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  • theaptPORTFOLIO


    June 26, 2015


    2 years ago, my wife and I decided our #1 priority was to try and see the world as it really is, not simply to “take trips” and visit points of interest to bury in an old Flickr account but actually attempt to live in places that are foreign to us in order to gain perspective on everything we had done thus far. From co-founding a Creative Agency to having a couple of children, there is a lot we pseudo-accomplished that has felt automatic, for lack of a better word, felt pre-planned for us, as if a nuclear family and the pursuit of success had been pre-wired by a society that views compliance as normalcy. I got fed up with that idea and started to explore the ramifications of leaving, first in a book then out loud, asking Gina if she ever saw herself leaving what we knew behind, if only for a short time, and put ourselves in a position to discover other places, languages and people, for the selfish purpose of getting to know us better. So we pulled out the atlas and started charting a voyage, a grand voyage that would take us around the world in a year during which we could let curiosity be our guide and the rent from our NYC apartment pay our way

    When we finished drafting, we realized that such an adventure required more planning than a mere “let’s do this!” We’re a little slow. Well, that and the kids were just finishing school in upstate New York, where we had moved for some modicum of peace after spending 20 years in the city, and probably could use some time off before saying goodbye to everything they knew, like English. Which is why we decided in the interim to move to a single point for a couple couple years, settling on Bologna, Italy, the non-touristy gastronomic capital, where quality of life was said to be one of the highest in Europe, for a third of the price of Brooklyn. So we packed our bags, rented our apartment and fled.

    We have now been here 2 years, to the day as we arrived June 26th 2013, and I confirm that I am indeed happy and fat, Italy is real, not just a marketing gimmick!

    And that is why, on this anniversary of sorts, it is time to take that next step and deliver on the map we drew because goddamnit you cannot let a good map go to waste!…

    Bouvarez World Map

    See? It’s pretty good, right?

    So here we are, packing our bags once again and getting ready to do the thing, to have “foreign-soiled experiences” and take a bath with as many different people as we can find, metaphorically and not. Of course, because nothing actually happens if it is not posted somewhere, feel free to check out where we will contribute as much as possible so as to show off as well as inform our families of our death toll and whereabouts. And if you see a country you know, send us your tips or better yet, join us! 16 countries in 12 months is probably going to go much faster than we think, so don’t hesitate!

    Of course, theaptBROADCAST, where you are right now reading these lines, will still be alive with all our tweets and vines but will rarely feature design work as we are putting the agency work on hold during this voyage of discovery. I hope you will meet us, if not during the trip, at least on the other side…

    March 24, 2015

    I was going to name this post ICE ICE BABY but I spared you. You’re welcome.

    Designed as a birthday surprise for our friend Melissa, we once again packed our bags to go and discover the martian surface of Bjӧrk’s native land. And what a land it is! Populated by only 340,000 people who can all trace their ancestry to the first settlers, walking among its lava-formed trails gives us urbanites, and even countryside folks, instant literal perspective thanks to the distance between us and the horizon, which is either frozen or on fire. Unexpectedly romantic, I would recommend a week divided between Reykjavik and the middle of nowhere, where we found shelter in the imposing Ion Adventure Hotel.

    First landing in the capital city, we rested our bones at the 101 which is the perfect place to have your first morning shot of fish oil. Later on, we found an incredible dinner and intense wine list waiting for us at the Grillamarkadurinn before traveling an hour and a half to the aforementioned Ion where the bar is but a glass box overlooking the frozen dunes and where I bet lovemaking would be a worthy risk.

    We spent five days in this martian landscape, between dipping our bodies in the geothermal pools of the Blue Lagoon and hiking on the edge separating the European and American tectonic plates, and we intend to go back. In the meantime, enjoy this little souvenir I brought back…

    And some pictures…

    If it weren’t already apparent, we love to travel, perhaps even live to travel, we’ll see what’s what by the end… Before then, I hope to see you around a corner one day.

    January 29, 2015

    United by family brought together for a 15th wedding anniversary, we were lucky to tag along through the kind of scenery usually narrated by Jeremy Irons. Landing in Hoedspruit, South Africa, we traveled an hour by Jeep to find ourselves in Kruger National Park where we got a glimpse of what the world used to be, perhaps ought to be, mostly devoid of the madness of men. Mostly I say because, of course, man’s interference is everywhere you do not see another elephant, another lion, another leopard because they were taken not by their assigned foes but us, the ultimate predators. And so, as we glided through the bush, as inconspicuously as a diesel engine will allow, I found myself wishing we could find the strength NOT to aspire to exercise dominion but, rather, co-existence. An unreasonable wish to grant? For sure, for the entitlement we humans feel for this planet is ever-growing. But how about at least Respect, yes with a capital R, respect of our rental property here on earth, is that too much to ask?… Proper respect, that is my wish.

