters throughout the summer season. And whale watching brings the Nantucket experience back full circle to its days of Captain Ahab and the majestic whaling fleet. As Melville wrote in Moby Dick of the Nantucket sailor, “For the sea is his; he owns it, as Emperors own empires.”

Inside the Most Iconic Midcentury Modern Homes

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Inside the Most Iconic Midcentury Modern Homes

October 22, 2018

Robert Imber slows his silver Honda Odyssey to a stop in front of a one-story white slump stone wall perched in the foothills of Palm Springs. This, he says to me and two other passengers, is a classic example of midcentury modern architecture—think Mad Men style. “This is minimalism at its finest,” Imber says. “It’s all about symmetry and balance. Constraint.” Imber, 65, is the city’s premiere architectural aficionado. He’s been hosting this three-hour, 35-mile minivan tour since 2001. His enthusiasm is captivating. I just didn’t realize there’d be so many walls involved.

Not long after seeing the white wall, Imber will stop the van in front of a similar brown wall. It’s the front of a home that I’ll admit, I find less than inspiring. A large front lawn, some hedges and palm trees soften the bricks up a bit, but it’s a plain brown wall nonetheless—or so it seems. With the help of iPad photos and the gusto of a magician performing sleight of hand, Imber reveals the walls are not in fact just walls; they are an expertly planned architectural element concealing two of the world’s most exquisite midcentury modern homes.

“The no windows in the front is a privacy thing—it’s a celebrity home,” Imber says. “In addition, it’s a statement. It’s the angularity of it; it’s the situation. It’s about the allure, the sense of arrival and expectation, and [he pauses] the drama. And, of course, when you get through the doors, it’s an endlessly large glass house!”

This house in particular belongs to one Leonardo DiCaprio, who, much to Imber’s delight, has restored that brown wall with adobe bricks matching the originals used in 1964, when the house was built for Dinah Shore. The white-walled home? That was Max Palevsky’s, the late billionaire tech pioneer. It still houses what’s left of his storied art collection.

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Vista San Jacinto in Palm Springs, California

If you want a peek behind those private, dramatic walls—a taste of the well-preserved desert lifestyle that has lured Hollywood stars and dignitaries for more than half a century— you could park in the driveway, ring the front doorbell and hope for the best. (“Private homes, public streets,” Imber says. “I can count on one hand the number of gated communities in Palm Springs.”) Or you can come back when the owners of midcentury gems like these open their doors to the public—and double- decker tour buses roll in for a better vantage point—during Palm Springs Modernism Week.

Palm Springs Modernism Week

The event had humble beginnings 15 years ago as a furniture sale. Since then, it’s exploded into an 11-day annual celebration of all things midcentury modern, now attracting more than 60,000 attendees from all over the world. The double-decker bus tour is a must, but that’s just one of more than 180 official events. There are also lectures, retro cocktail parties (costumes highly encouraged), antique furniture and car sales—even a Kodachrome slide-assisted humorist—all celebrating the designs of the mid-’40s to the late ’60s. And then there are the home tours. 

Epic home tours, including a look at Frank Sinatra’s infamous Twin Palms estate (complete with original twin palm trees), and, when President Obama isn’t staying there as he did in 2013 and 2014, the Sunnylands Estate in nearby Rancho Mirage (its pink roof matches the color of the sunset on the nearby foothills).

“It’s people who are having a good time and love to revel in all of the classic design,” says Daniel Salzman, a Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based green home builder and Modernism Week devotee of the past six years. “Take some of these iconic figures, the designers, builders and architects, the landscape and the Hollywood lore of it all, and it makes for some pretty awesome storytelling.”

The tales of silver screen stars and the blooming of Palm Springs’ iconic architecture are, in fact, intertwined. “Some of the big stars—and there were hundreds of them, some big names— they had a 100-mile clause in their contract; they weren’t to be more than about 100 miles from Hollywood,” Imber says. “So in case Mr. Mayer need them for a lunch or something they wouldn’t be off in Africa on a safari. So they came here just to party and hang out.” (Some celebrities who’ve owned houses in Palm Springs: Bette Davis, Gene Autry, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elvis Presley, Howard Hughes, Bob Hope, Liberace and Frank Sinatra.)

Midcentury modern designs were going up all over the country, Imber says, “but Palm Springs was such a moneyed and social place that it was particularly abundant.” Architects who were drawn to Palm Springs for its dramatic landscape—10,833-foot Mount San Jacinto looms in the background of the Sonoran desert— were given the financial freedom to experiment.

Bob Hope’s John Lautner-designed estate is perhaps one of the best examples of star money creating something spectacular. The hillside 23,366-square-foot manse was designed to resemble a volcano, though to many it looks more like a spaceship or a giant mushroom. “The dome sheath in copper was painted over because it was blinding the airline pilots,” Imber says.

