The Impact of Space: Zandie Brockett
Independent curator and founder of West of Here Zandie Brockett explains how certain spaces re-invigorate the mind, while others serve as meditative vessels that inspire creative ideas.
By Zandie Brockett, Founder of West of Here
Zandie Brockett is a producer, curator and writer from Los Angeles. She is the founder of West of Here – a cultural lab that has produced creative works for Swire Hotels and brands like Louis Vuitton, A24, Apple Beats and Swarovski. Zandie and her team helped create films for Swire Hotels including The House Collective’s first biennial art programme “Encounters Across Cultures” back in 2019, “House Picks” travel series and most recently “Chefs Story” which features our Chinese cuisine chefs’ stories.
The passionate storyteller previously lived in China for nearly a decade, where she founded the cross-disciplinary cultural lab Bactagon Projects and the visual literary journal Bajia. She’s worked with over 100 artists, architects, musicians, writers and filmmakers from different parts of the world to curate exhibitions, produce videos and podcasts, as well as publish journals, zines and academic research.
What is space to you?
I lived in Beijing and Shanghai for the better part of a decade. Both cities are hectic, to say the least. Converging in both megalopolises are a multitude of backgrounds, ideas, and beliefs from all corners of China, and the world. To some its unorderly, a cacophony of disarray. But to me, it was symphonic, the tuning of different pitches in search of an orderly flow, the dynamic of duality – rich/poor, old/new, artificial/original – syncing of life into the rhythms of friends and communities, work and the pace of urbanity.
To me, the pulsating energy of cities like Beijing or Shanghai is always invigorating. The dynamics of development are never pausing, but always inspiring: innovation, collaboration, connectedness. Spaces of gathering are in as much spaces of play as they are spaces of work (or network), as well as spaces for loving and storytelling. The spontaneity of interaction is the true beauty of life in urban places that are as much developed as they are developing, whether Beijing, Shanghai, or even Mexico City and Bangkok.
While these cities are delightful in the opportunities they provide for interaction, they are also challenging: the traffic, the pollution, and while often a blessing, hordes of people can also be a curse. My secret has always to build my own safe haven – a little corner of the world to which I can retreat, and call home for myself and my community.
Without doubt, the most important spaces in my home are my kitchen and my studio. All good things happen in a kitchen – good smells, good tastes, good conversation, good company, good laughter. Kitchens must be big: they are places for cooking as much as they are hosting. My studio is always cozy – always warm, both in temperature, but also with design. Lots of wood, beautiful textile, art on the walls, and always a library of books. It’s a place for thinking, for writing, for creating.
2020 has been a challenge, no doubt. My engagement with the city that I now live in – Los Angeles – dropped to an all-time low. Home became my office, conference room, gym, living room, restaurant, cocktail bar, movie theatre, and dance floor. I feel lucky to have a spacious home with a large outdoor space, filled with plenty of sunshine, to be my all-in-one vessel.
"The pulsating energy of cities like Beijing or Shanghai is always invigorating."
Tell us about a favourite private space.
Earlier this year, I decided to make the most of work-from-home life and explore the American Southwest. I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico with my partner to be closer to hiking, skiing, and grand sunsets. My favorite place in our new adobe home is our lofted studio. Filled with bright light and warm woods, this space has room for both our work spaces plus our newly adopted pooch, Sadie. Its filled with a comfy couch and gorgeous rugs, but if it was more permanent, it would also have a full library and some more art on the walls. Lighting is also key. I’ve found the trick to any good space is multiple places to sit with good, warm lighting so that every type of activity (reading, computer work, chatting, cocktailing, taking a phone call, enjoying the sun) has its appropriate space to support your body desired positioning.
"Lighting is also key."
Tell us about your favourite public space.
One of my all-time favorite public spaces is the pedestrian path that lines the Liangma River (亮马河) in Beijing – specifically the southside between the 3rd Ring and Xindong Lu. Especially in the summer, that pathway, lined by willow trees, was a perfect place to pause amidst the bustling city. Centrally located between Sanlitun (just a short walk from The Opposite House), 798, and the hutongs, it was a place where I would ride my bike to meet friends. We’d meet mid-day, to sit on the benches for some sandwiches and a chat, or in the evening for some beers. It was a great place to go for a walk and fall in love. I’ll never forget the sound of the bullfrogs on those warm summer evenings. And in the winter, though it was too cold to sit outside for long, I always looked on in amazement as I watched the super hardcore Beijingers swim in the iced over waters.
"My secret has always to build my own safe haven – a little corner of the world to which I can retreat, and call home for myself and my community."
Tell us about a favourite space at one of our hotels.
Probably the hardest question, as there are so many special spaces in each hotel that I love equally. At The Opposite House, it’s changed over the years. In the good ‘ole days, I’d say Punk (what is now Jing Yaa Tang) was certainly an epic gathering space for my friends and me, enjoying a good DJ dance party into the wee hours. I’ve spent many an afternoon lunching, working, and drinking delicious iced lattes at the Village Café. Now, I love the new bar, Union – it’s a great place to sit, morning to night, working on your laptop, and at 8 o’clock when you’re still working hard, it’s the perfect place for a refreshing negroni.
At The Middle House, I love the outside terrace on the 3rd floor. It’s a great place to lounge with friends in sunshine over a meal, tea, or cocktail. At The Upper House, strangely, I’m a huge fan of the bathrooms at Café Gray Deluxe (what is now Salisterra). The mirrored room together with floor-to-ceiling windows out to the urban wonderland below, makes me feel like I’m in a life-sized jewel box. That said, the whole hotel is pretty much a jewel box.
And at The Temple House, where do I start?! The en suite living area is divine. The plush cream couches make me want to lay and read all day long. The upstairs library makes me wish I had that space as my daily office. The courtyard in Mi Xun Teahouse makes me want to eat hot pot every day of my life just to sit there and bask in that warm sun. The huge rooms in the Mi Xun Spa make me want to be rubbed and soak in a bath after my daily hot pot meals. It’s a true urban resort.