    And that is all, now enjoy the film! Full screen and headphones on will guarantee the if-I-were-there experience the kids love so much! Or check it out directly on Vimeo for a larger player.

    (in order of appearance)
    Diggs Duke – Lion’s Feast
    King Britt Presents Oba Funke – Bush Workout
    Gizmo – Elegua
    Philip Glass – Anima Mundi – The Beginning
    Jacob Collier – Close to You
    Anugama & Sebastiano – African Journey
    Oya – River
    Derrick Hodge – Doxology
    Toto – Africa (Of course!)

    Shot entirely with iPhone 6.
    Moment Lenses.
    Collapsible Tripod.
    Glif Tripod Mount.
    Zoom IQ5W Condenser mic.
    External Battery.

    And if that’s not enough, enjoy the photo album on the Flickr. See you out there!

    January 13, 2015

    once again, disgusted with the ways of people, i prefer to escape and seek again the beasts with whom i seem to have more in common. this time, going from bologna, italy to hoedspruit, south africa where my family and i shall witness intended savagery for a week. i shall of course stream what i see since the bush now has wifi. see you there!

    December 18, 2014

    You might have missed it the first time around, but Gina and my trip to Cuba a few years ago seems appropriate to re-post today, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that this is just the beginning, if that, to what may one day become a free-er island. A actually free island being, to my mind, still quite distant on the horizon. Here is the eloquent text Gina wrote to accompany the short film I made there, enjoy and reflect:

    To celebrate my 4 decades on earth, my husband, Stefan, and I headed to my family’s homeland, Cuba. I’d had a profound relationship with this place my whole life, but had never stepped foot on it. My relationship with it was a made up of hundreds of personal tales, history books, news reports, novels, coffee table picture books, and political debates, all smashed up with melancholy, nostalgia, bitterness, hopes, dreams, aspirations, love and loss, coated with a heady philosophical debate on the meaning of libertad. over the last 5 years, yet another volume of information has come to me via the internet in the shape of blogs and tweets from my generational counterparts on the island. First person accounts from the other side! Their connection with the outside world appears to have the potential to be destiny-changing for Cuba, but for me, it already has been. In no small part, knowing more about them – the Cuban kids whose parents stayed home as opposed to all of us Cuban kids displaced all over the world – about what they think, how they express themselves, their desires for cuba, their thoughts about us, moved me to finally get my damn visa and plane ticket and take the ridiculously short airplane ride across the Florida straits. 

    With Stefan's support, encouragement and crazy camera skills, we moved across the island over 10 days that I will undoubtedly remember as some of the most important of my life. acting as my personal reality show production crew, my husband followed me into adventure after adventure: meeting, for the first time, my uncle, the brother my mother left behind; a cousin who mirrors the face of my beloved grandmother; more than a dozen cousins ranging in age from 20 to 80 in 4 different cities. We also managed to stand on the land where my mother and my father's childhood homes had stood, and to drink in the incredibly beautiful landscape that surrounds it. We talked and talked with this recovered family, and cried and cried, and laughed and laughed. They enveloped us with warmth and love, welcoming us like their lost children. In the film you'll see here, all of this happens in spanish, but i'm confident every exchange will be internationally understood.

    I've come away from the trip with a much more informed point of view – about the island and its people, inside and outside its borders, but perhaps not surprisingly, i've also realized that i've opened up the proverbial box… And I'm not quite sure what is going to come of it. I am quite sure the box is packed, and under so much pressure for so many decades that this trip and this film will be just the beginning of something. What lies below this precious series of encounters will be much more complicated, just as Cuba is so much more complicated than those coffee table picture books  and Che t-shirts would 
    have us believe.

    – Gina Alvarez

    Ed. Note: Check out the flickr set here. And a visit to the spanish fort in Santiago De Cuba which had to remain on the cutting room floor.

    November 7, 2014

    Having left my native France as quickly as I could, I never got the chance to visit my own backyard, a land torn by the scars of history. Since my family and I are now back, if temporarily, on the Old Continent, we thought it sage to quench our thirst for knowledge, understanding and Schnitzel on the very grounds fouled by those who started, and ended it.

    After a trip like this, I shall sleep this weekend. Well.