Architects not working on star homes found the plentiful and cheap desert land offered them creative freedom as well. “The early modernists are the original green builders,” Salzman says. “The topography and weather necessitated a totally different approach to home building.” The 15 or so architects now called the “desert modernists” championed the idea of incorporating the local landscape and bringing the outside in, whether by designing homes around trees and boulders, or crafting disappearing walls for unobstructed views. They also promoted energy efficiency through proper positioning of windows, walls and brise-soleils.

Arches in San Diego, California

Stunning examples of these concepts abound, both private and civic. Architect Albert Frey is the mastermind behind about 200 Palm Springs buildings, including City Hall and Frey House II. Frey fashioned his 1,100-square-foot personal home around a hillside boulder in the mid- ’60s. “He left it to the art museum with the stipulation that people live there from time to time,” Imber says. As a sometimes residence, it’s rarely open to the public—except during Modernism Week, when Frey II becomes a tour highlight. As does Vista Las Palmas, an entire neighborhood filled with butterfly roofs, breezeways and backyard pools—all still largely intact thanks, in part, to a period during the ’80s and ’90s when Palm Springs fell out of favor with elite seasonal residents.

“The McMansion is the enemy of midcentury architecture,” says Lisa Vossler Smith, Modernism Week’s executive director. People seeking larger, more opulent homes in those decades began building in less developed Coachella Valley cities. But being unpopular for a while turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it left thousands of Palm Springs’ midcentury modern buildings alone. The city is now home to the world’s highest concentration of midcentury modern architecture, a veritable treasure trove rediscovered—and restored—over the past decade.

“People have been living the midcentury modern lifestyle for a long time,” Salzman says; “clean lines never really go out of style.” But since Mad Men, AMC’s show set in the 1960s advertising world, came out in 2007, “it’s just pervasive.” Furniture store Design Within Reach began reissuing classic modern designs, like the famous Eames chair, making the look more attainable for the masses, while baby boomer nostalgia, Imber says, also played a role in modernism’s resurgence.

As a testament to the style’s revival, other cities, including Tucson and Detroit, now host modernism weeks. But ultimately it’s the “extreme terrain, natural light and resort lifestyle,” Vossler Smith says, that continue to make Palm Springs the premiere destination for modern design, inspiring architects, builders, decorators and anyone with an eye for style. Or a Zillow obsession. The laid-back attitude, Miami-based collectible designer Lina Hargrett adds, is another big draw. “The beauty of Palm Springs is that it’s so chill,” she says, after visiting for the first time during the 2015 Modernism Week.

While the week is certainly an open, fun celebration for all ages, it’s not all parties and tours and costumes and hanging out at base CAMP (Community and Meeting Place), the hub of all daily activities. It’s also an opportunity to give back to the city and the people working to preserve its unique features. Though there are more than 20 free events, the average activity costs $25. Revenue from 2015 tour ticket sales alone “generated more than $463,000 for the neighborhood organizations and HOAs to fund improvements such as landscaping, new signage and common area restoration,” Vossler Smith says. The non- profit organization also awards scholarships to high school graduates going on to study architecture and design.

There’s just nothing quite like Palm Springs, Imber says, from its friendly locals to the dramatic landscape to, of course, the special party-slash-architectural education that is Modernism Week. “Everywhere you go is something quite amazing,” he says. “Quirky, one-of-a-kind and amazing.”

How Art Infuses Everything in Santa Fe

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How Art Infuses Everything in Santa Fe

October 16, 2018

Drive north on Highway U.S. 285 and the shell of the Santa Fe Opera House soars like a ship over a desert sea. Drive south just off Cerrillos Road and a 30-foot-tall robot proffering a daisy rises above Meow Wolf Art Complex. Walk east up Canyon Road toward the Sangre de Cristo foothills and wander through more than 100 art galleries in a half- mile. Look west, toward the Jemez Mountains and take in the vast space and crisp light that has drawn artists here for centuries. Art infuses everything in Santa Fe, even the trout caviar at Eloisa, the restaurant founded by John Rivera Sedlar, the nephew of Georgia O’Keeffe’s longtime personal chef who created a tasting menu comprising the great artist’s most beloved foods.

By July, this high-desert adobe city of 82,000 residents and more than 200 art galleries swings into non-stop celebration mode. The heady lineup that has been drawing international patrons here for decades includes the 10-day Art Trifecta; the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; the Santa Fe Opera Season, which this year offers classics like Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette; the legendary Indian Market; and even opportunities for mere mortals to participate at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.

Beyond the classic summer draws, there’s a new force in Santa Fe: A talented collective of local artists who are working to make art more accessible to everyone. In the past few years critically acclaimed new art forms have sprung up in surprising venues, like Meow Wolf, the arts and entertainment production company founded by Santa Fe local Vince Kadlubek. The center is housed in a 33,000-square-foot former bowling alley owned by George R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones. Adobe Rose Theatre is an intimate performance space in an industrial part of town. Strangers Collective, a consortium of young writers and visual artists, pop up everywhere from David Richard Gallery in the heart of the Railyard District to Art.i.factory, a gallery housed in the consignment shop Art.i.fact on Baca Street.

