Doris Duke's Shangri-La: A House in Paradise: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art Hardcover – Sep 4 2012
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"...a process beautifully documented.." ~Wall Street Journal
"...a vibrant reference ideal for holiday giving or as a splurge that transports you Into a world of artful design." ~WAG
About the Author
Thomas Mellins has organized exhibitions for many institutions and coauthored with Robert A.M. Stern an award-winning New York architecture and urbanism series. Donald Albrecht is the Museum of the City of New York’s curator of architecture and design and the writer of many books. Deborah Pope is the executive director of Shangri La; Keelan Overton is the institution’s curator of Islamic art; Sharon Littlefield Tomlinson is its former curator. Linda Komaroff is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s curator of Islamic art. Tim Street-Porter is a widely published photographer and the author of numerous books.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Sadly, photography is the main thing. The grounds could have been given more care. If you go online you'll see better photos of the grounds and dramatic vistas. I don't recall even 1 photo takendat night. Imagine the terraced fountain and swimming pool illuminated at night, glowing virtually next to the Playhouse and the Pacific. There are many photos taken of the estate at night that are also online and they are captivating, and give a evening view that only Miss Duke and her guests would have seen. Regular tourists see the estate only in the daytime. I also don't recall photos of Miss Duke's bedroom, although there is an endless supply of her bathroom. A little more space devoted to the ongoing conservation at Shangri La (because of the sea/salt/overall age) would have been nice as well. Both the Dining Room and Playhouse had a lot of work done to restore their original appearance, but I know that only from other sources. A floor plan would have been great.
The tiny "guide book" published by the foundation that operates Shangri La has equally nice... and often better... photographs within its smaller, 62 page, soft cover binding. I recommend that book with 5 stars.
Shangri La began on Miss Duke's honeymoon with James Crowell (whom she later divorced, apparently to their mutual relief), and her time in India, that complex land whose treasure include the enchanting Mughal architecture of the Moti Mahal and the Taj Mahal. Originally intended as a gift for her then-mother-in-law, by the happiest of circumstances, the plan for Shangri La changed. The honeymooners stopped in Hawaii long enough for them to fall in love with a site on the other side of Diamond Head, then undeveloped.
For the rest of her quite long life, Miss Duke built, re-built, designed, re-designed, acquired, installed, uninstalled, and re-installed the house, its interiors, and its gardens. She cheerfully mixed countries and centuries, so a unique 13th century Mihrab (facing the way she wanted and to heck with its function as orientation to prayer) was installed in a room including 16th century Spanish armaments, 18th/19th century Middle Eastern pottery and a 21st century glass wall that sank into a basement to open the main house to the Jonny Weismuller-size swimming pool and guest house. The main house itself is small, relative to her other mansion-size homes, an intimate personal retreat for a woman who sought privacy and the informal friendships with a few people of Hawaii.
Shangri La itself, the photographs, and essays all make for a marvelous tour, a rush of textures, colors, patterns, materials, artifacts that are held in the framework of a low simple even severe white building and a garden of even simpler green foliage on either side of a narrow water channel with fountains. If you come to Oahu, sign up well in advance for the tour and enjoy.
Reading this Doris Duke's Shangri La: A House in Paradise before your tour is likely to add enormously to your understanding and pleasure. Reading it after may deepen your understanding and pleasure too, with the thoughtful and scholarly essays. And if you can not come, well, this is a treat in itself that is actually broader than the tour in including rooms not open to the public, close-up works of art you can peruse at leisure, and much enriched by essays and photographs showing other works of the architects and decorators in their time. The photographs of Miss Duke have mostly been published elsewhere; the photographs of the house, interior, artifacts, and gardens are new.
The text combines deep appreciation of the benefactress who set up a trust to ensure that Shangri La would be preserved and studied anew. The tone, however, in this and the other briefer pamphlet can sound a bit strangled. The house and gardens can give curators fits, because Miss Duke collected what caught her eye, commissioned reproductions of what was not for sale, and mixed her extensive and continuing acquisitions any way she pleased. She had a good eye, unlimited money, a passion for Islamic art, but a systematic scholarly collector she was not.
You may like the result of such robust unconventional eclectism or you may not. This fine book (which does not cover her life story or all aspects of Shangri La under all conditions or through all its transformations) will give you the opportunity for a leisurely visit, up close and semi-personal, to find out where you are on the intrigued to irritated spectrum.
Overall, this book is a must for those who already are fascinated with this unique house in paradise (and living here, I visit it when I go to Oahu from Hawaii Island) and a delight for the adventurous arm-chair traveler.
archetectual drawings juxtaposed with photos of the completed buildings
the historical context within which the idea for Shangrila emerged, 1930s
melding of the historical with the contemporary, and a glimpse into the exotic life of an iconic figure who had great wealth
the photographs are a good introduction into Islamic art; combining them with the written explanation gives me a feeling that
I know a little more about the subjects--Islamic art, D. Duke, Shangrila, rich and famous people
Overall, I've been inspired to look more deeply into all of the above