    April 14, 2014

    i was invited last week to spend some quality time at the wonderful design department of colman university in Tel-Aviv, Israel. my agenda was simple: try to bait the thirty-two students who had signed up for my 5-day workshop to look up from their notebooks, CAD workstations and CNC machines long enough to look around at the world around them and think of design not merely as a skill but a component of life itself. i was expecting some push back, especially from the administration, when i told them that school wrongly doesn’t encourage thinking but rather solely doing, that even tough their teachers ususally want to see busy hands, i would rather see open eyes. but no, no push back, well, not much. sure, it was weird to have me come all the way to the holy land just to see me talk to the students for an hour and then leave them to their own devices, only to check on them the next day, but they soon learned, both old and young, that in order to succesfully one day design what is out there, one must first wonder about what’s in here (can you see the “hand-on-the-heart gesture?…)

    the theme i proposed was Unloved…


    …named after the objects of our lives that rarely get more than a fleeting thought from designers more concerned about adding their oh-so-special version of “the chair” to the fair grounds of the world. it’s enough! i thought… we have enough chairs, tables and lamps! who will focus on the more efficient cardboard box, the safe syringe, the lowly pail if not the next generation of designers for whom intention must trump ambition?… i thought. and, mostly, the students delivered with thirty-two projects borne of personal investigations into their own lives, looking at their daily routines and proving to themselves that they must first design things or experiences that have meaning for them, before tackling opportunity. i am so proud of them, especially since they did all this in a language that is not their own! i believe i will go back…

    January 22, 2014


    as some of you may know, my family and i left the country of freedom and thought it at least entertaining, of not pleasurable, to explore other places in the world, namely the socialist haven of italy, to start with, and see if free healthcare, public transportation and incompetence matching our own could work for us. now it has been 7 months and the answer is a big fat yes for me, what with all the cold cuts, cheese and brunettes. for my wife, the answer is a bit more nuanced, especially when compared to the life we left behind in the hudson valley, where we found refuge after 23 years in nyc… hey, wouldn’t that make a great website?! you know, weighing the pros and cons of leaving and staying, looking at both those lives as they stand? well, that’s exactly what gina and our friend christine have decided to launch this very day at, where they will compare notes about motherhood, womanhood and personhood in two countries’ very different approaches to life. visit, comment, ask questions and enjoy!

    October 25, 2013

    yeah, pretty much. as i close my suitcase and am about to board the taxi to the airplane to the layover to the second airplane that will, 12 hours from now, land once again in new york city, i feel ambivalent in this, my first return to my adopted city since we decided to venture out and move, for now, to bologna, italy. that was a long sentence. even longer emotions are now running through my mind.

    pretty much.

    first landing there in 1989 and leaving just a few months ago in july 2013. that’s 24 years in new york, the last four of which were mostly spent up the hudson, attempting a trial separation from the place that gave me everything, an identity, friendships, a few careers, a family for reasons of attempting to make the heart grow fronder? maybe? but upon seeing the film above, i was reminded of why i am now feeling trepidation about returning. after so many years, i grew tired, not of the “new york” that is meant when people exclaim that they “love this place,” meaning that they usually have just seen some expression of personality so extravagant or thoughtful that they surmise it could only happen in a society as permissive as that of the big apple; no i love that “new york” too. what i grew tired of is indeed the too-well-hidden mass loneliness that we all feel there, whether friended, four-squared, liked, wined or dined twenty-four hours a day. we all feel it, not painfully enough to make most of us leave, but insistent enough that it catches us in rare moments of calm, those moments we should cherish but so seldom have the opportunity to becuase of all the other opportunities we assume we’d lose if we did. thank iPhones for distracting us because otherwise, the lines at the salad bar would be filled with people cry-walking their way to the cash register…

    that loneliness is not melancholy, neither regret nor even real sadness, just the consequence of the realization that at the end of the meeting, date or week, it is only on ourselves that we can rely to make anything meaningful, to go anywhere interesting, and even then not so much. that’s not a bad thing, this gradual awakening to self-reliance is actually rather fantastic but it sure feels lonely to have to do it all for ourselves, by ourselves, in one hell of a crowded room in which we sadly feel obligated to get wherever we’re going before the next person grabs the place in line. we don’t have to, of course, it’s just a feeling but man, what a feeling…

    i’m not looking forward to even a hint of that feeling as i cross the bridge back into the city later today. what i am looking for, however, is seeing my friends, my family, my balthazar maitre d’, and pretend, if only for a few days, that i too am an “important” part of the fabric of the greatest city in the world. well, that and avocados, mixed nuts, lotion tissues, cap-n-crunch, professionalism, efficiency, customer-centric retail, legal pads, 1% milk, salt and vinegar chips, bagels, home garbage collection, ziplock bags, punctuality, sushi, cashew butter and, of course, freedom, none of which are readily available in my country of temporary exile…

    i’ll see you there.