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“I see a new energy here,” says Debra Garcia y Griego, the Director of the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission. “Partnership and collaboration have taken on a new vitality. There is so much going on this summer and the most exciting part is that it’s happening all across town. There’s essentially an art fair every day.”

Meow Wolf ’s much-anticipated “House of Eternal Return,” the 9-year-old collective’s first fully immersive permanent art exhibition, officially opened in March. Kadlubek calls the exhibition “radically inclusive;” it required the work of 135 artists who created a 20,000-square-foot Victorian house with “worm holes” that transport visitors into surreal multiverses that include four tree houses, an interactive cave system, an arcade with 14 games and a 300-person music venue. Peek into the chimney and find a massive psychedelic cave system. Crawl through the dryer in the laundry room and end up in a treehouse with massive mushrooms you can play like marimbas. “Meow Wolf wants to create the most spectacular art experience in Santa Fe,” Kadlubek says. “We want to bring a whole new flavor of art to Santa Fe that is explosive, colorful, cartoony, comic book and experiential.”

One of Kadlubek’s primary goals with Meow Wolf is to reach out to a more general population. “We’ve had a trend happen over many generations where the upper 10 percent of society has taken the concept of art and excluded the other 90 percent from feeling any sort of connection to it,” he says. “Meow Wolf wants to reconnect everyday people with their creative selves.”

New is always exciting, but art existed in these northern New Mexican mountains long before Anglo-Americans did. Over Memorial Day, one of Santa Fe’s most prolific artists, Dan Namingha, was recognized as the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s “Living Treasure.” His work is on display all summer at Niman Fine Art, the gallery he shares with his artist sons Michael and Arlo, who have extended the Namingha legacy into its sixth generation.

The great-grandson of Nampeyo, the first nationally famous Indian artist who made stunning pieces of Hopi-Tewa pottery, Namingha started painting in 1958. His paintings and sculptures are housed in the British Royal Collection, the Heard Museum and in U.S. Embassies around the world.

On a bluebird Saturday last spring, I visited the Naminghas at their gallery a block off the Plaza. Dressed in black and fresh from the L.A. Art Show, Dan, Michael and Arlo looked like brothers rather than father and sons. I asked the elder Namingha if Santa Fe is as good to artists as it is to art buyers and appreciators. “Many artists come and go,” said the soft- spoken patriarch, “but paying attention to your work and keeping your options open as far as creativity goes, gives you the opportunity to continue your work here. For me, Santa Fe has always been about the ability to experiment and open doors to new ideas.”

All of the Naminghas seem genetically engineered toward experimentation in the arts. Arlo, the oldest brother is a renowned sculptor who works in multiple mediums— from tropical jelutong wood to Texas shell stone to bronze. While showing me around the gallery, we arrived at Contour and Form, a three-part modernist sculpture he carved from Indiana limestone. Arlo started playing with the three pieces like a kid playing with blocks in a toy store. “This is a controlled break technique that the texture will lock back together,” Arlo explained. “To make this, I have to engineer my own set of chisels,” he laughed. “Mother Nature always keeps me humble.”

Arlo then walked me through the Hopi symbolism behind his father’s Solstice #20, a vibrant yellow, 72”x72” acrylic-on-canvas painting that reminded me a little of an ancient Australian Aboriginal dreamtime painting. Between Arlo’s sculptures, Dan’s paintings and Michael’s digital c-prints, one of which I imagined to be a futuristic freeway system on Mars, I felt like I had spent the afternoon time traveling across multiple millennia. But the Naminghas are firmly rooted in the here and now of Santa Fe. “Niman in Hopi means ‘returning home,’” Arlo told me. “Wherever we travel, this will always be our home.”

The summer’s biggest collaboration is the Santa Fe Art Trifecta, a 10-day event starting July 7 that includes Art Santa Fe, an international contemporary art fair involving 50 galleries; the International Folk Art Market, where almost 200 master artists from around the world celebrate and sell their work at a festive three-day bazaar; and SITE Santa Fe’s exhibition SITElines.2016: New Perspectives on Art of the Americas, that brings together 30 contemporary artists exploring the theme of interconnectedness and the shared experience of the Americas.

“I don’t even know where to start about the Folk Art Market,” says Gasali Adeyemo, a Nigerian master fiber artist who has lived in Santa Fe since 1996. This summer marks Adeyemo’s 10th market. His rich, indigo fabrics hang alongside fine-needle embroidery by Afghanistan’s Rangina Hamidi. There are also Veomanee Douangdala’s silk-and-cotton weavings, all the way from Laos. Panamanian Edilsa Hitucama shows woven baskets.

“The market is like a dream come true,” says Adeyemo. “It’s not about what you do that one weekend, it’s about how we artists can help each other for the future.”

It’s not just artists that come from around the world—in total, nearly 60 countries are represented—for the market. Collectors travel from as far as Australia and England. Last year, they spent $23 million at the market, 90 percent of which went home with the artists. On average, each booth earns $15,000 to $20,000, an exponential increase over the $3 per day the average worker earns in the villages from which the artists come.

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“The market is not only for me as an artist,” Adeyemo says. “I have a lot of brothers back in Nigeria who want to go to school. They don’t have money. I will sponsor them because I believe that’s a way I can give back to my community.”

Whether it manifests in Nigeria or in New Mexico, collaboration and community are at the heart of art in Santa Fe. The exhibit Narrows, which refers to the cramped apartments and studios in which the burgeoning artists of Strangers Collective do their work, is on exhibit at the City of Santa Fe Community Gallery through early June. If you miss the June exhibit, look for their next show at Art.i.factory in July.

“Our goal with Strangers Collective is to inspire that younger set and empower them to really get out there in the community and connect with the more established scene,” says co-founder Jordan Eddy. “To show them that we do have ability and there’s a lot of possibility there.”

Opera lovers who want to take home a piece of this season’s glamour can stop at Patina Gallery on historic West Palace Avenue August 12 for the opening reception for the 60 Shades of Black jewelry collection. Inspired by Don Giovanni, jewelry artist Peter Schmid of Germany’s Atelier Zobel collaborated with David Zimmerman, the Opera’s director of wigs and makeup, to design sexy and seductive black diamond pieces. Don’t feel guilty about the purchase: Twenty percent of the collection’s sales go straight back to the Opera.

For those who want to set their own course of artistic improvement, pick a class at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. The campus, set in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos, faculty and facilities are a photo geek’s dream, with state-of-the-art equipment and instructors ranging from editorial and commercial professionals
to fine-art photographers. Whatever their field, the workshop instructors are known for sharing their hard-earned wisdom and experience with students.

“Having taught at many of the top photography workshop facilities across the United States, I can say that the Santa Fe Workshops are one of the top workshop facilities anywhere in the world,” says Michael Clark, a Santa Fe local and adventure photographer renowned for his photos of Red Bull BASE jumpers, pro surfers and other adventure travelers and athletes. “Participants are not only inspired and motivated, but are also free to take risks, fail and learn not only from the instructors but also from the other participants.”

Clark’s “Adventure Photography” class is in May. Summer options include “Photographing Celebrities,” taught by Allen Clark. Over his 22-year career Clark has photographed two U.S. presidents, two knights, a few rappers and Miss America. Karen Divine, who won France’s prestigious Prix de la Photographie Gold Award, teaches “Creative iPhone Photography.” After mastering your smart phone’s camera, turn it off and take in yet another form of Santa Fe high art. Almost every bar and restaurant in town has perfected the silver coin margarita.

Flawless Beaches, Cultural Traditions, and More Only in Bali

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Flawless Beaches, Cultural Traditions, and More Only in Bali

October 15, 2018

For centuries, the waters of Bali’s Jimbaran Bay have beckoned the weak and the weary. Seeking rejuvenation in the Indonesian island’s warm ocean and on its sublime, cotton-soft beaches, travelers to Bali’s exquisite southern peninsula discover a world where the four elements—earth, water, fire, and sky—converge seamlessly into a complex tapestry. And it’s not just the south of the country that intrigues.

Bali is a mystical destination where ancient cultures and wild jungles exist alongside cosmopolitan cities and authentic villages. This unique diversity is one reason that Bali, long a favorite among international adventurers, is now experiencing what can only be called “a moment.”

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Flawless Beaches

Sun-kissed surfers laid claim to Bali’s storied waves in the late 1960s. In 1972, Uluwatu, now ranked among the top surf spots in the world, gained yoga international prominence with the release of the now-classic film Morning of the Earth. Back then, the beach was accessed via a long staircase from the eponymous temple. The film broadcast the area’s isolated, stunning beauty and unleashed a torrent of visitation. 

Nowadays it’s not just surfers who come here (though there’s still plenty of opportunity to catch a wave, if desired). Visitors to Bali’s extensive coast dabble in a range of ocean sports like kayaking and parasailing, dine on fresh seafood, and lounge on the silky sand.

Puras

Beyond the beach, Bali offers unparalleled immersion in culture and tradition, both of which are embodied in the country’s estimated 10,000 Hindu temples called puras. These places of worship are designed as open-air gathering spaces enclosed by thick walls connected with a series of intricate gates. 

Built to face the mountains, sea, or sunrise, the temples range from modest to elaborate. Inside are spires, towers, and pavilions deliberately organized around three zones, known as mandalas. Typically serene and uninhabited, the puras transform into vibrant places during festivals and temple anniversaries, when visitors can experience traditional dance performances and more.