    September 3, 2013


    “Here it is, the groove, slightly transformed, just a bit of a break from the norm…” That’s what i heard through the speakers most of the summer and i am now, after having spent about 2 months in our new home of Bologna, Italy, inclined to believe it. although not quite yet in a groove, per se, we are getting there. so lucky are we to have found a little slice of heaven (above,) a lot of slices of incredible vegetables (below,)


    and, most importantly, wonderful friends who have come to visit so that this little experiment has really felt, so far, like a little bit of new york in italy…


    I know, i should write about this. now probably would be a good time. but i must say i don’t feel like it. not yet. strangely (for me) preferring to see it through my own eyes, experiencing it first hand without relating it, without analyzing it at all. i know, weird. anyhoo, here’s what it looks like so far, in advance of what it’s all feeling like, to be detailed at a later date. i think. probably. maybe.

    June 24, 2013

    we’ve come to that time of the year when the apartment family usually takes an extended leave of absence in order to seek new inspiration, for a month or two, in lands saturated with olive oil, hard cheeses and soft fruits. and so it is again today. except different. this time, it’s for a year or two…

    see, journeys have felt for me lately so few and far between. I miss the real journeys, not mere trips of leisure but adventures that promote discovery as well as discomfort, that teach us just as we were convinced we knew everything, that attempt to create new familiarities. with most of our time spent at destinations, fulfilling geographical, personal, or professional obligations, we too rarely spend time wondering about the next departure as we tend to stay too long in any one place, comforted by knowing it too well and forgetting why we arrived at this strange place to begin with, because it was strange, because we were curious, once, because we had something to lose…

    certainly, that’s why i moved to New York City in september 1989, while an 18 year-old french boy, and i frankly am flabbergasted that i stayed this long…

    well, i fib a little, i do know. I know it took time to properly investigate all the aspects of life i found to be fascinating, it took time for such investigation to flower into an emerging personality, it took time to then try and grow laterally in a place that always wants us looking up. well, it took 25 years. from 18 to now 43 (that’s 25 years, right?…) easily persuaded by this tall and dark hostess to spend all my money in her shop.

    but now, perhaps predictably, i feel a void, excavated by years spent chasing what might constitute a considered life, years surely growing more efficient, years finding ways to accomplish each task not to success but to satisfaction. i always felt a need to subtract from my life the unessentials, if not materially (numerous storage facilities throughout manhattan can testify to that,) at least psychologically, enough to now find myself satisfied, opening the doors to a life, not of ease but potentially consisting as much as possible of what i want to do.

    problem is, i don’t know what i want to do…

    over the past 25 years, i have been lucky to dabble in photography, theology, filmmaking, retail, design, architecture, writing, philosophical research, music and cooking as part of the poorly-named “creative agency” business my wife gina and i launched in 1999 and i was obsessed by each and every one of those activities at the time of discovery and subsequent experimentation; but now feel my thirst quenched. of course, i am not trying to pretend i have no more to learn about each subject, lord knows how little i know, only that obsession, fascination, even addiction have always been necessary components of my interest, they are what first sparks curiosity, murders procrastination and feeds for the long run, but something i no longer feel for any of anything. well, anything other than apple rumors.

    and so, a void was created. by me. to fill.

    what with ? i don’t know yet. and as much as i am aware that a change in geography has little to do with finding one’s mind, there is one thing i am sure of: i am sick of my point of view, literally. also, figuratively. the belief system i now hold to be true was forged decades ago and evolved into a set of values against which i now judge my environment and the people and things in it. also, tweets from @robdelaney. these values are what allow me to “decide” whether something is ostensibly “good” or “just good enough to wipe myself with.” yes, i’m charming. thing is, as much as i back evolution in my kid’s textbook, i am a proponent of creation in my own life, of my own life, i should say. and that is a process i have not actively put in motion in years. i miss it. i miss the act of deciding one morning that you’re a filmmaker, a few afternoons later that you can design homes and websites, that you’ve had enough of a neighborhood, city or country and leave for another… for over a decade now, i wore the shoes of the 30 year-old me, letting them lead me where he wanted to go, or stay, instead of asking myself if they still fit! well, it stops today, i’m sick of that guy, his shoes and all his lustrous hair!