Bali Usada

A natural extension of the country’s spirituality is its reputation for holistic healing. Bali Usada, sometimes called Balinese Traditional Healing in the West, employs naturopathic remedies— herbs, massage, energy work, and other ancient practices—to treat ailments both physical and mental. Complementing this practice are the island’s burgeoning yogic opportunities. In recent years, leaders of Balinese studios have developed loyal followings, and Bali has emerged as a premier destination for yoga teacher training.

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Perhaps a great deal of the island’s popularity can be attributed to its prominence in author Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love. (Bali was where she found love.) A hit movie starring Julia Roberts followed the book, and now tourists arrive regularly on the island hoping to follow in Gilbert’s footsteps.

But Gilbert merely amplified what travelers who came before her already knew: There is no place else in the world like Bali. Lush, remote, exotic, and intriguing, Bali is a beautiful, multi-faceted destination. A vacation here can be tranquil or turbo-charged. Either way, it is guaranteed to transform.

The Dance Buenos Aires Locals Are Doing in the Streets

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The Dance Buenos Aires Locals Are Doing in the Streets

October 15, 2018

It’s not something staged for slick marketing campaigns. On summer night in Buenos Aires, porteños (local residents) really dance tango in the streets. And in public squares. And under gazebos. Tango, born in the port cities of Uruguay and Argentina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is no longer the craze it was from the 1920s to 1940s—between 1955 and 1960 the dance’s popularity declined so much it almost disappeared—but it has been enjoying a resurgence since the late 1990s. Buenos Aires remains its beating heart, but “it has been expanding massively to the world” says native porteño Alejandro Puerta, who eight years ago left a lucrative career in microbiology in Japan to return home and focus on tango. Even though there’s a tango scene in Japan—“I didn’t experience it, but I know there is one,” Puerta says—and Moscow, and Berlin, and Sydney, Buenos Aires is undoubtedly tango’s true home.

It’s fine to wander around this European-feeling South American capital city and watch local dancers in the street. Or you could hit a milonga, an event where people gather to tango, and enjoy some local beef and wine while watching local dancers. Going to a professional tango show is exhilarating too. But Puerta encourages you to try it yourself. He teaches private lessons at a bright and airy studio in Buenos Aires’ Jewish Quarter and says, “it’s not just teaching tango and doing what I’m passionate about and making a living. It’s about making a difference, hug by hug. It’s about changing the world.”

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I’ve lived in Buenos Aires for 10 years and have tried tango, but never taken a private lesson. I’m ready to have Puerta change my world. Taking the B line subway train to Carlos Gardel, named after tango’s most legendary crooner and, appropriately, the closest station to Puerta’s studio, I’m glad I don’t need to wear heels to have my world changed. Tango shoes—strappy, often glittering, and with substantial heels—are undoubtedly sexy, but sporting them when dancing tango, at least when you’re just starting, isn’t obligatory, or expected. (But, of course, if you want to, there is no shortage of stores selling bespoke tango shoes; and “tango shoe shopping is a very special experience,” says Sasha Cagen, an American who has lived in Buenos Aires since 2012 and has led tango tours here since 2014.) I figure tango shoes can come after I’ve gotten over my problem of having two left feet.

Inside Puerta’s light and airy studio where the new wood floors are polished just so, I stand tall, my stockinged feet together. Cagen earlier described tango to me as, “a dance of hugging and walking,” and said, “a lot of Americans may find that discomforting, so you need to have some courage to try hugging a stranger.” But the thought of body contact doesn’t faze me; greeting friends new and old with a kiss on the cheek is the norm in Argentina. If it did faze me, I think as soon as I met Puerta, a 41-year-old trilingual (including impeccable English) doctor of microbiology overflowing with charm and good manners, my mind would be at ease. During our hour-long lesson, Puerta takes matters, literally and figuratively, step by step, and, along the way, teaches me about the history of tango dance and music.

Born in the rough port neighborhoods of Argentina’s capital in the late 1800s (it also emerged on the other side of the River Plate in Montevideo, Uruguay), tango was the pastime of young migrants looking for a good time. Tango music and tango dance evolved simultaneously, but Puerta says this dual evolution “is a super-tough topic and several books could be written about it.” Because tango started with the lowest classes, “there are no written accounts of what happened in the beginnings of tango.”

African and European immigrant musicians likely playing by ear mixed different rhythms popular in their cultures. (The term “tango” might have its roots in a Niger-Congo term that slaves carried with them to Argentina.) Dancers at the time probably knew a little bit of the dances that went along with the different styles of music; they mixed dance styles until, like the musicians, they felt comfortable improvising. By 1913, tango, likely via Argentine soldiers passing through the port of Marseilles, France, had taken Europe by storm. In numerous cities, tango balls were the events of the season. London’s Waldorf Hotel hosted Tango Teas (high tea with tango dancing). Once tango had gotten popular in Europe, Argentina’s upper classes finally took notice of the dance that had begun in their backyard.

Puerta, who grew up listening to his grandmother’s tango recordings, says the “official history is that the heyday of tango [in Argentina] was the ’40s—they’re actually called the “golden ’40s,” but new studies show that tango seems to have been significantly more popular in the ’20s. Unfortunately there is a very distorted official history and there are many myths that need to be corrected. That’s why I think it’s so important to teach tango history in my lessons.”

Tango’s intimacy and sensuality—partners are enveloped in a tight embrace chest to chest with foreheads almost touching—make it different from any other type of dance. But the close contact isn’t what Puerta thinks makes it intimate. “Tango demands us to be connected in the present and with our partner,” he says. “In tango, not listening is disconnection, and disconnection is trouble, so tango forces us to stay present in the eternal here and now—no past, no future.” Puerta explains that tango is built from the inside out. “In other dances it seems to happen from the outside in; students copy the movement and the more precise the copy, the better it looks and the better the dancer,” he says. Puerta likens tango more to meditation than to other types of dancing.

I leave Puerta’s in a decidedly non-meditative state; this is the most tango-y I’ve ever felt. An immersion in tango music seems a good next step, and I ask Facebook friends for their favorite tango tracks. I get more than 100 recommendations. These include crackly gramophone recordings from the 1920s and early ’30s of superstar Gardel, the French-Argentine baritone known as el zorzal (the thrush) warbling about lost loves and also contemporary upbeat, instrumental pieces. I learn about composer and bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla, who, in the 1950s and 1960s developed a new style of tango, tango nuevo. Recordings of Aníbal Carmelo Troilo, whose tango orchestra was popular in the 1940s and 1950s, transport me back to the genre’s golden days. In Roberto Goyeneche’s early music, there is a bit of the style of Gardel, but, by the time he launches his solo career in 1963, there’s no doubt he’s his own musician.
I learn tracks too—there’s La cumparsita—“the little parade”—written in 1916 and recorded by various artists hundreds of times since. And Troilo’s 1956 La ultima curda, “The last drunkenness.” The Troilo piece is heart-breaking—a man disillusioned with the pain and briefness of life, finds comfort in liquor and considers death the ultimate drunkenness.

But my favorites are Cacho Castaña singing Garganta con arena, the traditional Taconeando by Anselmo Aieta, and Astor Piazzolla’s instrumental, emblematic, Adiós Nonino. I put these on a new tango playlist, and also (guiltily) add some electrotango tracks by Bajofondo and Gotan Project, whose contemporary beats bring the genre into the 21st century and, for me, are more relatable.

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Armed with the basic history and moves Puerta taught me, and bolstered by hours of listening to my curated playlist, I’m excited to get back to dancing and sign up for a group tango class, Tango 1, at DNI Tango school. Tourists and porteños alike take this weekly initiation class that promises to introduce the dance quickly in a relaxed environment. You don’t need to attend with a partner, but, just in case I do need one, whether for physical or moral support, I invite my friend Eugenia to join me for the free 90-minute session.

After stretching—yes, you want to stretch before tango—we’re shuffling in pairs around the studio in a counterclockwise circle, me wearing alpargatas (similar to espadrilles and common footwear for beginner tango-ers to wear). I start paired with Eugenia, but we’re soon changing partners after each song. I dance with a handsome Swede, who towers above me and is totally focused on his footwork, then with an Argentine who chews gum more rhythmically than he dances. Thinking back to Puerta’s lessons on the importance of connected- ness with your partner, I do my best to connect—to be fully in the present and aware of my body and my partner’s body—but it’s not as easy with a fellow beginner as it was with Puerta. Tangoing with these men is clunky and heavy going. (I’m sure the feeling is mutual.) I don’t learn as much as I did in my session with Puerta, but the class has a huge advantage: I’ve now got a tango social network.

My next lesson is at the Néstor Kirchner Cultural Centre, a stunning, recently renovated Beaux Arts building in the San Nicolás neighborhood. (It was formerly Buenos Aires’ main post office; as the Cultural Centre, its nine floors are home to the Argentine National Symphony Orchestra, five auditoriums, 18 intimate performance spaces, and 40 galleries. It is the largest cultural center in Latin America and you should check it out whether you’re interested in tango or not.) When the class is separated into levels, I side with the beginners. I partner with a woman whose name I never get, but with whom I connect; as a pair, we’re fast- tracked to an advanced beginner group. I wasn’t aware that my basic steps had improved much, but evidently they have.

It’d be easy to continue taking lessons forever. There are hundreds of tango studios in Buenos Aires and a couple dozen organizations like DNI Tango and the Cultural Centre that do regular group lessons. But my goal from the beginning has been to achieve a base level of proficiency that will allow me to enjoy a milonga. Milongas aren’t places, but events: they are to tango like a jam session is to jazz. There are more than 150 places in the city that host milongas. They’re in all neighborhoods and usually open into the wee hours of the morning. (Milongas usually don’t start until 10 p.m. and some don’t really get going until 3 a.m.) Milongas are not to be confused with the ritzy dinner tango shows ubiquitous around the city. Yes, you can go to a milonga and not dance—order wine and dinner (usually bar food) and watch—but the dancers at these are generally not performing for spectators. Milongas are for the participants.