    my family and i have decided to change that point of view, literally first by moving to Bologna, Italy, where the wine is sweet and the tortellini appropriately cheesy, and figuratively second by consciously and actively questioning who we are; through those questions, hopefully eventually arrive at what we shall do.

    that said, i assume that it won’t be easy to focus on the self when meals such as the above arrive at your table with the prosciutto in a separate plate because “the heat from the pizza would ruin the taste in the time it takes to bring it from the kitchen to the table were it on top…”

    the goal of this adventure is threefold:

    1. to prove out that a business can be run from anywhere one the world.
    2. to establish a base from which travelling north, south, east and west is easy, affordable and practical.
    3. to be fed new knowledge as well as un-refrigerated tomatoes.

    now, this very well could be a complete bust but we are intent on taking the leap we have so often talked about, and heard talked about, and diving into the boiling water of change, aware, apprehensive but excited at the prospect of newness. it might be a bust but cannot be a waste of time.

    the funny thing is that as we set up this new european outpost, the running of the apartment creative agency will most likely be exactly the same. still communicating, still writing proposals, still putting together teams of incredible designers and strategists from all over the world and executing incredible, if slightly odd, experiences for our clients. such is the way of the always-on global nomad. we are very much looking forward to experimenting with the furthest notions of “remote work” and thank our current and soon-to-be clients for trusting that it will works. because it works already.

    so, on we go, tweeting, flickering and branching all the way through. it’s going to be interesting.

    at least that’s what i’m telling myself because i’m scared shitless! but that’s my story and it’s sticking to me.

    have an incredible summer and don’t forget to write!

    February 28, 2013

    after 25 years in new york, we have decided to explore europe with our kids for a couple of years. we knew italy would be the country of choice for the simple reason of cheese but where would we land? after zig-zagging all summer, we settled on bologna for it is nicknamed “the red, learned and fat” thanks to its roof color, scholarly status and cuisine, a perfect fit. especially the fat.

    and so, after such a decision, time came last week to explore the city in depth and, of course, look for a house to live in. these were a few of my favorite things…

    October 8, 2012

    The long-lost-and-found-and-lost-again-and-found-again city of Pompeii illustrates a conundrum I’d like to address on this Columbus Day. I was lucky to visit the frozen Italian city in the late nineties and, if you have as well, I am sadly sure your experience was similar to mine. There are a hundred guided groups and people with cameras who seemingly do not use their own eyes much since the dumb ocular cavities are yet unable to send to printer. And these people (including me) run from place of predetermined interest to place of predetermined interest and all seem to miss the bigger picture. Surely you were told, as I was, to look on the ground at a crossroads and gaze in admiration but without so much as a slowdown in pace at the rudimentary plumbing system buried in the ground, right? Right. That blew my mind. We moderns take so much for granted that the fact that they, in the actual seventies, had indoor plumbing doesn’t jog something in your brain? People in my group just went on to the next supposedly exciting artifact, never to look back again. It is the reflection of a civilization that cared about hygiene, cared about cleanliness more than the people who had come before them and most after, so that they bothered to engineer an underground network of pipes from house to house which dispensed people from the need to slum to the common trough to wash themselves in the morning and risk contracting Plasmodium falciparum. Of course, not everybody could afford such luxurious indoor facilities; only the rich had plumbing. And what did that mean for the evolution of ancient social strata, for the disparities in all matters of citizenry? And how have we evolved in present society from such inequality, when rich nations today leave poor ones unassisted when it comes to something as basic as what we now consider running water to be? Any relevance worth pointing out between the passing historical anecdote and the downright criminal will of current global policymakers? By my group’s standards, none, I guess. But it can and should at least trigger some questions as you are being boringly lectured while standing on the side of such discovery. Fact is, it rarely happens. When you are shown the erotic frescoes that have long fed the Christian right’s arguments that overt sexuality will be punished by a prude god in the form of murderous lava, people have the choice to snicker or to think about the impact of such nascent liberty and morals in the context of our present life. Most people snicker. And so, as we both take the shuttle back to the airport, you have the same memories as I do of Pompeii. And that is a shame. Because I was not able, and neither were you or the hundreds of thousands of people who visit this important site, to make my own memories, distinct and specific, thoughtful and argued, introspective and useful. We are being told what to remember, given bullet points about all that we saw, even get to take home a show to tell. And that is what travel has turned into, the standardization of memories.