Even with lessons under my belt, going to a milonga and waiting for a man to ask me to dance sounds terrifying. Also, it’s not nearly as simple as it sounds. In tango, men don’t ask women to dance (and women don’t accept) with words but with subtle eye contact; this ritual is called cabeceo. Understanding cabeceo is another part of tango I’ll have to learn. In the meantime, Cagen suggests I hire a “taxi dancer.” The idea—hiring a professional dancer by the hour—sounds naughty and illicit, but it’s not at all unusual. From Cagen’s recommendations, I settle on Leandro, a charming, good-natured 30-something who, when not dancing, is a DJ at the city’s Café Vinilo. We decide to go to La Catedral, a milonga housed in former grain silo that’s decorated with mismatching chairs, crooked artwork, and fairy lights. We pick La Catedral because it’s a beginner- friendly tango institution with a relaxed feel. (It offers hour-long beginner classes almost every day, starting between 6 and 7 p.m.) I won’t see any top dancers here because the dance floor itself isn’t in the best condition, but that’s fine by me. I’m here with Leandro to work on my tango, not watch others.

I had thought hiring a dance partner would be awkward, but it’s not, especially once we’re on the pista (dance floor). The benefits of Leandro are endless. When we’re dancing, he has eyes only for me, and by dancing with me, he’s also showing me off to other leaders, upping my chances of a cabeceo from a non taxi dancer. Most importantly, following his lead, I am dancing tango! In a milonga! The icing on the cake comes when the first chords of a Piazzolla song strike up, and I recognize it.

Prague’s Architectural Wonderland of Cubist Buildings

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Prague's Architectural Wonderland of Cubist Buildings

September 12, 2018

As I first discovered in the peachy dusk of a winter’s evening in 1989 when the air in Prague still had the curious, candied smell of coal smoke, the Czech capital is one of the most spectacular living libraries of Western architecture. (It was spared much of the bombing that other Central European cities suffered during World War II.) Prague’s historic center—Hradčany Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, and numerous churches and palaces, built mostly between the 11th and 18th centuries—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but throughout the entire city there is a remarkably varied array of architecture: Gothic to Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Beaux Arts, Cubist, and Art Deco. Walk through Prague and you walk through the history of Western architecture.

We stayed at the famous Hotel Europa, a now-closed Art Nouveau masterpiece on Wenceslas Square. Upon arrival—we got in late— we were sternly warned that the city’s few restaurants rarely served much beyond 10 p.m. Hungry, we immediately set out to find dinner, but, wandering cobblestone streets spread with fine, crunchy grit against the slippery frost, buildings sprung into real life from fantasies and fairytales repeatedly waylaid us. Obecni Dum (Municipal Hall) had a magnificent porte-cochere made of glass and verdigrised metal ornamented with fantastic lamps, lanterns, and brass. It was a joyously strange flight of architectural imagination, the likes of which I had rarely before seen in Europe. The only similar examples I could think of were several houses in Barcelona by Antoni Gaudi and his Sagrada Familia cathedral in the same city.

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Peering into one smoky tavern after another, we had a hard time finding a restaurant that looked appetizing (happily, today there’s a lot of superb food in Prague). It almost didn’t matter though, because the architectural mystery and magnificence of the city fed our souls. For a time. We finally ended up with a plate of mysterious mud-brown stew and spongy bread dumplings. For dessert we went back to the city’s architecture. We wandered home without looking at the map, but generally headed in the direction of Old Town Square. On Celetná Street, brightly lit shop windows displayed glittering Bohemian crystal, one of the Czech Republic’s most famous products. And then I saw the oddest building I’d ever seen. Terra-cotta colored, it was hulking but strangely elegant, with curiously beveled windows set into deep casements in its blocky but handsome façade.

In 1989, there was no posted explanation of what this building might be. Back at the hotel I looked it up in my guidebook—no TripAdvisor or smartphones back then either: House of the Black Madonna. We had noticed a gilded black Madonna in a niche behind a golden grill at one corner of the building at the level of its first floor. I never would have guessed the building had once been a department store, nor that it was the Czech Republic’s first Cubist building. I knew the movement of Cubist painters, notably Picasso and Braque, who worked in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, but was unaware that Cubism had ever had an architectural expression.

Enthralled, I became a student of Czech Cubist architecture; it was so compellingly eccentric. Who were the people with the nerve to build these peculiar designs in one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals? On that first visit to Prague, the dearth of information in English about the city’s other Cubist buildings—House of the Black Madonna was not alone—left me wanting more. When I returned a year later, fate intervened; I met a professor, an English-speaking Czech I fell hard for and who shared my fascination with this architectural style. One element of the regular every-other-weekend visits I came to make was the special treat of being taken to see yet another of the city’s great Cubist masterpieces. I began to learn the names and stories of the men behind these buildings: Pavel Janák, Josef Gočár (the architect of the House of the Black Madonna), Vlastislav Hofman, and Josef Chochol were the most prolific and known.

In all of its different forms of expression, including architecture, painting, sculpture, and interior design and the decorative arts, Czech Cubism flourished in Prague from 1912 to 1914, when the region was still part of the huge Austro-Hungarian Empire. These years were a prolific time for various avant-garde cultural movements. Prague’s most famous son, writer Franz Kafka, was already penning the short fiction that would make him world- renowned and the city was the world’s best-known center of Cubism outside of Paris; some might argue it surpassed the French capital.

Encouraged by advances in building technology, specifically the use of reinforced concrete, Prague’s Cubist architects designed buildings that challenged the conventions of visual reality and tradition the same way Cubist painters did. Prague’s Cubist buildings had sharp angles, slicing planes, and forms reminiscent of the inside of a crystal. There were often also large spaces unobstructed by supporting columns or pillars, made possible entirely by reinforced concrete, molded cement invisibly strengthened by steel rods and bars. Such open spaces were revolutionary at the time.

Cubist architects’ aim in disrupting the golden rules of their craft, specifically symmetry and the “appropriate” use of ornamentation, was the shared belief that most objects carry their own inner energy. The only way to release this energy was to break the flat vertical and horizontal surfaces of conventional architecture. The predominant visual feature of Czech Cubism—recurring use of beveled architectural elements—give forms an aggressive angularity that’s mathematically correct but sometimes slightly off center. Prague’s Cubist movement was also a reaction against what its practitioners considered to be the florid excesses of Secessionist architecture, or Art Nouveau.

In 1918, following World War I, the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the founding of Czechoslovakia, the graphic, angled character of the Prague school of Cubism evolved. This second wave of this evolution, which had its heyday from 1918 until it was sidelined by Functionalism and Art Deco, became known as Czech Rondocubism. This style obeyed the basic tenet of Czech Cubism, which is to make buildings pre-dimensional and added more decorative and ornamental motifs and rounded façades. This style was inspired by traditional Czech folk art and reflected the euphoria of the country at gaining its independence. (For nearly two centuries, German had replaced Czech as the main language spoken.)

Though Czech Cubist architecture never found a big following outside of the country—it was too visually extreme to move from a studiously provocative experiment into the mainstream—both Cubist and Rondocubist buildings were an important source of inspiration during the birth of Art Deco in the 1920s. And they’re still an inspiration for me. The professor and I split up, but my relationship with Prague and this quintessentially Czech style of architecture endures. Continue reading for a quick class in Czech Cubism.

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The House of the Black Madonna was the first Cubist building in Prague and remains one of the finest examples of the style. Built from 1911 to 1912 by architect Josef Gočár, it was originally designed as a department store and today houses the Museum of Czech Cubism. The museum’s fourth and fifth floors are dedicated to a permanent exhibition of Cubist art—paintings, sculpture, ceramics, glassware, and furniture— curated by the Czech Museum of Fine Arts. On the first floor, the Grand Café Orient is the world’s only surviving Cubist interior.

Emil Kralicek designed the world’s only Cubist street lantern. It’s in Jungmann Square at the side entrance of the 15th- century Gothic/Baroque Church of Our Lady of the Snows.

Palác Adria is wonderfully weird, marrying elements of Rondocubism with fortress-like towers. Architect Josef Zasche designed the opulent building for an Italian insurance company in 1924.

Emil Karlicek’s Diamant House offers a pure and potent expression of early Cubism, with a huge doorway, surprising rooftop sculptures, and a diamond-cut façade.

Architect Otakar Novotny designed the dramatic apartment houses at Elisky Krasnohorske 10-14.

The quiet, residential Vysehrad District is home to many Cubist buildings by Josef Chochol including the Kovarovicova Villa (Libusina 49) and a trio of Cubist buildings part of a longer row (42, 47, and 71 Rasinovo nabrezi). His apartment building at Neklanova 98 is charming for being such a dramatic architectural mistaken-guess at how the “modern” world would look in the coming years.

In the Hradčany District around Prague Castle, which itself dates from the 9th century and includes Gothic and Romanesque buildings, Josef Gočár’s twin houses at Tychonova 4-6 are classic Cubist.

The National Gallery (Veletržní Palace), is itself a Functionalist building, but has a permanent exhibition devoted to Cubist art and architecture.

The Dancing House was built in 1996, but it’s proof that the work of Prague’s Cubist architects still resonates today. Canadian- American architect Frank Gehry worked with Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić on the design. The result is brilliantly twisted—literally and figuratively—and it’s the most famous modern building in the city. It’s also a witty post-modern riff on the work of the city’s original Cubists that they surely would appreciate.